‘Race Reports’ Archives
June 26, 2011
|Number of Participants Starting:
|Number that Did Not Finish (DNFs):
||~512 ounces (4.3 gallons)
||13 x 24oz bottles
||40 x 5oz cups
| 4 x Cliff Bar (Peanut Butter)
| Perpetuem (Orange-Vanilla)
| 9 x Cliff Shot Blocks (Margarita)
|Salt Pills Consumed
|Kicked in the Face
|Fecal Urgency Episodes (FUEs)
Every Ironman race report that I have ever read (including my own race reports) first apologizes for its length. I can safely say that I will never apologize for my length. But I will say that while I do want to give the people that followed me through this entire process adequate detail about the experience, my memory is awful – so this report is as much for me as anything else.
Before I get into the race, the most frequent question I get is about how much I had to train for this and what that was like. Basically, the official training program I followed was 24 weeks long. But that was all based on having trained for a solid year just to be ready to train for those 24 weeks. I had successfully completed a half-Ironman last August and it was at that point I knew I both really wanted to do a full Ironman and that I could finish it.
The 24-week program follows a pretty standard routine. Tough week followed by a recovery week – repeat 12 times. Within those weeks, it was always the same basic schedule with increasing times and distances throughout (especially on the weekends). Monday mornings I would do strength training with Olivier (my trainer). Tuesday morning was a swim (typically for 1 to 1.5 hours). Tuesday night I would be on the bike (typically for 1 – 2 hours). Wednesday morning was a run – usually less than an hour and typically focused on hills or sprints. Wednesday night was sometimes off, sometimes on the bike for an hour. Thursday morning was a swim (for 1-1.5 hours) and again on the bike for an hour at night. Friday morning was a run for 1 hour, or sometimes a “brick workout” which was a combined bike and run workout – those typically lasted a solid 2 hours. I would also squeeze a swim into Fridays of less than an hour – these were typically time trials of a certain distance of 1 – 2 miles. Saturday was always the long bike ride day where you really focus on building endurance. Early in the program these would be 2 hour rides – by the end they were 6-8 hour rides (for me, anyway). Sundays were long run days. Early in the program these were an hour, eventually working up to 20 mile runs that would take up to 3 hours or so. There was some variation in there, but that was my basic routine. My peak hours of training in a week were around 17 which really wasn’t TOO bad. There are other programs out there that have you doing well over 20 hours a week (or 30+), so this was very manageable all things considered. Where it became extremely difficult was when work got busy or stressful and things otherwise got hectic in my personal life (like changing jobs or moving, for instance). Mary Lynn was very patient through this entire process and dealt with me being overly anal about making sure I hit all my training sessions … and me being grouchy/stressed if I missed one. I can’t really thank her enough for all the support she provided through the entire process. It was definitely more difficult for her than it was for me. But she continued to help cook me very large and very healthy meals and was always there supporting me at every race. Thanks, Mary Lynn.
June 22 – June 25
We arrived in Nice on Wednesday morning after a long night of flying from Boston through Paris and quickly settled into our apartment just outside of Nice in a town called Saint Laurent du Var. The rest of the day was fairly uneventful as we got ourselves oriented and downed a bunch of espresso in attempts to stay awake for the day. The only workout I did was a 20-minute swim with Olivier in the afternoon. I forgot to put BodyGlide on my neck and got some chaffing from the salt water on the wetsuit – not exactly what I wanted with the race coming up. But the swim felt easy and really nice to start getting comfortable with the Mediterranean.
Thursday morning was our drive of the bike course. Olivier, Ryan, Max (a friend of Olivier’s) and I jumped in a car and headed out. In short, the drive took us almost 5 hours and all I could think was, if this took 5 hours in a car, how in the world was I going to finish in less than 8 hours?? In a car, the course seemed extremely narrow without a single stretch of straight road – very much like a billygoat trail. Add some psycho French driving by Olivier and I thought I was going to puke by the end. Once we got back, we headed off to the race expo to pick up our packets. The expo was fun and nice to see that my seemingly crazy-expensive bike is actually cheap compared to the other options out there. Ryan and I then raced back to the apartment so we could squeeze in a 30-minute run and a quick swim (I actually just soaked my legs while Ryan swam).
Friday was the final day to put my bike together and I finally got that done with some help from Olivier and a local bike shop. We all then took a quick ride into downtown Nice to test the bikes out and have some adjustments made by the mechanics at the expo. Ryan and I also got a quick run in. That afternoon, Ryan, Kim, Dianne, Mary Lynn and I headed off to Monaco and Monte Carlo to check out the scene and just relax a bit. We saw lots of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and even a Bugatti (has 1,200 horsepower, gets 7 mpg, and costs over $2M). We had an amazing dinner near an old church and then headed back home. THAT’s where we had problems… our train didn’t go all the way back to our town, so we got stuck in Nice without a cheap way back. So we jumped on a bus that didn’t take us where we thought it would. Long story short, we got home close to 2am. Now, anyone that does these things knows that 2 nights before the race is your most critical night for sleeping. So much for that plan.
Saturday – day before the race. I slept until 9:30am and then Mary Lynn and I headed to the only relatively large grocery store in the area to FINALLY find some oatmeal and peanut butter that I could use for my pre-race meal. This brings up a pretty important point. My standard meal plan was completely thrown off by being in France. No oatmeal. No bagels. No yogurt. No healthy bowel movements. I had been suffering from some pretty severe diarrhea for a few months heading to France. I had been trying to compensate by drinking lots of electrolytes, but I couldn’t help but think I was going to have some serious hydration issues during the race. So for the last 48 hours, I cut out my multi-vitamins in case that was causing the problem and I focused on eating breads, meats and other binders – no ruffage or milk products. And as if by some miracle, the god of solid turds graced me with his presence on Saturday night.
On Saturday afternoon we had to place our bikes in the transition area and hand in our transition bags. Transitions in an Ironman are very different than what most people experience in any shorter races. You place your bike in the transition the night before (the same is typical of half-ironman distances), but instead of placing your bike and run items next to your bike on a transition mat, you hand in bags with those items the night before. So, I had to hand in one bag with everything that I would need for the bike (helmet, bike shorts, shoes) and another with everything I would need for the run (running shoes, visor, more socks). It means transition times are very slow, but it makes the morning of the race SO much less stressful since you just need to bring your wetsuit, goggles and cap.
Later that evening Mary Lynn gave me a gift that was actually an Ironman shirt signed by entire family with messages of good luck and well wishes. I can’t even express how much it meant to me… and shocking that Mary Lynn pulled off the logistics of it all given that everyone lives all over the country. Amazing!
Anyway, an early dinner of pasta and chicken and I was in bed by around 10:30 – probably fell to sleep by around 11:30.
Up at 3:30am. Showered to loosen up the muscles and ate a big bowl of oatmeal, a couple of peanut butter sandwiches on pieces of baguette (as they say, “When in Nice…”), coffee, and electrolyte drink. We all met in the lobby at 4:45 to head out. The drive and trying to find parking took a little longer than I expected, so we didn’t get to the transition area until close to 5:30 (race start was 6:30). I quickly filled up my water aero water bottle, filled up my nutrition bottle of Perpetuem, and found a pump to fill up the tires. Now it was time to get one last bowel movement in before putting on the wetsuit and getting down to the start line. The line at the porta-potty was a bit long, but I eventually got the job done only to hear that we had 5 minutes until the transition area would close. Crap. My next step was to take my magical Chia Seeds – they were stored in a tube that opened up and promptly dumped all over the ground. No Chia Seeds. So I slapped on the wetsuit and headed down to the start… too late for a warm-up. The walk to the start was incredibly cramped and slow and I started to freak out that I wasn’t going to be able to get there before the gun went off. And I was definitely not finding Olivier or Ryan before the start. But I eventually made it down to the rocky beach, found someone to zip me up, and listened to the DJ trying to pump everyone up. As all 2,500 competitors clapped their hands to the music and got their adrenaline flowing, I stood there peeing into my dry wetsuit. I would normally do it in the water, but no warm-up means peeing into a dry wetsuit. I can promise you that everyone around me was doing the exact same thing, so I wasn’t worried about it.
T-1 minute until the swim start.
|3.8 km (1:21:01)
If anyone has been to Nice, you know that the beaches are hardly made from the smooth sand we are used to here in the US. The beaches in Nice are all rock, so 2,500 of my closest friends and I were standing on these rock waiting for the official gun to go off for the start. This was a single wave start, so everyone would be running into the water at the same time. My first goal was to make it into the water without breaking some toes or falling and breaking my face on the rocks.
The start was organized by expected start times. Corrals were setup with the slowest swimmers on the far sides and the pros in the middle. I was on the far left, Ryan started on the far right, and Olivier started somewhere near the middle.
Gun goes off and we’re started. I am standing about 10 deep, so it was about 15 seconds or so before my feet were in the water and I am still standing – success #1. A few seconds later, I dive in and feel the water seeping into the wetsuit and create a good seal… and I am swimming. To my surprise, I am not getting kicked, nobody is punching me, and I can actually move my arms. Sure I bump into people, but I have dealt with MUCH worse in MUCH smaller races. So far so good.
The swim course was setup as 2 separate loops with the first being 2.4 km going clockwise. At that point, you get out of the water to cross a timing mat, then get back in to do a smaller 1.4 km counter clockwise back to the start area.
The first kilometer or so was ridiculously easy and downright pleasant. Between the saltwater and wetsuit, I felt like the swim was effortless and I was cruising along. After 20 minutes or so I reached the first buoy and ran into a complete cluster of people. The 100m wide starting area all merged into a hard right turn and it was impossible to swim. So I stopped. I sat up vertical in the water with everyone else and the current caused by all the swimmers in front of us dragged us all (very quickly) around the buoy until I could get going again. It was really freaky and made me realize just how much drafting you could hang onto in big swims like this. But since everyone was vertical in the water, once we started swimming again, it was every man for himself trying to find some room… I got punched in the face and kicked many times. But my goggles were still on and I eventually found some space. A few minutes later we hit another hard right turn and we were heading back towards land. It was on this stretch that I started to feel a bit sick. The boats that were monitoring us were kicking out some hefty fumes that I was sucking in and it started to make me nauseated. I kept burping underwater and I was just waiting for the puke to come out, but nothing… I just couldn’t wait to get to land so I could take a break and breath in some clean air.
When I reached land, I climbed out of the water (ungracefully), thought about resting, but then just decided to go back in and see how I felt. Surprisingly, I felt fine once I was back in and off I went on the second lap. Nothing notable on the second lap other than there some long stretches where I found myself completely on my own. I could see people on either side of me, so I knew I wasn’t off course, but there was nobody real close in front of me. So I wasn’t catching a nice draft. At one point though, a guy on a canoe did have to tell me I was too far off course, so I guess I probably lost some time from that.
Regardless, I still felt fine as I made the final turn into shore for the last time. When I finished, I could see that my watch said 1:19 which was exactly what I was shooting for, so I was very happy. A few feet after exiting the water they had a bunch of showers going so you could rinse off the salt water before heading to the transition area. I stood there for a bit to enjoy the cold water and I tried to pee while I was there, but nothing was coming – I think the water was just too cold.
Time – 7:30
The first transition went as planned. I quickly found my T1 bag on the rack and found an empty chair to use for changing. I was already wearing a tri suit, but I also put on some bike shorts on top to make the long right a bit more comfortable. I threw on my helmet, socks and shoes and headed out. My time says 7:30 for the first transition and I am honestly not sure why it says I took that long – it certainly felt much quicker than that. Actually, I did go to the bathroom real quick before heading out – maybe that’s what slowed me down.
|180 km (6:29:06)
Going into the race, the bike course was the biggest concern for me. I knew there were some significant hills and I really didn’t know how I would handle that. The first 12 miles or so of the bike course is pancake flat. You start out along the beach for several miles which was a nice way to start adjusting to being on the saddle after the long swim. I was cruising along over 20mph for many of the first miles of the course which felt great. I was actually trying to take it easy to conserve energy, so I was very happy that my speed was holding where it was. The biggest thing I noticed as the bike ride started were the names of people I saw on the course. There was no Steve, Mike, or Brian… they were all Pierre, Sven, Olivier and other names with double-Ls and names I couldn’t pronounce. Such an international race is very neat.
Then we hit mile 12 and the first and steepest climb of the race. It was strange because for the first 12 miles, there were relatively few cyclists around me. But once I hit the hill at mile 12, it was a complete cluster. The hill is a 12% gradient which means most people were out of their saddle and everyone was in their lowest gear possible. I had switched to a 32 rear cassette a few months before the race and boy was I glad to have it. I expected to be wowed by the European climbing abilities, but I was cruising past people the entire way up. The only reason I didn’t pass more was because of how crowded it was. And because people were moving so slowly, a lot of people were randomly moving left and right to keep their balance – not an easy place to try passing people. Luckily the hill was only about 500 yards and then it flattened out to a relatively easy climb for the next several miles.
At around mile 30 began the longest climb of the course – a 12 miler up 3,000 feet to the top of the Col de L’Ecre. For most of this climb, I felt very good. The only people that passed me did so very quickly, so I can only assume they were terrible swimmers and phenomenal cyclists – but for the most part, I was doing the passing. I didn’t stand off the saddle once during this climb and for the most part, stayed in my lowest gears. The biggest problem I had on the climb was the heat. It was already in the 80s at that point and because my speed was so slow on the climb, there was no wind to cool me off. So the sweat was pouring off of me. There were times that I would adjust my head and streams of water would flow from under my helmet and over my sunglasses – I have never seen so much sweat come off my body. Luckily they had water bottle hand-offs every 20k and I grabbed a bottle at every single one. When you take into account the bottles that I started with, that means I drank about 13 bottles of water during the bike ride alone. The scary part is that I didn’t pee once – didn’t even feel the need to.
I should also point out how my stomach was feeling. At some point during the climb, I started to feel my stomach ringing some alarm bells. The amount of sugar I was taking in from my slurry of Perpetuade and the Cliff Bars I was eating started to take its toll… but it wasn’t awful. I was never at the point where I felt like I had to stop or anything. Once we reached the top of Col de L’Ecre there was a food stop and our special needs bags. Special needs bags are bags that you fill with whatever you think you might need halfway through the race. In mine I had placed some Perpetuade, some Cliff Bars, a Snickers bar and some bread. When I reached the special needs stop, I grabbed some Cliff Bars (that I never ate) and some bread. Once I ate the bread, I felt AWESOME. I also drank some cola-flavored electrolyte drink with caffeine and now also had more energy.
At some point along the climb I saw one of the most amazing things. It must have been about halfway through that 12-mile climb that I passed a guy with only one leg. He was pumping away on his bike with one leg which I was completely blown away by. I can’t imagine doing an Ironman with one leg. I really can’t imagine doing a hilly Ironman with one leg. I later found out that Mary Lynn saw him climbing out of the water. There were no crutches waiting for him, no walker, no assistant. Instead, another athlete saw him struggling and helped him all the way from the water exit to his bike. Gotta love the sportsmanship. See? Triathletes are all good people.
I had expected to see Ryan at some point during the climb and was thinking about what smart-ass comment I would make as he passed me. But that opportunity never came. I started to really worry that he never made it out of the water. He had a crash on the bike only a week before the race and a previous fracture in his collarbone had been seriously irritated. Little did I know that the bastard beat me out of the water. I am happy with my swim time, so no worries, but I am really glad I didn’t see him early on the bike ride or worse, in the transition area. That would have blown my confidence a bit. Instead, I spent the entire bike ride thinking I was kicking his ass. Maybe that’s why I had such a fun bike ride. I guess I should thank Ryan for beating me on the swim – I was basking in the glory of kicking Ryan’s ass. I guess you can only kick someone’s ass if they are in front of you.
The rest of the ride after the long climb is a bit of a blur. There was more climbing and a lot of downhills, but none of it seemed to be killing me. The coolest part of the ride came somewhere around mile 70 of the course. We rode through a small village on a road barely wide enough for cars. As we road through, the locals were hanging out their windows ringing bells, singing, and waving flags at us. It was without a doubt the coolest thing to experience on that ride and I actually found myself getting pretty emotional at it all. Very cool.
The last 45 miles of the course were for the most part downhill, and I was feeling awesome. In fact, I actually found myself singing out loud for much of it. For the life of me, I can’t remember what I was singing – I just know that I was. I was having the time of my life – by far the most enjoyable bike ride I have ever had and it was during an Ironman. My Garmin data shows that many of the miles during that stretch averaged in the upper 20s, but I know that my speed was in the 30s for much of it. Lots of hairpin turns as we traversed down the windy mountain road – it was so much fun. And surprisingly, I found myself passing tons of people. I am kind of a wuss when it comes to speed, but I felt so comfortable that I had no problem keeping my speed going during all the turns.
The final 12 miles of the bike course were on the same flat stretch we started on, so this was a good time to just focus on getting ready for the run. I stopped taking in any nutrition at that point so I wouldn’t have much sloshing around at the beginning of the run and I only sipped on my water. The biggest issue I had at that point was that my feet were KILLING me. I honestly felt like both big toes were broken and was a bit concerned about how this would feel on the run. Not sure what was making that happen – something about the hilly bike course, I suppose. Both Olivier and Ryan apparently had the same issue, so it must have been that.
Time – 7:26
I jumped off the bike and ran to hand my bike off and get my transition bag. My toes were still killing me, so I couldn’t wait to change shoes. I pulled off my bike shorts, changed socks, put on my running shoes, threw on my visor and my race number and I was off. Again, this transition time was 7:26 and I am not sure why it took so long. I put on sunscreen which may be what slowed me down? Not sure.
|42.2 km (4:24:47)
The run course was setup as a 4-loop course of about 6.5 miles per loop. The good news was that it was pancake flat along the beach. The bad news is that 4 loops means the finish line teased you three times before finishing… very painful. At the end of each loop they would give you a hair band that you placed around your wrist. Once you had 3 bands, you were on your final loop and allowed to go into the finisher chute. The bands would taunt me the entire race.
By the time I started by run, the temperature was sitting at around 31 degrees Celsius which translates to about 88 degrees. This is not ideal for running a marathon – not even close. Combine that with absolutely no shade, it meant that the run would be a heat fest. When I started, I was shocked how great I felt. My legs felt light, I had lots of energy – I seriously felt great. My first mile was at a 7:26 pace which I knew was too fast, but I was just going with what felt easy, so no worries.
By mile 2, I started to slow down a bit and started to use the water stops. There were stops every mile of the course and I quickly settled into a routine at each stop. Walk, chug 2 cups of water, eat an orange, and walk through the showers. Every water stop had 4 shower heads that you could go through to cool off. It was definitely cold water and it would take your breath away each time you went through, but when it’s about 90 degrees out, it was perfect. Every other mile I would take in a Cliff Shot block and a salt pill.
My goal for the run was to break 4 hours which meant average about a 9-minute mile. For the most part, I was doing fine for the first 10 miles. The water stops definitely slowed me down, but I was doing fine to break 4 hours. I finally saw Ryan and Olivier on my first lap of the run. Saw Olivier first as he was walking through a water stop on the return side of my first lap. I saw Ryan as he was into his second lap and I was finishing my first lap. Based on my calculations, Ryan was a little more than 30 minutes ahead of me at that point and he looked to be chugging along nicely.
By the time I got to lap 3, I was starting to feel the pain a bit and it was no longer a matter of running, but a matter of slogging through and making it to the finish. I saw people with their 3 bands around their wrist heading to the finish – maybe I could projectile vomit at them to adequately express my jealousy. Each mile would come… chug 2 cups, eat an orange, walk through the showers… listen to your feet sloshing around in your water logged shoes and hope blisters wouldn’t form. Very early in lap 3 (around mile 14), the bomb dropped in my stomach and I had to make a stop. The problem was, I hadn’t seen any port-a-johns, so I wasn’t sure where I could stop. I saw some bushes that looked awfully tempting, but this was downtown Nice, so while it might seem private, I knew it wasn’t… this could get ugly. Around mile 15 I found one. I approached the potty to find an old man hosing down the inside – what the heck did the person before me do in there to require a hose?? I asked the man to let me in and off I went. This was the first time I realized I was getting sunburned… as I pulled my suit off, I could feel the burn. Anyway, I did my business as quickly as I could and went on my way. I left and the old man promptly entered to wash away the homemade bust of Jabba the Hut that I had left for him. As I ran away, all I could think was how this was a seriously well run race if they had someone hosing down the toilets after each use. I mean, anyone that has used a mid-race toilet after someone else knows that things tend to spray everywhere in the rush of doing your business… to go into a clean one was like a miracle. Soon after that I came across the run special needs area and found my bag. I pulled out some extra salt tablets and some bread… the bread seemed to calm my stomach down again which was a very good thing.
Lap 3 was done and I saw Mary Lynn… just 1 lap to go – theoretically in an hour. I was still in good spirits and even able to smile and pose for some pictures (unheard of in my past races). But I quickly lost that pep and was facing the fact that I was slogging away at 10-minute miles and only getting slower. 2 cups of water… eat an orange… take a salt tablet… go through the showers… catch my breath… run again for a mile and repeat. At this point, the course had lost all the really good Ironman competitors and it was only the rest of us left. People were literally falling over. People were puking their guts out. People were being carried off in stretchers. I would say more than half the people I saw were walking and those that were running were slower than me, so it was pretty much like going through the land of the living dead. The heat was simply too much and was really taking its toll. But I carried on. By mile 24 a bomb dropped in my stomach again and I was approaching the same toilets and the same old man hosing them down. Should I do my business or struggle through to the end? I actually thought about pushing through, but memories of being 14 and shitting myself at the end of Fritzbees 10k came to mind, so I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to evacuate and entered the nice “clean” toilet. Now my stomach was so empty that it was cramping and made it very difficult to stand up straight. Mile 25 and I found Mary Lynn waiting for me. Mary Lynn has had 3 surgeries in the last year including ACL reconstruction and fixing a torn labrum in her hip. She decided to run next to me to help me along and was keeping up with me… that tells you something. The weird thing was that I was able to have a completely normal conversation – I would have expected to only grunt at that point. I told her to stop running since I knew it wasn’t good for her. She told me she would run as long as I was slower than her. So I pushed a bit and got in front of her. Eat my dust!
Finish line was now in site and I could hear the “You’re an Ironman” screams on the loudspeaker (most in French, however). I entered the final chute (which was surprisingly narrow) lined with blue carpet. Hundreds of people lined the walls and there were cheerleaders waving hands at me when I went by. Another racer was in front of me running with his wife and two kids. I thought about trying to sprint in front of him so he wouldn’t screw up my finisher photo, but I just couldn’t do it. I trotted up the ramp the finish line and I was done. I placed my hands on my head and quickly got completely overwhelmed and started crying like a baby. If you look at my finisher photo (taken on the other side of the ramp when I was out of the way of the family), you can see that I look a bit funny… it’s because I was crying. I think it also made my teeth look yellow.
As I wandered on the other side of the finish line, I was pretty confused about what I should be doing and where. I saw Mary Lynn and I quickly realized that I just needed to sit… I was feeling like crap. I knew I needed some food in me, but I was starting to shiver which just didn’t seem right to me when it was so hot out. After about 10 minutes of sitting, I told Mary Lynn that I was heading to the medical tent for some help. I went in to find about 40 people getting IVs and otherwise looking like death. They took my blood pressure and temperature… I was totally fine. So I got a thermal blanket and headed out to get my street clothes and some soup. I was apparently supposed to check out of the medical tent first – who knew? As a result, Mary Lynn had no idea I had left… and neither did the medical tent. For 3 hours, Mary Lynn was looking for me in the medical tent. For 2.5 hours, I was sitting about 20 feet away waiting for her. It made for a long and slightly distressing time for Mary Lynn and ironically gave me a good chance to pace around and make sure I didn’t tighten up. When we finally found each other it was about 11pm. We paid about $75 for a cab ride home and said hello to Olivier and his wife, Marie. Fortunately, they had some spare chicken, so I had some of that and baguette with jam… not enough food, but it’s all we had.
The next morning was all about getting packed up, picking up a rental car, and making our way to Lyon to start our real vacation.
The amazing part of my recovery is that I felt totally fine. The next day, I was tight, but my muscles weren’t sore. I had random cuts and sores (2 weeks later, I still do?), but no blisters or anything that made getting around difficult. I wasn’t particularly tired, but I was very hungry.
Since I finished, I have had some time to reflect. Now that I am back in Boston, the concept of training like I was seems a distant memory. I am so incredibly proud that I overcame my nagging leg injuries, learned how to swim, made it through a year and a half of training without an injury more serious than a blister or two, started a new job 2 months before the race, moved to Boston a month before the race, and travelled to France for my first Ironman and STILL finished 30 minutes under my goal time. If I could go back about 18 months ago when I started training for this, there is absolutely no way I would give myself much hope of doing what I did if I knew all that ahead of time. I do hope to keep competing in triathlons – I have made too much progress to let it all go now. But the fact is that training in Boston is completely different than training in North Carolina. Not just different… but much more difficult. But I will figure out a way. My focus for the next year or so will most likely be on getting better at running so I can hopefully break 3 hours in the marathon – ideally at the 2012 Boston. But I will join a master’s swim program, so hopefully my swimming will continue to improve. I just don’t know about the bike. Mary Lynn will be biking soon, so I am sure I will get out of the city to bike with her once she builds up to it.
Thanks again to everyone that supported me. And thanks for reading this.
||540 / 21923
||489 / 13234
||88 / 2147
Click here for a full set of pictures from the race…
I typically write race reports for triathlons and as I sit here thinking about what to write about the Marine Corps Marathon, I am realizing how much easier it is to write about triathlons. Much more activity… many more opportunities to screw up… many more opportunities for stories. Frankly, when I am running, I am focused and really don’t remember anything about what’s around me or anything that I could write about. But I will try.
Week Leading Up to the Race
Everything leading up to the race went as planned… almost. I started the week with some hamstring pain in my right leg, but with a few days of heating pads, it loosened up and was no problem by Wednesday.
Wednesday: 3-mile run – nice and easy to keep the legs loose.
Thursday: I started taking a teaspoon of Chia Seeds in the morning as part of my overall prep – more on that later. I did a swim with my training group and then left for DC in the late afternoon. Nice easy day and the legs were really starting to feel great.
Friday: 3-mile easy run but worked some 100m speed bursts into it just to keep the legs moving fast. Before I went for that run, I had a sudden rush of panic. I wanted to use my Garmin so I could gauge my cadence and just double-check how I was feeling. But guess what?? I forgot my precious watch at home!! All that work to get Garmin to send me a new one… and I forgot it. Moron. So, the rest of my Friday morning was focused on doing something very bad. I was going to buy a new Garmin with the plan on returning it immediately after the race. Success… and I am an awful person, but very happy to be!
Saturday: I woke up and started the day with the same carbo-loading method I used for the half-ironman back in August. Specifically, I used the “Western Australia Method” which you can read about here. Basically, it involves a high intensity run for 2.5 minutes, followed by a 30 second sprint. Once done, I downed a bagel, yogurt, fruit, a bunch of orange juice and eggs. I am now a firm believer in it and will follow those steps for every race I do moving forward. Saturday afternoon was spent watching the Jon Stewart’s rally to restore sanity in DC. On Saturday night, I went with the family to Carmine’s in downtown DC for some HUGE helpings of rigatoni, chicken parmesan, spinach, and salad. I was fully carbo-loaded.
I woke up at about 3:20am which was 30 minutes earlier than I wanted, but I was wide awake, so I jumped in the shower to loosen up, got dressed and covered myself in Body Glide, then went downstairs for breakfast. I tried to keep my nutrition as close as possible to what I normally do for training – just more of it. I ate the following:
- 1-cup oatmeal
- 1-cup yogurt
- 1-cup fruit
- Large Orange Juice
- 1 Cinnamon Raisin Bagel with Peanut Butter
Once I had scarfed that down, I was ready to go.
Getting to the Race
Sometimes it helps to be oblivious. I was staying out in Rockville, MD the night before the race and our plan was to leave the house at 5:45, figuring that we would arrive at the Pentagon Metro station by 7. That would give me an hour to use the bathroom, stretch, and find my place in the starting chute. Well, we left at about 5:50 which was fine, but we didn’t end up arriving at our destination until 7:20 – also fine since we had 40 minutes to spare. But what we didn’t plan on was the long walk from the Metro station to the starting line. We were part of a large mass streaming from the train, so it didn’t even occur to me that this would be a problem. By the time we reached the “athlete village”, it was 7:50 and there was no way in hell I was going to get in a line for the porta-potty and still make the start. So, I ducked into some bushes then handed my clothes off to Mary Lynn and went off running to the start. All turned out to be fine – I had time to pee again against a fence and stood at the start for a few minutes before the gun went off. My jog to the start turned out to be a good warm up and I was ready to go.
Looking back, if I had known how close we cut it, I would have been VERY stressed on the train and would have definitely had some stomach issues. But since I was oblivious, I was carefree and only worried about peeing.
The race started with a bunch of cannons and I just stood there… for about a minute. After another minute of shuffling, I was at the starting line and we were off. My first mile was relatively slow just because of all the people and that was fine with me. I think my pace for the first mile was just under 8 minutes, so I was warmed up nicely before pushing the pace. But even as things opened up, there was still not enough room to really let my stride open which was a little frustrating, but I was able to get my pace down to around 7 minutes. All good.
Now, let me take a quick step back. My plan coming into the race was to start at a 7:15 pace with the idea that I would slow down and eventually end up with a 1:38 first half marathon. From there I assumed I would slow down even more and end up at 3:30 for my final time. That was my plan. But I also knew that I didn’t want to intentionally slow down to conserve energy. I wanted to really push it to see where it would lead me. My first 5k was pretty fast by my standards – roughly 22 minutes. After 10k, my pace held steady and I came in just under 45 minutes (a PR for a 10k, by the way… funny how that happens). My 3rd 5k split was faster… I was actually 3 seconds faster on my 3rd 5k than I was on my second one. So, here I was at about 10 mile, still going very strong and feeling great. My 4th 5k was only a few seconds slower. What the heck? Almost at the halfway point and I was still holding just over 7-minute mile pace. Craziness.
When I passed the halfway point, I was under 1:35 (another PR by 11 minutes) and well under my target of 1:38, so I was very happy. The quick math told me that if I could hold this pace, or even something just a little bit slower, I would actually have a shot at qualifying for Boston. But that was still a half-marathon away – too early to be thinking about that.
I continued on, completely oblivious to my surroundings. I knew it was a beautiful day – was that the Washington Monument I just went by? That was definitely the Capital.
By mile 20, I was sitting at 2:27. Only 10k left and I had to be under 48 minutes to qualify for the Boston. Wow – it was really looking like a possibility?? I just had to maintain a pace at around 8:00 and I could actually do it. I looked down at my watch and it was stuck at 7:45. Good. No more than a mile after that, the winds picked up and they were blowing directly at us. Not good. So, I had to pick up the intensity which my body did not like – I could feel my hamstrings start to seize up. I had visions of getting within a mile of the finish line and falling into a crumpled mass of convulsing leg muscles. But that didn’t happen – I willed the cramps away and was able to use a short downhill off an exit ramp to pound the legs a bit to work things out.
- Less than a minute to go...
By mile 25, I was sitting at 3:05. 1.2 miles to go in 10 minutes. I hit the 26-mile mark and my watch struck 3:15. Now, what I didn’t realize before the race (and it’s a good thing I didn’t), is that the final few hundred yards are straight up hill. I suppose there is something symbolic about this – you finish at the Iwo Jima War Memorial. By the time you reach 26 miles, that hill seems absolutely ridiculous. I had about a minute to get to the top so I could qualify for the Boston Marathon – a lifetime goal that I never in a million years would have thought I would reach that day and there was no way in hell I was going to miss it by a matter of seconds.
As I started to pump up the hill, I passed a few wheelchair participants that were going backwards – it was too steep for them. I could hear lots of people screaming, but in my mind, I was running in slow motion to Chariots of Fire. I kept looking down at my watch and it was STILL stuck on 3:15. I hit the flat area at the top of the hill – watch still stuck on 3:15. I passed the finish line and pressed stop… and the watch was STILL stuck on 3:15. Holy crap. I just qualified for the Boston Marathon – by 17 seconds!!
1 teaspoon of Chia Seeds 1 hour before the race
1 Cliff Shot Blok every 2 miles
1 cup of water every 2 miles
- Go me!
I have been training hard for the past year and even though I made consistent improvements during that time and have been seeing some very clear signs that I am improving in all facets of the triathlon, running has always been my strongest event. Given that, I assumed that running would see the least amount of improvement. But wow… I have to say that I have never been more proud and shocked at my progress. I shaved 36 minutes off my previous best time and didn’t officially start ramping up my mileage until 7 weeks before the race. To me, this speaks to the power of cross-training and more specifically, Triathlon training, as a way to improve your running. That combined with the fact that the weather was perfect (40s and 50s), and I am simply MUCH better with my nutrition and hydration strategies now, made for a perfect storm of positive improvement. Oh yeah – I weigh 20lbs less than I did the last time I ran a marathon – that helps too.
- All Finished
Here is a copy of Chrissie Wellington’s race report from Timberman. You can find the original on her blog @ http://www.chrissiewellington.org/uncategorized/timberman-70-3-big-smiles-and-great-spirits/. It’s a really good writeup - I couldn’t have said it better myself. Well, I guess I would know how to write about being drug tested, but that’s another story.
Timberman 70.3 is held on the shores of beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee, in New Hampshire. Despite having raced there in 2008 and 2009 I still a) cannot pronounce Winnipesaukee and b) have absolutely no clue as to how the Lake got its unpronounceable name. I therefore decided to undertake some research. A few googles later I was enlightened. The Legend of Lake Winny-pes-ow-key goes a little something like this….”Many moons ago on the northern shore lived a great chief, Wonaton, renowned for his courage, and for his beautiful daughter, Mineola. One day, Adiwando, the young chief of a hostile tribe to the south, hearing of Mineola, paddled across the lake and fearlessly entered his enemy’s village. Her father was away, and before long he and the Mineola fell desperately in love. Wonaton, on his return, was exceedingly wroth to find that the enemy’s chief was his daughter’s suitor and he raised his tomahawk to kill him. Mineola pleaded for the life of her lover and finally succeeded in reconciling them. After the wedding, the whole tribe accompanied the two in their canoes halfway across the lake. The sky was overcast and the waters black, but just as they were about to turn and leave the couple, the sun came out and the waters sparkled around the canoe of Mineola and Adiwando. “This is a good omen,” said Wonaton, “and hereafter these waters shall be called Winnipesaukee, or ‘Smile of the Great Spirit’.” I couldn’t think of a better place to hold a triathlon – a sport where a big smile and a great spirit are two of the most important characteristics anyone can have.
And so it was with a smile and a high spirits (not the alcoholic variety) that I travelled from Boulder to Gilford, New Hampshire for my third consecutive race at the Timberman 70.3 Festival. I arrived on Wednesday evening and, as always, stayed at the wonderful Gunstock Inn, complete with its indoor pool, fully equipped gym, gigantuous breakfast/brunch/lunch buffet and amazing views over the Lake. I hit the pool on Thursday morning, and quickly realised how nice it is to actually be able to breathe properly when swimming at sea level – as opposed to feeling like you are sucking through a straw at 5000ft in Boulder. I was however slightly perturbed when a girl in the adjacent lane proceeded to race me. Being beaten is never good for one’s ego. Especially if that girl is 7 years old. Anyway, nursing my bruised ego I took the Slice out for a 3 hour spin in the afternoon – spinning being rather difficult given that the Timberman course has a number of hills of the 7-9% variety. There is however a flattish section which would be incredibly fast was it not for the Grand Canyon like crevasses that scar the road. Other drivers must have though that I had consumed some of the ‘great (alcoholic) spirit’ as I swerved in and out trying to avoid a ‘wheel down crack’ debacle (narrowly avoiding getting hit by a passing truck with 50 precariously balanced porta pottys on the back. Could have been messy).
My Thursday night television viewing (‘Cake Wars’ and Wife Swap’ – very intellectually stimulating) was put on hold when I received a visit from the anti doping officials. It’s great to see the WTC upping the ante when it comes to testing – this time they took blood as well as urine. Friday was my rest day, but was full to the brim with a long massage and excess consumption of breakfast buffet staples. The evening was spent at the Champions Dinner where I gave a little speech and had the opportunity to meet some of the age groupers that were racing over the course of the weekend.
Now Timberman is not just a 70.3 – it’s a complete Festival – with a live music, previously live lobsters, a kid’s race, a sprint race, a sprint to the carbo loading dinner and an even faster sprint to the pro panel. Here Andy Potts interrupted the proceedings with an embarrassing ‘Guess Chrissie’s body part’ competition. Anyway, the quiz basically amounted to Andy waving the ‘body part’ photo from the latest ESPN magazine and the first person to guess the part won the signed photo of that part. Somewhat worrying was the fact that my upper thigh was mistaken (including by a doctor) for my calf and my knee. (According to the mother of the 7 year old girl who raced me in the pool I had also been the subject of a family game of Pictionary. The daughter had drawn me. Her brother had to guess who it was. His guesses were Mr Potato Head and An Alien. Fabulous).
Like last year one of the highlights was having the chance to speak at the ‘Make a Wish Foundation’ ceremony. Make a Wish is a not for profit organisation that grants wishes to children with life threatening illnesses – see www.wish.org. It truly is an amazing charity, and the small gathering was held to thank the athletes who were racing to raise money for the organisation. It was an absolute honour to meet some of the fundraisers, and to help raise the profile of the Foundation and its great work. If ever a child dreamed of meeting a professional triathlete I would jump at the chance to make that wish come true.
Race day dawned at about 4.30am. Overcast skies, but no rain, faced us all as we prepared in transition. As always the pro field was full to the brim, with Dede Griesbauer, Caitlin Snow, Heather Jackson, Angela Neath and a host of others. The men’s side was no different – a hotbed of athletic talent including defending champ Andy Potts. I met a wide variety of people in transition. One man came up to me ‘and said – this is my first 70.3 chrissie. What tips have you got for me?’ I didn’t have the heart to tell him that 6am on race morning was a tad too late to be asking me for ground breaking advice. So I offered the following pearl of wisdom. “Use Vaseline”. I didn’t hang around to watch him apply my tip.
With a water temperature of 71 degrees my TYR Hurricane wetsuit was the order of the day. The women went off two minutes behind the men. My start was pretty sub optimal – largely due to the fact that the water was only about 2ft deep and so we had to dolphin leap for about 10 meters. Dolphin leaps are not my forte and looked more like a beached whale. Luckily I hit deeper water, and managed to get into my stroke and onto Dede’s feet. About two thirds of the way round I decided to try and hit the front, and by some small miracle came out of the water first.
I jumped on the Slice and had a strong bike, managing to avoid any ‘wheel in crack’ accidents, and rode into T2 feeling pretty sprightly. Onto the run I felt good, and managed to hold the same pace throughout the half marathon. The Timberman run course is two out and backs, and the course is lined with spectators – especially hundreds of kids – yelling, cheering, eating, playing music and generally having a ball – even the rain didn’t dampen their spirits. What I find equally amazing is the amount of athletes who expended some of their precious energy to shout words of encouragement to me – I hope I was able to put medals round the necks of at least a few of those who cheered for me. I crossed the line first in 4hr10 – to defend my Timberman title, run 5minutes faster than last year and break the course record was so incredibly special. Last year I scattered Jon’s ashes at this race site, and once again I was able to roll across the line in his memory.
And the day didn’t end there. A post race urine drugs test was the first port(a potty) of call and then I proceeded to devour half of the post race buffet. A culinary heaven, centred around bagels pizza, pasta, cold meats, cheeses fruit, salad, ice cream and cakes to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the race. And from there I rushed back to the finish line to meet and greet many of the age groupers as possible. It was slightly dispiriting to be told by a WTC official that I should stop putting medals around people’s necks as I was causing a jam in the finishing chute. I ignored him.
Despite this one individual and his ludicrous suggestion the Timberman 2010 experience was fantastic. A first class pro field, the best post race food, superb support from volunteers and spectators, and importantly heaps of interaction between the pros and the amateurs throughout the weekend. Congrats to Andy for the win, to Angela and Heather for rounding off the women’s podium, to the wonderful Richard and Maureen at the ‘home from home’ Gunstock Inn and all morning, all you can eat (and I did) breakfast (www.gunstockinn.com), to Amber and Robbie and the rest of the race massage team (www.vitalkneads.com), to Myles at MC Cycle and Sport (www.mccycleandsport.com) for making sure the Slice was ready to rumble – and of course to Audra, Keith, Alex, and the rest of the Timberman crew. Lake Winnipesaukee – or ‘Smile of the Great Spirit’ – I couldn’t have named it better myself.
Some more photos at
Location: Lake Winnipesaukee, NH
Distance: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
Finishing Time: 5:22:31
Click here for pictures…
Swim: 37:28 (1:58/100m)
Bike: 2:48:32 (19.94mph)
Run: 1:51:42 (8:31/mile)
I came into Timberman with a basic goal and a stretch goal. My basic goal was to finish in less than 6 hours. My stretch goal was to finish in 5:30. As you can see by my finishing time of 5:22, I beat my stretch goal and couldn’t be happier. That said, I had a string of issues, so this race was not only a test of endurance, but it turned out to be a test of my ability to ignore distractions and my ability to make adjustments on the fly. But more on that later….
Mary Lynn and I drove the bike course the day before the race and I posted something on Facebook that basically said, “holy sh*t is the course hilly… adjusting expectations”. As a result, I was nervous and tense all afternoon and just generally felt like crap heading into evening. Making things worse was a realization at 6:00pm that I had to park my bike in the transition area by 7:00pm. We were 20 minutes from the hotel (and my bike), and another 20 minutes from the transition area; my stomach was bubbling. But we made it and safely placed my bike in spot 1604. But the damage was done – my stomach was upset and making sure I knew it for the rest of the evening.
I was in bed by around 10:30 and actually fell asleep very quickly. When I did the Disney Marathon, I slept 2 hours, so this was much better! I woke up at 3:30am and loosened up in a hot shower, went to the bathroom, ate my oatmeal, espresso, hardboiled egg, bagel and orange juice then got out the door by 5am. I generally felt good – still some stomach issues, but nothing serious.
For anyone looking at this as they prepare for a future Timberman, take the shuttle bus from Gunstock. It was easy and no traffic. Definitely happy we did this.
The rest of my prep was easy and straight forward. My swim wave didn’t start until 7:50, so I had lots of time to get ready which was perfect. This included watching the pros take off and then get out of the water. Andy Potts finished his swim in about 20 minutes, a solid 3 minutes in front of second place which meant he was on his bike for awhile before the next person even got out of the water. THAT was very cool to watch up close.
Swim – 37:28
I felt great going into the swim. We had plenty of room for warm-up, so I spent about 10 minutes relaxing in the water and getting the arms loose…. and, of course, relieving myself. Nothing warms the body inside a wetsuit better than a few cups of fresh urine.
I was in wave 12 along with the other 35-39 year olds with last names starting with A-K. As I looked around at all the other neon green caps, all I noticed was that people looked OLD. Do I look that old? Couldn’t be. Not possible.
The gun went off at 7:50 and after “running” through the shallow water for about 20 yards, we were off and swimming. My wave probably had about 50 guys, so it wasn’t crazy crowded. I had the usual side bumping and arms slapping my legs, but overall things were ok. I did keep running into guys in front of me which I was fine with – it meant I was actually faster than someone in the water.
Lesson #1: Expect the unexpected. More importantly, focus on how the unexpected (positive or negative) can work to your advantage.
Somewhere around the first turn (which, by the way was at about buoy #10… there were LOTS of huge buoys through the entire swim course. Sighting was definitely not an issue in this swim), I was up against the side of some other guy. Seriously, when I breathed on the left side, I would swear he was trying to make out with me. But no, he was not after some lovin’; his mission in life was to make sure his hand pounded my arm several times. About a minute after that happened, I realized that my precious Garmin 310XT had popped off my wrist and was swimming with the fishes. My immediate reaction was “you have to be f’n kidding me. This is NOT a good omen for things to come.” But there was really nothing I could do. As I continued along thinking about the ramifications of my watch being gone – not knowing my splits, not knowing my bike speed, not knowing my bike cadence, not knowing my running pace, not knowing my running cadence – I thought that maybe this was a good thing? Maybe being completely oblivious would give me much less to think about. And with less to think about, I could focus on how I felt and adjusting according to that instead of the stats pouring out of my watch. Not like I had much of a choice. But wow… what an expensive incident!
But I made it through the rest of the swim without issues. The course did get extremely crowded at the end as I caught up to the slower people in the wave in front of me and the fast guys in the wave behind me caught up to us. No issues – I climbed onto the beach and ran into T1 not having a clue how fast I was.
T1 – 3:02
I was much slower than I wanted to be in this transition. I had no problems taking off the wetsuit, but for whatever reason, my shoes were an issue.
Lesson #2: Stick to the plan unless you absolutely cannot.
As I was coming out of the water, I was thinking, “Maybe I should wear socks during the race. My watch popped off… so now I bet I will get blisters if I don’t wear socks.” So I ran up to my transition area and quickly found that I had packed up my socks, so that wasn’t an option. But this got me a bit flustered, so then putting on my shoes became a total cluster. I got the first on, but then the second went on weird, so I had to try a second time to make sure it felt right. When I did that, the strap came undone and I had to re-thread it and try again. Done. Finally. Grabbed my helmet and sunglasses, sprayed on some sunscreen (a bunch went in my mouth which didn’t taste so great), and started running out. On my way!
Bike – 2:48:32
The bike ride started with a mile long uphill climb. I was expecting that to be much more painful than it was – I suppose adrenaline and my increased heart rate from the swim helped with that. I was cruising past people which was to be expected. I am a slow swimmer, so I tend to play catch-up for the remainder of the race. That combined with the older age groups going off first meant there would be LOTS of people for me to pass.
Anyway, the course was hilly with another 1.5 mile climb starting at around mile 4, a couple of half-mile climbs at mile 8, 9, and 11, then a 3.5 mile climb at around mile 30. This was essentially an out-and-back course, so all those uphills meant the equivalent downhill on the return. There were 2 hills that I can remember that were really really tough (12% grade). One was near the beginning (maybe mile 11?) and then one towards the end (maybe mile 40?). I passed a few people walking on those – I decided to stand while climbing and I believe it was the right decision for me. I kept up good speed and it didn’t burn my quads too much. I realize I need to get better with seated climbs, but this was a race, so I went with what works.
So, all in all, the course was very hilly, but not actually as bad as I expected. Really hard to know if the hills just weren’t as steep as the ones I am used to, or if the adrenaline was making me go fast… but I was really feeling great. No clue what my speed was, but I felt great. EXCEPT for my stomach. The part I haven’t mentioned is that my stomach started to feel bad at about mile 10. I had started taking in nutrition at about mile 5 and within 15 minutes or so, I was feeling my stomach start to cramp up. I tried to experiment a bit to see what was causing more problems, the energy bars or the shot bloks. Both were equally guilty – I would eat one (of either) and about 2 minutes later, my stomach would hurt. That would last for about 10 minutes and then go away. So, I tried to stick to the plan of eating every 20 minutes and this routine generally seemed to work out. That said, I didn’t each as much each time as I wanted. My plan was to eat about 100 calories worth of the energy bar every 20 minutes along with a shot block which would equate to about 400 calories in the hour. By the end of the bike ride, I had only eaten about 500 calories. This was about 700 calories less than plan… but I jump ahead.
At about mile 40, during the last big climb, I climbed off the saddle and did my best to pump up the steep hill. That’s when I realized that every time I stood up, I was quickly approaching the danger zone for crapping my tri suit. No shorts to discard in the woods. If that happened, I would be a serious mess. All I could think about was “just make it to the transition. You want to know how fast you can be on the bike, and if you stop during the bike ride, your time will be all screwed up. Stop in transition and you can easily explain the long transition time.” So I thanked my bike seat for slowing down my fecal urgency and did my best to stay seated at much as possible.
That didn’t last. At about mile 45, we were all cruising down the highway and I decided that this just wasn’t worth it. I could only remember seeing 2 port-a-johns in the transition area, so I didn’t want to risk dealing with a wait. I quickly pulled over and leaned my bike against a reflector post and dove down a small ravine and up and small hill so I was well protected and out of site. I now have new respect for women that have to use the bathroom when wearing a one-piece swimsuit. Taking off my tri suit was a pain. I won’t go into details, but I lost about 5 days worth of food and cleaned up with what I could only hope wasn’t poison ivy (as of 24 hours later, still no issues, by the way). I ran out and climbed back on the bike. Not having a watch, I have no idea how much time I lost, but I am guessing 4 minutes.
At this point, it had been raining for about 20 minutes, so things were generally miserable for me. But I kept going and ended up re-passing a bunch people that I had seen earlier. From here on we had a number of relatively steep downhills which, when raining, were very scary for me. Packs of riders going anywhere from 30-40 miles an hour on wet roads and with wet brakes on carbon wheels is scary. Add active roads with traffic and it’s even scarier. I ended up using more breaks than necessary, but I remember thinking “that’s ok – I will take life over a better time any day”.
We quickly approached the final mile of the bike course and entered the “no pass zone” with about .5 miles left down the original up-hill and the sharp turn into the transition area.
Lesson #3: If you haven’t practiced something, a race is NOT the time to try it.
Up ahead of me I noticed a guy undoing his shoes as he prepped for the transition. I figured, I am in a no-pass zone, so I can’t really do much but [slowly] follow the guys in front of me. I will try that too. I got both shoe unstrapped ok, but then I was thinking that wasn’t going to do me much good unless my feet actually got out of the shoes. So I popped my right foot out and tried to place it on top of the shoe. Nope – the shoe flipped underneath, hit pavement and promptly popped off onto the side of the road. You have got to be freakin’ kidding me! First, a lost watch and now a lost shoe?? This was quickly turning into the most expensive race in history! So I dismounted the bike and ran in with only one shoe. I wonder if anyone noticed? Maybe I got a ton of respect and people are now telling stories about some guy that rode the entire race with only 1 shoe. Nope – I am just a moron that tried something new on race day. (If you were curious, I went back to where this happened after the race and found that someone had placed my shoe on top of an orange cone. Thank goodness!)
T2 – 1:47
I don’t remember much of T2. I was too distracted with my lost bike shoe to really notice much. I do know that I had no major issues and I guess my time shows that. Not super quick, but not slow by any stretch. Especially when you consider how big the transition area was and how unfortunate my location was.
Run – 1:51:42
This was my first chance to see how I was doing during the race. As I came out T2, the race clock read 4:22. When you subtract the 50 minutes to account for my starting time, this meant that I was 3:32 into the race. Holy crap! That meant I only had to run about a 2 hour half-marathon to beat my 5:30 stretch goal. I was doing great! If I could only keep my stomach settled…
When I started the run, my legs felt awesome. Really – I felt no different than starting a normal run. No idea what my pace was, but my first split after 3 miles was about 7:45. That’s good for me. I had some stomach cramps during those first few miles, but nothing severe. I tried taking in a shot block just to see what happened, but it didn’t go so well. It wasn’t immediate, but I could tell the reaction wasn’t positive. So I just stuck with water and focused on getting through the run in tact. I knew I hadn’t taken in nearly enough nutrition during the bike, so I was really concerned about bonking, but I was feeling pretty good up until around mile 4.
This was a 2 loop course, so I was just into the return of my first loop when I found myself chanting “just don’t poop … just don’t poop” – I could feel it coming. My stomach was aching again and I needed relief, so I dove into a port-a-john and did my best to point and shoot. No details necessary, but I do need to apologize to the poor sap that went in there after me. Actually, maybe it wasn’t my fault. This port-a-john was definitely not set on even ground, so when I got in, I seriously thought a few people were standing out back shaking it as hard as they could to play some cruel joke on me. But no, it turned out I was in a bathroom made by the same people that make basu balls – they wanted me to get a good quad and core workout in while squatting over the toilet. Anyway, I then prayed this was it and there would be nothing left for me to leave out on the course. I probably lost 3 minutes from this stop.
I made it through the rest of the first loop and watched others approach the finish line as I started my second loop. Depressing. The run course was actually pretty hilly. Here I thought the bike course would be the tough part, but the run had some nice hills on it which were not fun. I was not excited about doing it again.
Nothing real notable from this point on. I just focused on moving forward and reminded myself that I had a very short distance left. Just keep moving… one foot after the other. I sucked on a few oranges to try to get some calories in me – it didn’t seem to upset my stomach, so I just kept drinking water and taking oranges for the rest of the way. I tried eating some pretzels, but they would turn to dust in my mouth and when I breathed, the crumbs shot up into my eyes. Not good. Funny, but not helpful.
By the last mile, my knees were absolutely killing me and I just wanted to be done. I hit the final stretch and saw the time on the clock – 6:12. So, subtract 50 minutes from that and… holy shit! I finished in 5:22?! Awesome. Even better was that Chrissie Wellington was waiting to put my medal around my neck and told me I did a great job. She is now officially my favorite triathlete – the fact that she was there to personally hand medals to every finisher I just thought was amazing. I wanted to hug her and thank her, but my hands had seen awful things during that race – that just wouldn’t have been nice.
I am writing this on August 23, the day after Timberman. My body feels awesome today – a little bit of soreness in my legs, but nothing unexpected. I will say that I felt AWEFUL last night up until I ate dinner. I was clearly all screwed up from not eating enough on the course and my body was revolting. My head was pounding, my muscles ached. But after a short nap, we headed out and I scarfed down a coke, some French onion soup, a salad, and a Reuben and I was a new man. I felt awesome.
I absolutely loved this race. The course was beautiful, it was very well organized, and it’s a great destination race. I think there were 90+ professionals competing including Andy Potts and Chrissie Wellington. I was so excited to see Andy and he didn’t disappoint as he decimated the field… including beating me by and an hour and a half. I would love to do it again next year, but it’s only 2 months after my planned Ironman – not sure that will work, but we’ll see. I might sign up for it – it was that much fun!
Lake Mayo Sprint Triathlon
Location: Roxboro, NC
Distance: 750m swim, 17mile bike, 3mile trail run
Finishing Time: 1:27:19
The purpose of me doing this race was to serve as a final tuneup for the Timberman half-ironman coming up in 2 weeks. Technically, a sprint triathlon doesn’t really fit into the training plan at this point – I was supposed to do a long brick workout – but I wanted some more practice with transitions and to feel the energy of race day one more time before heading north.
The Lake Mayo Sprint Triathlon is in sunny Roxboro, NC; about 90 minutes from my house in Raleigh. The swim course is a simple 750m lake swim, the bike is a rolling 17 miles, and the run is a technically challenging 3 mile trail run through the woods around the lake. Here is my story.
Swim – 16:22 (Rank: 77/151)
I actually felt pretty good going into the swim. And Lake Mayo is by far the nicest lake I have been in; shockingly, I could actually see the bottom. The course was basically an upside down V. Head out for about 250m and then make a hard left back to the finish. Simple. I tried something a little different this race – I tried breathing every 2 strokes in an effort to pull harder while getting enough oxygen to maintain it. But as you can see by my time, I don’t think it helped me much… if anything, it hurt me. I suspect it had more to do with the fact that I was trying to push too hard which resulted in me shortening my stroke. I was very inefficient. That said, I finished in the top half. I guess I can’t complain about that.
T1 - 0:57 (Rank: 13/151)
Not much to say here. I again tried something a bit different. I decided to go sockless for this race. The thinking was that it was short enough of a race to not run the risk of blisters. The result was me being fairly quick onto the bike since I wasn’t fumbling around trying to put on socks. I am still not comfortable enough to try pre-attaching my shoes to the bike and strapping in while ridding. So, I am pretty happy with my time here.
Bike - 46:34 (Rank: 24/151)
The good thing about being so damn slow in the water is that you do nothing but pass people on the bike. I felt good on the bike – I was able to maintain a pace of 20.6 mph and the course was not real flat. Bike is not my strength, so finishing 24th is pretty good for me. There weren’t any steep hills, but there was a stretch of 2 or 3 miles that was a decent incline and I was able to keep my speed up. It was only 17 miles, but it was a beautiful course and the roads were in really nice condition,; overall a very easy ride. The only interesting thing that happened was seeing a random local proudly standing next to a dead deer on the side of the road (road kill?). I can only assume he was waiting for one of his buddies to stop by to pick him and his dead friend up. Anyway, his 2 toof smile provided a bit of comic relief during the ride.
T2 – 0:50 (Rank: 37/151)
Not sure why I did worse (relative to others and my T1 rank) on the bike-to-run transition. I did struggle to get my helmet off for some reason and I didn’t get a chance to detach my watch from the bike before the transition, so I fumbled with taking that off the bike as well.
Run - 22:36 (Rank: 12/151)
The run was MUCH more challenging than I expected. I knew it was a trail run, but I had assumed this meant packed gravel or otherwise something flat and easy. No. This run course was a hardcore running trail where the entire run was about dodging rocks, roots and frequent dips and rises. I was absolutely flying off the bike. My pace for the first mile started under 6 minutes/mile and finished under 7 minutes/mile. Considering I was constantly hopping side to side to avoid obstacles, I am very happy with that. Overall, I maintained an average pace of 7:33 which is good for me. I would have been happy with that on a flat pavement course for 3 miles, so I can only imagine how fast I would have been in that situation.
I did see plenty of drama on the run. Again, because of my swim, I was still playing catch up to people, so I did pass a bunch. But I also saw plenty of people falling. Saw a good amount of blood and people going shoulder first into trees. I somehow managed to avoid this (thank goodness!), but I have to say, I am hurting today. My left IT Band is completely tweaked from all the side-to-side running on the trails. I knew my hips were weak… clearly my lateral strength wasn’t prepared for this type of running.
KFS Tri Results
Click here to visit the Kinetic Fitness Studio website.
The Big Deuce
Location: Jordan Lake, NC
Distance: 2 mile swim
Finishing Time: 1:12:34.7
The Big Deuce is a relatively small 2-mile swim race (just over 100 people) at Jordan Lake in Apex, NC. I have never done a race swim longer than 1 mile, so I wanted to try my hands at 2 miles. With the half-ironman coming up next month, I thought it would be a good tune-up for it.
The course was pretty straight forward. A run-in beach start and out a few hundred yards before turning left to start 2 square clockwise loops before heading back to shore. The first loop for me was fine. I wasn’t pushing it by any stretch – just got into my rhythm and pushed along, making sure I had enough for the final 1/2 mile where I wanted to finish fast. The second loop got a little more interesting because my cap started falling off (I wear my goggles underneath). By the time I hit the far end of the second loop, it was hanging by a thread to the top of my noggin. In my mind, it was acting like a big drag to slow me down – my time was going to be awful. Around the same time, some speed boats went by and we were being tossed around in some nice choppy waves. My cap fell off and I was fast again.
I hit the final 1/2 mile mark and switched to breathing every 2 strokes and did my best to push to the end. Not sure if I really got much faster, but I sure felt like I did. In the end, my time was about 1h 12min which is faster than my goal of 1:20. I like to set goals that are easy to reach!
Olympic Distance - 1 Mile Swim / 40k Bike / 10k Run
Total Time – 2:41:39 – 68th out of 207
On June 6, 2010, I completed my first triathlon in 9 years and I am happy to report that relative to my previous attempt, I crushed it. Specifically, I beat my previous best by 46 minutes and am VERY happy about that. But like everything, there is always room for improvement. Here’s what happened…
Swim – 1 Mile – 36:17 (147th)
I am reasonably happy with how the swim went. The water was 79 degrees which is pretty much like jumping into a hot bath, so no wetsuits… see my previous posts – scary for me. But I have done enough open-water swims at this point to feel reasonably comfortable in the water, so I really wasn’t nervous. This was, however, my first with no wetsuit combined with lots of people around me. In short – it was fine. I bumped into a lot of people, but I wasn’t punched in the face… not kicked in the groin… nobody tried to rip my goggles off or anything crazy like that. I probably could have pushed a bit harder, but since I really had no frame of reference, I was perfectly happy to conserve some energy for later in the race. I struggled a bit with sighting (looking ahead to see the target line so you don’t zig-zag all over the course). It took me a few attempts to see each of the sighting buoys and I never actually saw the big sign for the finish line. I just followed people and I suspect that’s where I lost some time. I doubt I followed the same person, so I was most likely all over the place moving from one person to follow to the next… until they pulled too far ahead. Oh well.
T1 – Transition from Swim to Bike – 1:15
No issues here. I had practiced for about an hour the day before with this and felt good. I lost a little bit of time as I put on all my sunscreen, but not too bad. Actually – funny story (sort of) about my transition training yesterday. Mary Lynn and I were up at the local high school track pretending to go through the transitions… I would wet my feet, run up to my gear, put on my socks, biking shoes, helmet, etc and the jump on the bike. Well, I was trying to “master” getting on the bike while it was moving. So, I would try to get one foot on a peddle while running and then swing my leg over and just smoothly continue on. Well, I have Brose genes in this body – me trying to do anything that complicated does not go well. Shockingly, I never fell over, but I did manage to kick and completely break the fancy carbon bottle holder attached to the back of my bike seat. That damn thing was expensive! So, I went to TrySports later and bought one that is made of metal. Heavier, but thoroughly Brose-resistant.
Bike – 40k – 1:14:57 (94th)
I felt awesome getting onto the bike. From the beginning, I felt good and I was passing people pretty consistently for about 15 minutes. The first 12 miles or so were really pretty easy and I had my average speed at around 22 miles per hour. That’s VERY good for me. But then somewhere around mile 13 of 14, we started to go uphill a bit and there was a nasty headwind, so my average went way down and it definitely got difficult. By the end of the 25 miles, my average was at about 19.9. Still very good for me, so I was pretty happy about that. This, however, is where I lost the most time, so lots of opportunity for improvement here.
The only “story” from this part of the race was the fact that I REALLY had to go to the bathroom somewhere around mile 16 and eventually stopped. I really thought I was going to burst… but as it turned out I didn’t have to go. Why? Well, I stopped my bike and prepared to relieve myself … but it turns out it was 100% numb. I could have been holding a piece of sausage for all I knew – wait – I could have been holding a python for all I knew, but I wasn’t feeling a thing. So, I still tried to go to the bathroom and eventually did, but not a lot. In short, I need to get a new bike seat because I had apparently cut off all blood circulation to my stuff – not good.
T2 – Transition from Bike to Run (00:52)
This transition was pretty smooth for me. Getting off the bike was easy. I racked my bike easily. Quickly switched shoes, applied more sunscreen, grabbed my number and got on my way. Easy.
Run – 10k – 48:30 (38th)
5 words sum up the run. Holy **** was it hot! By the time we got off the bike, temperatures were approaching 90 degrees, so I knew it was going to be a tough run. Combine that with the fact that I am still recovering from a stress fracture and had only increased my mileage to 4.5 miles per run… and I have only been running twice a week, this run could have been a complete disaster. Now add new black asphalt to run on and you now know what it’s like to run in hell. BUT, despite everything pointing to me having an aweful run, I am happy to say that I finished the 10k at a pace under 8 minutes/mile.
Kinetic Fitness Team Results
- Open Water Swim
Date: April 10, 2010
Location: Beaver Dam – Raleigh, NC
Distance: 1 Mile
Time: 33 Minutes
This was my very first open water of the year, first in nearly 8 years, and second of my life. So, this was clearly an event outside of my comfort zone – I was very nervous. I cover this elsewhere on the site, but let’s just say that the last time I attempted an open water swim, I panicked and did the entire mile on my back. 54 minutes. Not fast.
This time was different. I had actually trained, for one thing. I now consider myself a competent enough swimmer to cover a mile without stopping, all while doing freestyle. But in my mind that morning, I focused on how my training has been in a pool. No matter what I say, the reality is that I take breaks at every turn against the wall. Nothing long, but enough to give me concern about my true ability to swim a non-stop mile.
Anyway – I rocked up to Beaver Dam near Raleigh, NC with a borrowed wetsuit in hand (thanks, Ryan!) and nervously got dressed with the help of others. The start time quickly approached – I got into the water to get everything ready… and to pee (sorry, Ryan!). The gun goes off and … crap… I am going, but I am tired and feel the panic coming. Should I flip onto my back? How in the world am I going to go another 40 minutes (my goal), when I am feeling awful after 30 seconds? Everyone will be so disappointed in me! I had to keep telling myself that I was prepared – a wetsuit makes it like having floaters on – I’d be fine.
As the race continued, I quickly came up to the big orange buoy marking the turnaround point. Phew! If I can make it halfway, I can it make it to the end. I was feeling better having settled into a nice rhythm – breathing every 3 strokes – not feeling tired. Once we got to the last buoy, marking about 200 yards to the finish, I pushed it as best I could (which isn’t much). I finally felt sand hitting my hands, so I stood up, tried to run… and quickly fell…twice. My legs finally appeared and I finished – 33 minutes.
I am happy with 33 minutes. It’s 21 minutes faster than my previous best and 7 minutes faster than my basic goal for the day!