Traveling for races is always exciting, but the opportunity to race in my favorite city in the world, caused an overwhelming explosion of emotions that may have actually hindered me. I will explain that last part a bit later, but let me start from the beginning.
In order to race in the NYC Triathlon from out-of-state, a lottery is performed and in February of this year I was notified that I had been chosen to race. At the time I was not quite sure about it, as my race schedule was already pretty full, but I had heard great things about the race, so I decided to go ahead and put it on the calendar. How many times was I going to be chosen via a lottery…right? I have entered the lottery for the NYC Marathon for the last 3 years and was never chosen, therefore I felt like this may be a one-time opportunity. I made my arrangements immediately, and found some inexpensive accommodations at Hotel Belleclaire which ended up to be a very nice boutique hotel on the upper west side of Manhattan, beautifully positioned directly between transition and the finish line.
The challenge I had was, how do I transport my bike to NYC. I had a few choices.
1) Tri-bike Transport which was $300 each way.
2) Take my bike completely apart and take it with me, then take it to a bike shop to be put back together for $75 and again when I returned, not to mention possible oversize luggage fees at anywhere from 75-150 bucks.
3) Use shipbikes.com and buy a reusable AirCaddy for $100 and then ship my bike via FedEx, directly to my hotel and back home for $100 each way with very minimal dis-assembly of my bike.
I chose option 3, which turned out to be very convenient. The Air Caddy came in a very flat box and was assembled in 10 minutes and my bike was then placed in the box within 5 minutes and ready to ship. It comes with a fork plate that stabilizes the bike in the box and then a series of other corrugated cardboard is placed around the bike which secures and stabilizes it even more. The only small adjustments that need to be made are to remove the saddle and seat post together, and fold down the aero bars. Each is just the loosening of two allen screws. I only had to bring my small bike tool with me in order to tighten them back up upon re-assembly. I taped up the box, added the label which is purchased through shipbikes.com and then called for a FedEx delivery representative to come by and pick it up. Easy breezy. It all happened like clockwork. Of course since this is the first time I was shipping my bike I was a little anxious, and I was going to be, until I re-assembled in NYC.
I left Friday Morning two days before the race and was so excited I could barely contain myself. Not just for the fact I had the opportunity to race in my favorite city I have ever been to, but I was also going to spend some time with friends I hadn’t hung out with in what seemed like forever.
All of the pics online of Hotel Belleclaire were of course beautiful, but in New York City it is sometimes a crap shoot. The marketing pics look great, but when you get there, sometimes you get a room that a little worse for wear. Hotel Belleclaire was absolutely beautiful and the service was first-rate. I was in my room for about 30 minutes when the front desk called just to ask if everything in the room was alright. I was a little shocked because I never experienced that before. It is such a simple concept to give a 30 second call to the guests and it made me feel kind of special. Before I knew it, there was a knock at my door and there was a bellman with my bike. Talk about service. After I put my bike together I phoned the front desk and requested that they store the box since the room was small. I didn’t really care about the size of the room since it was just me, but the box and my bike took up a little more room. It turned out that they could not find anywhere to store the box, so instead of just saying “Sorry, we cannot do anything about it”, they upgraded me and put me in a larger room to accommodate the box. That, was to me, an amazing touch. On Sunday after the race, I boxed up the bike and the concierge told me to just leave it in my room. Monday morning I received a text from FedEx notifying me my bike was picked up and that the estimated date she would be back home was Thursday. If you are going to be in NYC on the upper west side, I highly recommend the Hotel Belleclaire. I think you will enjoy it.
Now back to our regularly scheduled program(after my little endorsement).
After I checked in I planned on going to the expo at Hilton Midtown, so I started walking. The hotel was on 77th St. and Broadway and the Hilton was on 55th and 6th so it was 22 blocks south and two blocks east. No big deal, and it was nice outside so I decided to walk. Here is where I started with a little hinderance. I saw my favorite hot dog place in Manhattan. Grays Papaya. OMG! Now remember that I am about 90% paleo and I haven’t digested a slice of bread in over a year, so you can imagine how my system was going to react to a couple of white flour, processed, buns with grilled hot dogs and all the trimmings. They sure tasted good going down, however they left me in a lurch later that evening. Grays Papaya is famous in the city for their hot dogs and papaya drink. I had both and they were sooo good. It was like a sin to eat something that tasted that good as processed as it was. I always talk about balance right? Well, I figured I hadn’t had one in so long, it wouldn’t hurt. WRONG!!!! I will spare you the details of what happened a couple of hours later.
Inside the Host Hotel. I just had to take a pic.
I called a good friend of mine, Michael who moved to the city almost four years ago. Michael and I used to to perform in plays and musicals together semi-professionally. Michael was keeping the dream alive in New York while I turned to health and fitness. To my surprise he was willing to go to the expo with me so I could check-in. The New York Triathlon required the attendance of all the athletes at a mandatory meeting in order to verify everyone had the information in the Athlete Handbook. In order to get your packet you had to attend a meeting and get your hand stamped. Because I had been to so many races prior and never usually went to the meetings, that I would be a little annoyed but the person whom MC’ed the meeting was hilarious and had us all in stitches. He also was great about getting the info out specifically and succinctly, so all of us whom attended could have our hand stamped and out of there in about 25 minutes. The rest of check-in was a breeze.
The expo was, well…interesting. Mainly because I was in a different part of the US, it had different vendors. What I did notice was that Zicco Coconut Water was a huge sponsor. They were giving out coconut water like it was, uh…water. Even in our SWAG there was one of those huge liter bottles that usually sell for around $9. I love Zicco so I was beyond freaking thrilled. The only unfortunate thing was that they only were giving the original version and I know that the chocolate flavor is amazing, but I enjoy the natural flavor too. The rest of the expo was what you would expect of a triathlon which is minimal compared to marathon’s and big road races, but it still had that great race aura and energy.
Michael and I hung out for a bit and caught up and then headed to Restaurant 44th&10th which is located, can you guess? You are correct. 44th st and 10 Ave just about 20 more blocks from the hotel. The place is a corner of a set of stores and is decked out in white with colors used as accents on the walls and cushions of the chairs. The food was amazing. I had the grilled tilapia with steamed spinach and a sweet potato, butternut squash mash. Deliciouso! For desert was a dark chocolate flour-less cake which tasted more like mouse, and an organic banana sundae. WOW! It was an outburst of flavors that stimulated my taste buds with the cool essence of banana, chocolate and toasted marshmallow. O-M-G was it good!
Now all fat and happy, Michael and I headed off to my hotel, so I could drop off all the swag from the expo and that, ladies and gentlemen, is when Grays Papaya decided to fight for control of my digestive system away from my incredible food from 44th&10th. That is all I have to say about that. Needless to say after a couple of syndicated comedies, conversations about theatre in the city and dealing with my stomach I wasn’t going anywhere else that night.
I woke up Saturday feeling a lot better. I took a shower, put together everything I needed for transition, which didn’t open until 2 pm, and headed out into the city. Around 1 pm I stopped at my favorite pizza place. The restaurant will remain, forever, a planned event whenever I am in NYC. The place with the best pizza on the planet. John’s Pizza on 44th St between 7th an 8th avenues. This place has the absolute best pizza with all natural ingredients I have ever tasted. The thinnest flakiest crust with a spicy tomato sauce, mozzarella that strings to ceiling if you let it and the best ingredients ever resting on top. Personally, I am a minimalist so I prefer a nice pepperoni and fresh garlic, but my friend Jorge Acosta whom joined me for this amazing meal, was all about the pineapple and Canadian Bacon. I never tried it, but I have to say it was pretty good too.
This part of 44th st is a kind of home to me. It is where all the best theatres are located. Across from John’s , Phantom was playing. Directly next door, Let it Be. A little further down and across the street was Lucky Guy with Tom Hanks and two doors down was the famous Sardis of which Jorge and I headed to afterward to continue catching up. Jorge is one of those guys who has had such an amazing life that we can just talk forever. If I wasn’t participating in the triathlon the next day, we would probably still be talking. He is an amazing and talented guy and I am so excited he is making it in NYC as an actor. Knock on wood, he hasn’t needed another job to get him by. That is how talented this guy really is.
I left Jorge and headed back to the hotel to grab my bike and head to transition in Riverside Park. There are
two transition setups for the NYC Tri. Yellow and Red. My wave was in the Yellow which was schedulted to start at 5:50 am on Sunday and included the pros and elites along with half the Age Group athletes, while red didn’t start until 7:20. The transition setup was just like any other triathlon, no
frills with metal rods to hang the bike from the seat. The only somewhat different protocol was the transparent bags that were handed out and highlighted during the mandatory meeting. This was new after the incident
at the Boston Marathon. Instead of bringing in a transition backpack like I usually do, now a plastic transparent bag is the only thing allowed to bring gear into the transition area. I didn’t want to leave anything besides my bike, so I personally didn’t bring anything at this point but my bike. I left my bike with a plastic bag covering the handlebars and seat and headed out to meet another friend of mine from high school, Kyle.
Kyle, a professional Opera singer, is just as interesting. He had just opened a show, so we were able to meet just outside of Lincoln Center for a bit before he needed to be at the theatre. Kyle has an amazing wife, Laura and an eleven year-old prodigy daughter. A prodigy in what? It would probably be easier to tell you what she is NOT a prodigy in . She is incredibly smart as well as an Olympic swimmer in the making. Maybe I can get lessons from her? Kyle and I talked for an hour about his shows, my races, Alana’s talent and Laura’s singing as well. When it was time to head out Kyle said something to me that made me so proud. He started with, “I know you will probably taught this but Laura and started doing this ‘Insanity’ workout and I feel better, taller and stronger than I have ever been.” I praised him, because I use the Insanity workouts and I am a Beach Body coach. I was so excited to hear about his and Laura’s results. He went on to tell me about how everything was better. He was singing even better, he felt taller, slept better and was craving the workouts. It made me smile when I heard about it. Right here was proof, that with a child that needed to be brought to school, activities, swim practice, his daytime rehearsals, night-time performances, and Laura’s full-time job, they both still found time to workout six days a week. Remember that living in New York City means taking even more time for transportation as well. There are very few people that are as busy as Kyle and Laura and they still find time, six days a week. No excuses. I love it.
That finished my day. I went back to the room, took a shower and fell into bed exhausted. I know it would feel like no time at all, before the 3 am alarm would go off and my phone would remind me again at 3:10. I would try, but I wouldn’t get as much sleep as I wanted.
My room prior to the move.
Saturday was a phenomenal starting with watching a few of my girls PR at the Great Westchase 5k. The night before I was contemplating going or not going, being that my race was the next day and I should really just head to athlete check-in, get a little workout in and return to relax. I couldn’t keep away though. Just the thought of five of the ladies I coach at Fit2Run (my girls), having the ambition to run that morning, was enough that I just couldn’t stay away. I really wanted to be there for them and cheer them on.
They all looked a little surprised when I arrived, but in a good way, at least I hope in a good way. I was shocked at the amount of people that showed up being that I barely ever heard of this race. My girls, Sharon, Kim S., Molly, Sonja, and Donna were there and ready to rock and I even saw a few of them doing their prescribed warm-ups, which made me smile. With my camera in tow, I was happy to grab a few shots, but I knew I shouldn’t run with them, but deep down I wanted to.
After the gun went off I grabbed a few action shots and raced over to the 1 mile mark, but I missed a few of them, so I just hung out about three-quarters-of-a mile from the finish and waited. I grabbed photos of the women I saw, but I still ended up missing a couple. When Sonja came a long I saw a certain, not pain, but concern on her face, so I decided to jump in and bring her across the finish line. She is one of my projects, as she has been one of the few that continually asks questions, and genuinely wants to get better. I have even put a personal plan together for her to run the Best Damn Race Half-Marathon. She makes me so proud, as she continually gets better in more ways than one. I brought her in, egging her to push just a little more and increase her cadence and speed. She came across the line with a new PR and made this coach feel like the proudest papa ever. To increase that feeling even more, I found that all of my girls PR’d and Sharon by more than four minutes which is HUGE!!
We hung around a bit and checked out the expo before I said my good-byes and started my journey south to Venice, Florida in order to Attend the Check-in for my own race. The drive wasn’t bad from Oldsmar, around an hour-and-a-half, but it didn’t feel that long due to the radio blasting classic rock from 107.3 The Eagle. I love that station.
When I arrived I was surprised at the organization of the check-in. There were volunteers helping with everything to include parking. After I received my packet and got my athlete bracelet I was told to go get my timing chip in the next shelter. There stood two, large screen monitors with keyboards and little cameras at the top. The staff member brought up the application where it asked for my bib number and then had all of my information loaded. I verified it and then he coded a new chip and then took my picture. I was curious and asked him what the picture was for and he informed me that as I would cross a mat about 200 yards from the finish, my picture would come up on a huge monitor above the finish line. I was pleasantly surprised and excited about that. I would probably not see it myself, but just the thought already started my heart pumping for the race. I left that area and looked to my left and found a massage tent, and as I didn’t get a chance to see Lisa Jamison that week, I decided to check it out. I again was surprised when I was told by the volunteer that a massage pre and post race were included in the registration. They asked me what I was looking for and I told them I really just needed a good stretch and that is exactly what I got. Three LMTs all took turns massaging and stretching my legs, arms and shoulders out. This wasn’t some 20 minutes quicky rub down, this was a good 45 minute full-on stretch and it was awesome.
I caught up with Pete and Jaime after that and we all went over to get our SWAG bags, which by far was the best I had ever received. A Headsweats visor, Blue-Seventy goggles, samples of Power bites and a new Powerbar and very little paper all tucked in a drawstring bag labeled with Muscle Milk. The rest of the expo was pretty rudimentary, so we decided to head over to Sharkey’s for some lunch before the mandatory meeting.
The mandatory meeting brought on a surprise and a little fun. The race director notified that due to the rough water, and the possible Red Tide warning, that it was possible that the swim would be cancelled or reversed. What I haven’t mentioned as of yet, was that due to Hurricane Sandy, it was already very windy. The waves in the ocean looked angry and rough. One part of me was a little relieved, but it was outweighed by the side of me that was disappointed. I mean I should have been excited due to the swim being my worst event, but it just wouldn’t, and later didn’t, feel like a true triathlon if the swim was cancelled. I felt the last race of the season was going to be a huge disappointment without the swim, not to mention the high winds on the bike were also a concern.
At the end of the mandatory meeting there was a worst wet suit contest which was really entertaining. Six athletes went onstage with really ugly wet suits, some worn, some bleached and one of the custom made was really terrible. An athlete with this multi-colored, turquoise, purple, orange and black multicolored wet suit one by unanimous cheering and laughter by the athletes. The top two ended up winning brand new wet suits provided by Blue-Seventy which was kinda cool for them.
I was continually impressed with Rev3 when I visited transition. They didn’t have the rails that I was used to where the bike seat hooks underneath with just a little room to setup your bike and run gear, they had these wood boxes the ground that gave each athlete a sleeve where your bike tire was inserted allowing the bike to stand up on its own and the ease of removing it and returning it during the race, and a box for your gear and even more room between bikes. Not to mention the little of added extra of personalizing your spot with your bib number and name printed on the box.
The rest of the night basically consisted of packing up my gear, changing an inner-tube on my bike and relaxing. Oh, I will say one thing that the race provided that was really cool; race tattoos. These are temp tattoos with my bib number for both arms and the back of my right hand and my age on the back of my right calf. They looked extremely professional and were a lot easier to apply than I thought. Peel, stick, wet with a wash cloth and peel the back off. Done. I didn’t know how complicated it was going to be, so I applied them Saturday night and slept in them, and they looked just as good at 4 am when I awoke.
|Pete, Jamie and I before the race|
All of the athletes I knew had rented hotel rooms in Venice, but the ride was less than an hour, and I thought I would be better off sleeping in my own bed and having some solace time, prior to the race. I was very happy I made that decision. The ride down that early in the morning was easy and fast. I had plenty of time to rack my bike in transition and lay out my shoes and stuff before the race. As I walked up to transition I heard the announcer officially cancel the swim and proclaim the pros would have a 1.5 mile run prior to the bike but the age groupers would have a La Mond Time Trial start. While the disappointment came over me I was also curious about this time trial start as I had never had that experience before. Upon finishing I caught up with Pete and Jaime and socialized with them, Carola, Laurie, and some new friends we made.
|Carola and I|
Finally, after the pros finished their run and started on the bike the officials lined us up in bib order and started us at the Swim In as if we just came in from swim. After the first athlete ran into transition they continued starting each athlete every 3 seconds. I was bib 364 which gave me a good 5 minutes in line before I finally was started. I ran to my bike, jumped into my shoes, put on my helmet, with clipping my chin strap, grabbed my bike and ran to the mount line. I registered 1:37 for T1 which was ok, being that I was at the far end of my row and far from the bike out line. The wind was howling the whole time on the bike, but luckily the first 25 miles or so had a great tail wind. I was keeping speeds of 25-27 mph with medium effort and was feeling pretty good, even with some of the more experienced bikers passing me like I was standing still. Even Pete caught me with his race wheels and flew by calling me to chase after him. I kept him in sight for a good 5-6 miles until I lost him, which just at the point we turned into the wind.
It was brutal. I never thought I could work so hard to reach speeds over 16 mph. That is all I ended up thinking. “No matter what I just can’t go below 16.” It is such an arbitrary number but it sticks with me for some reason. I just refused to go under it. Later on this might had led to another problem, but I will get to that in a minute. Around mile 40 there was relief of about four miles, but even that was quickly defeated by turning back into the 20 mph headwinds that plagued us all on the back half of the course. After mile 20 I wasn’t really passed again, however I was doing my fair share of passing which was nice ego boost. I caught up to Jaime who started 260 people in front of me and even Blaine who was ahead of me by 100 or so. I was feeling pretty good in that arena, but I just couldn’t catch Pete. I tried though.
When I got back into transition I was noticing a little pain in the arch of my right foot. I never felt that before, so I just shrugged it off, but when I returned my bike it’s sleeve in transition, and donned my running shoes, I felt this sharp pain in my foot like I was running with a nail stuck in the ball of my right foot. I seriously thought I somehow broke my foot. I left transition within 90 seconds only to end up sitting on the curb howling in agony at the pain in my foot. I took off my shoe, massaged it and started rolling it over the curb and the pain was so intense tears started welling up, and not just due to the actual pain, but for the brief thought I might DNF. I said to myself, forget it, I am going to finish this thing if I have to hop the 13.1 miles and crawl across the finish line. I put back on my shoe and started to run slowly. I was so relieved when the pain started to disappear. I didn’t quite have my legs after the bike, but at least my foot wasn’t broken and hopefully the pain would subside completely and soon.
Digressing back when I first entered transition, Pete yelled at me as he had just crossed the timing mat, to come and catch him. Well, even after hanging out for a bit, I caught him before the first mile marker. He was hurting pretty bad and I was hoping he was alright. We stopped for a minute to stretch and then we walked and then ran for a bit. Just about the first mile marker Pete cramped up really bad and he just shouted for me to go on and even after I doubled back to make sure he was all right, he shooed me away so I ended up back in familiar territory; alone or alone as one can be in a race with 500 athletes.
My legs were still a little stiff, but they slowly loosened up. When I hit the second aid station, I grabbed some water, but at the third station I walked through it grabbing water and Pepsi washing down a Honey Stinger gel along with it. Interestingly enough, I had just recently found that Coke or a cola of any kind, really helps during a triathlon run. Not as much in a fresh run, but in a triathlon it sends a bolt of sugar right to the glycogen stores and seems to give me this little lift, just enough to make me feel like I can push a little harder. Problem is, it is short lived, but combined with the right other source of sugar it can keep me going for at least a couple of miles until I hit another aid station. That ended up being my strategy. Walk through every other aid station grabbing water and coke(Pepsi) until I got to the last garbage can and they I started running again.
The run was two loops with this two mile, out-and-back concrete trail along a canal. That was the part I wasn’t happy about. First, it felt like it would go on forever and second it was concrete and I could feel the impact. I adjusted the best I could by lifting my knees and landing as softly as possible, but it just wasn’t enough because I could feel it in my legs at times. On the long canal trail I saw Jaime on my left after the turn-around, and it didn’t seem like she was that far behind me and then I passed by Blayne who was looking really strong. They both inspired me to push a little harder. I was feeling stronger at the start of the second loop so I started to lean from my ankles a little more and raise my cadence. The second loop seemed a lot shorter than the first, not that I wasn’t terribly thrilled when I saw a sign “Half Mile to Go”. I powered through that last 800 meters passing two other athletes in my age group. About 100 meters prior to the finish line I heard in a huge booming voice, “And from Tampa Florida, Brad Minus coming down arms wide looking like a champ.” I was ecstatic, exhausted and in a lot pain. The pain in my legs was terrible. I knew it was a soreness from the race, but it was a pain a little more intense than normal. A handler walked me through as I was awarded my finisher medal and handed a Gatorade and a water, making sure I was stable. After I assured him I was fine he took my chip, told me congratulations and pointed out the amenities for the finishing athletes. I wanted to wait for Jaime, but I knew if I didn’t get someone to work on my legs before I cooled down entirely I was going to be in even more pain later, so I headed for the massage tent.
I didn’t have to wait long til I was lead to a table where a Chiropractic student named Marceia, worked me over. In other races and even while watching some of the other volunteer massage therapists work over other athletes I usually see a cookie cutter approach to working on athletes. Meaning, like an assembly line, athletes are brought in each one is worked on in the exact same way. I only say Marceia work on the athlete prior to me and I was wondering if it was going to be the same way. I was so delighted when it wasn’t. She continued to ask me about my soreness and pain levels as she worked on me, and she was even using the same techniques that Lisa uses with me and even better, she did nothing to me that was even similar to the athlete prior to me. This woman had instincts and they were good ones. When I got off the table I was still a little sore but I felt 90% better. Thank you Marceia wherever you are.
I heard Jaime cross while I was waiting and by the time I finished my massage I saw Pete from a distance come across, so we were all in at this point. Chris and Fallon had come to watch and pleasantly surprised me by staying for the entire race. I am so impressed with Revolution 3 and everything they had available. It was actually possible to cross the finish line and walk right over to the results tent, type in your bib number and immediately check all of your splits, and since it was web based anyone who is tracking an athlete was able to receive real-time information. The very second an athlete crosses a timing mat, anyone in the world could see the time if they are on the web page. The last few Ironman races I have either watched or competed in, my followers have told me the lag could have been up to an hour after the split was crossed.
|Jamie, Pete and I afterwards|
After, some pics and some socializing we checked our times and awesomely found that Jaime had placed in her age group. While looking at the computer it looked as though she had taken third, but when she was actually called for second place during the awards ceremony. Congrats Jaime!
I ended up breaking the 5 hour mark at a final time of 4:59.13 with 2:49 bike and a 2:06 half marathon, so I was happy with my performance. If there was a swim, I probably would have come in right around the same as Augusta, and I was glad for that.
This ends my triathlon season. I am in the midst of planning my off season and I have already titled it, S3F. Speed, Strength, Swim & Flexibility. I plan on working on my speed on the bike and the run, adding some endurance strength especially in my back and arms in order to increase speed in the water, doing more work in the pool on my form to try and relax and reduce my time in the water and increase my flexibility to protect my back and lengthen my stride and stroke. I am planning on competing in Tough Mudder in December with the A-Train, probably doing the Clearwater Marathon and maybe a couple of other short races just to keep my edge a little, before the first race of my season which at this point will be St. Anthony’s in April 2013.
I made it to the front of the dock where handlers had signs up with our ages and waves on them. I found my wave with ease and merged in the rest of the 40-44 males whom had last names that started with the letters I – Q. Now is when the nerves started to build up in my stomach and all the insecurities started to show their pretty little selves. “Did I train enough?” “Why didn’t I do more swim workouts?” “Why can’t I use a pull buoy?” “Should I really use a wet suit?” and the most famous insecurity that comes up before a race; “What makes you think you belong here with all these athletes?” I never can shake that one. (Read my “About” page to find out why.)
Before I knew it, we were starting to move toward the dock. I pulled on my wet suit and with the help of another athlete got it zipped up and secured. One thing about triathletes, we always help each other out and the real special ones may even give up some time on their race to help as well, but I digress. We slowly moved to the dock where we jumped into the water. The temp wasn’t bad at all and my wet suit was buoyant enough that my insecurities started to fold the minute I got into the water. Maybe subconsciously I thought there was a chance I could die while I was in the water, I am not sure, but I felt a lot better. I moved toward the starting buoys and noticed one thing. The current was not nearly as strong as the previous year. Last year I spent more energy trying not to cross the start line before the gun, because of the strength of the current. This year, that was not the case.
The announcer was counting down and my heart rate started to rise. 3, 2, 1.. and the gun went off..bang! I started my 1.2 mile survival journey that would be the swim portion of the Augusta Ironman 70.3. I could swear I heard the announcer from the horse races in my head. “AAANNNND There OFF!”, and we were. I kept two things in my head as the swim went on; my stroke count and how many reps of my stroke count did I do. In other words, “1, 2, 3 bubble, breathe. 2, 2, 3, bubble, breathe”, all the way up to five when I would site the boat house right by the finish. I was able to maintain it for about six hundred meters until my A.D.D. took over and my mind drifted. Of course, I got a quick dose of reality when I looked up and right in front of me was a diver yelling at me “To the right! To the right!” It seems I may have drifted a little over to the left and was about to cross the line. I don’t think it was a dis-qualifier or anything, but it did take me a little off course. For a good amount of the time, I just kept my legs together and stuck my head down and as long as I used my roll to turn into my armpit I found that I was moving rather smoothly. Slowly, but smoothly. Right at the point I met the diver was when I realized that I was at the back of my wave, which was a lot better than last year when I ended up falling to the back the wave behind the wave behind me. This year I was in the rear of my wave with the stragglers but at least the bulk of the wave immediately behind me was still back there. Sure, the faster swimmers from that wave passed me and I expected that, but what I didn’t expect was to stay in front of that wave. Score…2 points for my ego.
When I sighted the finish line, I was ecstatic. I surely was going to hit my goal of thirty minutes. My only issue now was, that the finish line looked so close but it was like the opposite of a mirror on the driver side door of a car. They should put a sign up…”Swim Finish is Farther than Appears”, because when I was about to turn for the finish, I realized that the finish buoys were actually another 30 meters ahead of me. You mean, I have to continue swimming? Son of a……uh…donkey? (I didn’t really think that either.)
|Feeling pretty good after the swim|
I finally was able to get to the ramp and out of the swim and started heading towards transition. I glanced down at my watch as I pressed the button to move it from Swim Mode to transition 1 mode, I noticed that, gosh darnit (see the last set of parentheses), my time was the exact same as last year. I couldn’t believe it. Last year, I was all over the place. I zig zagged, I swam breast stroke, side stroke, back stroke, but this year I consistantly swam freestyle the full 1.2 miles and I still was just as slow. Seriously? All that work and I still came in at 37:17. One thing was different this year though. I was actually running toward transition and they made it farther this year to get to the wet suit strippers. My legs felt good, my breathing came back almost instantaneously and I was running, almost sprinting. There was the difference. While last year the current was stronger I still used a ton of energy to finish it, which only allowed me to walk to my bike in transition. I remember even walking my bike to the mount line. This year, ran to the strippers, dropped to my butt, a young chick grabbed my suit and yanked it off and handed it to me as I jumped up. I ran to my bike, slipped on my shoes while clipping my race belt, grabbed my helmet, clipped the chin strap and ran my bike to the mount line. Four minutes and twenty-two seconds after I stepped out of the river I was mounted and rolling onto the bike course. It took me less than half the time it took me last year and that was without the third-of -a-mile distance they added from the river to transition. Sure, I think I could have taken even more time off, but I was ok with it.
|Starting out on the bike|
I rolled out with the sound of the spectators becoming more and more distant as I quickly got my cadence up to 90 RPM, which is what I strive to keep no matter what the terrain. My coach, Amy Bennett Eck, had suggested I not take any fluids or food for about 15 minutes to allow my body to calm a little and luckily I remembered because I noticed I was hungry. In February, I purchased the Garmin 910XT and it has been an absolute dream to train with. I mainly use it for number of swim strokes per 100m, time and distance, bike cadence, time, speed, power, distance and heart rate, and run cadence, pace, distance and time. In this auto multi-sport mode, there is the functionality to program the events you will be either racing or training and with one touch of button it will transition from one event to the other giving you a transition time in-between. For example, when I came out of the swim, I pushed one button as I came across the timing mats and it started to capture the amount of time I spent in T1, as soon as I mounted the bike I pushed the same button and it automatically started capturing the data for the bike portion. Obviously, it did the same when I completed the bike event and on to the run. There is also a simultaneous alarm function that I programmed to go off every 15 minutes. This is how I track my nutrition. Every fifteen minutes, when I hear, or feel, the alarm I know I need to have taken in a quarter of a bottle of hydration. Every three times that alarm goes off it is time to eat something. For this race I chose Honey Stinger gel packets. To me they taste like Jello brand pudding so they can also be a treat. Since Amy suggested I hold off I knew I just had to wait for the first alarm to go off and I could start drinking for the speed bottle that is bracketed to the vertical frame tube beneath my seat, where a straw then is strung up the through my aerobars so I can sip on the bottle whenever I want. I love it.
The first five miles of the course was relatively flat which allowed me to slow down my heart rate while picking up my cadence and moving my speed to around 21 mph. The air was clean, the sky was overcast and the temperature was perfect. Everything just kept feeling like it was coming together. I had no physical issues, I was keeping to my game plan and even though I was getting passed, I was also passing athletes. Around mile ten the hills started to come into play and I started to move through the initial pack of age groupers whom I was suspecting were the good swimmers and runners but not so good cyclists. Sometimes you can tell experience from the way people ride. Amy always has me keeping my cadence and not coming out of the saddle unless I really feel like I need to. I keep my cadence where I need to and I just move the gears to keep it in that range whether going up hills, coming down, or riding flat. Sometimes a hill is steep and long therefore I do come out of the saddle, but it takes a lot of energy to do that, and while I do notice a lot of experienced riders taking that strategy, I do not care to. I also notice while I am expending the same amount of energy on hills as I do cycling on flat roads, I pass those whom are pedaling out of the saddle. Personally, that is always my favorite. It is a little fun passing people and saying hello while I am comfortable in the saddle and they are standing, mashing down on the pedals and panting. But, just a little. It still doesn’t take away from those athletes that are trained to average 23-25 mph and fly right by like a jet plane. That is when I come back to earth and realize I am still that un-athletic guy who took two years to get this far, while others were able harness their genes and progress much faster.
|Mucking for the camera|
Before I knew it mile 16 flew by and I was passing the very first aid station where the volunteers where hooting and hollering, handing out water bottles and Ironman Perform sports drink. Last year I strayed from my nutrition plan and ended up having stomach issues on the run which slowed me way down. This year I was determined to learn from my mistakes so every aid station I just passed up. Everything I needed was either in my bento box, in my bottles or in my tri-top. I refused to stray this year and later, that paid off.
The hills were coming a little more fast and furious in the middle of the bike course. I had programmed another alert from my watch that helped a little. I had my Garmin give me 5 mile splits, so I could tell how I was doing. I was hoping to average 20 mph minimally, so when the split alert sounded I should see 15 minutes or less. I was shocked when the middle of my bike I was consistently getting 14:19, 14:40, 14:52. Of course there were two laps of 5 miles when I was way over. After mile 30 we ended up with these rolling hills that while were nothing huge I got caught in the wrong gear and had to come out of the saddle and of course was shocked to see that I was moving all of 8 mph. Wow! From 21 mph to 8 within just a few seconds. Somehow I screwed up somewhere, probably due to my ADD, and wasn’t paying attention and got caught on a hill and now I had to mash down on the pedals like the novices just to make it. Sir Isaac Newton gave me all the luck I needed when he proclaimed “What goes up?”…wait for it…wait for it…”Must come down.” Even though I was behind time, I could make it up by continuing to pedal on the downhills and scream at 35, and even once for a short stint, 42 mph. That helped quite a bit. While the last ten miles were pretty flat I still was kind of shocked when I looked at my watch at mile 55, when the split time came up at 12:49. That was the highlight of my event. Five flat miles in 12 minutes, 49 seconds. It was definitely a first for me.
I mentioned earlier that Coach Amy had me practicing transitions prior to this race, well, it paid off at T2(bike-ro-run transition). I slipped off the bike, surprising myself by continuing to run, slipped off my helmet, took off my cletes, changed my race belt to a the one that stored salt tabs and stinger gels, slid on my running shoes, grabbed my hat and ran out of transition in two minutes and forty-four seconds. Well, below half of my T2 time last year. What made it even more motivating and exciting was the race clock stated 4:05:32 as I ran out. Remember, that my wave was at 8:00a, exactly 30 minutes after the start of the race, so this wasn’t my race time. My race time was 30 minutes less; 3:35:32. As I was running passed the aid station they had about a quarter of mile out of transition, it hit me. I could possibly be 5:40 something. I was hoping to come under 6 hours, but if I could run around a two-hour marathon I could really crush my time from last year. A two-hour marathon should be easy for me. I ran a 1:38 in a race last year, I should be able to conquer this goal. So that’s what I set out to do.
Unlike road races, long course triathlons usually have aid stations around every mile, which is nice. When your body has been taking a beating for more than 3 hours, it might need a little extra hydration and nutrition. My nutrition goal was to walk through every other aid station grabbing water and coke and then every 4 miles taking a gel packet.
|Starting the run|
Before I knew it I was at mile 3 wondering where the miles went, especially when my watch had me doing under 9 minute miles. Of course I expected that to change as my body became a little more tired and I started to walk through the aid stations. The run in Augusta is two loops around the center of town around Broad street. It was loaded with spectators and I enjoy it. Sometimes there is even some great signs that people make. I have seen some funny ones, like “Toe Nails are for sissies” and “Chuck Norris never did an Ironman”, but my favorite to this day is still “If triathlon was easy they would call it football.” That one always cracks me up. Not that it is true. Take it from someone who has attempted both American football the other football we call soccer, they both have there different definitions of tough. Triathlon is just the endurance tough because it doesn’t stop for numerous hours, where in the other kinds of football they usually only last 2-3 hours and they have these things called “timeouts”. In triathlon we don’t have timeouts, the clock doesn’t stop because you have a foul or a penalty. It just keeps going.
The first loop went around Augusta went very fast. Before I knew it I was in back a couple of blocks to the west passing the split where a sign was posted to keep left for the first loop or turn right if it was your second loop. I remembered last year really disliking that sign, but this year not so much.
|The last mile|
(took off my hat and
sunglasses for the picture…LOL)
The crowds seemed to have grown on my second loop and I kept my eye out for Jessica who was sporting her bright yellow tank top and green hair. It was supposed to be yellow as well, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. I never did see her the whole run, but nevertheless the crowd cheered everyone on. A couple of little kids were on the side holding their hands out and cheering hoping we would run by and give them a high five. There were families out just hoping to get a glimpse of their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers or fathers. As I was running, my photographer’s eye kept seeing Norman Rockwell, paintings. This really was a very clean, forthright city with an old soul. I couldn’t help but smile a lot of the time, at least until mile nine. I couldn’t believe it, the plan was working just fine but at that point, cramp, side stretch…ouch. I forced myself to run until the mile 10 aid station where I walked and grabbed water and a cup of coke while breathing as deep as I could. When the pain subsided a little, I started to run only to be struck down again by the pain. I grabbed a gel packet and a salt tab hoping they would help and they did, for a short while until I arrived at the mile eleven aid station and ate an orange. At this point, I didn’t care. I had 2.1 miles left and I wasn’t stopping. If I had to leave my intestines on the sidewalk and pick them up later that’s what I was going to to. I picked up my pace, blocked out everything and headed for the finish line. I didn’t even see the mile twelve marker, but I felt the vibration of my watch which told me now I had just a little over a mile to go. I kept looking down at my watch, 12.1, 12.24, 12.35. I felt like this was the longest mile of my life, but I was wrong. I finally made it to the split. Left for the first lap and right to the finish and I was going right. Here is what turned out to be the longest stretch of the run. I had no idea that a quarter mile could feel like an eternity and when I finally did see the finish, I felt like I was in the movie; “The Shining”, when the little kid is looking down the hall and it keeps getting longer and longer? That exactly what it felt like. I looked down at my watch and noticed what it said 19:54. Crud! I wasn’t going to make it. I lifted my legs and increased my cadence just hoping I could get one little ounce of speed and I got it, but just a little too late.
I crossed the line with the race clock stating 6:06:54, so doing the math my race time ended up being 5:36:54. While I didn’t hit my goal of a 2 hour half-marathon I still crushed my previous year’s time by over forty-two minutes. I was on cloud nine. I couldn’t help smiling. This really was one of the greatest races I ever competed in. I take that back. It was the greatest performance I ever had in a race, period. Unfortunately, being the oldest in my group I was the first person to cross the finish line, except for Russ who passed me at mile 5, so there was no one to share it with.
Best race of my life! |
After receiving my medal, taking a couple of pictures and having my timing chipped removed from my ankle I headed over to the refreshment tent a can of coke from this pool of ice and ran in to Russ. He told me that he finished around 4:28. This kid is a machine and that just proved it. We congratulated each other and I went over and got a massage, but not before disposing of the first coke and grabbing a second. While waiting I finished that can and by the time I finished up with Caroline, the LMT who took care of me, I felt like a million dollars. With exception of a twinge in my back, which for me is normal due to my injury, I really felt good. No pain, no soreness and due to the adrenaline still pumping from having such an awesome performance I felt like a rockstar, and I never really felt that way before.
I changed and called Amy and gabbed about the race. She was proud of me. The last two races she had trained me for didn’t turn out so well, so with this performance I felt like I validated myself in her eyes and in my own. After hanging up I saw a text from Kim telling me how awesome I did and there was a voice mail from my Dad telling me congratulations as well. I almost cried. I felt the tears well up, but there was just too many guys around so I wasn’t about to let that happen.
|Beth and I|
As it turned out we all had a good race. Celeste PR’d, Chris finished under 6 hours, Bruce beat me by one second, and as it turned out Russ actually took first place in his age group and was on his way to Las Vegas, but the story of the weekend was Beth. Beth had gone through a lot just to get to the race. Besides this being her first 70.3, she never biked really prior to this year, she had an injury that kept her from running for over 3 months, so she was very freaked coming into this. Wouldn’t you know it, after having a goal of just finishing under 6:30:00, her official time was 5:47:16. We were all really proud of her. You can read all about her experiences on her blog Discom-BOB-ulated Running.
The rest is pretty boring. We grabbed our bikes, and said our congratulations to the other athletes we knew as we walked out of transition We packed up the cars, rode back to the hotel, cleaned ourselves up and headed out to Red Robin. I don’t know if it was the race, or all the gel packets, electrolyte drinks, or just all the calories we burned, but I had a lettuce wrapped burger that I swear was the best I ever had. Maybe I just felt like I actually earned it.
What I can say is this; this had to be one of the best experiences of my life. I cannot only attribute it to my performance in the race. Every piece of the puzzle fit. I couldn’t have done it without the training, my friends, my coaching, the group that I coach, my family and all of the positive people I choose to surround myself with. With one piece out of sync, it would not have been the experience it was.
Previously I mentioned all that was; the Top Gun Triathlon for me. Today I give you the run-down of my experience with the Twilight Triathlon I competed in that same evening. Are you ready? Are you in suspense? If you said “yes” then I know you just are humoring me, but I’ll ramble on for a bit anyway.
After a little breakfast I went home and hoped to catch a nap but had no such luck. I did chill out for a while and watched some of the Olympics, but before I knew it I had to head on over to Outspokin to pick up a ride to the tri. I headed out with Nicky Z, both of us continually wondering what the heck we were doing. I wasn’t really sore or anything, but I was a little exhausted. After what seemed like forever, an hour, we showed up to what looked like a cluster fuss. Cars lined up, making ‘U’ turns to find parking, a sheriff’s deputy telling drivers where to go and vendors still putting tents up less than hour before what was supposed to the start of the race. We ended up really lucky and did find a parking space pretty close to transition.
Walking up to transition the announcer’s voice was hailing over the loud speaker something I never heard at a race before. “Don’t buy anything from the food truck. He has been trying to keep this triathlon from taking place!” Excuse me what? Really? A guy in a food truck doesn’t want an extra night of better than average income? Seriously? That ended the negativity and the following were the instructions for packet pick up, body marking, and warnings about lights on our bikes. After picking up my packet and t-shirts, one for this race and one for the Sunrise/Sunset challenge. Nick and I looked at each other a little surprised they were both cotton, but we were given the explanation that DRC Sports, the sponsors for the Twilight Tri, bought both shirts since Top Gun really didn’t need the extra advertising. Oh well, no biggie.
After finishing up my setup in transition I went out to the beach to warm-up a bit and then I headed out to the water. All I can say about that water was….YUCK! It was very shallow, 86 degrees, murky brown and the gulf floor was mushy and full of oysters. I was actually wishing I was back at Ft. Desoto. Of course, I didn’t spend much time out there not that I had a lot of time anyway, since I was heat number 2. The pre-race meeting gave us our instructions, there was a very nice rendition of the national anthem, we took a quick photo of all the athletes that had completed the Top Gun Tri and we were finally ready to race.
Nick’s wave went out first with mine three minutes behind. It was completely psychological, but the buoys sure looked a lot farther than this morning, and they felt that way too. I did not feel nearly as good as I did that morning which was obvious as I was three minutes slower. I did end up making part of it up in T1 due to transition being staged much closer than Top Gun. I was quickly back on my bike and headed out on the road.
My goal was the same stay above 20 mph and keep a cadence of 90-95. Heading away from transition to the turnaround point there was a decent tail wind which helped me keep my speed up. Unfortunately, a tail wind on the way out means…yep…a head wind on the way back. I tucked in and kept my cadence up the best I could, but I found myself falling at times to 18-19 mph which was disconcerting. I did catch a couple of miles over 22 on the way back but it still kept my average to 19.8 mph which was ugly compared to my mornings ride. I could make excuses as it was the wind, or the fact I had to slow down almost to a stop at the turnaround or even the fact I ran over a squirrel. (I hear you…WHAT?) Yeah, a squirrel darts across the street and literally runs right in front of me to where I had no other option that to run over it. Luckily, I looked behind me and it got right up and ran just as fast to the nearest tree and climbed right up looking none the worse for wear. Still it was no excuse, I just didn’t get the job done.
With a mile-and-a-half to go I saw the leader making the turn to the finish of the run. All I thought was what a loser I was. The guy only had a a minimal 3 minute head start on me and I wasn’t even finished with the bike and here he was on his way back to the finish line. What a beast that Zach guy is. Anyway, I sped into transition changed my shoes and headed out.
It was the complete mirror image of my run earlier that day except in slow motion. I felt like I had nothing in my legs until the turnaround and then they finally stretched out and I was able to pick up my cadence on the way back in. I will say the sunset on the way back the finish was gorgeous as was the good amount of extra protein I ingested on the way back due to the overwhelming amount of mosquitoes. No wonder I wasn’t that hungry after the race. Anyway, I ended up averaging around an 8:30 which was a little over a minute slower than earlier. Oh well, in all fairness it was my second race of the day and even though I was planning on bringing my effort level down, my ego got a hold of me and that just didn’t happen. I said it before and I will say it again…more bricks, more bricks, more bricks.
It was pretty uneventful after that. Nick got a massage from these two women and finally understood why Scott Bragan and I have been singing Lisa Jamison’s (http://www.liftperformanceenhancement.com) praises for over a year. in my opinion, massage should be a part of anyone’s training plan that trains hard more than 3 days a week. We packed up, grabbed some food, Gatorade and took the long ride home.
Overall; I don’t think I would’ve wanted to spend the day any differently. Great workouts, good friends and the feeling of accomplishment. What could possibly be better?