If you didn’t have an opportunity to read the epic writing in the previous post, I discussed the reason “why” I ran the NYC Marathon, then I highly recommend that you do. Not just because the writing was fantastic, but it is my hope that the recap will be more emotionally moving.
Delta carried us to New York City and back with no issues. I was upgraded to the business class on my departing flight, and returned to Tampa in economy class. Even with my average size, I felt extremely cramped in economy. Scott and his six-foot-one-inch frame looked extremely uncomfortable. It is obvious, that Delta increased their upgraded business class at the expense of the comfort of the economy class passengers. My suggestion to anyone flying Delta to the NYC Marathon, just include the cost of the upgrade if the flight it over 3 hours.
The plans were made well in advance for room and board. After each of us declared our opinions for a hotel of choice, one of our teammates found a condo in Chelsea that would accommodate all of us comfortably and provide a full kitchen to save a little money on meals.
Per an email from VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) we were to pick up the keys at a local pizza restaurant located next door to the building housing the condo.
Team Tampa PKD arrived around 4 pm and the employees working that afternoon had absolutely no idea what we were talking about. Of course, we called the management company and were basically told they did not receive the contract. When we had the contract in hand we called the agency back but no one would answer our calls.
Here we were, in New York City, on marathon weekend, not to mention the third and fourth game of the World Series, homeless.
Teammate Kevin O’Brien to the rescue. Kevin works for a landscape development company and happens to travel quite a bit, which was lucky for us. With his Hilton Honors status we were able to procure two rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn located in Tribeca. Thank you Kevin.
The rooms were updated, immaculate and comfortable. Another, nice little value add of the Hilton Honors was the choice of extra points or free breakfast. Kevin being the generous person he is, opted for the free breakfast for us which again helped save a little bit of money. Again, Thank you Kevin.
With all of us now settled, we headed to the Javits Center to pick up our NYC Marathon packets. The bibs numbered up to 72,999. It still amazes me how easy it is to retrieve a bib, swag and t-shirt at the expo. It runs like a well oiled machine.
The Javits Center
There is a booth for every few thousand bib numbers. The athlete walks up to the booth that includes their bib number, shows ID and their registration card. Then they receive their NYC Marathon bib and other instructions, verify their info and then walk towards the t-shirt area where on the way, they pick up a plastic swag bag that also serves as the gear bag for the race. The official NYC Marathon t-shirt area is well-marked with a line for the different sizes and within a few minutes of walking into the expo, the athlete has bib, swag and t-shirt.
That isn’t the most exciting part of the NYC Marathon expo. There are vendors from all over the country whom give runners have the opportunity to try and buy the latest gear and gadgets.
One aspect of the expo I really enjoy, is the aura and feeling of the environment. There is an excitement in the air of the larger expos that increases my heart rate a little and excites me to race. It is probably one of my most favorite parts of any race weekend.
The following day we made another visit to the expo simply to walk around and make some purchases. I found a couple of vendors that I had met at other races and made some new contacts for product reviews. Stay tuned.
I have loved New York City since the first moment I stepped into Manhattan years ago. I have a lot of friends here, and I just really enjoy the pace and excitement of the city.
There is always one place, that is mandatory to visit, at least once, every time I am in town. John’s Pizza. I couldn’t believe my ears, when Rich and Kevin decided not to partake. It was their loss, so Scott and I headed over to John’s for lunch. Carb loading, baby, I just love it.
I could write a full post on John’s, so I wont go into the heavenly scrumptiousness of their pizza here, but trust this self-proclaimed, pizza connoisseur, when I say the explosion of flavors that emanate from each bite, redefines the word delicious.
Saturday night, we were scheduled to have dinner with the PKD Foundation and the other runners from different areas at Carmine’s. Scott, Kevin, Karen and I were all pretty familiar with the city and had even known of Carmine’s as it is pretty well-known.
That night we entered the subway and got off at 42nd street in order to head over to 44th where Carmine’s was located, as we started up the stairs from the station, Scott mentions the address which made Kevin and I do a double take. 2400 W Broadway, which was Broadway and 90th street. At the moment we were on 44th st which means we were 46 blocks away. That was a few miles from where we were at that point.
Of course like men we decided that maybe the address was wrong and went up anyway. As it turns out, it was correct. There was a newer Carmine’s uptown and we were in the wrong place and already fashionably late.
It ended up working out for us again. We caught the subway up to 86th and when we arrived, food was just being served. How long could this luck hold, right?
The dinner was fantastic and we met a bunch of really amazing people who were just as passionate about running for PKD as we were.
Like good little runners we went back to the hotel and retired for the night in anticipation for the NYC Marathon the next morning.
As I mentioned both in the last post and in my NYC Marathon recap from last year; the logistics for this race are not the most convenient. It involves a ferry to Staten Island then a bus to security, a decent walk to the assigned village and finally another walk to the specific corral.
An announcement came out from the NYC Marathon staff, about two months prior to sign up for transportation to the start and of course we all missed and ended up getting assigned the 5:45am ferry to Staten Island. Since three of us had already experienced the ferry and knew that there was no accountability, we decided to just take the 7am ferry instead, not only giving us a little more time in the morning, but also keeping us out of the chilly temps for a couple of hours.
The lesson I learned here was there are two choices, either go by the scheduled time and arrive with a lot of time to spare, sit around have some coffee and bagels while waiting for the start, or go a little later and hope to make it to the corral at the time of your scheduled start.
We took the latter ferry and ended up having to wait for two ferries to get over to the island and then when finally getting on the bus, the traffic was so heavy we ended up having to rush to the corrals in order to make the 9:40 start. It was probably perfect for the rest of the team that had later starts, but for Rich and I it was a little tight. Personally, I do prefer the latter.
I found my green village, dropped off my gear bag with my long sleeve shirt and pants, and headed to the corral just prior to the 9am cut-off to enter the corral. Now I had about half-an-hour to stretch and use the portlet one last time.
I was talking to a woman from Basel, England when I heard my name being called. Ryan Wallace, was a Facebook friend and runner I met at last year’s race. A really fun guy to hang with, so after chatting for a bit we found we were looking at accomplishing the goal of 3:50 or better. Score! Someone to run with.
In the Start Corral
They opened up the corral to head closer to the start line around 9:30am, and just after the final note to one of the most beautiful renditions of our national anthem I have ever heard, sung by opera singer (and runner) Susanna Phillips Huntington, and announcements by the executive director, the gun went off and we were running.
The NYC Marathon is the largest marathon in the world. Largest meaning the most athletes run the course of any marathon in the world.. This year there were over 50,000 finishers. It boasts spectacular views, fantastic support from the spectators, and a challenging course. The route takes the runners through all five major boroughs of the city, starting in Staten Island, crossing the Verrazano Bridge to Brooklyn, heading north into Queens crossing the 59th St bridge, then into Manhattan crossing the Queensboro Bridge, north into the Bronx over the Willis Ave Bridge, turning south back into Manhattan over the Madison Avenue bridge and then finally the incline to the finish line in the heart of Central Park.
The experience this year was better than last, as the temperatures were much better as we started around 55 degrees Fahrenheit and just a little breeze versus the 30 degree temps and 33 mph winds from 2014.
Ryan, his friend, and I started the NYC Marathon conservative for the first couple of miles, but as we rounded the first 5k I noticed we started to increase our pace. I only was witness to it due to calculating my 5k under 27 minutes, which being under a 9 minute mile that soon, concerned me a little, but I was feeling really strong.
The spectators in the NYC Marathon are everywhere and they clap, yell and scream not only for their family and friends, but for any one they seem to be inspired by. Statistics pretty much show, that even know there were over 50,000 athletes running this race, and hundreds of thousands of finishers in marathons all over the world, less than 1% of the population has finished a marathon. In other words there were a lot of people to be inspired by during this race and the spectators expressed that.
The Goof peeking out behind Ryan
Ryan and I ran together up to about mile nine, constantly telling each other to slow down, yet neither of us could hold a slower pace for very long. About that point, a pressure emanating from my bladder was increasing to a point where I was just not comfortable any longer, so I speeded up to the mile 10 aid station to relieve myself. My thinking was speed up, use the facilitates and then speed back up just enough to catch Ryan again.
Unfortunately, we didn’t cross paths again during the race. I was out there on my own, all by myself. It was just me and 50,000 of my closest friends.
There was plenty to see as I continued on my NYC Marathon journey. Achilles International volunteers were out in droves this year with guides helping blind and other challenged runners through the race. Guides would run in a formation with one tethered to the blind runner and then three-to-four others running on each side of them constantly helping to clear a path through the crowd. It was so motivating, that I knew somewhere down the line in my own journey I would have to help like that in some way in the future.
As I crossed the 13.1 mile marker of this NYC Marathon, and saw the clock I realized that I had been running for an hour and fifty minutes. That for me was fast, but I was still feeling really strong. The sights of the area’s architecture, parks, people and the smells of the local restaurants were consistently keeping my mind occupied as I just let my legs decide what they were going to do.
I was concerned though. I know enough about myself, that keeping this pace would have it’s consequences toward the final miles.
My favorite bridge on NYC Marathon course is the Queensboro bridge. It feels like it never ends, but the view of Manhattan and the Hudson is spectacular. Not to mention, the completion of the bridge is a u-turn with a horde of spectators that it feels like a roar of excitement is exuded from them. I felt a boost of energy when I crossed mile 16.
I was actually a little impressed with myself as I hadn’t really slowed as of yet. It is usually around this mile marker that begins the stiffness of the previous miles.
The next checkpoint for me is usually mile 18, but that too came and went without any real pain. My inner dialogue started having delusions of grandeur of possibly finishing the race around the 3:40 mark which be a huge PR for me.
As I crossed the Willis avenue bridge, I felt the start of a twinge in my left leg and a smile crept across my face and out loud I said to myself,”There it is.”
The NYC Marathon mile 20 clock showed I was two hours and fifty-two minutes into the race, which was already better than last year. My thinking at that point was that I could pretty much slow to a ten minute mile at this point and still cross under four hours, but that didn’t happen.
Mile 21 came at just three hours which was a first in a while for me. I am usually only at 20 by three hours and here I was a full mile closer to the finish. My period of optimism was cut short by a stiffness in my right leg that quickly became painful.
I walked though the next NYC Marathon aid station and grabbed a banana from the hand of a volunteer thinking just get some more glycogen to my legs so I finish this last five miles.
What little stride I had became periods of walking between miles 22 and 23 as the pain started to sear and engulf the rest of my leg. It was getting harder and harder to bend my right knee as the stiffness was setting in.
Central Park came and the crowds were getting louder and more dense. I did not want to walk through the park with all these people. I wanted to run in strong, but the pain was getting more and more intense. I actually yelled at myself, “C’mon legs. WTF are you doing!!!”
My mind drifted to Erika at that moment. As I was trying to run stiff-legged and just suffer through this intense pain, I thought that this frustration and uncomfortable feeling must be what Erika feels all the time. The disappointment at feeling run down, the pain that comes with these huge cysts on her Kidneys and the eternal uncomfortable feeling that keeps her from sleep and just enjoying life, must be one hundred times worse that what I was feeling.
If Erika had to continually go through this pain, then I could at least endure it until I reach the finish line.
I didn’t stop running, no matter how much it hurt. I thought about Erika and the last couple of years of misery she must have been going through, and how Jennifer would also have to also have a painful times ahead through her recovery from donating a kidney. It kept me going as I really felt like I was going through it for them.
I am not a totally idiot, I know that running the NYC Marathon of which I enjoy doing, really would do nothing for either of them. It was the fundraising and support where we as a team were doing the most good. Maybe it was for me. Maybe because I was not able to donate my kidney, that I the pain I was feeling now was so that I could empathize with both of them.
The NYC Marathon finish line was just as glorious as the other marathons I have completed. I was extremely happy to cross in 3:56 and at least beat my time from last year by about 10 minutes.
My official NYC Marathon finisher was medal handed to me, I was congratulated by a volunteer and ushered through to take continue the long mile walk to retrieve my gear bag. I was engulfed on all four sides with athletes as we all did the marathon shuffle through the park. There was a sense of peace and a little giddiness that filled the air.
We all did something extraordinary today. Whatever the reason “why”, we were bound at that moment by the accomplishment and conclusion of a journey that started with the decision to embark, the hours of training and the final step across the NYC Marathon Finish LIne.
Once dressed in dry clothes, I found Rich and we headed out to The Keg Room which was where Team Tampa PKD would gather back together. As Rich and I were in the first wave, where he PR’d at an incredible time of 3:27, we arrived first. Kevin, whom was actually in the last wave to take off, showed up next followed closely by Karen and finally Scott. Everyone finished and accomplished what they set out to do, but I was most proud of Scott.
Scott had micro tears in his gastrocnemius muscle (Calf) and had been trying to rehab it for the last couple of weeks. I really didn’t think he would finish the NYC Marathon and we all told him it would have been ok if he didn’t . He did though and under 5 hours with walking. He also said that he felt like he didn’t feel like he did anymore damage.
I am proud of the whole team. Team Tampa PKD was able to raise over 20,000 for PKD, finish the NYC Marathon and, most importantly, find a kidney donor for Erika.
Team Tampa PKD – (L to R) Scott Bragan, Rich O’Dea, Karen Dempsey, Brad Minus, & Kevin O’Brien
What kind of challenge are you partaking in or plan to journey towards?
My Why – PKD
The human brain is an advanced computer that controls many different systems. The body is like a room full of servers each independently managing a different system with one major system, the brain, as the master controller for all of them.
When the master controller has a difficult task to undergo, the systems will cluster together in order to complete the task as efficiently as possible. If one of the systems begin to fail, it doesn’t mean the task will not be accomplished it just means another system will take over the lack of work. The work may not be handled as efficiently, but nonetheless, it will be completed.
Only when the master controller issues a command to stop will the other systems desist what they are programmed to do. The question would be “Why did the Master Controller issue the command?”
This long analogy comes right down to a quote I use all the time. Internally, and with my client athletes. “The mind will quit 100 times before the body does.” Every excuse will come to mind while an athlete may be suffering, but it is the reason “why” they are challenging themselves that will override the mind’s command to stop.
My 15th Marathon was the 2015 New York City Marathon, and my “Why” was tested.
In 2014, at the completion of the New York City Marathon, I said to myself, “Self, I am really happy I did it. It was a tough race, in tough conditions (sub-40 degree temperature with 33 mph winds), but we did it. It may not have been the time we wanted, but scratch the largest marathon in the world off the list. I will probably not do this one again.”
My reasoning was the logistics of the race.
First, it is located in New York City. That just says a lot of $$$ is going to be spent.
2) Getting around the big apple in a timely manner is difficult for someone not living there.
3) I have a lot of friends that live in the city and I want to see them, which means, more travel, meals and more $$$ spent.
4) The race doesn’t start until 9:50 which at 4 hours means 1:50 which is after the usual 12 pm checkout time. Again, more $$$.
5) In order to pack the corrals with 50,000 runners, it is required to be in the runner villages close to 3 hours early, and in sub-40 degree weather for someone from Florida is somewhat uncomfortable.
6) After leaving the finish line when the legs are burning and everything is getting stiff, it is another mile to get to checked bags and then another half mile to get out of the park where there are no cabs. Then another 5 block walk to the subway.
Other than that the race is amazing.
This year, the reasons above meant nothing to me, because I ran this race not for me, but as a member of Team Tampa PKD for Erika Bragan, Jennifer Thomas and all of the other people affected by Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD).
Scott & Erika Bragan
In 2009, Scott offered me a chance to run the Chicago Marathon for the Polycystic Kidney Disease. At the time we were both in a boot camp class at a Lifestyle Family Fitness. He mentioned it to a few others as well, so I brought up the idea of a team concept, where we could organize events to raise awareness and funds for PKD and then split up the money so everyone could reach their goal. it actually worked for the 10 of us that competed that year, as we raised around $26,000 for the PKD Foundation.
Team Tampa PKD – Chicago Marathon 2009
In 2011, we resurrected the team and signed on twenty-two members and raised over $56,000 for the foundation. Again in 2013 we had just Five members and raised over 25,000 that year as well.
Team Tampa PKD – Chicago Marathon 2011
Team Tampa PKD – Chicago Marathon 2013
(-1 not pictured)
This year, we again signed five members. Scott, Rich, Myself, Kevin, and Karen. we raised over $25,000 again, but this year we also accomplished something else. Over the last few years, Erika’s kidney functions were reduced to less than 5% apiece. A normal human being can survive on 5% of one, but with PKD it is inevitable that the kidneys will fail.
Team Tampa PKD – NYC Marathon 2015
(-1 not pictured)
Erika had already been put on the donor list for over a year, but it had yet to pan out, so we added not only raising as much financial assistance for the foundation but finding a donor for Erika as well.
For over a year, Erika has been in pain, not sleeping and basically been in a state of misery. Scott has recounted this for me numerous times, so when he said that it was time to start thinking about a transplant, I immediately asked him for the details to get tested. I wanted to help any way I could and if it meant giving up a kidney so be it.
The Bragan’s waited to see if being on the donor list would pan out, but as Erika’s kidney functions continued to deteriorate, family and friends stepped up to be tested as donors.
I was tested as a kidney donor, with the preliminary tests proving positive, meaning I was a match.
However, the secondary tests diagnosed protein in my urine which is common in endurance athletes. Unfortunately, for the medical staff, it is a risk for kidney stones which have a small probability to clog my ureter and if that was the case now, I would have another kidney to fall back on. If I donated one, it could be fatal.
I was heartbroken when I found out, but I understood the reasons.
On July 10, my friend and Team Tampa PKD teammate, Rich O’Dea was on a blind date at the Imagine Dragons concert. While getting to know each other Rich made mention of Team Tampa PKD, the marathon and Erika. At first, it seemed a nonchalant question when she asked how to get tested, so Rich took as her just being nice, but even after she ended up returning to a long relationship, she still communicated with Rich she wanted to get tested.
Rich O’Dea & Jen Thomas
Her preliminary tests proved she was a match, and the secondary tests proved she was healthy enough to donate, so on Friday, Oct 23, the Tampa General Hospital Transplant committee approved the living donor kidney transplant from Jennifer Thomas to Erika Bragan, and scheduled the surgery for the 18th of November.
When I found out that Jennifer passed the second round of testing, I was absolutely ecstatic that she would be able to do what I and three other people could not. I am still absolutely overjoyed that Erika will lead a longer more normal life and Scott, Madison and Spencer will continue to have their wonderful wife and mother.
While in an interview with ABC, Jennifer was asked why should give up her kidney for a total stranger. Without skipping a beat, or even taking a breath she said, “Why wouldn’t I? The more important question should be, why is it so shocking that I would.”
I happened to be in the room when she was getting interviewed and I just about fell over. Without trying to sound conceded, or take away any thunder from her, but I felt like Jennifer was someone who actually thought just like me.
Jennifer’s medical bills will be taken care of 100% by the Bragan’s insurance, but the recovery time may cause a little bit of financial hardship.
Of course, Team Tampa PKD is stepping up and hosting an event called Tailgate for a Transplant prior to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New York Giants NFL Football game on November 8th at 1 pm. (If you would like to help, but cannot make it to the tailgate please click here)
This is my “Why”.
What is your ‘why’?
Here it is again, a long time since my last post. Life happens and when it does, watch out. It can really mess up the things you want to do versus the things you must do. I am learning to prioritize what is absolutely important to me versus what is important to everyone else. I hope to soon have that under control, but I digress.
Newton was nice enough to send me both a pair of the Newton Energy and the BOCO. I am reviewing them together since I have found they are the same shoe with the only difference being the BOCO has a tread that is made for the trails and the Energy is made for the road.
To be transparent and honest, I am a certified Newton Coach, so I am a little biased towards Newton. However, I rarely train in Newtons, as running is very personal I have my favorite running shoes to train in.
I do however, love the methodology behind them. For those that do not know, Newton running shoes have 5 lugs in the front of the shoe directly under the ball of the foot. The lugs have a higher or lower profile depending on the shoe.
The lugs serve as a reminder for running form by automatically driving the foot to land on the fore or mid foot, reducing the impact dramatically.
When paired with Newton Natural Run training, the shoe will decrease the effort level of transitioning to a mid or forefoot runner.
In my experience, after the runner has developed the habit, they no longer need to be running in Newtons, but most do not only due to muscle memory, but they also last about 4 times longer than other running shoes.
Prior to the release of the Energy, the core products Newton produced were the Motion, the Isaac, the Gravity and the Distance. These models needed a transition period for the runner to get used to the way the lugs lifted the heel causing some calf soreness.
The Energy now has a lower profile of lug, and a transition plate which actually allows the athlete very tiny transition period, if any, before the comfort of the shoe settles in.
The EVA foam that makes up the sole of the shoe is extremely comfortable and highly accommodating to the road.
The only conflicts I have heard is the heel cup is a little shallow for some, causing some slippage during long runs.
Since one of the core beliefs of natural runners is that shoes should be tied just tight enough to secure the heel, this could be a problem. I have always taught, the athlete needs nothing to support but themselves.
In other words, if the shoe is tied too tight, the shoe ends up supporting the runner. By tying the shoes very light and only tight enough to secure the heel, the feet, the calves, the ankles are strengthened with every activity.
I personally have not found an issue with the heel cup even without the help of a runner’s lace, but I have heard of the issues.
I did get an eleven-mile run on the trails with the Newton BOCO and was I surprised at how well the tread grabbed the terrain.
The trails I was running were meant for Mountain Bikes and that meant steep climbs and steep downhills and there was not a moment I did not feel secure.
For new runners or for athletes transitioning to more efficient technique, I believe the Energy is the perfect shoe. They are the perfect shoe to transition with before trying one of the core Newton models.
The BOCO is a great trail shoe for anyone wishing to start or continuing a journey into trail running. They are comfortable, supportive and made me feel completely secure on the trails.
That’s my opinion and I am sticking with it. Happy Running!
Obviously, Ironman Augusta 70.3 is one of my favorite races, since this is the third year in a row I competed in it. Why?
- The 1.2 mile swim heads downstream giving those of us that are not great swimmers a little push.
- There are two main sporting events in Augusta. The little golf tournament called “The Masters”, and the Ironman, so the whole city seems to show up to support it. The Ironman doesn’t have near the amount athletes or the out-of-town spectators, but it doesn’t seem like that when you are competing.
- The 56 mile bike course is beautifully scenic with rolling hills which makes it somewhat challenging and a lot of fun.
- The run course is two-loops around the center of town which is loaded with spectators that are cheering and holding signs with sayings like “If Triathlon was easy they would call it football.” It gives the competitors continuous motivation through a the 13.1 mile completion to the challenge which depending on the temperature could be grueling.
- The volunteers, all three years I have competed, have always been amazing. There are aid stations every 10 miles on the bike and every mile on the run, so there are a huge amount of volunteers that are there for a very long time.
- The expo and check-in have always been run very professionally and smooth. It is probably one of the best run expos I have took part in.
The weekend started off with a caravan of amazing people up to Augusta including my buddy Pete, Kari, Jaime, Kat, Chris, Kate, Matt, Jeff & Miranda. All of them great people and athletes.
The ride up was uneventful with one stop at Cracker Barrel to fuel up and a couple of minute stops for gas and essentials. We went right to check-in and surprise, surprise, the Marriott opened their new convention center so there was so much more space for check-in and the expo than last year. In the past everything was in a series of rooms, now it was in one great big room that allowed for more vendors and more space to move around. There had to be at least 50% more vendors than last year. It was amazing. Of course my favorite part, as always, is the atmosphere. Super charged with excitement and enthusiasm.
After getting settled in are hotels, Chris, Jaime, Kat and I had dinner at this little restaurant of an old hotel called the Partridge Inn. The meal was incredible, and for the first time I got to try Shrimp & Grits, which of course Jaime was astounded I had never tried. It was really amazing. Paleo? Not in the least, but it was delicious. We ended up splitting our dinners, of which mine was a 16oz prime rib that was cooked to perfection. It was an amazing choice, indeed. (Patrons of the hotel had much less to say of the hotel though.)
The next day consisted of quick workouts, bike check-in, race prep and another awesome dinner at Charlie-O’s Steak House. We had a much larger crowd for dinner which not only included the caravan gang, but some members of Tri-Psych as well. It was the perfect crowd to spend the evening before the race. Everybody was calm, cool and collected on the outside, but some pre-race anxiety seemed to be looming over all of us.
I was surprised at how well I slept that night. I usually never sleep the night before a race. Of course I still didn’t get eight hours, but the 6 I did was a very hard sleep. I woke up even more refreshed than I thought. I had the opportunity to dress, eat and be ready with time to chill out and motivate myself.
The transition area was crowding fast as usual, and since last year I had a very early start, this year I ended up more in the middle waves, so there was plenty of time, to relax and get my bike and gear ready, without feeling rushed. As always there were plenty of people who caught up with me either from, home, past races, social media, or my blog. It was awesome. Race morning has to be one of my favorite times of the race, just because of the excitement and the convening with friends and acquaintances. Those of you podium placers probably are in your own little world at this point, and it makes sense, but to a lot of us just trying to beat our past times and finish comfortably, this is a great time of the morning.
The shuttle took us to the host hotel, and as it was in the lower 50s at the time, we decided to grab some coffee and hangout in the lobby. Finally, it was time to head over to the start, drop my “morning clothes” bag in the truck and enter my corral for the start. I found Jaime, which calmed my nerves a bit. He races with Team RWB of whom I am honored to call myself a part of as well, but he is much faster than I. Usually about 20-30 minutes faster. He is an amazing athlete, motivator and all-around person. We only catch each other at races, but he always is able to motivate just that little bit extra.
The time came and they moved us to the dock, the
gun went off and we jumped in and started swimming. I have been working on my swimming so I adopted my rhythm as soon as possible, and found myself right with the majority of the pack the first 800m but then I fell short. They swam past and I ended up, as usual, in the back. Around the 1200m mark the pack behind me caught me and by time I finished, the fast women, two waves behind me, caught me. I still ended up beating my swim time from the year before by a minute, but it was still slow.
I ran up the ramp to transition and without any incidents I grabbed my bike and headed out and just as I was about to leave transition, mother nature called and I made a quick decision to use the portlets. I still ended up with a four-minute transition, but I was a little disappointed. Around the three-mile mark I started to feel something new; quad burn. I was astounded I was feeling this so soon. Usually, it took 40 to 50 miles of hills before I felt it this bad. I must have over-used them in the swim. After another fifteen minutes I took a Honey Stinger Gel prematurely and the burn subsided meaning that I must have depleted my glycogen levels just enough to feel it. My cadence kicked up and I started passing people, and while I was still getting passed by the elite cyclists in the waves behind me, I was doing more passing than getting passed. The hills were as I remembered and I didn’t have any issues with them until mother nature threw me a curve ball. She added the wind. I was thinking the whole time, I just wanted to average 20mph. That would get me into T2 under 3 hours. I did make it to T2 with that goal, but I fell short of my 20mph average at 19.44 mph.
Unfortunately, because I wanted that 20 mph so bad and I had not accounted for the wind, I spent a little more energy than I wanted and I felt in on the run. At first I felt a little tight, but I was used to that. In my training it took till mile three to get my legs back, so I pushed through and bided my time until then, but at mile three, the tightness didn’t go away. As a matter of fact, the tightness never went away. I ended up doing a run/walk of 1 mile on and sixty seconds off. It worked but I faltered on even doing as well as I did the year before. I was under two hours in 2012, but this year I ended up 2:05 which is the exact amount I was off my over-all time: 5:42 off from 5:36. I cared for a while, but I assessed what I learned and what I needed to take away in order to be successful at Ironman Florida which is the ultimate goal for the year.
I caught up with Pete around mile 11 and we ran into the finish chute together. Of course we were passed by Master’s champion runner, Jeff Lessie who was doing the bike and run as part of a relay. What made it really embarrassing, was that Jeff started an hour behind us and he still caught us. He is an amazing athlete, and when he ran passed us we thought for sure he was just on his first loop, but when we saw him in the finish area, both of us looked at each other and then down at the ground. After a couple of nanoseconds we lifted our heads, found him and gave him a hearty congrats. We both still did pretty well and we knew it.
On to the next challenge, for me, the Chicago Marathon, and for both of of us Ironman Florida, Panama City Beach.
One of the scariest things for a beginning triathlete, besides getting in the open water, is cycling. The first image that wandered into my head upon deciding to start seriously bicycling was of a that scary peloton. Those tight formations of bikes moving at ridiculous speeds, during the Tour de France, so close together that one wrong move could cause serious damage to my body or someone else. Scary right? Luckily, triathlon doesn’t allow for huge groups like that, as a matter of fact it isn’t even allowed. Whew!
Buying my first Bike
I didn’t have a lot of money when I first started in triathlon, and I also didn’t really know if I was going to like it. I spent a lot of time in bike stores drooling over the expensive bikes, while studying cheaper entry level bikes. Every bike store had a different angle they played. One would say, purchase the more expensive bike, gain more speed so when I improved I didn’t have to buy another bike. Another would tell me to buy the entry level but load it up with expensive components so I could ride faster, and when I wanted another bike, the components alone would warrant a good price, and of course that store would buy it back from me and give me a discount an another bike. Decisions, decisions what to do, what to do?
I researched different road and tri bikes online and in magazines, and while I was pretty sure I would enjoy triathlon, I decided on an entry level Canondale CAAD 9 road bike. I also included in my purchase, a pair of pedals, cleats, shoes and a helmet. The helmet was very important especially since I hadn’t actually rode a bike in over 10 years. Would I really not forget how to ride a bike? The answer to that my friends is YES. It is not a skill that is forgotten. It maybe a little unsteady the first couple of times, but not forgotten. Luckily I will have my trusty helmet, just in case.
I also read something that resonated with me. The most important thing that is needed after the purchase of a bike, is the fitting. At first I thought, “what? Don’t I just have to find the most comfortable height of the seat and then get going?” I had no idea that there are so many different adjustments on a bike, to a point that bike “fitters” actually have to be certified in order to properly fit you. They have to take courses, pass tests and be mentored. “Really?”, you ask? Yes…really.
The fitting took about an hour where they put my bike on a trainer, and with my shoes and bike shorts I pedaled, then the fitter took measurements and made adjustments to my seat post raising it and lowering it to a perfect dimension. Then he took angle measurements from the ground to my hip, knee and shoulder and from the pedal and a bunch of other places. He moved my saddle not only up and down by forward and back. He then took my handle bars and put different size spacers on the tube underneath my handlebars to find the perfect height and then was able to move them back and forth to find the right angle, height and most comfortable spot for me. I had no clue there was this much to it.
As I left the store after my fitting, Jo-el, the general manager and friend from my track club, gave me some good advice. I had never rode in cleats and pedals before, where my feet were clipped into the pedals where they wouldn’t just simply lift up. I had to turn my heel so the cleat would unclip from the pedals so I could put my foot down. Jo-el said to take my bike in the house and put it between a doorway, and practice clipping and un-clipping from the pedals. Also, I needed to find the most comfortable side to unclip first and then stick to that side no matter what. I followed that advice in detail. I clipped, unclipped, clipped and unclipped till I was sure I had mastered it. Then I took a little ride around the block and practiced even more till I was confident I mastered at least that part.
I had a feeling of euphoria that first little trip in my neighborhood. I felt fast, free traveling under my own power on this brand new, tuned Cannondale bike. I was really excited for my first ride the next day in the hills of San Antonio.
The First Ride
I drove to San Antonio…Florida that is, with my brand new bike in the back, my new bike shorts on, bottles ready to put in their cages on the bike, coffee in my cup holder and classic rock playing on the radio. I remember having mixed feelings about this initial ride. I had never ridden in a group before, I had never ridden with these cleats and clips before, but I knew I was in good shape but was I fit enough? After that I just thought to myself, “if you cannot go as far then just turn around and head back. no big deal.”.
I met a friend at these ball fields and was mesmerized by the amount of bikers getting ready to take their morning ride. The sea of colors from the different bikes and jerseys was extremely overwhelming. That anxious feeling came back for a second until my friend mentioned we were riding with triathletes not pure cyclists. They would understand I was on my first ride and would help me out. After preparing for my first journey, we found our formation and began the trek.
I was surprised that I was staying in the middle of the pack and with minimal effort. The wind was in my face, I was pedaling under my own power and keeping up! It was an incredibly euphoric feeling. Unfortunately, when we hit the first long hill, euphoria turned to anxiety and then… embarrassment.
My pedaling slowed, and it became extremely hard to mash down on the pedals. With very minimal spinning of my legs I tried to switch to higher gear, but I actually ended up in a lower gear which made it even harder. When I did finally gear up, it was too late. I couldn’t move the pedals fast enough to switch gears, and my chain fell off , so I was at a dead stop. Of course I was so concerned about the gears I didn’t unclip out of my pedals, and I went down on my side. The only thing that really hurt was my ego as I stood my bike up and examined the chain. The group was passing me all asking if I was ok, and taking for granted that I was telling them I was fine and to keep going. By the time I had my chain back on the group was completely out of site. I pedaled like a bat out of hell hoping to catch up, but I missed a turn and ended up 10 miles out of my way, and lost.
To make a long story short ( I know, too late) one of the faster members of the group realized I was gone, backtracked, and finally found me asking directions at a convenience store. He led me back to the group and I finished the ride without any other issues, but I learned a lot of lessons that day.
Hints to get started in cycling straight from the Goof:
On my first bike after a couple of modifications
1. Buy an entry level road bike. This is usually an aluminum alloy frame. You don’t want a Wal-mart special, but you don’t need to start with the top of the line bike either.
2. Purchase a set of entry level pedals, cleats and shoes. The pedals usually come with the cleats and the bike shop will install them for you.
3. Purchase safety equipment. Biking shorts, and a helmet to start. I would also have a set of sunglasses as well. Not just to keep the sun out of your eyes, but it helps with the wind too. Make sure you also have at least one water bottle with a cage installed on your bike.
4. Get the bike fit for you. Have a certified bike fitter make those adjustments specifically for you.
5. Practice getting in and out of your cleats . Put your bike in a doorway, hold onto the frame and get in and get out of your cleats. Find the most comfortable side of the bike and then practice getting out of the cleats and putting your foot on the ground.
6. Take a short ride around your neighborhood and continue to practice getting in and out of your cleats. When seeing a stop or even a potential stop ahead practice just moving your heel just to the point where you unclip before stopping so you have a quick option that you can pull out of your clip to stop or return your heel to clip back in to keep going. Remember to always clip out and stand with the same foot first every time.
7. Understand your gears. While in that first ride, switch the gears on your right hand and find what lever takes you to a higher or easier gear, and which one brings you to a lower or harder gear.
8. Take your first long ride with friends and have some fun.
One last thing, you are going to fall. That is just the reality of it. You will get stuck in your cleats at some point and you will fall over, but it will be minimal. The trick is to accept it, get up brush yourself off, laugh at yourself, get back on your bike and have fun. It’s worth it I promise.
This post was originally published for IR4C for their new media site, IR4C.TV on July 2, 2013.