Archive for the Races Category

Why are they smiling?!

Posted in Races on September 2, 2011 by eeodim

 

 

My 2011 Ironman Louisville Race Report

Do you ever walk down the street and notice a passing pedestrian and for whatever reason they’re smiling?  They’re walking alone and not listening to any music, so what could they possibly be smiling about?  Did they remember a funny story?  Ahhhhhh, maybe they saw someone trip over their shoelaces.  That would be pretty funny, right?  I’ve honestly looked down at my fly before as I thought maybe it was open and the joke was on me.  I’m not sure why, but for some reason this has always bothered me.  Why are these people smiling?!  After crossing the finish line of Ironman Louisville this past Sunday I can now safely say I understand why those people are smiling.  They MUST be an Ironman.  As a matter of fact I’m sitting here right now writing this with a big dopey smile on my face.  I’m guessing it’ll be around Christmas time when my face starts to mold into a perma-grin a la the Joker.

Thursday – Sunday

I packed up the car along with Wifey and our youngest, Jossy, and we headed out for the 12+ hour trek down to Louisville.  It was a looooonnnnnggg drive especially with traffic out the wazzoo and a very pregnant wife.  We eventually settled in and spent the next few days enjoying family and friends.

Friday morning Team ReserveAid was featured briefly on the local Louisville Channel 11 newscast.  Pretty cool if I do say so myself!

On Saturday there was even more to do:

Practice swim

zman, jess, jw, and lou

Team RA brunch

Bike check-in

Meet up with family and friends

I can’t express enough what a difference it makes to do races with friends.  The folks on Team ReserveAid are amazing and made the experience all that more enjoyable.

Team ReserveAid

Pre Race

Zman, JW, Me, and LT

A lot of folks mention the nerves and the butterflies keep them from a good nights sleep the night before an IM.  I had no such problem and was knocked out by 9:30pm on Saturday.  I begrudgingly woke up at 2am for my middle of the night snack (Pop tarts and 20 oz. of Gatorade) and was back to counting sheep within minutes.  At 4am I was up for good and ready to start my day – still no nerves though.  I shoveled down two bananas, some Powerbar Energy Blasts and 20 more ounces of Gatorade and was off along with my Team RA cohorts to begin what would be a very long day.

Swim

The swim is easily the most uncomfortable of the three disciplines for me to really get a handle on.  I’m not uncomfortable being in the water, I just don’t like swimming.  I’ve worked hard over the past two months to get myself to the point where breathing easy and staying relaxed would allow me an efficient swim.  I honestly didn’t care how long it took me to complete the 2.4 miles only that I would step out of the water with energy and the confidence to know I could continue on the bike with some enthusiasm.  Using my July IM Rhode Island 70.3 swim time of around 47 mins (1.2 miles), I expected to complete IMLOU in around 1:30.  I figured the work I had put in since Rhode Island should afford me some improvement in my time.

Swim time: 1:22:27


T1

I emerged from the Ohio River with a surge of confidence and huge smile on my face.  I jogged past my beautiful family and saw my good friend, Jesse, as he snapped away on his camera.  I grabbed my bike gear and headed into the changing tent.  Shortly after I started to put my things on Team RA member, Brian Lee (BLee), plopped down next to me and began his transition.  Little did we both know that we’d see a whole lot more of each other later in the day.

T1 time: 8:18

I have no idea why this time was so slow – it’s not like I had a picnic and a massage.  Will have to work on this if there ever is a next time.

Bike

Starting out on the bike was a bit rough.  My neck and upper body were already a bit sore from the constant breathing rotations on the swim.  Getting down into my aero bars took a few miles to get used to.  Keep in mind the bike I was riding has been in my possesion for less than a month as my old bike was still in the shop.  I had one 4+ hour ride and a few smaller rides, but nothing close to 112 miles.  I settled in tried to purge from my mind how long of a day this really could be.  Thankfully, the site of all the other riders and countless spectators were enough to keep my legs rotating forward.

I had been informed the course was hillier than people would expect, so I wasn’t shocked when I felt myself going slower up the countless inclines.  The strategy was to relax and take my time going up (conserving energy) and then giggle like a little school girl as I bombed passed the suckas who were too tired to pedal because they had huffed and puffed their way as fast as they could going up that same hill.  Now I wasn’t breaking any land speed records, but I also wasn’t a riding like my four year old with her training wheels.  I stuck to my conservative power numbers ensuring I would have enough juice left for the ensuing marathon.

Other than being very long, there were really only a couple noteable things worth mentioning during my ride.  The first was my cramping that started around mile 48.  I was so pissed when this started as I had been following my nutrition plan to a T and there was no way I was exherting too much power on the bike.   I dreaded having to ride another 64 miles fighting through cramps with a 26.2 mile run to follow.

The second “thing” worth mentioning about my ride was how emotional I became.  Around mile 38 all participants ride though the small town of LaGrange.  Spectators line the streets as racers stream down the narrow corridor celebrated as if they were hero’s coming back from war.  It’s really a site to behold.  I first spotted Jesse (again, behind the lense of his camera), then my mom, followed by my step dad and then my gorgeous wife and youngest daughter.  The jolt of adreneline shot through my veins like a drug (not that I’d know what that feels like) – spotting them was exactly what I needed.  Shortly after seeing them I felt a few tears stream down my face.  I don’t know how I became so emotional – the powers of an IM are mysterious, but I knew right then and there that there was 0% chance I would not finish that race.  I continued on the two loop course counting the miles down until I headed through LaGrange again.  Again, there was Jesse, my mom/step-dad, and my two girls.  This time I slammed on my brakes and planted a big wet kiss on wifey and Jossy.  My time at this point was irrelevant.  The least I could do was show them how appreciative I was that they were there supporting me.  After the quick smooches, the surrounding  crowd errupted into a HUGE ovation.  It honestly felt like a movie.  As much pain as my legs may have been in I didn’t want the day to end.

Bike time: 6:30:02

T2

I was ready to get off that bike.  My ass was ready for me to get off that bike.  Having never ran a marathon before I was curious to see how I’d fair.  I quickly changed into my running gear and was on my way.  Again, there was my crew as I left the chute to head on to the course.  I have to be the luckiest man in the world.

T2 time:  6:20

Run

The legs felt heavy – extremely heavy.  It felt similar to having a charlie horse in both legs.  They were tight and just didn’t want to move.  The lactic acid began to flush it’s way through and finally I was on my way.  The details are boring: run to aid station, walk while intaking calories, water or ice, start running again until the next aid staion and then repeat.  The plan was to run a 9 min per mile pace for the first 6 miles, an 8:30 pace for the next 12 miles, and then push on running at whatever pace I could muster for the final 8.

While not the most exciting course, the run was easily the most enjoyable aspect of the race.  I saw every single Team ReserveAid member and everyone was looking strong: Zman, Pete, James, Withrow, LT, Thea, BLee, Geoff, Lou, Jess, Carolyn, and Jill … I saw all of ‘em.  I felt strong enough that I actually passed a few team members midway through the second loop: LT, Thea, and BLee.  I actually slapped Mr. Lee on the ass as I went by and I hear “damn, you caught up to me?”  At the next aid station I stop for my third porta potty break and he catches back up to me.  From there on out we decided to run the final 8 miles together.

I’m not gonna lie, he was exactly what I needed.  I needed someone there for accountability to make sure I kept on going.  The mind can be a very powerful de-motivator, so having another Team RA member there to push me was very helpful.  Could I have picked up the pace and ran harder?  Yes.  However, after we decided to run together I said screw the plan.  I knew I was going to finish and I knew it would be uber-cool to finish with a fellow teammate.  We chatted about everything from our kids, to our jobs, to other endurance races we’ve participated in.  After hitting the second to last aid station BLee says to me “Once we start running, we’re not stopping until we cross that finish line.”  From that point on we put our heads down and headed for the finish.  We made a left and then a right and finally we could see the bright lights ahead.  I don’t remember either of us saying anything those final few minutes.  We enjoyed the crowd, the limelight, and most importantly the thoughts of becoming an Ironman.

I vividly remember crossing the timing mat, belting out a loud scream / sigh of relief, and holding my hands in the air.  I did it.  I was an Ironman.  Immediately to my left was my tearful wife who looked at me and said “you did it!”  Kisses again for her and my munchkin, hugs for my mom and my step-dad, and tears flowing from everyone.  It took very little time for it to all sink in and for the realization to set in as to what I had just done.

Run time: 4:3:38

Final Thoughts

I only had a few goals heading into my first Ironman.  I wanted to finish first and foremost.  I wanted to finish while the sun was still out which meant under 13 hours.  I wanted to do this all with a smile on my face.  Finally, I wanted to raise awareness for ReserveAid.  Check, check, check, and check.  My legs were sore for the next couple days, but nothing compared to what I thought I was going to feel.  I had dreams of being plastered to the pavement with medical personel attending to my needs.  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever contemplate finishing 140.6 miles with a smile on my face. Only now do I realize what people are thinking when they’re walking down the street smiling at nothing.  Yes, they must be an Ironman.

Final time:  12:30:44

Paco and Robbie’s Excellent Adventure at Harriman

Posted in Races on August 15, 2011 by eeodim

Here are some pics from Paco and Robbie’s tri this weekend.  Hats off to both of them!

Paco and his #1 Fan - his wife, Marion

Paco and Robbie

What are we doing here?!

And so it begins!

Yes Sir!

 

 

 

“The Turn-Around is Right Around the Corner!!!!”

Posted in Races on August 15, 2011 by eeodim

This past Saturday one of my boys, Paco, raced in his first ever triathlon. You may remember Paco – he had a guest post back in March which highlighted his first ever 5k road race. He’s on somewhat of a mission in 2011 as he’s taken this fitness thing to another level. Below he recounts his race at the TriRock New York – Harriman Sprint Triathlon

My day started at 5:30am on Saturday, waking up at the lovely American Value Inn on Rt. 32 (in order to be closer to the race site, I booked a motel nearby). Once again, I realize what a lovely/patient/supportive wife I have as she actually agreed to stay at this place – the motel was right out of a movie, the kind of place where escaped convicts hide, bad drug deals go down (usually involving crystal meth), or psychopaths hide as they plot their next killing spree. I ate half a bagel, put my tri tats on and headed out. Of course, thanks to goggle maps, we got completely lost, thus negating the whole point of staying near the race course. I’m literally having a melt-down in the car as race time was only 30 minutes away at this point but thanks to my Marion (again), I calm down and we make it to the race with roughly 15 minutes to spare. Fortunately, I see Robbie at the lot and the stand-up guy that he is, he immediately helps me set up my transition space. We then go to the water to warm up (a lovely 76 degrees) and catch up with KO – it felt good having some buddies around for my first tri adventure.

The Swim
To say that I was nervous would be a major understatement. I was trying to calm myself down but I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins. Robbie and I were both in the first wave and decided to hang in the back and on the inside (swim was clockwise in and out). Once the whistle blew, we walked slowly into the water and stayed on our feet until the water was chest high and then began our stroke. What would result for me was one terrifying ordeal – remember the movie “Open Water” about the 2 divers who were left behind? Yup, that would sum up my swim. I was fine until I started breathing way too hard and could feel my HR picking up and from then on, I could not get into a rhythm. I’d get on my back to rest and when I would swim, I totally threw out the window all the freestyle training that I had learned over the past month. Instead, I was doing a Frankenstein stroke creation that was part freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, crawl, treading, running man, moonwalk and the cabbage patch. I was asked many times by the lifeguards on boats if I wanted to get pulled out (a few swimmers were getting pulled out at that point) and each time I yelled “Don’t pull me out!!! Don’t freaking pull me out!!!” My game plan was to either get through it or just drown. Eventually, a life guard stayed near me as I implemented this new stroke that I created and eventually made it on to the shore, well behind most swimmers. I get to the shore and I’m very disoriented, with both of my legs shaking. I can see the race volunteers yelling directions at me but I can’t hear them…all I can think of is getting on my bike and taking a “short cut” into the transition. Meanwhile, I’m also mumbling incoherently and zig zagging (according to my wife) as I do this. Of course, given that I was so disoriented and my singular focus was getting on my bike, I managed not to step on to the pad that records my time. Well, that would end my “official” race but at the time, I just kept going as I was determined to get on my bike.

T1/Bike

Surprisingly, it was generally smooth (for a newbie). I sat down, got my suit off, put on my bike gear, and got out of there. I was told by a friend who did a half IM in Harriman that it was one of the hardest races she had ever done….and she won her age group! I had heard that the bike was very hilly and all the hype did not “disappoint.” What followed was a very hilly 15 miles that made Harlem Hill look like a very short speed bump. And because my legs were still shaking from the swim, I could not clip into my left pedal! By some divine intervention, I managed to clip in and avoid falling down. Around mile 7, I was contemplating stopping because my legs were still shaking and felt like they were on fire. But then suddenly, 2 deer jumped in front of me and instead of crossing the road, ran forward!! For the next 30-60 seconds, I was literally drafting behind these 2 animals!!! It was one of the most surreal experiences ever, like I was in the middle of an acid trip. Eventually, my 2 fellow riders jumped into the woods and I was on my own again. I tried to keep my cadence high but it was impossible on the hills. After grueling 70ish minutes, I finished the ride and pulled into T2.
Biking side note – Marion told me that she was terrified while I disappeared on the bike because of my condition after the swim. And the fact that she had no cell reception made her even more panicky because no one would be able to reach her if something happened to me. She told me that as she waited vigilantly for me, the thought of killing JW also crossed her mind for getting her husband into this tri madness!! Haha – don’t worry JW because since I made it, she was once again happy that you got me into this!!

T2/Run
T2 was also fairly smooth (this is all relative as I’m sure you IM-to-be vets are like Flash Gordon in transition) and incident free. It’s crazy but the run was the part I was looking forward to – given all the running I have been doing since January, this was my chance to “relax” and gather myself. The run was on a trail with a big hill and gentle up and downs the rest of the way. I’ve never run on a trail before so navigating loose rocks and branches was challenging. Eventually, I started waiting for the turn-around on the run, hoping that it would be right around this bend, or the next one, or the one after….and it never appeared! And just when I felt like I was done, I heard the sweetest sentence ever from an incoming runner. Like the voice of God, this runner yelled to me “The turn-around is right around the corner!!!!” This was the final motivation that I needed to kick into gear and eventually, as I approached the finish line, I see Marion cheering me on (my #1 fan throughout this journey!) and then I heard the announcer blare my name out as I finally finish the race. I immediately collapse into a chair as KO and Robbie engulf me with high fives and words of encouragement. By this point, Robbie had checked the ambulance a few times already to make sure that I wasn’t in it so he was psyched to see me cross the line. KO put a bottle of water in one hand while Robbie handed me a Gatorade in the other and I’m literally double fisting hydration – not quite the way I used to double fist beers in college but I couldn’t be happier.

Conclusion
• Because of my horrendous swim and inability to walk over the timing “pad,” I had no official record of my time. But because I saw a pic of me crossing the finish line and somehow actually managed to time my bike and run, I know that it took me over 2 hrs and 30 minutes. This slow turtle pace had one culprit and that was the swim. I’m disappointed that I was as slow as molasses but I’m happy that I managed to gut it out and not yield to that one voice in my head that told me to quit.
• I learned that I need some more work in the pool. But more importantly, I realized that once I started to panic, I should have broken up the swim into intervals, not unlike what I do on long runs. Once I got panicky, I was overwhelmed by the remaining distance. What I should have done was broken up the swim – for example, tell myself to swim to the next buoy, rest, and repeat. I also stopped doing the freestyle stroke and that was a mistake – I need to trust what I’ve learned.
• Tri athletes are very competitive and type-A BUT they are also the most supportive group of people I have ever met. Throughout the bike and run, I can’t count how many times other competitors yelled encouraging things to me: “Keep going brother!!!” – “Looking good” – and my favorite “The turn-around is right around the corner!!!!” Even people who were struggling still managed to flash me a thumbs up! It’s easy to get caught up in your own thing in these races so it really was remarkable to me that others would break their mental concentration just to cheer along a struggling newbie.
• Immediately after the race, I kept thinking that this was my last race. As I write this, I’ve already checked the race calendar several times for new events. For a guy who couldn’t contemplate even running a mile this January, I realize that this was just a first step in my new “adventure.” I’m not sure where it will go and I know I have a lot of work to do, but I also know that the journey didn’t end when I crossed the finish line at Harriman on Saturday.

TriRock New York – Harriman Race Report [Guest Post]

Posted in Races on August 15, 2011 by eeodim

A year and a half ago I’m not entirely sure I knew what a triathlon was.   Maybe, but I’m not 100% sure.  Fast forward to today and all of a sudden I have a huge selection of friends who are racing week in and week out.  Case in point, a couple days ago three friends of mine raced TriRock New York – a sprint distance tri in Harriman New York.  After been away from the sport for many years, my buddy, Robbie, recounts his experience here:

I’ll say this much – I had no plans to come out of retirement.

My career as an endurance athlete began and ended about a decade ago, beginning with one drink too many, as so many foolish adventures of mine have (such as playing tennis mixed doubles in the streets of Reykjavik at four in the morning during a blizzard).

I bet the guys that I could run a marathon and held myself to it, having never run more than ten minutes.

I spent a year training, motivated by the simple terror of the event, and somehow pushed myself across the finish line of the Big Sur Marathon.  I subsequently ran a bunch of half marathons, and started training for triathlons with my wife (if only to be able to spend time with her) as she was keen on the sport.  Her desire to train for multisport events in Brooklyn became dramatically muted, however, when within a six month span she was knocked off her bike (shattered wrist, screws and a titanium plate) and hit by a car (guy ran through a red at a crosswalk in front of our apartment, broken foot).

I did one triathlon as a result, in Minneapolis, roughly eight years ago, put my bike in storage and forgot about it.

Withrow

Or at least, tried to forget about it until Withrow, with his unmatched ability to provoke people to follow him into battle, called me out and more or less announced he expected me to join him in competing in the 2012 NYC Ironman race.

To contextualize this, I’m a 41 year old guy originally from Canada with a wife and two kids and a fairly demanding job and a left shoulder that is as tempermental as a mid-80’s Italian motorcycle.  I rang in 2011 tipping the scales at a solid 205 pounds, which I argue I certainly wore well but doesn’t exactly qualify as my fighting weight.  I can swim but I’m slow, I can ride a bike but I’m slow, and I can run.  Slowly.

The only caveat is that I get a lot slower when it’s warm outside, which to a guy who spent a few winters in Winnipeg, would be from March until mid-December.

But Withrow kept after me.  He was sure I could do it.  I’d have fun.

It would be a huge and satisfying challenge.

And so when registration opened up for the Ironman, I sat at my computer at work, and dutifully (but slowly) started working my way through the entry forms.  Given how slow my computer was, and the viscous nature of our firewalls, I was virtually certain I would not be able to complete the online application in time to actually get a spot.  I took my time, explaining in the provided text boxes that I was terribly out of shape, suspected I was a high risk of sinking to the bottom of the Hudson, and requested the time limit be extended in my case to 20 hours so I could fit a nap between the bike and run.

Incredibly, my application made it though.

When they prompted me for my credit card number, to my horror I realized what I had done.

I’ll skip the subsequent  frank conversation my wife had with me about the implications of decision on her, and our girls, and our marriage for another time, but we had one.  Or two.

One positive trait about me is that while I’m impulsive, I also panic easily, and so out of respect for the event, I immediately began training.

I ate well, I ran home from work every day, I pulled my bike out of storage (literally) and did shaky laps of the park, and with the blessing of my physiotherapist on the shoulder front, dutifully executed inelegant floundering laps of the Red Hook pool.

And, in order to shake out the cobwebs, signed up for a sprint distance tri at Harriman State Park.

I was in good company – the third amigo in a dubious band that included Paco (about to do his first tri ever) and K.O. (whose lifetime collection of joint injuries put my shoulder to shame, who was doing his second triathlon ever, and whose mesomorphic frame is frankly more appropriate for pro football or combat with vikings than distance endurance events).

I got to the event first, driving solo from Brooklyn, which meant rolling out of bed at shortly after four to collect my gear, load up the truck, and fight traffic on the George Washington Bridge.

I made good time and it was a beautiful drive, with the sunrise saturating the eastern horizon of the Pallisades with a luminous ochre blur.

Importantly, I spent the entire drive reminding myself of my Plan, and then reminding myself to stick to my Plan.  The Plan was simple: relax, see the event as simply a high intensity training session, and enjoy the fact that there would be people keeping track of time for me and handing me a cup of water every now and then.  So, a super slow motion swim, a challenging but executable bike tempo, and a moderately paced 5K.

I was primarily in a panic about the swim – my left shoulder simply didn’t move properly (I couldn’t hail a cab with that arm if my life depended on it) and there’s nothing like open water to bring all your fears about swim ability to a head.

As I pulled into the lot and realized I was on the early side, I set up my bike (the poor girl was shamed by her peers and their svelte carbon fiber frames, all literally ten years younger) and wandered down to the beach to dip a toe in the water.  It was startlingly warm – I guessed 75 degrees at least, which was a huge relief.  It meant zero need for a wetsuit, which ordinarily I would use for the buoyancy, but with my goofy arm I found that I literally could not take it off without serious help.

No wetsuit, no problems in T1.

I did a lazy ten minute warm-up, drank a liter of fluid (coco water, as I’m off manufactured nutrition of late on the theory there’s no reason to ingest corn syrup, salt and food coloring when I can get all the stuff I’m looking for out of a coconut), and waited for the guys.

Paco, who had very wisely opted to stay near the park so he’d be able to set up early and not have to worry about the commute, showed up about five minutes before the transition area closed, having successfully lost himself multiple times on his way to the race.

I was in a pretty good place mentally from having been up for a while and not having sunk like a stone while warming up, so I helped him get squared away in the transition area and we headed to the beach.  I also felt like I had some residual positive karma as earlier a competitor had blown a tube inflating a tire and had no spare, so I gave him mine.  While I figured I might need a spare tube, we knew he definatly needed a spare, so I trusted fate and handed it over.

As we waded into the lake to get used to the water prior to the gun, we located K.O., who was appropriately starting in the third wave with the Clydesdales, identified by their red caps.  Looking back at the Clydesdales as Paco and I entered the chute to start in the first wave was like looking at a rugby scrum in neoprene.

As we waited for the start, we hung back and I turned to Paco and more or less said, “no matter how overwhelmed you are by all this, try to relax, and I promise you that you that whatever happens, you will not be the last guy across the finish line… let’s have fun.”

We bumped fists with each other and the other first timers staying wide.  The horn went off, and I watched as the eager and the competent raced into the water.  I dutifully plodded in, quite possibly being dead last in my heat to enter.

However, that was The Plan – a relaxed swim, with the goal of exiting the water having exerted exactly zero energy and no drama relating to my shoulder.  Things got exciting only to the degree that the entire wave of women were upon me at the halfway buoy, and as I got to the finish, the clydesdales had largely passed me.

I jumped up onto the beach feeling great – swim accomplished in a shockingly slow 20 minutes (I would later learn that I was #255 coming out of the water in a field of 289) and most importantly, I was on plan.

With no wetsuit to shed, the transition was supposed to be a lightning strike, but as I yanked my jersey on I realized its fatal flaw – it promptly bunched up on my wet skin and I found myself stuck with my arms over my head like my three year old after putting a sweater on right after a bath.

I had to beg help from a woman who was watching over the transition area, but she sorted me out and I got up on my bike shortly thereafter and sped away.

Now, I had no prior knowledge of the bike course and had not bothered to look at any of the maps closely.  As it was only 15 miles and The Plan assumed that should should take only 40-45 minutes to for me to complete if I just went like hell.

As it turns out the course was incredibly hilly, and not only hilly, but hilly in a way that made the downhills as miserable as the uphills.

For example, there was one point early on where I was headed down a long, steep hill at almost 40 miles per hour, only to round a bend and see a course marshall waving a flag frantically and pointing at a 180 degree turn he apparently expected me to make with no prior warning (seriously, did it not occur to anyone to maybe post a caution sign even 100 yards in advance of the turn?).

I barely made the corner, but was so focused on braking without locking the wheels and dropping the bike I had no time to downshift and so found myself pointed directly uphill in my highest gear moving about 5 miles per hour.  I stood out of the saddle, dropped onto the pedals as hard as I could and batted at the paddles desperately trying to drop into a smaller ring, and wobbled miserably before the chain finally dropped and caught the smallest ring.

K.O. would later relate that he did a little off-roading at that same corner for the same reason, and spent a miserable few minutes trying to work his chain back onto his bike – at the finish, you could still see the grease on his fingers.

More unnervingly, when the ten mile marker showed up I looked at my watch and saw it had taken me a little over 40 minutes to get that far, and I was pouring sweat.

Despite the effort and a heart rate I assumed was nearing 400, I was picking people off on the hills and passing them, which was encouraging, so I decided to simply keep it up (sorry data junkies – no power meter, as they didn’t exist when I bought the bike a decade ago, and my heart rate monitor stopped working last week).

The Plan for the ride was to keep a solid pace, which for me means to pass people going up hills.  That’s it.  Keep them honest, and if they’re faster going down let them have it.  The downside of The Plan was that, if possible for an out-and-back course, it felt like it was 90% straight uphill.  The total ride took me 57:40 (what happened to 45 minutes, tops?) but that time was good enough to have me rank 119th for the section, demonstrating the value of getting out of the water with a clear head and gas in the tank.

I flew through T2, as my bike was racked right next to the run gate.

At this point, The Plan dictated a warm-up mile (for me a nine minute pace), a higher tempo mile (eight minutes) and then gunning it for the last mile just to see what happened.  As I turned onto the running trail (a gravel out and back path through the woods) the eventual top finishers were just starting to come in, and they were flying.

As one fellow vaulted past me toward the finish line, he looked me square in the eye and said “easy run”.

He lit some kind of fuse.  I took off, picking off a bunch of people as I headed up and into the woods, promised myself I wouldn’t let anyone pass me and getting more and more motivated by the athletes coming back to finish.  As I chugged up hills, people I passed encouraged me to keep going which drove me forward.  I made it to the first marker in exactly 8 minutes, made mile two in 7.33 and passed the third in 6.57.  I crossed the finish in another 45 seconds for a 5k total of 23:18 which I think is some kind of personal record for me, a speed can’t even begin to explain because I don’t think I’ve moved that fast when just doing a 5k alone.

During the run I was keeping my eye open for Paco and K.O. and while I didn’t see Paco, K.O. delivered me a thundering high five as we passed each other on the trail that nearly spun me around.

I crossed the line in 1:47, good enough for an overall finish of 129, thanks to a run pace ranked 57th.  I was 21st for my age group.

I grabbed some water and collected myself on a picnic bench in the finish to wait for K.O. and Paco.  K.O. made it across the line at 1:51 and we tackled a couple of bacon, egg and cheese burritos together while waiting for Paco.

And waiting.

And waiting.  I scouted for his wife, but did not see her.  We checked the transition area, where his gear was still intact and his bike was racked with no visible damage, so we ruled out a crash or a mechanical failure.  We didn’t see his name up on the posted results, and we even checked the t-shirt folks to see if he’d collected his race shirt.  No luck.

Finally, with the awards ceremony done and the parking lot starting to empty, and with K.O. and I facing the gravitational pull of having to return home to be husbands and fathers, we decided to check in with the paramedics.  The ambulance was parked at the finish, and I was frankly starting to brace for bad news as I walked toward the driver when I heard K.O. whoop Paco’s name.

And as I watched, over three hours after he had begun, Paco staggered into the finishing area and flopped onto a seat, chest heaving.  K.O. and I mobbed him, handed him water and clapped him on the back.

Paco’s wife was suddenly right there also, waiting for him to clear the finish chute and deliver him a kiss that was so sincere I was suddenly regretful my own wife wasn’t there to kiss me.

So what happened?  I won’t presume to tell his story for him, but listening to him between gulps of water at the finish, we got a pretty clear picture.

Paco got into the water, and part way into the swim, panicked.   For about a thousand incredibly obvious reasons, to panic in open water pretty much ends your race on the spot, because it devours all of your body’s energy instantaneously.  And not just your energy, but it robs you of your focus and your composure and thus your desire to keep moving, which, in an endurance race, is everything.

Yet somehow Paco kept himself together enough to ward off the life guards and work toward the buoy and then the beach.  It apparently took him forever to get out of the water, hyperventilating the entire time, but he somehow kept a part of himself focused on getting ashore and he did.

Then, incredibly, exhausted but having survived the water, and facing the very attractive option to call it a day right then and there with dry land under his feet, he somehow got himself together enough to get on his bike and grind out the hill-infested bike leg – at this point, completely alone.

Finishing the bike leg, doubly exhausted, he laced up his shoes and tackled the run – again, completely alone.

And crossed the finish line at 3:01, judging by my eyeball of the clock.

As impressed as I was by my own race, I literally couldn’t believe Paco kept going after his swim leg.

K.O. and I left him in the capable care of his wife, but as I was driving home, I smiled when I remembered that I had promised Paco that there was no way he’d finish the race last.

It looks like he may have proved me wrong, but I have no doubt that Paco’s race was hands-down harder than anyone else’s that day, and I couldn’t believe that he found the grit to keep going and cross the line.

They didn’t have a medal big enough for him at Harriman.

Vineman 70.3 Race Report

Posted in Races on August 1, 2011 by eeodim

Just over a week ago my good friend Lorraine traveled cross country to compete in her first half ironman distance triathlon.  This would be only her second season racing having four shorter distance tri’s under her belt.  I told her not to come back to NY without a race report.  She dutifully agreed – see below as she gives an account of her experience …

Friday before the race at Windsor High School where the finish line and Transition Area 2 was

My first race report so please forgive me if it’s too long, not enough detail, or just boring you…

At our hotel, the Hampton Inn at Windsor, CA before the race


Sign at Windsor HS, the July 30th race is the full race, basically Ironman distance

Sunday, July 17, 2011, Sonoma County, CA:  Sunday morning I woke up at 4:00am to give myself enough time to eat and prepare before the race.

Early but at least it was 7am East Coast time

My wave was the third one at 6:46am.  Our swimming caps were purple, which I found fitting for “Vineman” (grapes, purple… you get it) and us women can rock the purple better than the men.  Anyways (I know this isn’t a fashion event but it always helps to look good), for breakfast I had a banana, half a pure protein drink, ¾ cup of apple sauce and water with a Nuun (electrolyte) tablet in it.  When I packed all of my things in the rent-a-car, it was still pitch black (at 4:50am) but the Hampton Inn at Windsor, CA was already buzzing with triathletes getting ready to head to the race.

All packed and ready to go!

 

I drove through winding roads for about 27 mins to Johnson Beach at Guerneville where we would swim in the beautiful, freshwater Russian River.  Our first transition area was a bit far from where we would start cycling but closer to the swim exit.  I’m assuming they did this since we were one of the first waves to go.  My friends’ wave, who were also racing, (Tri-Latino represent!) didn’t start until around 8:30am and had their transition area closer to the bike start.

I arrived at Johnson’s Beach around 5:30am when the transition area opened and there were already a ton of athletes preparing their swimming and bicycle gear.  Even though the transition area was open the entire time, there were already a lot of people that wanted to get there early and just take their time with everything.  One of things I realize triathletes have in common other than that they have a Type A personality and are competitive, is they definitely like to take their time with things and not do everything the last minute.  Well, I know I’m like that … Anyways, on to the race….

Transition Area 1

Swimming

Like I said earlier, I was the third wave, right behind the Pros and then the 29 and under men age group.  Right after my wave was the 40-44 men age group and I was a bit nervous about that since I’m not a strong swimmer at all.  In fact, I figured they would swim into me while I was swimming (good thing I wasn’t the only one feeling this way).  The morning was grey and cool but the water was the perfect temperature.  There were some concerns that the water temperature would be above the wetsuit allowance but the morning of (previous  days the water temp was as high as 78 degrees), I believe the water was around 70 degrees.  Perrrrfect.  Wetsuits were allowed!  We were able to dip into the water before we started and I stayed in the back to avoid the mess at the front.  It was an in the water start but the river isn’t that deep.  In fact, the river ranges from 3ft-7ft throughout the entire course.

Picture taken of Johnson’s Beach, Guerneville, CA two days before the race

The horn finally goes off after saying good luck to many anxious and excited women around me and I start swimming.  I felt pretty good, and swam at my own pace but it wasn’t long when I got into the first third of the course when the faster swimmers of the next group caught up to me.  I also noticed the age group in front me start to swim back which didn’t help my confidence but I wouldn’t let that deter me from finishing the swim and continuing on to the bike and run where I was comfortable.  My strategy was to take it easy on the swim and crush the rest of the race.  In the middle of the swim, the depth of the water was pretty shallow to the point where you could scrape your hand on the bottom so a lot of people stood up (practically everyone) and started walking during the middle of the course.  I tried to keep swimming until I started bumping into people that were walking so I unfortunately walked a little bit to avoid the crowds.  I felt a bit bad about this but I started swimming again as soon as the water was a bit deeper.  The swim course was out and back and the back portion of it was shorter so that was a mental booster for me.  I felt great swimming back and had my eye on the Vineman arch where we would exit the entire time I was swimming.  The age group after the 40-44 started to creep up on me as well (the super fast swimmers) before I finished but it didn’t deter me and I kept going.  I finally finished the swim portion and completed it at a whopping 51:43.  Hey, it was better than my 59 min goal but I know this is one area I definitely need to work on.  I figure I can cut off a significant amount of time (10 mins or so) if I actually swim more than a couple of times in the pool before the race.  And also work on my form and do some drills!

Finally, on some dry land…

Transition to my bike was interesting since we had to stuff everything in our transition bag that they would eventually transport to the finish line.  For some, this isn’t something new but for me it was the first time I had to do this so it was a learning experience.  I had a little trouble taking off my wetsuit (maybe I should do on and off wetsuit drills next time… or maybe not) but was able to fit everything in the transition bag.  I ran a long way with my bike to a short steep hill (beginning of the bike leg) and decided to run up the hill with the bike instead of clipping on since 1) a lot of people fall clipping on their bike during this portion trying to go up and 2) the pros run up the hill with their bike so I figured they know best.  Looked like it was a good decision to run up the mini steep hill because I saw others struggling to clip on the hill and even struggle further going up the hill.  I heard also that many people fall off during this portion and didn’t want to start my bike portion that way.

Beautiful vineyards

So I’m finally up the hill and I start to ride.  Within 1.5 miles of riding, I hear a loud plop on the ground and for some reason I thought it was my race belt (guess paranoia took over a bit) and stopped riding to go back and pick it up.  But then I realized it was one of my shot blocks and continued to ride.  I was a bit nervous on the bike since I heard so many stories about flat tires, derailleurs being broken, chains popping off and ended up replacing my large ring and chain two days before at the local bike shop because when I tested my bike out (shipped from NYC and the local bike shop, Nor Cal put it together) the chain popped off.  So I was pretty nervous and paranoid that something would happen to my bike but I knew God was on my side so I tried to ignore such ridiculous feelings.  The bike ride was beautiful even though it was still grey out and it drizzled a bit.  The cooler weather was nice since the course could get pretty hot.  The bike course was made of rolling hills that would pass through vineyard after vineyard and if I wasn’t riding 56 miles, I would have definitely enjoyed the scenery a lot more.  On the bike, I think I did pretty well, riding in the 18mph-20mph zone the majority of the time but those hills definitely got to me.  Another lesson learned – practice going up hills and recovering quicker from them!  I was able to pump my legs throughout the entire time, the majority of time in my big ring, and even picked off several women from my age group but I felt like I could of went even faster if I worked on more hill repeats.  I took some salt tablets and drank my water with Nuun and actually didn’t have to switch any of my bottles since I wasn’t that hot.  I also munched on pretzels, granola bars and shot blocks since I was afraid I was going to bonk and felt okay but not sure if this hurt or helped me.  I tend to get hungry pretty quickly and didn’t want to pass out on hunger.  Guess another lesson to learn – Nutrition! (yea, yea, I know these are all things I should of worked on before the race).  So the bike portion was awesome, but about the last third of the ride my left side of my glutes started to fire up.  I was already a bit sore but of course it was magnified during a 56 mile bike ride…  Guess that lactic acid was burning.  I powered through and eventually hit Chalk Hill, the 44 mile mark of the bike ride.  Chalk Hill is a steep hill where a ton of people usually struggle a ton since by then everyone is flat-lining and I can honestly say I struggled a bit to the point that I thought I had a flat tire (paranoia kicked in again, ugh).  I was able to power through even though I thought I already went up Chalk Hill at the 42 mile mark (boy was I wrong) and gunned the last 12 miles or so.  I had so much adrenaline pumping through me since I finally went up Chalk Hill and was almost done in the bike portion that I passed a couple more people in the last 12 miles (always a nice confident booster) and saw Windsor High School where the second transition was and more importantly where the finish line was.

Windsor, CA where the finish line was. A charming town where we stayed before the race

“Good news… bad news…”

As I was finishing the bike course (yes!!! no mechanical problems on the bike!) one guy I was riding next to described the next discipline to me perfectly – ”The good news is  the bike portion is almost over the bad news is we have 13.1 miles to run”.(Aye)

I finished the bike with a time of 3:19, with an average rate of 16.8mph. I was aiming for 17mph so guess it was close enough.  If I can practice those hills and perhaps get a snazzy tri bike and do more than 4 long bike rides before the race (30 miles, 22 miles in a race, 100 mile century ride with stops, 30 miles on the trainer) I think I would have been able to go faster…

So now 13.1 miles to run after a 1.2 mile swim and a 56 mile bike!  As this is a new race length for me I really didn’t know what to expect during the run portion.  I‘ve ran numerous half marathons and two marathons in my life so I wasn’t intimidated.

I transitioned at Windsor High School (dropped off my run gear there the day before), went to the porta potty (didn’t go on the bike) and off I went running.

Transition Area 2: A Century 21 bag holding my run gear… what a New Yorker

I did an Olympic Tri a month before and I remembered the feeling of running the first 4 miles fine and ran the last 2.2 miles at a good pace and felt pretty strong.  I thought I was going to feel the same way during Vineman (guess I was too confident) and to be honest, the run wasn’t pretty.  What’s funny though is my teammates saw me run the last 2-3 miles and they said I looked strong (guess I can put up a good act!).  The run was hilly like the bike course but it felt even hillier since some of hills would go up but you would never go down.  The first hill was at mile 3 and to me it was a pretty steep hill.  People were walking but I powered through and told myself that walking was not an option even if I was running a 20 minute pace.  We ran through an out and back course and did a loop around the La Crema winery surrounded by vineyards which was amazing.  The sun finally came out and there were aid stations every mile.  I took in more salt tablets, drank my Nuun drink and even grabbed some bananas and Gatorade from the aid stations.  My legs felt heavy throughout the entire course and at miles 7 and 8 the left side of my neck was cramping.  I was running during that leg of the race with my head tilted to stop the cramping and fortunately enough, it disappeared.  I remembered the photographer was trying to take a picture of me while I was running with my head tilted but I think managed to tilt it back just in time for a picture.   The last half of the race was tough, I kept my legs moving but I was running a 10+ min pace.  I started at an 8:30 pace (oops) slowed down to a 9 min pace… and then a 9:30 pace and eventually a 10+ min pace during the second half. I felt pretty tired and there were more rolling hills but I just made sure I kept hydrating and took some salt tablets to avoid any cramping.  Watching so many people walk also didn’t help.  The last 3 miles, I saw my teammates which was great and thought of all the wonderful people that supported me (especially my husband who was waiting at the finish line) which helped me power through.  It was all adrenaline by then, ALL adrenaline… and the last mile went by really quickly.  Before I knew it, I saw the volunteers put up the Ironman banner for me to run through, heard my name, “Lorraine McMillan!” and ran through the banner with my hands up gasping for air.  Emotion started to run through me and I was so excited and happy but at the same time pretty exhausted.  I took a couple of deep breathes, had a volunteer give me my medal, hugged my husband, grabbed food and I was no longer exhausted (just sore… ugh).  Finished my run at 2:16:40, guess not bad but the last half marathon I ran was sub 2 hours but didn’t swim and bike before the race.  Another lesson to learn, well two lessons – more hill repeats (YUCK) and don’t go too quickly in the beginning (guess I was so excited that I was finally at the run that I forgot to chill out).  Oh and lesson #3, nutrition.  Did I eat the right things?

In summary, my overall time was 6:37:48 – Swim: 51:43, T1:  4:56, Bike:  3:19:35, T2: 4:54 and Run: 2:16:40.

Felt awesome!

I was happy since my goal was just to finish.  It has been an emotional, busy, eventful last 12 months of my life since I recently got married and couldn’t train as much as I wanted.  I actually didn’t start training seriously for the race until end of April/early May but I kept in shape so that helped out.  I’ve learned a lot of lessons with this race and what I need to work on and what to be mindful for next time.  Speaking of next time, I have the NYC Triathlon (Olympic distance) in August and the NYC marathon in November.  I did both before but doing a half ironman definitely helps your confidence with doing these other races.  Will I do another 70.3?  Perhaps, always curious what the outcome would be if I worked on all of the lessons I’ve learned but we’ll see…  If I do another 70.3, I would definitely consider Vineman again.  The course is beautiful, the people are wonderful and the wine tasting to celebrate is divine!

We did it! Left to Right – Armand, Me, Robinson

PS  Had an amazing massage at the Honor Mansion in Healdsburg, CA(beautiful bed and breakfast we stayed after the race) and helped the soreness a lot.  If you’re ever in the area, I would definitely consider staying there!

Rhode Island Race Report – Part Deux

Posted in Races on July 11, 2011 by eeodim

Not all was lost on my trip to beautiful Providence this weekend.  I learned some valuable lessons as to how an Ironman event is set up.  Logistically, there are a number of moving parts and if you’re not paying attention it could be easy to get confused.  Now that I’ve gone through the grind, IMLOU should be all that more smooth.

Saturday morning I rolled into the convention center to get my race packet, attend the athlete meeting and do all the other necessary due diligence.  This was my first race in which athletes were to use gear bags in transition as opposed to leaving all of their stuff next to their bike.  For example, when entering T1 from the swim – all of my biking needs were in my bag sitting by my bike.  I took them all out and placed all my swim stuff back into the bag.  The organizers then took our bags and had them waiting for us, well, the other athletes that finished back at the finish line.  

We found out at the athlete meeting that the water temperature was an astounding 84 degrees F.  That meant no wet-suits.  I had never swam that long before without the help of a wet-suit, but honestly, I wasn’t that nervous.  I think the last few weeks of training with my swim coach, Thea, have helped a lot.  I was confident going in that I’d be able to complete the swim.  I didn’t think I’d be able to complete the swim fast, but I was sure I’d be able to finish it calmly and with juice left in my tank.  Looking back, when I exited the lake I shot down the chute toward my bike like a rocket in an all out sprint.  I passed at least a half dozen folks who were walking or jogging slowly.  That probably meant that I should have put a little more effort in the swim.  My goal coming in was 43-45 mins and I swam a 47:24. Very slow, but there’s a ton of improvement to be made there which I’m happy about.

Rows and rows of bikes. About 1650 athletes in all

My bike

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where my story ends!  I have a few more pics, but nothing really noteworthy.  If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll get to come back next year and finish some unsettled business.

T2 with everyone's run gear bags

Hopefully I can come back next year and actually run out this mutha -

Final note before putting this issue to bed.  I decided to leave on the athlete wristband until Louisville.  I plan to use it as a constant reminder of how badly I felt when I wasn’t able to finish.  I don’t want to feel that pain again and this should serve as good motivation to keep running, biking and swimming.

Easy motivation

Rhode Island “29.8” Race Report

Posted in Races on July 11, 2011 by eeodim

Imagine you’re a carpenter.  A relatively new apprenticed carpenter actually.  You’ve worked hard to learn the basic math, measurements, and other industrial skills that make you successful at your trade.  Most of your work involves building single family homes or small jobs here and there.  Over time you work and hone your skills to become good at what you do.  You even have shiny new tools that make building things easier.  At some point you’re given the opportunity to build a mansion.  No more two bedroom homes, but now you’re in charge of crafting an eight bedroom estate complete with a pool.  Folks who hear you’re going to do this say you’re crazy for taking on such a monumental project.  Why, they ask, would you ever want to work on something so overwhelming?  You take their questioning in stride and continue to do what you love.  You start laying the foundation, then put up the framing, eventually the windows go in, plumbing and electrical too.  Finally, the only thing left to do is paint and decorate.  However, the day you come in to work to start putting on the finishing touches you come to discover your house is no longer standing.  A freak electrical fire caused the entire property to burn to ashes.  Everything you worked so hard and diligently on has gone up in smoke – literally.  There was nothing you could have done, some times these things just happen.

Today I was that carpenter.  My initial attempt at the half-ironman distance ended in utter failure, but by no fault of mine.  Around mile 28 of the 56 mile bike my rear derraileur snapped off its hanger causing the chain to tear in half.  My day was done after only 29.8 miles (1.2 mile swim + 28.6 mile bike).  I finished only 42% of the race.  Eventually a few tech guys showed up, but unfortunately they didn’t have the necessary parts with them to get me fixed and on my way.  They called the Shimano rep who was on the course to have him come by to see if he had the parts, but upon his arrival the only thing he could do was confirm my day was done.  Three miserable hours later the sag wagon finally came by and picked me up.  I had to wait as the very last rider out on the course rode past the last aid station where I sat waiting patiently.  He dropped me off at T2 where I had to pick up my run stuff before I could head back to the hotel.  The real cherry on top kick in the nuts was the finish line was only 25 yards or so away from T2.  So as I gathered up my belongings I had to hear the announcer call off folks who had just crossed the finish line.  Why couldn’t that be me?  That should be me.

broken chain and jacked up rear derraileur

that piece at the top should connect with that piece at the bottom

that silver piece should be straight not bent left

The walk back to the hotel was in reality only 20 minutes long, but it felt like 20 hours.  I have enough self awareness to realize it was just a race, but I felt miserable.  I wanted to just throw my bike on the ground, kick the crap out of it, and then leave for them to throw in the trash.  Had someone had a match I probably would have set it on fire as well.  Okay, yes, this sounds a bit dramatic, but I put a lot into this.  I wake up early and go to bed late training for these races.  I sacrifice a lot of quality family time preparing to succeed and to be limited because a mechanical failure seems just plain unfair.  Ask me tomorrow and I may feel different, but right now the stinging feeling is still pretty strong.

I will say that not all was lost on the day.  Ironically enough, two other competitors happened to have mechanical issues around the same area I fell apart.  First was Steve (bib #571 from the Philly area), who’s rear tube went flat.  He stated that earlier up the road he hit a pot hole and all of his tire changing tools flew out of his bento box.  He literally had no way to change his tire.  Fortunately for him I had all the necessary stuff.  I don’t think he had changed a tube before, so I took the reigns and changed it for him sending him on his way.  I’m happy to report he went on to finish with a time of 6:18:58.

The second competitor was in a similar situation, but a bit more distressed.  Roxanne (bib #1610) stated she was using this race as a qualifier for the World Championships in Las Vegas later this September and this was her last chance.  She was frantically trying to change her tube as well, but was so overwhelmed her hands were literally shaking and she just couldn’t concentrate.  Again, I took the lead changing her tire and she was off.  Roxanne finished as well – 5:51:25.  She finished 8th in her division which doesn’t automatically qualify her for the World Championships, but if the folks in front of her decided they didn’t want to go or didn’t claim the spot then her ticket is punched.  Either way, she finished and I’m glad I was able to be apart of it.

my dinner and dessert tonight

So as I sit here writing this I’m still wondering what the next step is.  It’s easy to wallow in my own puddle of misery and cry how things just aren’t fair.  The reality of the situation is IMLOU isn’t waiting for anyone.  The longer I sit idle the more unprepared I will be come Aug 28.  I’m going to take down an entire bottle of wine tonight and once I go to sleep I’m putting this in the past.  Tomorrow morning the train is back on the tracks and heading toward Asskickinville.