For a long time, it has been called the Granddaddy of all endurance events, the Ironman triathlon. A 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run done consecutively in the same day. Of course, nowadays, double, triple, and even deca Ironman distance triathlons are becoming more and more popular, as well as 24, 48 and even 72-hour mud and obstacle run challenges. If you are calling me crazy for doing my second Ironman, I can introduce you to at least a few people who do challenges that make Ironman look like a game of hopscotch. (Yes, Matt “UltraIronBeast” Dolitsky, you are one of those.)
This competition for me was a learning experience in overcoming obstacles, most of them mental. I did not PR, or even come close, but I now understand completely the quote, “The mind will quite 100 times before the body does.”
Pete Amedure, Kari Eichen, Kat Ward, Jamie Breibart and myself all decided to drive up Wednesday morning in order to get acclimated to the environment and eliminate and reasons for not being prepared for Saturday’s race. Pete, Kari and I were in my car and had a great time on the way up. Of course, there was a stop at the Huddle House in Perry Florida where we ate and laughed to a point where I spaced out and left my phone, and didn’t realize it until we were half-an-hour from Panama City Beach. It didn’t help that I was in the middle of contracts and had all my recruiters contacting me about interviews and new opportunities. (I ended up remedying this by sending FedEx to the restaurant and delivering it to our hotel. In the meantime, Google Voice was a tremendous help.)
We arrived at the Laketown Wharf complex where we stayed in a luxurious three bedroom, three bath condominium, with a beautiful view of the gulf. I give this hotel/condo complex four stars. It had everything needed including a nightly water and light show that rivals the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Well, not really, but it was a fun amenity. The condos all have a full kitchen, with dishes, glasses, silverware, pots and pans, coffee maker, and a full-size refrigerator. Everything needed for the athlete, and spectathletes, to remove all those pressures of nutrition, and early morning breakfasts. The area also has plenty of great restaurants for good eating as well.
Afterward, we walked the quarter mile to athlete check-in to receive our chip, bibs, bags, and swag. I was a little disappointed in the swag this year. Last year they gave out beautiful TYR transition backpacks, but this year it was a very inferior white backpack that looks like it will fall apart. Jamie’s actually did, so they gave her a replacement immediately. The expo was about twice the size that it was last year, with a host of new vendors. Verizon was displaying their goods, as they were the tracking sponsor this year, along with Newton, Fit2Run, a local bike shop and a bunch of the regulars. Refuel was there, talking about Chocolate Milk, so I did create a video with them talking about the benefits of it. I will share that link on Twitter when I receive it. It should be good for a couple of laughs.
After that, we spent the next couple of days, taking in the aura of Ironman, preparing and eating. Eating was a non-stop event for us. I knew from experience that immense calories were going to be needed in order to be comfortable on the course, so I encouraged our team to keep eating as I did myself.
Thursday night was the athlete welcome dinner, and I was almost embarrassed. My recollection of the 2011 athlete dinner was so wonderful, that I really talked it up and encouraged Pete, Jamie, and Kari to come. Jamie decided not to go, but I was so excited for Pete and Kari to be there I couldn’t contain my emotions. Unfortunately, I was sort of let down. It seemed unorganized and hurried. Yes, my favorite pro-triathlete and world champion Mirinda Carfrae was interviewed on stage, so that was great, but the rest of it was about charities and a couple of athletes overcoming their own obstacles. There were video presentations about a woman who was competing for her husband who died the year earlier while training, and a quadriplegic who was competing to show the world that anyone could do anything if they just challenged themselves.
Yes, their stories were inspiring but I just felt like it was too much and way too long. In 2011 the presentations were balanced between the negative and the positive inspiring stories and we even had an athlete briefing by the race director all in the span of 90 minutes. It held the attention of every athlete to a point where the announcer almost didn’t need the microphone. This time, a good portion of the athletes conversed right through all the presentations to a point where it was hard to hear the MC with a microphone. I felt like I let my friend Pete down to a point where I was apologizing so much on the walk back I became annoying. Sorry, Pete and Kari.
Friday, the anxiety hit like a ton of bricks. You couldn’t cut the tension in the condo with a Ginsu, serrated edge knife. We ate breakfast and then headed down to the beach to get in the water with our wetsuits. The waves sets were barreling to the shore with such force that the red, “no-swimming”, flag was flown, but we knew we needed to at least get in the water for a few minutes just to test out our goggles and our wetsuits. Surprising enough, even with the force of the waves, I thought I became a little more confident. I was able to stay on the surface of the water, and I practiced duck diving through the waves instead of trying to swim over them. I really thought I may have a chance of being faster out of the water than I thought.
Afterward, we talked through our transition plans to double check our gear, checked to make sure our bikes were ready to go and proceeded to transition to check-in everything. We had decided to try and wait out the rain, but unfortunately, I had a phone interview which had the chance of exceeding beyond the time check-in would close, so we walked down in the rain. The line was so long, I was going to be cutting it very close, so afterward, I ran back to the hotel. On the way back, I dropped my phone and cracked the screen. Yes, I had the phone back in my hands all of two hours and I dropped it. I have never broken a phone before, ever, and here I had two phone interviews and I cracked the screen. I was lucky enough that the phone still worked with voice recognition and a little effort, so the two interviews scheduled went off without any problems and I confirmed them both for second interviews as well.
That night we had a good dinner at the Wicked Wheel and we were all in bed around 9 pm ready to take on the Ironman.
As predicted, the night before was restless but I did end up sleeping a good 4-5 hours before the alarm went off. As planned we dressed in sweats, grabbed our “Special Needs” bags, nutrition for the bike, and headed to transition around 4:30 am. We were body marked, checked our bikes, dropped our bags, and then headed back to try and leisurely eat breakfast, and dress for the race. Kari cooked eggs and turkey bacon, I cooked oatmeal and we all hung out for a while and tried to prepare ourselves with our loved ones. It was kind of surreal. I remembered these moments from the first time I competed in this race, but it still seemed like it was all new again.
We dressed, pulled on our wetsuits halfway, hugged and headed for the start line. We walked with Kari, Kim, and Danny down to the start, but athletes had to enter separately than spectators, so when we finally hit the beach we couldn’t find them. I really wanted to see them all before the start, but I knew I would be ok if I didn’t, but Kari had Pete’s goggles in her bag, so now it became imperative that we find them. We walked over trying to find them, so when it came to a point where we had no time left, we dropped our stuff and proceeded to button up our wetsuits and prepare to go under the arch. It was at that moment, our party found us. Talk about cutting it close. We hugged, gut our well wishes, wished each other luck and headed into the mass of athletes preparing for the start.
This year was a little different as signs were being held up with expected times for the swim. It could be compared to pace groups commonly found in road races except instead of going deep from a start line this went wide along the shore with the idea that if the slower swimmers would be the widest from the buoys and would fall in behind the faster ones. This was thought to bring down the chaos of a mass swim start, but for me, it was worse. I have been in comparable rough water, hit, kicked and swam over before and I always kept on swimming no matter what, but this time I was kicked so many times with the last time throwing my goggles from my face. It took me a few minutes to find them floating away from me, but I was able to put them back without too much trouble.
When I finished my first loop, the clock said 1:11 which was very slow. I thought I should be able to make up at least three minutes on the second loop, so I shouldn’t be in any danger of not making the 2:20 cutoff. I found a rhythm and just kept swimming, but I veered to the left of buoys and to keep correcting my course. When I made the turn for the straightaway to the swim finish, I glanced at my wrist to check my Garmin to see how much time I had left, and it was gone. Not only could I not find out what I needed to cross the swim finish, I wasn’t going to know how fast I would bike, or run. I wouldn’t know when to take my nutrition or even what time it was.
Three buoys from the end I ended up with a paddle boarder on the left of me and jet ski on the right. The paddleboarder kept yelling the time I had left. “You have 8 minutes. You got this just keep going.” I have to admit, the idea of a DNF crossed my mind and it did not scare me. I thought to myself “would it really be the end o the world.” I would be able to support Pete, Jamie, and Kat and I wouldn’t have to worry about biking 112 miles, chafing, nutrition, none of it. Of course, I wouldn’t get to cross that finish line and I would feel like a failure and that is what really scared me. It wasn’t the disappointment of my friends or even my family, it was the disappointment I would have in myself. That never-ending coulda, woulda, shoulda would really haunt me, so I sped up and went as hard as I could. The waves after the sandbar helped and even though I got caught up in the rope tied to one of the lifeguard’s flotation device I was able to hit the beach at exactly 2:20 getting me over the timing mat at 2:20:08.
I don’t mind stating that I was exhausted. I have stated it time and time again, that I am not even a good swimmer, but this really put it in perspective.
I ran into transition and the volunteers stated I had eight minutes to cross the bike mat, so they hurried me into my bib and jersey I was using for the bike, put on my helmet and shoes and rushed me out into transition to grab my bike. I crossed and headed out on my 112-mile journey.
My lungs were screaming and my stomach was churning, but I just kept going. I passed the mile 10 marker and about, what I estimate was around the 12-13 mile mark, nausea started. I pulled over to the side of the road and vomited sea water over the guardrail. Unfortunately, I have what is called a vasovagal response to vomiting, which basically means I pass out cold. I woke up, splayed out on the side of the road with the sun shining in my eyes. It took a while to get my wits and balance in order to get back on my bike. I continued slowly with the thoughts of turning around and just ending it. Who would blame me? I became sick on the bike, no one would care. With my stomach still churning and my head spinning I decided I would go to the twenty-mile marker and if I didn’t feel better I would turn around. The earlier thoughts I had of a DNF plagued me again and when I saw the 20-mile sign, I was still feeling sick, but better than I did. I took in some of the Isagenix mix I had in my bottles and decided to go on to the next marker, but it wasn’t more than a mile later I realized that if I turned around at the 30 mile mark, I would have biked 60 miles by the time I got back to the start. That’s when I knew I had it in me. It no longer was about time now it was about finishing.
From that point on the bike ended up being uneventful. Sure, there were minor challenges. For instance, the wind picked up quite a bit, and of course, I still had no perception of time, except for when I asked, but I just put my head down and kept going.
Here is a little lesson learned while I was on the bike. As I mentioned the wind became a challenge during the bike, but I decided to wear an aero helmet and while I was in aero position and looked down, the wind became a little less a factor. I found myself being able to pick up a higher cadence. The minute I looked straight I could not only hear the wind, but I felt like someone had hit the breaks on my bike. Every article and person always said, one way and the cheapest way to become more aero was a helmet. They were right.
Being the last one out of the water did have one advantage. I wasn’t going to get passed. I was doing all the passing, and with each rider I passed, I felt a little bit of mental boost which helped a great deal. I rolled into transition in a little over 7 hours, which, in my estimation, had me on the side of the road for a little over 30 minutes. All-in-all it wasn’t actually that bad.
A volunteer grabbed my bike, I snatched my run gear bag and was greeted in the changing room by my friend, and client, Hugo Scavino. He helped me rid myself of the bib and bike jersey and don my shoes and hat. After a huge hug, I headed off onto the run course. I stopped briefly for words of encouragement, hugs and kisses from Kim, Kari, Maria and Anne, and off onto the course I went. I walked for about a quarter mile before I started running. I was kind of amazed. I felt like I was able to transition to my running legs a little easier than the Augusta 70.3 I competed in six weeks earlier. I hit the first aid station in about 1.5 miles and I was feeling pretty good. I formulated my plan of running from aid station to aid station and just walking while I was getting water and nutrition. This worked for the first loop.
Pete and Jaime passed me at my mile 3 and their mile 10 and we shook hands and I motivated Pete with warning him I should not be able to catch him. Of course in the back of my mind, I was questioning if I could somehow make up 7 miles on him. Dave Nardoski caught up with me on his second loop, so I walked and chatted with him for a few minutes before I picked up the pace again. At mile 6 I saw Kat looking really strong and I yelled some encouragement to her as I passed. The halfway point for the first loop is in a park and I was feeling pretty good. I started doing the math in my head for what it would take to catch up to Pete and Jamie. The idea of the three of crossing together seemed surreal but possibly realistic. At mile 10 I saw Jamie and she had picked up the pace from Pete, and she looked really good. Obviously, the three of us crossing was most likely not going to happen unless I could really pick up some speed and Pete and I could catch her. A little while later I saw Pete again walking. We stopped for a minute and he told me that everything hurt. I gave him some encouragement and we parted. Just prior to the turnaround I found myself running next to Lew Hollander. Lew, is an 83-year-old, twenty-time Kona qualifier and finisher. He is extremely inspiring and is the epitome of the idea that age doesn’t have to be an excuse. We chatted briefly, he gave me some motivation, I congratulated him, he ran into the finisher chute and I made the turn. Kim and Danny were on the other side of the turn, so I was able to see them and get some love and hugs from Kim. She actually ran a little bit with me before I headed off.
I was hurting now. At mile 14 I slowed to a walk. My feet were screaming in agony, my hips, quads, hamstrings and IT bands were in a lot of pain and I started getting a twinge in my back. I didn’t want to walk, but my legs were not letting me run either. I decided I would walk to the aid station of after mile 15 and continue from there. It didn’t happen the way I wanted. I ended up doing a series of run/walk intervals all the way to mile 18 where Pete and I crossed for the last time. We high-fived each other and continued on. Not too far ahead I stopped to use a portlet, but when I exited I became turned around and stupidly started running in the wrong direction. I caught myself about a half mile before I realized what I was doing and quickly did a one-eighty. I guess I was meant to run even more than a marathon this time.
I did meet Susan, a member of the Sarasota Storm Tri Club, which I have participated in races and training with. We chatted and played cat and mouse for a while. Susan had a very steady pace, so I would catch her and then when I would walk she would pass me. This happened about 3 or 4 times throughout the marathon portion. After getting completing the out-and-back in the park to head to the finish I started to feel like I just was about done with this whole thing. I was walking more than running, I was in pain and I was just ready for this experience to end. When I saw mile 20, I thought I only have a 10k left. I could do a 10k in my sleep. I started to pick up the pace just a bit. I walked through the aid station in between 20 and 21 and started talking to myself. “C’mon legs. Just one more training run. I need ya. Relax. Use gravity as momentum. We can do this.”
Ahead was mile marker 21, and it was then when I decided, there will be no more stops at aid stations, there will be no more walking. It was time to get this done. I picked up the pace and never looked back. I caught up with Susan at mile 22 and I told her to come with me. This was just a 5k with a one-mile warm-up. She said something that really motivated me. “You are really strong, Brad.” Who was she trying to kid? It wasn’t 12 hours ago I had thoughts of quitting. I didn’t quit though and here I was 4 miles from the finish of my second Ironman. I picked up the pace even more to a point where I was running at a sub 8:30 pace for a bit. I was in a lot of pain, but it was going to be worse if I stopped. Every time I passed another athlete or spectator they would say “Good job” and that just fueled me. A couple of the spectators would yell, “Awesome pace keep it up!” I ran through the Tri Club village at 25 when someone yelled “Go Goof GO!”, so I even picked up the pace even more. When I finally reached the chute there were two people running together in front of me and I didn’t know whether to let them go ahead or pass them. I passed them and sped up even more in order to make sure I was alone at the finish line.
I saw the finish line and didn’t even look at the clock. After all, I hadn’t known what time it was up to that point, so what did it matter now. The announcer bellowed, “Brad Minus from Tampa Bay, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” Oh, how sweet that sounded. Especially after being kicked, and hit in the water, losing my goggles and Garmin, vomiting and blacking out on the side of the road, and running through all that pain. I finally reached the finish.
A volunteer escorted me to Yvonne Van Vlerken, the women’s first-place finisher, who placed the medal around my neck. We congratulated each other and she gave me a hug, and then I continued with my handler to get a shiny warming sheath, and a finish photo before she handed me off to Kim, Maria, Jamie and the Dannys. I saw Pete sitting down and we just looked at each other with pain on our faces but pride in our eyes.
The rest of the night consisted of pizza and hard cider and regaling stories of the race. PB&J had accomplished what we set out to do a year earlier.
Jamie was the heroine of the night. When she decided to run she end up fast enough to finish with a 13:50. I am still so proud of her. Pete ended up a little under 15 and I ended up with a 15:09. I am not happy with it. It is significantly longer than 2011, but I finished and everything considered, I did have fun. That is what matters most.
Thank you to all who tracked and reported on Facebook, for all the prayers, thoughts, motivation and kudos, Anne, Kari, Maria, Hugo and all the other voluneteers, Kim for supporting me and especially to Pete, Jamie, & Kat for being my training buddies through this journey.
There is a few races that I have neglected to report on. I decided that being most of them were smaller and very…well…uneventful, I thought I would just give the highlights.
Escape from Ft DeSoto Sprint Triathlon
Taking part in brick workouts at the North Beach at Ft DeSoto allows for familiarity of the surroundings, so when competing in a race in the same location, it is like having home field advantage, unless the course goes off the path.
The swim was 800 meters which for me is usually pretty slow, but the current was decent and I was able to stick next to the bouys so I felt like I improved on the swim, but it still wasn’t fast enough. I was able to sprint out of the water and head to transition with energy to spare.
The bike was one simple loop around Ft. DeSoto with a familiar headwind on the way out and a tail wind on the way back. I averaged over 21 mph, so I felt pretty good, but I overdid it just slightly because I felt it on the run. The run was slightly longer than a typical sprint and the second half was on the beach, so I really felt it on my legs. I still had enough to sprint into the finish line, but it was a lesson learned that even on a ten-mile bike leg, I still need to take it easy at the start and ride negative splits in the second half.
Afterward the finish line was filled with excitement sharing stories of the race with friends and watching a few of them at the award ceremony on the podium. It was a fun race and while I am not huge fan of Sprint Triathlons, I will definitely be taking part in this one again.
Tampa Corporate 5k
This race was put on by my friends Ben Mena and Beth Shaw (MenaShaw Races). It was incredibly well-organized with numerous tents for vendors and a line of food trucks preparing everything from smoothies to homemade doughnuts. Of course a beer truck was strategically placed near the finish line to provide access to exhausted runners looking to replenish their carbohydrates.
It always amazes me when Ben and Beth pull these races off. I know it was basically the two of them doing all the organizing, fundraising and negotiating with vendors and sponsors, so when I walked up to the site and saw an enormous amount of people and activity, I was overwhelmed with pride and honor just to know these two personally.
I was on Nick’s team, No Limit Marketing, so he gave me my shirt and we took a couple of photos and lined up for the race. I really wanted to just take it easy during this race, but the energy got the better of me. The course was interesting, as it led out of downtown, then off the beaten path where the terrain changed to broken pavement and then a turnaround back to the start. I was on track for a PR, but the course turned out to be 3.4 instead of 3.1 due to a last-minute logistical changed ordered by the city. Interesting enough, I only know this due to a conversation with Ben after the event was cleaned up. There was no mention of it during the event which is a credit to my friends, because it was seamless and no one really cared, because everyone was having a great time.
Our team actually came in 4th but just a couple of minutes. St. Anthony’s Triathlon was going on that weekend, so Nick decided to just coast through it, which was smart, but he kicked himself later because if he would have actually ran it we would have placed. We still had a great time.
St. Anthony’s Olympic Triathlon
It was a crazy day for St Anthony’s this year. The expo was as expected with numerous vendors all giving free swag, free trials, and providing goods for the race and future races. They all kept the excitement of the race consistent. I could not keep my heart rate down during the expo. After a quick bike, run and swim I walked over to check-in and a press conference was taking place. On the panel were a number of champion triathletes and NFL superstar. Hines Ward, former NFL player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was on the panel due to his upcoming entry into the 2013 World Championship Ironman Triathlon in Kona, October 12th. He has never competed in triathlon before so on his road to the Ironman he is competing in the different distances and St. Anthony’s was to be his first Olympic Distance Triathlon. My favorite triathlete, Mirinda Carefrae was sitting right next to him, because they are both sponsored by Chocolate Milk. That was a huge treat for me, especially since I was able to talk to her and I got a hug from her afterward. (Awww.shucks) She was on her way to a meeting, so unfortunately I didn’t get a picture, but maybe she will recognize me at a later date and at that time I will get a pic. But I digress.
The next day the expected wave of anxiety especially since the water looked a little choppy and being my confidence in the water is a little shaky, I was even more anxious. I guess my feelings were correct because after the pros started Phil LeHaye, the race director, came over the loudspeaker and stated the course would be shortened for safety sake. I really thought that I would be happy due to my limited swimming confidence, but I was amazed at how disappointed I was. To me it was no longer an Olympic Triathlon. I ended up doing this exact same course two years prior when they moved the swim but I was even worse at that point.
Truth be told that was the most unusual part of the race. I completed the swim without any real issues, the bike was uneventful with an average of 20.8 mph and I even was able to complete the 10k run with only one hitch; my bladder told me after mile 4 that I needed to empty it. I told it that we only had two more miles, but I had already held it for a while and it just wasn’t going to allow me to keep going for another two miles without relieving it. I ended up using a port-o-potty on the route which took even longer because I was wearing a one-piece tri suit that Zoot had sent me with their new technology. I usually am not a fan of one-piece tri-suits but this one even though it was black, was cool and comfortable.
I finished in 2:43 which was 37 minutes better than two years prior with the same distance. If it wasn’t for the stop it might have been up to 7-8 minutes faster. Either way I was happy with my performance and I felt really strong crossing the line.
Police Appreciation Run
My friend Rich texted me a few days before this 10k race. I had no intention of running it, but
I had not had the opportunity to hang out with Rich for a while and I wanted to catch up with him. Of course Rich is really fast genetically, so even with all the training I had been doing I still couldn’t catch him, but I enjoyed the race.
This is a Chris Lauber directed race, whom I just have the utmost respect for, not to mention the race was dedicated
to the current and fallen Policemen and women in the area. Great cause, and a great race, even with the 10k going off course for a bit. We didn’t know this until we returned to the finish line, but Chris was lucky because even thought we drifted, it was still exactly 6.2 miles, start to finish. There were plenty of vendors afterward, with food and recovery fluids. I highly recommend it to anyone.
Miles for Moffitt
I believe I have stated this in other posts, but to make money to live I contract myself out as an IT Program/Project Manager for large firms. What exactly do I do? Well, companies hire me to manage projects that usually have over million dollar budgets, like re-designing an online banking site for a well-known financial company, or the development of a government website with over 50,000 pages and applications. I identify the scope of the project, procure the resources both human and material, set the schedule, manage the budget, mitigate the risks, serve as a liaison between the business executives, IT department, internal and external vendors and worker bees, and manage the tasks in order to complete the project.
My latest contract is with Gerdau Steel and they are a major sponsor for Miles for Moffitt, which is a very popular event in the Tampa Bay Area. Gerdau was nice enough to allow me to run the 5 mile race for them. They have basically three races the 5 miler, the 5k and the 1 mile run/walk. The 5 miler and the 5k can be run either timed or untimed. This was a well-organized event with a relatively flat course on the campus of the University of South Florida. Surprisingly enough there was a couple of hills, but nothing that felt terrible. I saw a few of my clients while out there and hung out with Rich again. I averaged 7:30 miles as I did the week before during the Police Appreciation 10k, so I was content with my performance.
After the races concluded, and the thank yous are stated, they have a parade for the cancer survivors that ran the race. It was a really awesome site to see all of these people who were diagnosed with cancer now running in a race. it was inspiring and motivating to know they came back from as close to hell as one can get, and stronger than before.
The Dunedin Sprint Triathlon
I have completed this race for a couple of years now, and since my first triathlon is no longer around, the Morton Plant Mease Triathlon, I decided to make this one my annual “remember how it all started” race.
This race is held on Honeymoon Island which is a great beach with usual minimal issues, but this year we were told that the bottom was a little rocky and we should bring water shoes. I decided to wear my Vibram 5-fingers because they do not hold a lot of water and I thought they would be easy to get out of.
The swim was pretty much a water run due to the shallowness of the water. I usually incorporate some water running during my swim sessions so I know the resistance that water can put on your legs, so I dolphin dived/swam most of the way. I was going to be using my legs enough during the bike and the run, I didn’t need to be wearing them down, prior. I came out of the water in the faster 10% of the wave, but was slowed down by two things. The first being getting out of my shoes. While there was no water giving me issues, the shoes had constricted around my foot so I had to fight to get them off, and then exiting transition had a very narrow trail, so there was a line of us only able to shuffle to the start mat. Other than that the race went great I finished in 1:05 which was another PR for me by a couple of minutes.
And that brings us up to date on race reports. My next race is the NYC Triathlon which is an Olympic distance triathlon in the heart of New York City July 14th. I am really looking forward to this race due to the course being around my favorite city.
There are people out there that take everything in stride and just let the world unfold around them, and there are people who have decided there is so much negativity in the world it is much easier to be oblivious to everything. Either way, in my opinion, if it makes you happy, then do it. There are a few people out there, that have a passion for making the world a better place. There are those who find one cause and passionately support it, which is phenomenal, but a rare few people out there are able to spread their power of influence, courage, and passion to every cause, organization and individual in need they can. My friend Ben is one of those people.
Before I tell you about his cool “Run for Cause” fun runs, or the races he has organized and the races coming up, let me tell you about Ben Mena the runner. Ben and I met through friends from my tri-club the A-Train and some friends from the Run Progressive track workouts. I knew of him and knew he was fast, but that didn’t justify what I saw when I first ran with him. I am amazed at people who can run a marathon with 7:30 average per mile pace. This guy hammers through half-marathons in under 6-minute miles and then will turn around and bike for 20 without skipping a beat.
My favorite memory of watching Ben was actually a cycling workout. Ben was coerced into joining us and Pete (Tribute #2) let him borrow his road bike. This bike had pedal cages on it because Ben didn’t have cycling shoes or cleats and this was going to be his first ride. Well, Ben goes out in front with the “A” group and is really strong. We all thought, “OK, we will just hang back here and watch him die out and pick him up at the turnaround.” He reached the turnaround and just kept going and beat us all. First time out! A few weeks later he decides to do a duathlon in Orlando for the first time and he finishes first, overall. Ben’s VO2 max is off the charts. Maybe that is why he continues to help those in need, with a VO2 max that high, his heart is huge.
Ben organizes a monthly fun run in Brandon, Florida that gives to a different charity each month. I have been running in every one since July and I have seen no less than 50 people at any of them. He also is part of a duo with Beth Shaw (Dis-com-BOB-ulated Running), of which they have successfully completed their first race called the Shape Up for Summer 5k and now they have another one coming up called the Corporate 5k in downtown Tampa. The Shape Up for Summer 5k had well over 750 runners which is well over what they expected and as I used the race as a culmination runs for my clientele, let me just say it was one of the best organized 5k runs I had participated in. Beth and Ben did a really amazing job, so if you find a race organized by MenaShaw Races, you can be sure to have a great experience.
With that being said, Ben has another race he has organized and this one has an interesting spin on it while helping out some people that can really use it. I will let him tell you in his own words. Let me introduce, Benjamin Mena.
Benjamin (Ben) Mena
Birthdate: 8/25/83 – Virgo
Place of Birth: Virginia Beach, VA
Place growing up: Charleston SC and Bremerton, WA
High School: Cocoa Beach High
High School sports: Soccer, Cross Country, Track
College: University of Central Florida
College Sports: Cross Country, Track
Other Sports: Ummmm….. nope
I usually describe you as one of the fastest runners in the Tampa Bay area. What started you running?
I used to be the guy that would make fun of the runners and throw stuff at them. (in HS). I thought running was dumb and pointless. So after a win-less soccer season, the soccer girls tried to convince me to run cross country to prep for soccer… I said yeah right, that’s dumb… their response was just run behind us. What teenage guy can say no. after my first year running (JR year) I developed a passion for it and it quasi-took over my life.
JR year was just an introduction to the sport. Our workouts were easy as hell, but the one thing I loved my coach for (she was hot also) she taught us all how to make running fun and enjoyable. My Sr year of high school we had a new coach. She had a background as a professional runner, so she knew her stuff. She helped give me the dream of being a college athlete. At that point, I wasn’t good enough for any college team but I worked my ass off as hard as I could. I had the one gift that every coach wants in their athlete. Burning desire to make it.
The summer before college was pretty crazy. I was working 5 jobs to try to get ready for college (until my car died) then I had to drop my job at Publix [Supermarket]because it was a 20-mile bike ride each way). I would bike to my different jobs, then get home and run and then would be able to start hanging out with friends after 11 pm. During that time I would never miss a run no matter how bad I wanted to have fun.
I still to this day don’t know why coach chose me out of all the other walk-ons.. but I am thankful she did. I ran with my heart and I knew I had more to prove that everyone that came in on scholarships. (I also didn’t have a car… so I got a lot more miles in than most people. Outside all the running I was walking 5-14 miles a day to and from, and around school) By the end of the first season, I was granted an athletic scholarship and the following year I was team captain…
|Ben doing what he does best|
What and When was your first 5k time? What and when was your fastest 5k time?
Year of high school. I don’t remember the time but I was low 20s, but my fastest was 15:20 in college.
What kind of workouts did you do to get that fast?
You don’t want to know the schedule. But my favorite workout was mile repeats!
What was your average weekly mileage?
60-80 was the average. During the summer we would crank it up for base building. My highest week was 112 and 90% of those miles were done along the Appalachian Trail.
I mentioned above that you hold a monthly fun run named “Run for a Cause” at the Cork & Olive in Brandon. How did that come about?
Just had the idea while at the bar. I love hosting fun events for people… and it came about from there. our first event I was hoping for 10 people… and over 50 ended up showing up.
How many different charities have you hosted?
7 or 8 now
If someone had a cause they would like to have hosted at one of your events what is the best way to contact you? Best is through FaceBook.
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has devastated the country. You chose to act quickly and do something about it by hosting this Virtual Run. Can you give the details?
This is a virtual half-marathon and virtual 5K. Since it is virtual, you can complete it anywhere in the world. You can run, walk, swim, bike, anything you like, and you can complete the 13.1 miles or 5K all at once, over the course of a week, or whenever you can. Just complete all miles between now and Jan 31st. This is on the honor system – you do not have to report your miles.
The registration fee for the Half Marathon is $30.
Register Here: http://www.active.com/half-marathon/tampa-fl/sandy-hook-elementary-memorial-half-marathon-and-5k-2013
Event Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/events/186264894845690/
What gave you the Idea?
I am on the board for a few charities, and I was already researching a way to do a virtual 5k. When the devastation occurred, I couldn’t sleep, so I mulled it over for a while and by Sunday I had it up on Active.com and Facebook and 200 people already had agreed to participate. Today on Facebook there are over 1800 that have committed and a little over 250 that have actually signed up on Active.com
It grew a lot faster than I thought. It went viral. I originally thought about a few people here in Tampa to raise around 1000 dollars, but now it is well over that.
|Beth and Ben|
Do you have any other races coming up?
Beth and I have been organizing a Tampa Bay Corporate 5K.
This is an event where the runners choose one of the 4 charities that this race will give back too. Every person that registers for the race will get a vote (fill in the blank) for the charity of their choice. The charity with the most votes will receive a portion of the proceeds along with Little Things for Cancer, Cystic Fibrosis (Tampa Chapter), and Operation Helping Hand.
You can get more details on the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/131275133693630
or on the event website: http://www.tampacorporate5k.com/
|Ben and his fiance Jennifer|
|Ben and the Goof|
The mailbox provided a gift when I got home today. It will seem pretty cheesy to most people, and by most people I mean almost everyone. Vistaprint offered me a free sample prototype while I was trying to negotiate customized t-shirts for the A-Train. Of course I didn’t need to give them our final design, since I didn’t have one yet, so I gave them something quick, but I thought it was kinda cool. Ready for a laugh? Here ya go.
On a serious note the t-shirt is soft and is decent quality and the printing is well done. If you need quick turnaround on shirts I would say that Vistaprint does a decent job. I wouldn’t say it did as well as Fit2Run here in Tampa, but it may be a little less expensive.
The weekend was filled with some great training and some pretty good pizza. “Wait. Did he just say pizza? ” Yes, I said pizza from Anthony’s Coal Stone Pizza. Those whom know me understand that I usually follow a pretty strict Paleo lifestyle, but one meal a week I treat myself, especially while I have been training as hard as I have been. Pizza is something I cannot seem to drop completely, and I really don’t have any intention of doing so.
I am a pizza connoisseur. I have had pizza from all over the world, so it takes a lot to impress me. I have had a hard time here in Florida finding a decent pie, but luckily Anthony’s just opened up here in South Tampa on Dale Mabry. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. My favorite pizza of all time is in New York City, at John’s Pizza on 44th St between 7th and 8th Avenues, but obviously it takes a little bit of effort to eat there. Anthony’s is by far the best I have tasted in Florida and it takes 3rd or 4th on my list of pizza’s I have had the pleasure of gorging on.
Not only is the pizza extremely tasty, but the service is second to none with a great selection of beers, wines and coal fired wings that are absolutely to die for. The first time you eat at Anthony’s they give you a couple of wings to sample with grilled onions on them. They have no buffalo sauce on them and they do not need it. They have an excellent dry rub that after being cooked at 900 degrees the meat is tender and nearly falls right off the bone with an exquisite taste. Everything at the restaurant is cooked in a coal fired oven. There are no other ovens or microwaves, everything is cooked fresh.
The pizza comes straight from the oven to your table with just this little bit of charing on the edges. It is a super thin crust that is flakes and is crispy. The sauce is made everyday where the you can still taste the tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper as it mixes with the rich blend of cheeses and topping in your mouth. Truly a treat, and it pretty much has to be because it is by far not the least expensive pizza in the world.
Anthony’s Pizza gets – G, G, G, G – 4 out of 5 Goofs. (I know, I know that makes this blog even more cheesy, but give me a break I am trying to start a brand here.)
1901 South Dale Mabry, Tampa South, FL 33629
(Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza did not compensate me to write this review)
Have a great week!
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?