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IRONMAN Maryland Part 1
I signed up for Ironman Maryland initially due to the reviews that said it was fast, and beautiful. Jaime started it with all the hype about it being a fast flat bike course because she despises hills, even though most of her fastest bike splits came on hilly courses. Touché. So, last year after a lot of pestering Pete, we registered and the training began. Pete, Jaime and I have been training together for about 4 years, ever since I decided to get serious about triathlon. We ingeniously started calling ourselves “PB&J”. Get it? Peanut Butter and Jelly or Pete, Brad & Jaime.
Interesting enough though, I really wanted a sub 12-hour Ironman and Jaime was shooting for a sub-13, so as much as we enjoy training together we actually ended up going our own ways. I started training at Tribal Multisport with Coach Jon Noland, and Jaime trained with Personal trainer and elite athlete Kenneth Jones.
We made all the arrangements well in advance. We had hotel reservations at the host hotel, restaurant reservations, tri-bike transport was scheduled, flights were booked and cars were rented well in advance.
We talked constantly throughout the months, confirming our plans, comparing training schedules and every once in a while, we actually did get together to train. PB&J looked strong and ready to face IRONMAN Maryland together. Unfortunately, in September, Pete ended up injuring his Achilles’ tendon and after a lot of conjecture decided it wasn’t in the cards for him this year. I told him, it would better to live and race another day than to permanently hurt himself.
We departed for the race on Wednesday, September 30 completely anxious and excited. We headed to Tampa International Airport, for an uneventful flight into Baltimore-Washington Airport. Within a half hour we were in our Jeep Compass rental and headed up Rte 50 in Maryland.
We stopped for a quick lunch at Carmine’s Pizza to carb load with pizza and salad and just as we are about to pull out of our parking space and back into traffic, Jamie’s phone rings. Ed, a friend and first time Ironman athlete, called and tells us the race has been cancelled. I could hear Jamie’s voice say, “Uh say that again…wait…wait. Let me put you on speaker.” A deep Jersey accent comes from her speaker and says “They cancelled the race.” Really? This early.
The last time WTC cancelled a race it was in Lake Tahoe and the athletes were in their wetsuits ready to jump in. They waited that long and now, 3 days before the race they were cancelling it.
We jumped on Facebook, and the IRONMAN Maryland site and were met with the validation that WTC had indeed cancelled the race. It turned out the immediate threat from Hurricane Joaquin was dire and it was in their best interest to keep the athletes, volunteers, race staff and spectators safe. Not to mention, there was already four inches of water already on the course.
We got somewhat lucky. We were able to find a flight home that night, and the hotel did not charge us a night for cancelling so late. Unfortunately, the flight back cost us just as much as the full round trip, and because we pre-paid the car we couldn’t get that back.
WTC anticipated rescheduling but couldn’t give the athletes a final decision until the following Tuesday. The wait was hard. What do you do? Do you keep tapering? Do call it a season? There was nothing to do but wait.
Late Monday night an email hit my account stating that the race was back on and it would be held on October 17th as predicted. All I can think of was “Here we go again.” What if the weather was bad again? Would we spend even more money just to go through another disappointment?
IRONMAN Maryland Part Deux
Coach Jon, put a schedule together of low duration, high intensity workouts to keep my body from degrading fitness for the next week, and I managed to squeeze out a 17 mile run with a client that felt awesome the Sunday prior. The weather outlook was good, cold, but decent. As the days passed, the forecast kept getting colder and windier, but no precipitation was even close.
This time it was going to happen.
From Tuesday on, Jamie, myself and another training partner of hers, Hunter, had a group text as we kept planning our trip. We found decent round-trip flights, Hunter found a rental house, and I again reserved a car. Of course this time I bought the trip insurance as well, which, of course, I did not need.
And on October 14th, we took off for the second time from Tampa and arrived, this time at National Airport in DC. We spent a great night at the Residence Inn in Pentagon City before heading out to Cambridge the next day.
As I drove though the rural part of Cambridge and into the long drive way of our rental home, I was surprisingly calm. Subconsciously, I think I just didn’t want to get my hopes up, but my heart rate did jump at the surprise I felt pulling into the gravel drive way. It was gorgeous!
There stood a modest one-story ranch home, but on a huge amount of acreage that backed up to a lake. It had it’s own dock, fire pit, pool, and a beautiful deck. Inside it was an open floor plan with a dining-kitchen area, huge great room and three good size bedrooms. It was decorated modestly, with wood floors and a kind of rural, yet updated and upscale charm to it. All of the appliances were current models in the kitchen and baths with flat screens in each room, and a large one, in the great room, a fireplace and gigantic sectional couch that all of us could have slept on.
What was even luckier was that it wasn’t only Hunter, Jamie and myself, but Kenneth and his parents, so by sharing it, the cost was not even half of what we would have to pay for the hotel.
I also have to say, that Ken’s parents, treated all of us like we were their kids. His Mom, Lucy, cooked and cleaned for us, and his Dad, Phil, grilled, shopped and chauffeured us around to make sure we were at the right place at the right time. It was like Ken, outsourced his parents to us. Of course that wasn’t the case. It seemed like they genuinely loved doing it.
It came time to travel over to transition and pick up our bikes, and then head to Ironman Village to check-in.
We reached transition and since Hunter and Ken already had their bikes, because Ken and his parents drove them up, they headed out to check out the swim start while Jamie and I talked to Tri-bike transport. Jamie’s bike was already in the rack, but unfortunately, mine was not to be found. My stomach took a little turn when Drew, from TBT, said I wasn’t on the list to have my bike at the race.
Luckily, he said that my bike was in the truck, but it was with the bikes that were sectioned off for the athletes that were not going to be returning.
I headed over to the transition area to scope it out and then took a quick peek at the swim start and at that point, my anxiety started to increase. This was happening. There no “ands”, “ifs or “buts”. I was going to be racing my third Ironman.
Ironman village was exactly as it was for every other Ironman and Ironman 70.3 I have raced except, because they were not able to keep all of the original volunteers procured, it was a lot slower checking in. We waited in line for close to two hours before we finally made it under the tent to pick up our packets and swag.
When we finally got through that line, we contemplated going into the Ironman store, but the line to check-out was just as long and we still wanted to get a quick workout in. In every Ironman store I have been in, for every race, the cashiers, (bless their hearts) are always so slow that you know if you do get in that line, it is going to be a lot of time.
We headed back, and unfortunately, I had yet to receive a call from Drew to tell me that he was able to dig out my bike, so the others headed out on their bikes and I decided I would just work a little while I waited for his call. At 4pm, I did receive the call and 45 minutes later I was back at the house with my bike.
Leading up to the Saturday morning, was pretty much the same as any other long race. Putting gear bags together, going over transition and nutrition plans, and quick workouts in all three events. These were basically just to make sure everything was in working order.
Did I mention Thursday night we had a campfire and made s’mores? Yeah, we did that too.
The Swim Start
I was pretty shocked at how well I slept Friday night. We had all turned in quite early, in anticipation of not being able to sleep, but I drifted off pretty fast and slept until the 4:00am alarm woke me up. None of us were in a rush as we all felt pretty prepared, and the outside temperature was only in the upper 30s. I dressed, ate and leisurely grabbed my morning bag and we headed out into the darkness.
Leaving the house I had yet to really feel nervous, but as soon as we pulled up to transition, I felt a pressure in my chest. My heart started to beat so hard, I thought it was going to crack through my rib cage and take off on me.
I looked over at Jamie, and she looked back and said,”Sh*t just got real.”
After outfitting my bike with my nutrition and helmet, I took a walk over to the actual swim start line and looked over the water. Waves didn’t seem that bad, but the water was far from calm. I could feel the wind on my skin even through the wetsuit. Luckily, while it was 38 degrees outside, but the water it was 63. That was going to work in our favor, as it was actually going to feel warmer in the water.
Around 6:40, Jamie, Hunter, Ed and I were all hanging out trying to keep warm and maintain a positive mental attitude, when the speaker echoed our announcer’s voice. The safety team had stated that the winds were causing a lot of churning in the water, so the boats and paddle boards could not take their places on the course. The solution was to shorten the course to 1.2 miles.
I should have been really excited about this, as the swim is my weakest event, but I wasn’t. I was actually a little upset not only because I wanted to prove to myself I could get out of the water within my goal, but also for Ed and Hunter as this was their first full distance Ironman.
What else could happen? First they postpone the race, and now they shorten the course. This race just seemed cursed.
That was not the end of the story. Around 7:10, an announcement was made that, the winds had died just a little and would be enough to get most of the swim in. We would do the swim, but we would be about 800 meters short.
Things just looked better. I felt redeemed and a positive relief flowed through me for about half a second. I still had to get passed the swim. If you remember from my post about my last Ironman, I was the last one out of the water to be able to cross the line. I worked a lot harder on my swim this training cycle, now I would have to prove it.
At 7:30 we lined up according to how much time we thought it would take us to swim the full 2.4 miles. I lined up at the behind the 1:30 sign and after waiting another 20 minutes to get through the line, it was my turn to jump in.
The water still frigid enough to shock my body a little, but my adrenaline kept me warm. I immediately headed to the first buoy where we would turn right and then head in triangular pattern.
I felt really good during the first lap. For the first time in an Ironman race I was actually passing people and it felt amazing. I still felt pretty strong as I made the turn for the second lap, but I did slow down a bit.
As much as I thought I loved my long sleeve wet suit, I didn’t have the mobility in my arms, that I developed during training, and I had to strain to lift my arm into a streamline position. I listened to myself hypothesize about it and I thought, “Am I really thinking this? Did I really become a decent enough swimmer to even contemplate it?”
On the second lap, the wind picked up again and I thought I was swimming in my washing machine. I got tossed around and the effort level increased. I did end up breast stroking intermittently for a few minutes to catch my breath and realign my siting, but I continued. My habit of zig zagging didn’t show up until the last straight away while I was trying to sight on the finish. The waves were pushing me in the wrong direction, but my sighting was able to put me back on a good path. I jumped out of the water and ran towards the timing mats, and as I crossed I looked down at my watch – 1:10.
1:10? Really? I had to double check it twice. If I added the 800 meters back on I would have finished around 1:25-1:30 which, was my goal.
I was so excited I sprinted to the strippers, but for some reason they didn’t help. My wet suit would just not come off of me and when it did, oh man, did I feel the weather. The wind hit me, and my soaked tri kit, like a brick wall.
I headed into the changing tent and dawned a bike kit, arm warmers, a gator neck, and gloves. By the time I added my helmet I looked like a Tri Ninja.
Ed gave us a quick rundown of the bike course the night before, as he came up earlier in the year and actually trained on it. He explained how the course was an oval and we would probably have a head wind on one of the shorter sides and away or back to transition. This would account for two blocks of 12 miles since we had two laps. I was ok with it. I would just turtle for those 24 miles. (This is a technique keeping your head down and allowing your back to come up like a turtle shell to be as aerodynamic as possible.) The rest of it my plan was to stick to 75-80% of my functional threshold power(FTP) as possible. In training that proved to be right around 20 miles per hour which should get me back to transition in 5:35, and then taking account for the wind, sub 6 hours.
No such luck. I have never ever been on a bike course where the majority of the turns were to the right, and kept being hit by the shear force of a 33 mph head wind.
I wish that were the only factor that slowed me down.
I knew because of the temperature that I would not want to drink, but due to the fact my calories were mostly in my bottles, I would have to. What I didn’t count on was that I would have to stop at a portlet every 10-15 miles to urinate. I am just not die-hard enough to urinate while I am on the bike, and we were specifically told that if athletes were caught relieving ourselves outside of designated facilities they would be DQed. That slowed me down.
From mile 40 to 50 we were all riding on the shoulder of the road, into the wind. Directly to the right of the white line were slowing rickets with very small spaces in between them. They seemed a little dangerous, so everyone was either on the right of them, or on the left and swerving to the right when traffic would come from behind.
I was in aero, with my head down, when I saw a tire in front of me, so I yelled “On your left.” The wind was so loud the person in front of me, wearing a “This Guy Needs A Beer” jersey, could not hear me. As I slowed down to keep enough bike lengths between us to satisfy the drafting rule, I noticed a motorcycle next to me. It was an official.
He pulls out a memo pad and yells to me, “At the next penalty box, tell them you have blue card.” Well, I wasn’t going to start arguing while I was the bike, so I nodded.
At the mile 56 aid station there was a penalty box, so like a good athlete I did what I was told, and so did the other seven athletes that came in behind me. There we all were. Eight, age group, athletes standing stretching while we waited for our five minutes to be up. I am all for rules, order and safety , but it’s a little ridiculous when there are eight people in the penalty box all caught doing the same thing on the same stretch of road. As this was my 3.4 hour mark on the bike, I asked the volunteer who had to time the penalties how many he had so far. He kind of smirked and said it had to be over one hundred.
At that point I just had to laugh. I got back on my bike and continued trudging through the wind.
Ten miles later, a slow burn started aching my legs. I didn’t understand it. My cadence was up, but no matter how high I shifted, I felt like my effort level was increasing. Then I heard what was a metal grinding. Yep, you guessed it. A flat in my rear tire. These were brand new tubular tires, I had installed just for the race, and now I punctured them. I had a bottle of pit stop in my jersey, so it was only a couple of minutes before I was back on my bike. With Pit Stop, I didn’t even have to take the tire off, just empty the contents of the bottle into the tire and go.
Luckily, I didn’t have to stop nearly as much the second loop as I did the first to urinate, so I picked up a little bit of time, but while keeping to my FTP goals, I could barely get above 17 mph. It felt slow and torturous.
The left turn for the last 12 miles came and I thought maybe we would catch a break and as I passed the last aid station one of the volunteers yelled, “Your on your way back, no more wind!”
The whole way back to transition, the wind hit us and kept our pace to a slow 16-17 mph.
As I dismounted my bike, I could feel not feel my toes or my hands, and I was just frigid. I tried to take off my bike gear, and it was extremely difficult. I felt like I did, during the last ironman at mile 13 of the run and I hadn’t even started the run yet.
The grumbles in the changing tent were all the same. The bike was windy, it was tough and it sucked, but it was over. A few of the guys who competed in last year’s event said they were over an hour slower than the previous year. That actually made me feel a little better.
I have a saying I give to my athletes when they start to walk or I find them giving up on themselves. “The mind will quit 100 times before the body does.”
For a nanosecond a thought went through my head. “I already did two of these, I don’t need to prove anything to anybody. Forget this.” Then the next nanosecond went by with my inner dialogue that said “Who are you kidding Minus? You know you are going to finish if you have to crawl across that finish line. You never quit anything in your life, what makes you think your going to do it now?” The last words that echoed in my voice were that of my coach Jon Noland. “Embrace the Suck.”
I changed the best I could with numb fingers and toes and started the run. (I found out later I spent over 20 minutes in T2. It sure didn’t feel that long. I must have taken a nap.)
The first two miles felt a little slow, then at mile three it was like the pearly gates opened up. My legs transitioned into a good running form and I took off. I felt amazing.
I kept to my strategy of walking through the water stops, which during an Ironman is every mile, but they are only a few yards long, unlike those at a major marathon, where the distance could exceed a hundred yards.
At mile seven I actually felt a side stitch which hasn’t happened in a race in years. Luckily, I still had my wits about me. What is the cause, or better yet, what is absent from my body that would possibly cause a stitch? Potassium. Wouldn’t you know it but an aid station was just fifty meters ahead of me, so I grabbed a banana. Within the next quarter mile, the stitch was gone, so I picked up speed again.
The course was two-and-a-half loops that took us from transition through a residential neighborhood, around a park, back through the neighborhood passed transition, into downtown Cambridge where it either started again, or headed to Ironman Village and Finish line.
We had been told that Cambridge was supportive of the race and even in these cold temperatures, the town was out in droves.
Along the route there were kids on their lawns cheering, a dancing banana, residents on lawn chairs, and local bands playing outside their homes. While running through downtown people were outside the bars drinking and cheering every athlete on as they passed. It was just spectacular.
I found Jamie ahead of me around mile 5 and we ended up passing each other three more times. Each time I was getting closer and closer to her. I had hoped to get closer, but in the end she did end up crossing about three minutes ahead of me.
I never ran over 90% of the run during an Ironman before. This time the only time I walked was through water stops and only stopped twice to use the portlet. Granted it was not extremely fast, but it was still over twenty minutes faster than my best Ironman.
My legs at mile twenty were very heavy and this was the half lap and the last time I would have to turn left after downtown Cambridge. I kept going, and didn’t stop but it was getting quite dark to a point where there was a portion of road where I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I just kept going.
The thing I just kept thinking in my head was one day, I would finish an Ironman and it would still be daylight.
I came out of downtown Cambridge and made the right towards the chute. I heard the announcer call my name and as I saw the arch of the finish, I wondered if I had it in me.
I ran just a little faster and jumped up, caught a little air and touched the arch. I was an Ironman. Again.
My finishing time was 13:08:53 which was actually and hour and forty-six minutes faster than my best Ironman, but if I kept the same pace on the swim, I calculated I would probably have crossed about 20 minutes later which would have given me a ninety minute personal record. In those conditions, I‘ll take it.
Of course I did not do this alone. I have to thank my coach, Jon Noland for training me (coaches need coaches too), the athletes at Tribal Multisport for pushing me further than I thought possible, the Moxie Multisport team for the help with gear, nutrition, and the support to keep me going through the long training period, my travel and housemates, Jamie, Hunter, and Ken for the great time at the house, and for keeping me sane and laughing, Ken’s parents, Phil & Lucy for the race weekend support, and last but never least, Kim for supporting me at home through this third Ironman.
Are you seeing a pattern yet? Yes, I am becoming a huge fan of the 6 year-old running shoe company known as Altra. As I have been instructing clients in form techniques, and have found that most of the models Altra manufactures, lend themselves to my favorite principles.
The Altra Impulse is no different.
What I like about the Altra Impulse
As with all of Altra’s models, my favorite advantage is their FootShape™ Toe Box. This is the incomparable wide toe box that Altra is known for. The toe box is makes any of Altra’s models recognizable from a good distance away. That is how wide it is. I enjoy the ability splay my toes and have my feet firmly hit the ground without them being cramped up. Wider toe boxes also allow the feet to develop more strength because the shoe is not tightening around the ball of the foot or the toes. The toes can move around, and tackle all kinds of terrain.
As you can see from the x-ray below, the amount of splay the toes are allowed in the Altra vs a traditional toe box. Imagine having access to the full splay of your foot while you run. What is amazing is that most runners do not even realize the limits that a traditional toe box causes. (Hmm, maybe there is an idea for a full post.)
The Altra Impulse is no different in this department. The FootShape™ toe box has been incorporated and has all the comforts of the other models I have run in.
I love the Zero Drop™ technology that Altra incorporates. When I run I have the ability to utilize the full power and flexibility of my calf not to mention I can run as if I was barefoot, as our bodies were intended. Most traditional running shoes have a 12mm heel drop. This means that the heel is 12mm above the ball of the foot.
When we are barefoot, the heel and the ball of the foot are equal which is a Zero Drop™. This also helps with heel striking. Have you ever tried to heel strike while running barefoot? Even if you are a regular heel striker in shoes, it is almost impossible to heel strike while bare foot running. A huge effort has to be made to do that.
So, why runners continue to heel strike? If your heel is more cushioned in the shoe, then of course you will want to hit that area first. (Another post may be needed to explain a little more on this too…stay tuned.)
I love the Innerflex™ which are grooves at the bottom that create a more flexible sole.
One of the huge differences with the Altra Impulse is that they also incorporated their patented StabiliPod™ technology along side the Innerflex™. Now you have a stability shoe that is also somewhat flexible.
I have decided to put this feature as a liked feature more for others than myself. As a pure neutral runner I prefer to work allowing my body to support me, not my shoe, but Altra is marketing this shoe not only for running and triathlon, but for cross training as well.
The StabiliPod™ technology does really help in moving laterally, which is not something that is usual for runners, and especially those of us whom usually stick to the pavement. This is why I do like this feature.
My absolute favorite feature of this shoe are the drainage holes in the sole. My very last test run with the impulse was an 8 mile run, immediately following a huge rain storm here in Tampa, Florida.
My route took me through numerous ankle deep puddles and while my socks remained damp, the shoe was clear of water within a few yards of the puddle. There was no squish from the sole of the shoe or my sock because as my foot pushed down on the shoe, the holes squeezed water out the holes. No more blisters from soaked uppers and water log socks release water as well.
The Altra Impulse also continues with Altra’s A-Bound™/EVA blend compound which sits directly under the foot and adds a return of energy and reduces ground impact.
The upper is a light material and does have a noticeable difference from the other models. The tongue and laces are curved with the shape of the shoe which differs from the straight tongue of traditional running shoes.
I actually enjoyed this new feature. The fit of the shoe felt more comfortable with the tongue falling in the same curve as my foot.
I rarely run without socks, but I did end up having to do go out for a couple of miles one day without socks, and they were extremely comfortable. While the upper is not seamless it is very close. There are only a couple of seems that surround the tongue, but they are covered with a light fabric that helps reduce any friction.
What I wasn’t so crazy about
This is probably a very individual issue, but even though I sized up to a 10 from a 9 and a-half, after a few miles my toes still ended up moving forward till I they hit the front of the shoe. This probably has to do with the fact that I only lace my shoes tight enough to lock in my heel.
If you like your shoes laced up tight this probably will not be an issue.
The price point for the Altra Impulse is $120 dollars, which while competitive in the market place it still is a little expensive. In this day and age where people are scrounging for liquidity, I really would like to see at least one company come out with a quality shoe that retails for under $80. Of course that is my opinion and my opinion only.
How did the Altra Impulse Rate?
Quality – 4/5
Upper – 5/5
Outsole – 5/5
Flexibility – 4/5
Appearance – 4/5
Cost – 3/5
Overall – 4.2/5
Have you ever run in an Altra Running Shoe?
What were your experiences?
Which model do you like best?
HITS is a fairly new triathlon series, with a unique concept. Their tag line is “A distance for everyone”, which really says it all. A HITS weekend consists of 70.3 (half-iron distance) and a 140.6(full-iron distance) on Saturday, and on Sunday, Sprint and Olympic distance triathlons. It is a pretty cool concept, and they are really well-organized.
After having breakfast with the Team Foley after the Fight for Air Climb I headed out to Ocala with the hope of seeing at least Margie, Kari and Megan cross the finish line. I have to admit, while I have been training, it hasn’t been as focused as it should have. My “off-season” mentality didn’t quite transition into the race attitude just yet, but I thought I was at least in shape to do the Oly. In triathlon season, usually the first couple of months, is usually “Base” phase which just gets the wheels and legs rolling again, develop some strength and start gaining the endurance needed for race season. With that in mind, I figured an Olympic distance would be perfect to baseline where I am in my training. Imagine my surprise when I saw a lot of my friends out on Saturday competing in the 70.3. As I was watching competitors and friends cross the line there was a familiar itch developing in my heart. I didn’t quite notice what it was at the time.
The course for the 70.3 was pretty intense with loops that included a 1.2 mile swim in a 65 degree Lake Weir, 56 miles of rolling hills and wind of the bike, and an intense mixture of soft trails, and asphalt out-and-backs for the 13.1 mile run. I was too busy losing my lungs to catch any of the swim or bike, but I was happy to be around to see the finale of the run.
I had my first blog recognition, which was really nice. I was at the expo, grabbing a couple of Honey Stinger gels for my race the next day and I was chatting with the owner of Kickstart Endurance and she told me she followed IronGoof. I tried not to make a big deal out of it, but secretly I was really excited.
I missed Margie, but I was really happy to see Megan and Kari cross the finish. They both were finishing their first 70.3 along with some other members of the Tri Psych Club, so for them this was a huge accomplishment and deserved a celebration. That itch started to intensify at Chili’s that night as everyone’s conversation about their race surrounded me.
I really attempted to be nonchalant about this race. I kept telling myself, “Self, this is no big deal. You know you are not ready to race, this is a small race and this is going to tell you what you need to work on.” Unfortunately, waking up the next morning at 4:30a, and preparing my gear not only woke up my consciousness but the competition juices and anxiety levels as well. I showered, dressed, applied my TriTats, loaded the car and off I went.
As I mentioned before, the organization of this race was first-rate, from, staff organizing parking to the transition areas. Have I mentioned the transition area? In previous races I have barely glanced over the amenities of the transition areas, well except for the Rev3 Venice Beach. Let me put it this way, if the transition areas were cars, then every other race I have been in were Toyotas, the Rev3 was a Lexus, and the HITS series was a Bentley. Not only were there boxes that held gear and clamped a tire for easy removal of the bike, plenty of room for transition setup in-between the bikes, but each participant had their own personal stool with their number and last name on them. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really is the little things that make an impression.
I headed down to the beach with my wet suit on halfway, goggles and swim cap in hand. The temperature outside was perfect with just a slight breeze and the sun was starting to slowly creep up over the horizon. I was incredibly grateful to see my friends down on the beach. Pete, Kari, Megan, Michael, Stan and a couple f others as it made me feel slightly less stressed. After the mandatory meeting, all of the males waded out a bit into the water for the start. My anxiety reared a little due to the fact, I was using my backup goggles because my regular goggles broke in transition and this was the coldest water I had ever swam in.
The whole beach counted off, “Three, Two, One…” and the horn blew. We all ran or dolphin dived toward the first buoy. The water was kind of shallow so I did have some time to start to get used to the water. I remembered my strategy and my stroke count and I started swimming. I started losing ground within the first 200m, which was normal for me. My new stroke technique is still relatively new, so I figured I wasn’t going to be fast immediately. When I reached the first buoy, I started feeling short of breath, even though I thought I was relatively relaxed. My chest started to feel compressed like I was being stepped on, and my arms were not moving as freely as I wanted them to. I moved to breast stoke to see if I could relax a bit, but it was to know avail, the compression would just not loosen. I have never had an issue with my wet suit. Except for getting out of it, I kinda like it. I feel more buoyant, warmer and protected from other things that may cause issues in open water. Now I just felt like it was python, strangling me. I kept going, but it was a combination of freestyle, side stroke, and breast stoke. When I reached the second buoy, my mind went into overdrive trying to get me to quit. The ideas popping in my head were asinine. I kept hearing, “You aren’t trained for this”, “You don’t belong here.”, “Just get out of the water. It is only a baseline remember?”. The thing was, I had another loop to do. I swam toward third buoy, and the water became very shallow, so we really didn’t have any choice but to run through it and start dolphin diving again. I forced myself to have the one thought that has gotten me through tough training, cold, wet and rainy workouts, and exhausting races; “The mind will quit one-hundred times before the body does.” I told myself, “Self, that is first and only time that is going to happen today.” I ran around the third buoy and headed out for my second loop.
The second loop felt a little better, but I was so happy to get out of that wet suit. I am still not quite certain why I felt that way. It wasn’t the size of the wet suit because when I bought it I was 25 pounds heavier. Either way I ran out of the water unzipping and getting out of it on my way to transition. One of the strippers told me to lay down and she yanked it off of me. I grabbed my helmet while I put on my shoes and crossed the mat in less than 3 minutes.
The bike course was actually pretty nice. Rolling hills, with well conditioned roads and plenty help by the Sheriff’s department. I wanted to make up sometime, so in my head I thought to just keep passing people. I only got passed twice during the first ten miles of the twenty-five mile course and I was happy with that. I played cat & mouse with a couple of them, and ended up passing them in during the last half of the course. Unfortunately, there was a storm on the horizon and the wind picked up quite a bit on on the second half, not to mention the hills were more abundant and steeper(at least for Florida). My speed, that I was holding quite consistent at 21 mph started to drop to 18, then 17 and at that point, I refused to go under 18 mph. I came into transition, averaging 19.1 and I was proud of that.
I racked my bike and sat on my stool to put on my socks and shoes. I got hung up a little bit, but was still out of there in less than 3 minutes, and it was off to the run. Pete yelled at me as I headed into the trees, “This is the fun part”. At first I agreed with him.
I decided to wear my Hoka One One Biondi Speed 2 running shoes with the large sole, because I wanted to test how they felt on a triathlon after being on the bike. Big mistake. At first the ground wasn’t very soft, and I was ok running about an 8:15 mile, but as I got further into the woods, the trail got softer and softer. With that big sole, not only was my foot pushing down on the sole, but then into the soft ground causing three times as much resistance as the a regular running shoe. I didn’t figure this out at first, but after one-and-a-half miles, I felt like I needed to stop, and that was not usual, not matter what kind of shape I was in. I walked at the aid station for about 200 yards and then I continued running but at a much slower pace. I had to do two loops of the run course as well, and I could feel the resistance ease off when I hit the asphalt again. All of the sudden I was lighter and faster, but I had to do a second loop into the woods again. I decided my strategy would be to walk a hundred yards at the aid station and 100 yards at the turn-around, but other than that I would let my legs do what could. It worked out well as my splits were faster on the second loop.
I ran out of the woods with Pete snapping shots and hearing cheers from Megan, Kari and a couple of others. As, I crossed the finish line it became clear to me, that I am not in the shape I was in for my last 70.3, but I would enjoy this moment as a victory. It was not a PR, but it this race let me know what I need to do over the next months in order to take on the rest of my race schedule.
After calming down a bit and chatting with Pete and a few other friends, Summer Bailey found me. She had competed in the 70.3 the day before. Summer lives in Georgia, so we really only see each other at races and occasionally chat on Facebook so it was really incredible to actually chat and catch up with her in person. She is an amazing woman and with a huge heart and ferocious determination. We both agreed that neither one of us had trained enough for our races, but it was good to have a race under our belt for the year. Chatting with her was encouraging, and I know we will be seeing each other again during the season. To be able to see and chat with her and some others that I do not get to train with allowed me to remember one of the greatest thing about triathlon and racing in general. It’s the friends and connections we make. Other than having a good race and crossing the finish line, it is the best part about it.
Besides crossing the finish line what are the best experiences you have competing?
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.
Last weekend I participated in the Paint Wars Mud Run in Oldsmar, Florida. Well, mud run is not necessarily an accurate term, most of it was just wet, but it was fun. The obstacles were more nature made with some added ropes for safety, some hay bales and of course paint.
When registering for the run I was taken in by the description of the race which was, of course, a little exaggerated. The paint was to be squirted by Paint Ninjas at a lot of different points in the course. I only came in contact with two, but the anticipation made it fun. Let me start at the beginning.
I drove into the Whispering Oaks Horse Ranch with my little Mini Cooper Clubman where a volunteer pointed me in the right direction of the parking lot. Thank goodness I was driving my little car, because I ended up having to make a spot down a dirt road, but it just added to the suspense of the run. Upon following the signs to the registration table, we, Sarah and myself, were told to sign a waiver for the property, ok no problem. As we made our way to the registration line however we were then told to sign a waiver, this time it was for the race. One waiver for the property and one for the race? Whatever. We then got into a line for the registration and goggle pick up. It didn’t seem all that long, maybe 10-12 people, but it took almost 45 minutes to get through it. When we finally had a names checked and were given a SWAG bag with two promotional flyers in it, we moved over to the t-shirt line where we gave the volunteer our sizes. The next words out of his mouth floored me. “That will be 38 dollars.” What? Really? For a cotton t-shirt? Yeah, thanks but no thanks buddy. We went back to the car to drop off our phones and bags and headed to the start. We did receive a decent introduction to the course, basically letting us know that there was a few river crossings where if we decided to take them, we should know how to swim, because the depth was not shallow. At that point, my progressive 4b friend Sarah and I, took off at a decent pace.
It started with a trail run for about 500 yards and then a dead stop to wait for an obstacle. A tree crossing where the tree was underwater. I guess a lot of people took there sweet time, but Sarah took it like it was not even there and I just a tad slower. (Sarah is about 18 years my junior, so give me a break.) The crossing ended with a steep climb both up and sideways, with the recent rain adding to dirt making it a little slippery. Sarah was nice to her old partner and waited up a bit. I didn’t fall but I realized my agility is a little less than I would like it to be. (I think I need to get back to boot camp. As a matter of fact all the way through this course I was thinking that.) The next couple of obstacles were through the trails over trees and up hills till we came to another stop. We actually couldn’t see why we were stopped until we reached the top of this hill that then returned back to sea level, but in the middle was a rope swing that dropped you off into the water where you then swam about 100m to the other side with a strong current that could definitely keep you from reaching the exit point if you didn’t have some sort of skill. I think I had just enough.
I will say I wore my New Balance Minimus’ during the race which didn’t hold much water, but I think I might have been happier with the five fingers. The minimus’ would be great for Tough Mudder where there isn’t a lot of hill climbs, but here I think I would have liked the extra traction my toes would have received, but I digress.
After the swim there was a nice trail run with only a couple of puddles and a few hay bale hurdles to include a run through the ‘WAR ZONE’. OOOOOHHHH….we thought we were going to get it bad, we actually wore white so we would get it bad, but…nothing. Not a single Paint Ninja anywhere. SOOOO disappointing. Oh well, we kept running and a real nice pace. Sarah is has ridiculous stamina and while I was right on her tail the whole time, I was starting to feel it, luckily we hit another line for another tree crossing. This one was elevated over the river. We crossed that with ease and headed through another long trail run, through the war zone again, and with the same result, no Paint Ninjas, right into the one and only mud obstacle where our shoes got muddy, and it sprayed a little on our legs, but that was it. We crossed the finish line and went to the beer line.
We got in line and saw that athletes were paying 3.50 and we both decided to forget it. We found the cooler with gatorade had a couple of dixie cups and headed back to the car.
Was it fun, yes, but I wonder was it because of the race or because I had a partner who was very enjoyable to run with. I am going to say the latter, or maybe a little of both. Sarah said this was her break from studying for the third test out of four for her CPA. Sarah if your reading this…thank you for inviting me, thank you for running I had a great time, and I really hope you were extremely successful on your test.