(Edited by Brad Minus) The Decision My 3 years of running experience started with multiple injuries including a couple of ankle fractures. However, I still managed to complete a marathon, a 50K and...
Ironman North Carolina 70.3: Race Recap
The Ironman North Carolina 70.3 triathlon was initially scheduled as my test race for Ironman Arizona the following month. Unfortunately, my last two triathlon seasons have been plagued with obstacles that have taken just a little longer to overcome than expected. Instead, it became my triathlon season closer.
Last year was a year of injuries, after being injury free for 8 years. This year I encountered an unknown virus that literally deleted my endurance for about 4 months. I trained hard, but I just wasn’t able to accomplish the long sessions needed to compete in a full Ironman distance triathlon.
Luckily, the virus vacated just in time to allow that training to manifest for the Ironman North Carolina 70.3. How about I tell you about it?
Arriving in Wilmington for Ironman North Carolina 70.3
After a long, 10-hour drive, it was a treat to enter our rental home and find it had exceeded our expectations. It was an older home but well updated and extremely spacious. It comfortably fit the athletes, Jamie, Maria, Stephanie and myself, plus Maria’s husband Daniel and Chris our super-sherpa.
The next surprise came as we walked to the Ironman North Carolina 70.3 expo and found the finish line was only three blocks away and it bordered a street that literally led right to our front door. Yeah, baby!!
The Ironman North Carolina 70.3 expo felt even more sparse than the other 70.3 expositions I have participated in. It might have been because we walked in about 40 minutes prior to closing. This was something I was adamant about during the planning stage of the trip. I insisted that we try to arrive early enough to check-in on Thursday, so we would not be forced to wait in lines for either check-in or the Ironman merchandise store.
That night was filled with good conversation, Mellow-Mushroom Pizza and a couple of adult beverages. Nothing that would hinder our race, but enough to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Often enough, I insist and even put on my client’s training plans, that two nights prior to the race the objective is a good night’s sleep with no alarms the following morning. The intention is for the body to wake-up on its own signaling good recovery.
The night before a race, sleep is still crucial, but the reality is anxiety usually precludes, not allowing the greatest of sleep cycles.
The next morning, I was able to sleep in and awoke around 6:30 am. To my demise, there was no coffee in the house. As I was preparing a cup of tea, Stephanie awoke and coaxed me to the Brooklyn Cafe which was literally next door.
As we opened the door to the smell of fresh baked goods and coffee overwhelmed our senses. An older couple was behind the counter, we later found out were the owners of this 2-month-old establishment. Even with the newness of the cafe, they knew what they were doing. We had two orders of fresh, made to order beignets and coffee which, to my surprise, rivaled Cafe DuMont in New Orleans.
We watched one of the owners roll the dough, cut and drop the beignets into the fryer. He then served that fried deliciousness covered in powdered sugar. They were pure heaven. The coffee was fresh ground, organic, free trade and was rich and flavorful. It was so delicious, we bought a half-pound for the house.
The plan for the day was to head over to the swim start and jump in the water for 15 minutes or so. Following the swim, we would ride around the area to make sure our bikes were in working order and drive some blood to our legs. Finally, we would head back to the house where we would run for a couple of miles to get our heart rates up for a short time and test the legs.
It happened pretty much as planned. We were fortunate that a bunch of member’s of Stephanie’s coaching group, TriMarni, rented a house near the swim start, so we had a headquarters to park and store some gear. They had invited us to hang out there before the race the next day which we took advantage of.
We were not allowed on the actual swim course so we decided to swim in the ocean. Upon entering the water I became excited as the density of the salt content, plus my wetsuit made my swim position and balance almost effortless.
800 meters later after returning to the house, we piloted our bikes refreshed. We spun around the area for about 20 minutes just to get the kinks out before heading back to run.
Maria and I ended up being the only ones to run. She pushed the pace a bit faster than I wanted but I felt like I could take on the world.
Upon finishing the run I told myself that if I felt like I did at that moment, the following day was going to be epic.
After completing showers, packing and labeling our gear with the required stickers, we were on our way to T-1 to drop our bikes.
The transition from swim-to-bike was about 6 miles from the house, and as it was later in the day, traffic was dense. What should have been a 10-minute ride, turned into almost an hour before we turned in the school parking lot next to transition.
Usually, bike drop for a 70.3 is just that, dropping your bike and leaving. The next morning would entail setting up your area to optimize time in transition. Ironman North Carolina 70.3 is a little different. Plastic bags are used to hold bike gear and placed on the bike. The only thing that can be done in the morning is the placement of nutrition. The gear was to stay in the bag until after the swim was completed.
This procedure emulates more a full Ironman than a 70.3, but I understood why. We were instructed to not leave anything on the ground for fear of ants. That made sense. The others decided to just keep their bike bags and bring them in the morning. I left my helmet and shoes in my bag, tied to my bike so I only had to install my nutrition in the morning.
The trip back downtown was not nearly as long, so Chris dropped us off and we walked to T-2 to drop our run bag.
It was a little disconcerting that the dismount line was a quarter-mile away from the bike-to-run transition. We were going to have to run on a narrow, rubberized carpet over a rocky trail. We already saw, the quarter-mile run we need to take from swim exit to T-1. Obviously, we would have to plan on both transition times being longer than usual. Just another fun part of the sport.
I had several conversations with other athletes during the weekend about how most races had their own equalizers to level the field. Ironman Augusta 70.3 has a downstream swim, but the bike is hilly which for a lot of age groupers would be a detriment. Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 also has a downstream swim but has a very hilly run. This race, Ironman North Carolina 70.3, would have a current assisted swim but longer distances within transitions.
That night, I separated from my housemates to attend the Tribal Multisport dinner. An Uncle of one of our athletes, Michael, owned the South Beach Grill close to the T-1. The food was excellent and the company was better. The evening went incredibly smooth and faster than most group dinners I have attended. I think it was just shy of 90 minutes from the time we sat down to the click of the group photos being taken.
South Beach Grill is another restaurant in the Wilmington area I would highly recommend.
I arrived back at the house, double checked that my race kit, nutrition, race chip, swim cap, and goggles were ready to go, the coffee was ready to be brewed, and breakfast was prepared for the next morning. Two episodes of “Gotham” later, I fell into a fitful sleep.
Ironman North Carolina 70.3 Race Day
Exuberance filled me as I awoke on race day. Other race mornings I remember awaking anxious, or nervous, but today I was a little more calm than usual. I felt an extra confidence that I hadn’t felt in a while. My thoughts initially went to coffee and breakfast, but after fulfilling that objective, they migrated to visualizing the race.
We arrived at T-1 at about 5:30 am and proceeded to set up our transition stations. Normally this would mean setting up towels, bike shoes and helmets, but we were told that would not be the protocol here. Basically, the only thing allowed was placing nutrition on our bike and bike shoes attached to the pedals if desired. Other than that everything else had to remain in the bag.
I placed my bottles in their cages, and hung my bag from the aero bars, checked my tires, installed my computer and validated that my bike was in the desired gear.
As I headed towards the exit to meet my housemates, I was excited to socialize with a couple of Moxie, Tribal, and Outspokin teammates. The social aspect of the triathlon community is one of the things I love about this sport. Yes, there is competition, but most of us are truly just racing against ourselves. We are just trying to be better than we were before.
We passed through the waiting area at the swim start, that my friend Beth Shaw, who writes Discombulated Running, deemed the “Triathlete Refugee Camp”. I could see where she was coming from. Since the first wave didn’t start until 7:20 and it was only 6 am, most of the athletes were lying around or sitting on the asphalt chatting.
My party headed to the TriMarni house which was a beautiful beach house. It was three stories, with ceramic tile throughout, beautiful countertops, and the best part, multiple bathrooms. Having a full-fledged bathroom to do your duty, prior to a race, is a special treat rather than a potentially disgusting portlet.
Upon entering the house, the tension of race day filled the air. Everyone was milling around drinking either their own pre-race formula or coffee, nervously chatting, anticipating the upcoming moment to head back to the refugee camp.
Around 7:00 we stepped onto the asphalt, gave each other hugs, said our “good lucks” and proceded with our own pre-race routines.
I donned my wetsuit, dropped my sweatshirt, and flipflops in my morning bag, and placed it in a much larger bag marked with a range of bib numbers that included mine.
Noticing all the other white swim caps lined up. I joined them and proceeded to move and stretch nervously.
The waves moved together toward a crosswalk. A few minutes prior to the specified wave time, a crossing guard chauffeured us to the other side of the street. On the other side, we cautiously entered the water, via a slippery boat ramp and anxiously awaited the start horn. The announcer counted us down from 10, and we were off.
The temperature of the water was 71 degrees Fahrenheit, but the air temp was in the upper 50s actually making me warmer. I allowed water to fill my wetsuit and compress to my body and waded close to the start. The horn blew and we were off.
The plan for my race included taking the swim at a steady, aerobic pace. The swim event at Ironman North Carolina 70.3, has a strong current, assisting the athletes. As I have stated, many times, I am not a fast swimmer so I will take any help I can get.
Swimming towards the buoys I could feel current, but as I gathered my line I didn’t notice it as much. My stroke felt the same as in the pool, and I was cognizant of my effort level, ensuring I didn’t overdo it.
It took a good 300 meters, but I finally found a comfortable rhythm. My nerves settled and my mind calmed into race mode. That, was until I ended up in a swarm of swimmers all vying for clean water.
Surprisingly as I was sighting I noticed the dark green caps of the previous wave. WHAT??? I had been focussing diligently on my swim, but I was usually enveloped by the wave behind me. I never caught anyone in the wave prior before. Holy crap! It was an amazing feeling.
Just as I was getting over my shock, I sighted on the next buoy and noticed it was moving. Yeah, it was being pushed out wider by a volunteer in a kayak. I literally yelled, “what the hell?” Finally, swimming around it, I found clear water and my relaxed rhythm again.
I always tend to hug the buoys during a race. For me, it makes sighting easier and keeps me swimming pretty straight. However, I noticed most of the athletes found a line about 10 meters to my right. After climbing the ladder out of the river on my way to T-1, my eyes darted over and I noticed, the current was stronger more to the right of the buoys. I missed a major advantage, but it didn’t bother me too much as I still PR’d the swim.
Glancing at my watch after clearing the ladder it read 31 minutes and change, however, I did not know where the timing mat was, so my official time was slightly slower.
Swim Time: 33:45 (1:44 per 100m)
Wetsuit strippers were set up just a few yards from the exit of the swim, which made it easier to run the quarter mile to transition. I emptied the contents of my bag on the ground, and refilled it with my wetsuit, cap, and goggles, and donned my helmet and shoes.
During my setup, I was in a quandary about wearing socks on the bike as I had worn them most of the time during training, but that morning, I decided I really wanted dry socks for the run without exchanging socks in T-2. Therefore, since I did have experience racing sockless, I slipped my feet into my shoes, grabbed my bike and rolled out of transition.
From exiting the water to the mount line felt like forever and it showed in my time.
T-1 Time: 6:28
Usually, the plan for my 70.3 distance races included holding a steady power of 185-195 watts. However, during the last two races, my run had suffered. This time I modified the plan to start at a steady 175 watts. I would then progressively increase my output to 185-190 watts, in the second half of the bike, depending on how I felt.
My nutrition was simply a quarter of a bottle of Infinit, every 15 minutes and a Chia Humma gel or half Bonk Breaker every 45 minutes. This would fortify my body with 900 calories by the end of the bike. The swim would have been fueled by breakfast and a pre-workout Cliff Bar, so 450 calories would sustain me for the bike while another 450 would help to get my run started.
The first couple of miles of the course is around a residential area, so it was tough to keep my speed up, especially since I had some novice riders around me, but by the beginning of the third mile, it was on.
The first half of the bike was reasonably flat and fast. I surprisingly found myself passing a lot of riders even at a low 175 watts. Speed is not a data point visible on the display of my Garmin Edge 520 bike computer. However, I do have a 5-mile auto-lap which briefly displays the lap time.
With the exception of the first five miles, the display consistently read under 15:00 minutes every lap. Most of them were under 14 minutes. Obviously, 20 mph equates to 3 minutes per mile. Therefore every lap that read under 15 minutes meant I was faster than my previous race.
It was tough to maintain my planned 175 watts knowing I had more in the tank and I could easily increase my speed. Deviating from my plan never worked out well in the past, so I hunkered down and stayed the course.
Mile 30 came and went in a flash. I did increase my wattage a little on a couple of short hills, but other than that I was pretty consistent. That was until I ended up trapped in a peloton.
It was maddening. I would slow down to allow the mandatory 6 bike lengths, and it felt like the whole group would slow. Surging forward I would create a good distance between myself and the rest of the athletes, hold my watts, but they would envelop me again.
The question became how could I get out of this mess without, one, increasing my wattage to a point it would detriment my run, or, two, getting a penalty for blocking or drafting?
At mile 45, I was so angry that, involuntarily, the words, “Screw this” came out of my mouth. I surged forward to a point where that group was no longer even visible behind me. That empowerment gave me so much confidence I maintained 190 watts to the mile 57 dismount line. Yes. The course was a mile long which was congruent with a lot of other athletes.
Bike Time: 2:37:18 (21.9 mph average)
After dismounting, I ran with my bike to the rubber carpet to enter the transition area as fast as possible. However, the one-lane chute was crowded. The polite athletes, like myself, shouted “on your left” sacrificing our feet on the jutting rocks. There is some recollection of other expressions in “MA” category, filtering through the air from others that were just as frustrated.
Entering under the arch into transition I could see my bag hanging from the rack. Using a regular shoestring knot made it easy to drop the bag and spill the contents. I sat on the ground, rolled on my socks, put on my shoes, grabbed my sunglasses, hat, and race belt and ran the other 200 meters to the run-out arch.
T-2 Time: 4:16
The last couple of 70.3 races entailed some pretty slow and miserable runs. That is if you can call them runs. They should have been more characterized as fast walks with a couple of miles of slow jogs thrown in. Ironman North Carolina 70.3 was going to be different and I didn’t care how much it hurt. I was going to run consistently the full half-marathon, but I would run it smart.
The plan was to start a little slower for the first 3 miles. I would then either negative split or just remain consistent for the remainder. Brief recovery was included in the plan by briskly walking only through the aid stations.
Since my plan started somewhat slow I prepared for the onslaught of athletes passing me at first. I learned a lesson early in my triathlon experience. Starting with a faster pace was a sure fire way for the run to be a sufferfest.
The first mile felt slow but easy. There were no issues breathing and besides a tightness in my quads, which was normal, I felt really good. A sure fire sign that I should have a good run.
At mile 2, our Super Sherpa, Chris, snapped some pics of me as he pedaled around on his mountain bike. I asked about the others and he assured me that everyone looked great. That news put a little spring in my step.
The Ironman North Carolina 70.3 run course is out-and-back course. I could see the runners on my left running in the opposite direction. Obviously, during the first half, I would see them running to the finish line. Then running toward the turn-a-round during the second.
Prior to mile 5, familiar colors and prance came into view. Nick Zivolich, screamed opposite me, in his Best Damn Race tri kit. We high fived yelling some motivation to each other. I was not surprised he was ahead of me, but somewhat frustrated realizing he started 15 minutes behind me. Not to mention he was almost an hour ahead of me. I cleared that out of my head quick. This was my race and I was going to complete my plan to the finish.
Around mile 6, Maria sped by, followed by Stephanie a mile later. They both started 20 minutes ahead of me so I didn’t mind that at all. To pass the time, I figured out how far ahead they were and what it would take to catch them. I did end up figuring it out and if I were Meb Keflezighi or Patrick Lange it would be possible, but unfortunately not me. Well, not yet.
My watch consistently ticked off 9:20-minute miles which were expected since the plan included walking through the aid stations. It did mean my actual running pace was under a 9-minute mile. Coming off a strong bike that excited me.
Miles 6 and 7 included a run through a small park prior to the turnaround. A single track, paved trail started a small section where the turnaround and timing mat was located. Entering this section is where I crossed with Jamie. She looked like she may be struggling a little, but strong enough to finish without too many complications.
The idea of catching her ran through my head. I would start testing a faster pace to determine if that would be possible.
As I was exiting the single track, Michael, one of my Tribal teammates, entered. Now Michael is fast. A 7 minute-mile runner for sure. Now I had two challenges, catch Jamie and keep Michael from passing me. If anything, the last 6 miles would be fun.
Mile 8 came and went. Passing mile 11, the familiar Tribal cap with an audible, pat-on-the-back whizzed by. It was Michael. Truth-be-told, at the time I was feeling pretty proud holding him off that long.
Mile 12 included a somewhat steep ascent back into downtown Wilmington. Glancing at my watch and saw my run time was 1:54. My hopes were for a sub-two hour run. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t in the cards this day, but I would come close.
My traditional burst of speed came entering the Ironman North Carolina 70.3 finish chute. I leaped for a Moxie Dunk at the finish line as exhaustion washed over me. The knowledge that the time clock indicated a PR felt positively overwhelming. I accomplished what I came to do. I followed my plan and succeeded.
Run Time: 2:04:29
Total Time: 5:26:16 (PR)
The 2017 Ironman North Carolina 70.3 event distances did not have to be modified. That being said, I could officially consider this my PR by over 10 minutes. Earlier in the year, I completed Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 in 5:25, However, the swim was cut short by 800 meters, so I refused to count it.
The finish area displayed jubilantly tired athletes, vendors, and food tents. With a smile and skip in my step I found Tribal teammates, Joey, Michael, and Brian K. Everyone seemed as excited about their performances as I did. Joey and Nick both received 3rd place in their age group. Nick’s triumph grabbed him a spot to the 2018 World Championships in South Africa. Michael, Brian K. Stephanie and I all PR’d, so it was a great day for all of us.
I am so proud of my friends, and teammates for what they accomplished. It is such an honor to be among them.
Both my bike and morning bag were waiting for me at the bag check area and the volunteers were extremely efficient to procure them for me. A quick walk later I retrieved my bike and bag from T-2 and rode back to the house.
The rest of my time consisted of Irish Car Bombs, a Phở lunch and a visiting some breweries around Wilmington.
Wilmington is a beautiful area. I hope to return to race Ironman North Carolina 70.3 again in 2018. I will have to include a couple of extra days to hang out.
Did I mention that hit shows, “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill” and some major motion pictures were filmed in Wilmington?
What was your best race or event of the year?
Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 Triathlon Part Deux
Ironman Chattanooga 70.3
I had every intention of getting some vindication on the Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 course this year. I made a plan, trained for it, and stayed healthy, but unfortunately it did not come to fruition as I expected.
Last year I toed the line injured at Ironman Chattanooga 70.3, and struggled with all three of the events. The swim was not as fast as I expected. They controlled the water flow so the current was minimal. The bike was rolling hills of which I trained for and was much stronger on the bike, but I made the mistake of pushing the pace which completely screwed up my run. The roller coaster terrain of the run ended up beating me as I walked a huge portion of it. Last year I ended up with a 5:43:30.
This Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 was going to be different. First, I was going to work with my coach on my weaknesses . Second, I completed a higher quantity of brick workouts including not only bike to run, but also swim to bike and swim to run. Finally, I maintained my recovery routine, which was a mistake I dealt with last year. My overall nutrition was better and I was in the gym a lot more. I really felt confident in my abilities to conquer the whole course and receive my vindication.
Before the Race
The trip up to Ironman Chattanooga was pretty uneventful. Josh Wilkins and I drove up together which was a reoccurring theme from last year. The only exception was we followed Rick and Laura Jansik the whole way. Rick set us up with a room at the Marriott Residence Inn which was two blocks from the expo and transition. This was a nice change from last year where Josh and I stayed a few miles out of town where we had to worry about parking and timelines. This location gave us increased access to transition, the expo and swim start. We parked the car in the hotel parking area and didn’t touch it again until it was time to leave.
The Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 expo was no different than any other Ironman expo. Vendors from nutrition, equipment and apparel companies littered the lot with their goods and a couple of small food trucks supplied some fast treats to fuel up the participants.
On a surprising note, when I went to check-in I found out I was an Ironman All World Athlete. The All World Athlete program houses the top 10% of the age group athletes. It is separated into three tiers; the top 1% are considered gold, the top 5% are silver and the top 10% are bronze. Obviously, I am in the bottom of the tiers. I guess my age is starting to give me a little bit of an advantage.
What was the difference at registration? The AWA athletes have their own entrants into registration which usually allows for a faster experience, and I was given the option of wearing an AWA swim cap versus the AG swim cap. For a free program, I’ll take it.
The weather report loomed over us the entire week prior and, all the way up to the morning of the race. Satellite images and forecasts expressed a large mass of thunderstorms moving at just the right velocity to hit Chattanooga at the start time. The stir of conversation about the weather was popular among all the athletes competing.
Some were worried about the swim being cancelled. Others were concerned about navigating the terrain of the bike course safely. The only agreed upon positive comments were about the run. No one cared if they had to run in the rain. It just meant it would be cooler. Either way the conversations around the weather were consistent with all of the competitors we chatted with.
I was invited to two Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 pre-race dinners; one with Moxie, my national team, and one with Tribal, my training team. While my plans were to start at the Tribal dinner just to say wish everyone luck and then head over to Moxie, they derailed once I realized how far apart they were. The Tribal dinner at Food Works was delicious but it was the calm of athletes around the table which is what I really needed at the moment. These were the people I train with all year long which at first is why I wanted to attend the Moxie dinner because I do not see those teammates, but at that time in which my mind was preparing for the race at hand, my heart wanted to be with these friends and training buddies.
That night my light sleeping pattern made me aware of the lightning, thunder and rain enveloping the area that night. My dreams were plagued with worry of the bike course and entailed specific turns of the course where I may be in danger. I am never really worried about my own bike handling, it is the others cyclists I worry about, and my subconscious coupled with the storms brought those fears to the surface.
Sometime during the night, my fears quelled, and I was lulled into a peaceful sleep. I awoke refreshed, excited and surprised. The weather conditions had completely changed. The storms had dissipated and the forecast only called for some possible scattered thunderstorms later in the afternoon. Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 was on with no deviations.
There was a small change to the procedure this year. Last year we lined up for the swim start on a first-come-first-serve. The advantage being on the Moxie team was that a team sherpa went to the start at 4:15 am and setup camp so the team could just filter in when they arrived. This year the athletes still lined up but it was by projected swim time. My threshold swim pace is just below 2:00 per hundred which would be approximately 30-35 minutes, so I lined up in the 30+ minute swim line.
There I found Oscar Alvarez and a few other Moxie teammates. We nervously chatted while preparing for the event at hand.
My recent purchase of a ROKA Maverick Elite full wetsuit increased my excitement for the swim. ROKA’s introduction of their “Arms-up” technology resonated with me, due to my experience in Maryland. There I could feel the limitation in my shoulder mobility in the orginal Xterra Vortex wetsuit I had purchased 5 years prior. During my test swims and at Escape from Ft Desoto I was impressed with the flexibility in the arms which left no limitation to my stroke. This swim would further validate that.
After an amazing rendition of our National Anthem, the gun went off for the professional athlete starts. Something was a little off though. The course starts with 300 meters upstream then turns for the remainder of the course down stream. The professional athletes were charting times of almost 5 minutes to get to the first buoy.
As it turned out, the water flow was not controlled as much as it was supposed to be, so the current was a lot faster than expected. Due to the extraordinary amount of time it took to go upstream, the officials decided that the age group race would not include the upstream portion and the swim would be shortened.
It was so ironic that all of us athletes were worried about the swim being cut-short or cancelled because of the storms, and here it was being cut short because of the current.
After a twenty minute delay in order for the buoys to be moved and announcements to be made, the line finally started moving. My heart was jumping as it always does prior to a race. I really wanted to do well this time. My plan was to swim strong, but not overdo it, keep the power to 190-200 watts on the bike and run a 9 minute or less mile on the run. I went over and over this in my head prior to jumping off the dock into the 74 degree water.
The Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 swim was no less than glorious. The early part of my plan was being executed as I easily rolled, reached and pulled my way toward the swim finish. My weakness in open water has always been sighting, so every few hundred meters even with sighting correctly, I usually end up changing to a breast stroke to get my bearings. This time, I was able to get through to the finish without changing at all. I did modify my stroke to a Tarzan stroke a few times to validate my sighting, but that was it.
I reached for the volunteer helping us out of the water, stepped onto dry land and glanced at my watch. It was excitedly surprising to see my time 21 minutes. I knew the course was shortened and we were moving with the current, but it was still over 1400 meters. Not to mention, I felt amazing.
Sprinting into transition with my wet suit in hand my thoughts went back to my plan. If I just stayed between 190 and 200 watts I would have plenty for the run. I rolled my socks on, stepped into my shoes simultaneously sliding my helmet onto my head and buckling it then slid my bike from the rack and ran out of transition. It still felt a little slower than I would like, but I was excited to be on my bike.
Not to far after the 10 mile marker I was playing cat and mouse with a group of riders, when I saw a familiar kit standing at the side of the road with her bike down. It took me a minute to process that it was Yelena Maloney, a training partner from Tribal. I immediately turned around to see if she was ok. It was instinct. I didn’t even think I just found my body making the decision and executing.
When I arrived to her location I asked her if she was ok. She stated, “I am fine. I have been here for 5 minutes already so my race is over. Just go.” I replied, “Just as long as you are ok” as I turned around to continue my race. The SAG vehicle arrived as I left, so I no longer felt the worried for my friend and I was able to concentrate back on the race at hand.
Within the next 15 minutes I found myself right back with the familiar kits and bikes I was around prior to stopping. I still felt great, and at that moment, I was executing the plan as precise as possible.
Some of the steeper and longer inclines did not allow me to keep my power range even in my highest gear, but they were so few and far between I didn’t think it would cause a major issue at the time.
Around mile 40 I rode right into my first major obstacle. I was behind an athlete in a University of Florida kit when I decided I was going to pass him. USAT rules state that you have twenty seconds to pass and if the attempt fails you must slow to the six bike lengths behind the rider before attempting it again.
I started to accelerate slightly in order to pass, but he accelerated right along with me. Not wanting to push my watts to much, after what I thought was 20 seconds I dropped back. Immediately, I realized I was slowing way down and was not getting any space between his back tire and my front. “Screw this” I thought, and started to accelerate to pass him with a little more force. Wouldn’t you know it, he accelerated right with me…again.
Of course, I slowed down again to get acquire the regulated distance as my ears detected the sound of a motorcycle. One of the officials was headed in our direction. I motioned and yelled to the official that I was slowing down, but of course, so was my “friend” ahead of me. So, it looked as though I was drafting.
As the official was writing in his notebook, I tried to tell him that I was slowing down and that he was slowing down too, but it wouldn’t be accepted by the official. He yelled to me to stop at the next penalty box and tell them I had a blue card.
Due to the penalty I subconsciously equated the extra time, and immediately accelerated which would forgo my plan for the next 15 miles. I don’t exactly recall, but I believe my thinking was that I would get a 5 minute recovery in the box, so why not step up and try to make it up. Since the box I was going to end up in was located just prior to the dismount line, I wouldn’t have to power through any more before transitioning to the run.
After arriving at the last Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 penalty box and releasing the negativity of the official, the volunteer stated that they were on a roll today and that a group of over 15 riders had just finished their 5 minute penalty. Just about as my time was at completion I glanced over at the runners starting their 13.1 mile leg and noticed Yelena speeding through the first hundred yards.
As I yelled to her, I was surprised. That meant that she got her bike fixed and must have passed me into transition while I was stopped int he penalty box. I wondered what she had to have had to make up in order to get there that fast. I later learned she was four minutes behind me after the SAG staff was able to release her chain from being stuck behind the crank and get her back into the race.
T-2 went smoothly and was only slightly delayed by my 47-year-old bladder that needed to be emptied.
I was off and feeling pretty good even after the first long hill, but when I reached the first aid station I could already feel things start to slow down a bit. I was running under 9 minute miles, but I knew I couldn’t sustain it.
My mind already went into fix-it mode wondering what I needed in order to get send whatever I needed to my legs in order to maintain my cadence. After the mile 3 aid station a side-stitch reeked havoc on my insides and I slowed to a walk, but I was determined to keep the walking to a minimum. This was going to be a long half marathon.
I continued to walk every mile or 1.5 miles for a minute or so, before picking up the pace again. I grabbed everything I could think of in order to fuel my glycogen stores and sometimes it worked. Coke and Red Bull both would give me an instant lift, but it would only sustain me for a short duration before my legs would tire, the stitches would return and I was forced to slow down again.
Coming across the Chestnut street bridge to complete the first loop I caught up with my workout wife, Sonja Olsen. She was obviously upset. She mentioned she had an amazing swim and did really well on the bike, but was now frustrated because her run was less that she’d hoped. “Join the club”, I thought to myself.
The interesting thing she said, was that she didn’t want to let anyone down. I immediately went into a diatribe of how triathlon is an individual sport and the only one she would let down is herself. If she was doing the absolutely best she could, and that she honestly couldn’t push any more, that she was letting no one down.
Those words penetrated my own mind as I told her to keep her chin up and sped up to complete my own race. The rest of the race, when ever I felt like I had to walk, I would ask myself honestly if I needed to or could I continue. More times than not I didn’t have to and I would keep running.
I reached the Chestnut Street Bridge for the final time and I picked up the pace. Everything hurt. My legs were like lead weights, I had stitches on both sides and I was a little light headed, but I was way to close to stop running.
Jumping and touching the arch with some sort of flair has become a popular way to finish at Ironman race for the Moxie team. As matter of fact, one of the members prints up calendars for the following year with all the dunk pictures.
While running up the red Ironman carpet toward the finish, the energy to try and make a Moxie dunk alluded me. However, I did try and while at the time it seemed kinda wimpy, the picture made it seem not so much.
I crossed the Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 finsh line with a time of 5:25:55 which is a PR altogether by over 10 minutes. Unfortunately, the swim was over 500 meters short. Using the average pace and adding it back it would give me a 5:36-5:38. Subtracting the penalty of 5 minutes the actual race time would be 5:31 which would be a PR by 4 minutes. This of course is not reality. I cannot go back and swim those meters or erase my penalty, so while Ironman will consider it a PR I will not.
The rest of the day consisted of rest, beer, burgers, ice cream, good company and fun. It was still a tough race and while I did not get my vindication, I still progressed. I am proud of my race, but that was then, and now it’s time to focus on Ironman Costa Rica 70.3.
I have spent an abundance amount of time analyzing what I can do to help me hit my goals for the next races and here is what I came up with:
- The Coke and Red Bull on the course were causing a surge in my pace and it made me feel better. It can only mean that I am not getting enough nutrition on the bike. I will go back and reassess what I need and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
- My coach made me realize my swim volume has been down, which is not surprising( If I had to skip a workout, it would mostly be a swim and I would move the other workouts around to accommodate.) I need to get my volume up in order to swim my way to a better bike split. In other words, gain the fitness and technique to increase my efficiency and economy in the water.
- The stop for my teammate and the penalty made me increase my wattage on the bike which most likely drained me a little for the run. No matter what happens keep to the plan. Triathlon is not won on the bike, but it can be lost.
If I put these lessons into place, it should at lease help me succeed in my goals to continue to be healthy and decrease my time on the course. With the exception of number 2 I should be able to incorporate the other lessons for Costa Rica.
Chicago Marathon 2016: Goof Race Recap
Leading up to the Chicago Marathon 2016
The Chicago Marathon provides an excellent course, plenty of support and, for me, a chance to visit home for a few days. It was no different for me this time, with one small factor. I was not nearly as trained for it as I should have been.
In my previous recap for Ironman Augusta 70.3, I detailed a very painful half-marathon run. It left me deeply concerned running the Chicago Marathon. The focus for the following two weeks was on recovery. My runs were limited to the Zero-to-5k course I coach at Tampa General Hospital which came to a total of eight miles.
Meanwhile, I completed a thirty-minute session with the foam roller and dynamic stretching, coupled with at least one twenty-minute session with an Electronic Muscle Stimulation machine from Therapeutix. I followed this routine almost every day.
Even with the focus on recovery, I still had issues with my calves and Achilles tendons in both legs. My concern for finishing the Chicago Marathon did not change as I stepped off the plane on Friday, October 7th.
I visited with my parents in Bartlett, a suburb located about 20 miles west of downtown Chicago, on Friday. Saturday, I utilized the local train system, Metra, for transportation into the loop where I checked into the Kimpton Allegro Hotel and made my way to meet up with friends before heading to the expo.
Pete, Kari, Maria, Danny and I had a bountiful breakfast at a local diner and proceeded to grab a couple of cabs to the McCormick Place Convention Center for the expo.
I am always amazed at the smooth flow that is set up for the Chicago Marathon. I stepped up to a table where they scanned the QR code that was emailed to me. All of my information promptly displayed on a monitor. After verifying the info was correct, a booth number appeared and a volunteer directed me to that specific location.
Even though the area was mobbed by runners, loved ones, volunteers and staff, I was able to quickly make my way to the booth where the volunteer already had my packet waiting for me. She verified my identity with my driver’s license and directed me to the main hall where I fought the crowd to the back. Within a couple of minutes, my gear bag and t-shirt were in my hands.
With the requirement for check-in complete, I was free to wander around the expo. The Chicago Marathon expo is always a highlight for me. It is by far one of the biggest expos I attend with a plethora of vendors and products.
The nagging calf and Achilles tendon still had me worried. I risked breaking one of the number one rules for big races. Never anything new on race day.
Hoka One One claims performance and high cushion without sacrificing proprioception. As one of the first on the east coast to review Hoka One One a few years ago, I felt their technology may aid my finish the following day.
Other reviews led me to the Clayton. The middle line of their cushioning but extremely light. Slipping my foot into the shoe, and immediately the feeling the wider toe box and soft EVA foam positively indicated this approach was the right decision.
I palled around with my friends for a while, before I noticed the time. It was 1:00 PM, which meant the Ironman World Championships had already started. I excused myself and headed to the hotel. I spent the rest of the afternoon, with my EMS machine and tablet watching the race in Kona.
Later, I met up with Pete and the gang at Ryo Sushi. Dinner was a great combination of carbs, good fats, protein and extra sodium hidden in a spicy tuna roll and beef udon. After the hugs for luck and “good nights” it was a quick walk back to the hotel, a gear check followed by some light reading before entering dreamland.
The next morning, I awoke refreshed and ready to face the day. Anxiety plagued my core as it usually does prior to a big race. However, this time it was heightened slightly with worry due to my lack of volume, and the tightness in my lower legs.
My consumption of oatmeal and a power bar settled the hunger pains, as I dressed in my T2PKD singlet, shorts, socks, new Hoka One One Claytons and my Moxie Multisport hat. The temperature, estimated at 54 degrees, encouraged my purchase of a very inexpensive hoody and sweatpants which would keep me warm prior to the race.
All of the major marathons collect discarded clothes after the race and donate them to the homeless. After I shedded mine, these clothes would have a good home.
With that, I headed to the lobby, where after grabbing a cup of coffee and a banana, I took the 20-minute walk to Grant Park and the “E” Corral.
Right around 7 am I entered my official Chicago Marathon corral. After 30 minutes of chatting up some runners from the Ronald McDonald House Team, and an operatic version of our national anthem, the gun went off. It took 14 minutes to reach the start line, and we all began our 26.2 mile journey.
With all my concerns, I did not start the race without a strategy. Even though I kept hearing Coach Jon in my head telling me, that there was nothing to worry about, and that I had enough experience in my legs to finish the marathon, I still didn’t want to go in strictly by feel.
Using past data, temperature, results and a bit of feel, I put together a simple strategy of allowing my legs to do what they wanted in combination with brisk walking through the aid stations. I told myself that no matter what I would walk every water stop from the first flag to the last flag and then run again. Therefore, looking at the pace on my watch would not be positive. I would check very infrequently the total time, but otherwise, I would use the clocks on the mile markers to figure out my timing.
This Chicago Marathon strategy also included a return to my “Happy Place”. The past few months had been a draining journey of mixed paces, disappointments and workout failures that deprived me of everything I loved about running. I needed a win, but more so I needed that peaceful euphoria that kept luring me back to this sport I loved. That feeling of freedom that I continually coach in my students and clients.
In The Beginning
The first mile was a little faster than I intended, so I slowed down a bit for fear of hitting the wall way too early. Passing my mile 3 I realized that even with walking twice I was running slightly faster than a 9-minute mile. This revelation amazed me. I truly anticipated more of a ten to an eleven-minute mile, being as I did not have the training volume. To be running so easily at this speed, was a confidence booster, to say the least.
Everything seemed to be rolling along just fine. For the majority of the race, I was listening to a custom station on Slacker radio, calculating times, chatting with runners and just enjoying the familiar sights.
My times consistently were 9-minute miles, so I decided to modify my strategy to include just that. The test would be what would my half marathon time be. The voice inside me kept insisting I had at least a half marathon in me. However, the test would be afterward. In the meantime, I needed validation that I could sustain this strategy for at least half the race.
At the 13-mile mark, my the clock read 2:08. Of course, I started 14 minutes behind the first wave, which
meant that my time was actually 1:56. I did it. Sub two-hour half marathon and I still felt strong.
Assessing my body after that, I only noticed some slight tightening of my hip-flexors. Everything else felt great.
As I passed mile 16, I was still amazed at how I felt. I still stuck to the strategy and had not walked except for where planned.
My quads and calves started to tighten up a little more at the 18th-mile aid station. I felt it more passing the last flag of the aid stations when I re-started running. To be honest, I expected it earlier than that.
The real pain hit at mile 21. My quads screamed, my hamstrings ached and my calves were on fire. I kept fueling with what was on the course, which luckily included some bananas. The potassium seemed to relieve a little of the pain but not the tightness.
With 4 miles left to go, my inner dialogue argued with me from aid station to aid station. It expressed I needed to walk for a bit, however, the idea that I could run a sub-4, intrigued me, so I continued on.
At the 35k marker, I noticed my slow down to over a 9-minute mile. I would have to go sub 8:30 to finish under four hours. The uncomfortable tightness and pain in my lower extremities expressed that it was not realistic. However, that argument did not include seeing how close I could come.
The 24-mile marker did include an extra 100 yards of walking before the need to complete this challenge took over. My inner thoughts reminded me of the final miles of my completed Ironmans. Everything hurt, but the desire to cross the finish line, triumphant, began overwriting the pain signals to my brain.
I picked up the pace a bit at mile 25. The pain was intensifying. Luckily, so was the perseverance, and the reminders of all the times encouraging clients, to run through the pain. That it isn’t about knocking down the obstacles of life. It was about how many obstacles life could throw but to still keep moving forward. The pain was just another obstacle.
I turned the corner and my legs turned over a little faster identifying the sign practically yelling at runners, “400M(meters)” to go. All I could think is one, more time around the track and it’s over.
The 300m sign also brought the finish line into my view. At that point, all the pain just went away. It was over. I crossed the finish line with my arms up in the air. I did it and just slightly over four hours. Final time: 4:04:17
Limping through the chaos of the Chicago Marathon finish, I realized that even including the worry and pain, this experience was amazing. While the people, runners, and logistics were all wonderful, it was my internal struggle that made it great.
What breakthrough story do you have either in training or racing?
(Please feel free to share in comments)
Carpe Vitam! (Seize Life)
Ironman Augusta 70.3 2016 Race Recap
September 25 was going to be my day. The Ironman Augusta 70.3 triathlon was finally here. The race I had been training so hard for on one of my favorite courses. It was four-and-a-half months since Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 and I was going to be ready to get my vindication and PR like I never had before. This was going to be my glory day. I knew it.
TRAVEL AND EXPO
Driving up from Tampa, was a piece of cake. I had the presence of some beautiful and talented athletes; Maria Lopez Vijayanagar, Nancy Hepner, and our own personal driver, Jamie Breibart. Between awesome conversations, laughing and completing some work, the time flew by. Before we knew it, we were pulling up to the Marriott Hotel which housed the Augusta Convention center.
This was the first time ever, I stayed in the Ironman Augusta 70.3 host hotel. Actually, it was the first time I ever stayed in a race’s host hotel and I was excited.
The pounding of my pulse intensified with every step we took towards the expo. Check-in was a breeze especially on Friday afternoon since most of the athletes would probably wait until Saturday. The next thing I knew, I had my cool new swim bag containing my packet, t-shirt, and swag. A few moments later, I was standing in line to buy the traditional extras. Some athletes always get that year’s t-shirt, some pick something different every time, I get a coffee mug and water bottle with the race logo.
The vendors that provided booths were of the same variety as usual. Cliff bars, a local gear shop, BASE salts, a new pet food sponsor, and of course my friend Scott Rigsby with his foundation.
I have mentioned Scott in a few other posts. He was the first double amputee to finish the Kona World Championship Ironman. He went on to form a foundation to help soldiers with disabilities; The Scott Rigsby Foundation.
With that completed, we headed down to Mellow Mushroom for some much-deserved carbs to include one of our favorite carbohydrates. BEER. Craft Beer because I am a snob like that. If you ever get to try their Mega-Veggie pizza, go for it. It is magnificent, especially if the tofu is traded out for avocado.
After a long conversation at the bar that included my last drink before the race, it was time to get a good night sleep.
That, unfortunately, didn’t happen. Two nights prior I always prescribe a good nights sleep and only awake when the body is ready. This allows for maximal recovery for race day with ample healing of any inflammation.
I have no idea why. but sleep evaded me most of the night. I still felt rested upon getting out of bed around 7 am, but not as much as I would have liked.
RACE DAY EVE
It was a toss-up of whether to go and jump in the river with our wetsuits or not. Nancy had never swum in open water with a wetsuit and was nervous about the swim. I was also anxious to jump in to get a feel for the temperature and if my wetsuit was still functioning properly, so we headed down to the swim start.
We suited up and jumped in. The temperature was a little chilly at first, but within ten strokes it felt glorious. The current was running about 2 knots, so my strokes to the first buoy felt like slicing through butter.
Jaime and I waited at the first buoy while Nancy caught up to us. Her boyfriend Hans had arrived the night before and being a marathon swimmer, he was incredibly comfortable in the water. He talked her through jumping in and they met us at the buoy.
We splashed around and played like kids for a few minutes before we decided to head back. Now that was work. It was like swimming on a treadmill. We ended up swimming to the side and shimming up the dock instead. Funny thing was there was no way to use your legs to get on the floating dock. I muscled myself up and then brought up Jamie, Hans and finally Nancy. That was an experience.
To make matters worse there was a locked gate in front of us with nothing on either side except water. We had to carefully hang on the outer chain link fence to get around the locked gate door. It was like a pre-70.3 obstacle course.
With Nancy now comforted with the buoyancy of her wetsuit, and a real confidence booster for myself, we headed back to the hotel to get a quick ride in.
Maria and I headed out and on Broad St for about a mile when I heard Oscar Alvarez, a teammate from our national team Moxie Multisport, yell from the Holiday Inn. I have never had the chance to ride or even get to know Oscar so I was excited when he flagged us down. Donna Adams also joined us, from Moxie, as we headed out of town for about 15 minutes. We turned around and headed back.
I toggled through all my gears to include my small chainring knowing that there were some new hills added to the course. Everything seemed to work very smoothly, which just increased the intensity my excitement.
After dropping off Oscar and Donna at their hotels, Maria and I pedaled back to pick up Nancy and Jamie. I completed attaching the stickers on my bike and changed into regular shoes for the jog back. I, unintentionally, put my debit card and license in a bento box on my bike, and we headed out.
Again, things went very smoothly. We rode right in, racked our bikes and headed out. I had a pretty good position sitting almost the very middle of the transition area, just a few positions to the left of the aisle.
It didn’t seem like anyone wanted to jog back, and I was ok with that. However, about half-a-mile out, I remembered that I had my credit card and license on my bike. I gave my helmet to the ladies while telling them I would catch up and I started running back to transition.
This is the first season in seven-and-a-half years I have had any type of injuries. Earlier in the year, I was suffering from a stress reaction in one of my right metatarsals and lately, I had been suffering from some Achilles tendinitis. It was so wonderful to run and not feel any of that pain.
Running into transition I caught the site of April from my local team, Outspokin Multisport. I stopped and chatted for a quick second before continuing on to rescue my stuff. Confidently, I ran back out feeling really strong. I was lucky to run into two more Moxie teammates, Josh Otstot and Alex Bautista before finally catching up to Maria and Jaime.
The confidence was brimming with me throughout dinner at a local sushi and hibachi restaurant. I had rice, chicken and little sushi to fulfill my balance of carbs, protein, and good fats.
Fueled and completely prepped for the race, I fell asleep and remained in restful slumber until the alarms went off at 4:00 am.
Ironman rotates the start waves of their races, in order be fair to all of the Age Groups. In other words, while one year the 45-49 age group might be in an earlier wave, the following year that same group would be scheduled later. This year my age group was starting later at 8:28 am.
Since we didn’t need to travel to transition to setup race-ready, we dressed comfortably and headed out to the buses to be transported to the transition site.
Over the years, my experience in setting up my transition has been drastically reduced. I now can do a full setup and walk-through in just a few minutes where before it would take a lot longer. As I started placing bottles in the cages I noticed my rear tire was completely flat.
While a lot of athletes would consider this bad luck, I was grateful that I found it now rather than on the course. Not to mention, there was a maintenance crew here that would be far faster at repairing it than I would.
As it turned out, I was correct in that assumption. I handed the mechanic a tube, and they pulled my back wheel, changed the tube to include adding an extender, returned the wheel to my bike all within just a few minutes. With that, I was set up and ready to rock n’ roll.
Announcements flooded the air during our setup time in transition, of which most were normal except for the one big kicker.
“We are making history today. For the first time in Ironman Augusta history the swim will be not wet suit legal for age group awards.”
This was a little bit of a surprise. This was one of the reasons I loved this race. I am not the fastest swimmer but allow me a downstream swim in a wetsuit and I can hold my own. Unfortunately, now I just lost one of my advantages.
All the way back to the hotel, I took part in a lot of self-talk. Telling myself, that I had done the distance in the pool hundreds of times, and as the river was fresh water that is all this was. I also still had the advantage of the current which was moving between 1.5 and 2 knots. Not to mention, my transition time should be faster.
This calmed me down, as we headed back up to the room to prepare for our start times.
My breakfast of oatmeal, a banana, a cliff bar, and coffee went down easily as my anxiety slowly started to grow. I rolled out my legs, did some dynamic stretching, dressed, and headed over to Jaime’s room to pass the time before heading down to the swim start.
At 7:30 we walked down to the swim start as Nancy had an 8:04 start time, followed by me at 8:28, and Jaime at 8:40. As this would be Maria’s last race in the Pro division, she was already on the course.
I was pushing all of my positive energy to the forefront of my mind for Nancy. She was comfortable in the water during our test swim the previous day and while she could’ve still used her wetsuit, it would have meant starting at 9:30. With the temp already at 77 degrees that would have been for an even hotter race. I applauded her for deciding to go without and starting with her wave.
Before I knew it I gave hugs to Jaime, a number of other friends and teammates, and was in line with the rest of my age group.
At 8:24 the staff moved us to the dock where we would start. Usually, there is a rope start-line ten or so meters from the dock. This year they wanted us to start touching the dock. Due to the number of triathletes in my group, there was not enough dock to allow everyone a water start, so I was forced to stand on the dock and jump in when the horn blew at 8:28.
As I jumped in, the cool water prickled my skin as I surfaced and started my stroke. The anxiety completely wore off, and my heart rate decreased when I found my rhythm. I kept my mind quiet, focusing on reaching as far as I could while driving my hip down pulling myself through the water like a ladder.
I have written and said before, I am not the fastest swimmer by far. Actually, I am downright slow, but I have been working on it every season. You can imagine my surprise when I reached and found a foot there. I couldn’t believe it either, I caught someone. There truly is a first time for everything.
As I was maneuvering around the swimmer and was surprised again by a kick to my hand. Then I was boxed in a group and I thought, “This is great, I can just hang in here and take advantage of the draft.”
Unfortunately, that didn’t last. The athletes on either side of me started swimming into me, throwing off my rhythm and the athletes in front slowed down so I was now getting kicked in the head.
I pulled back into a breaststroke and swam out of the way. It took a minute or so to get my breath and site line back so I could find my rhythm again.
Unfortunately, I experienced a similar scenario a little while later, with me resolving it in the same fashion. I was feeling a little peeved, but on the other hand, I was fascinated that I was forced to pass some of my fellow age group athletes in my weakest event.
With a huge smile on my face, I pulled off my cap and goggles as I ran into transition. I looked down at my watch and saw 34 minutes and change. That was a PR for me, not by much, but gave me a huge energy boost crossing the mount line as I began the bike portion.
This season was all about the bike. I have been focused on increased efficiency and speed on the bike during my training and my earlier results have proved that it had worked.
My ride felt like silk on the early portion of the bike. The derailleur was moving through my gear changes like butter, my goal power was ranging perfectly between 180 and 190 watts and my speed was a consistent 22 mile per hour. I felt like I was unstoppable.
The first set of hills uneventfully came and went without any kind of changes in effort level. The excitement was radiating from me because everything seemed to be coming together. I stuck to my nutrition plan and wattage like glue and just kept passing people.
Another set of inclines came around mile 38. These were the grade of hills that bring your speed down to 9 miles an hour. I kept a cool head knowing that what goes up, must come down and I would make up the speed on the decline.
At mile 42, I noticed my time. Big Mistake. All of the sudden I was concerned that I was under 21 miles an hour of which I was consistent for the ride prior. Had I really slowed down that much? My goal was 21 mph, and I was thinking it was conservative. It would allow me to finish the bike in 2:39, but now that goal was in danger.
Around mile 45, I started to feel a little sluggish, so I took an extra gel and finished the formula in the current reservoir. Unfortunately, it took awhile for my digestive system to process the extra calories, as the following five miles felt very slow.
The last five miles were either downhill or pretty flat. I was consistently riding between 22 and 23 MPH, but it wasn’t enough. I rolled into T-2 in 2:48.
Just prior to the dismount line, my thoughts went to the run. I had decided I just needed to pick-up the pace 15-20 seconds for a few of the miles and I might just be able to make a lot of it up. Even if I didn’t hit my goal of 5:17, I would still PR.
I was ready to hit the dismount line running into T-2, but when swung my leg over my seat a pain in my hip almost made me fall. “What the hell?” were the words that came out of my mouth for everyone to hear.
I tried to run my bike into T-2, but they would not move. My legs just refused to do anything other than walk. My thoughts drifted to other races and my internal dialogue was encouraging reflecting my previous history of my legs waiting to transition at mile 3.
I changed my shoes, grabbed my race belt and hat and headed out, with a brief stop at the portlet. I tried to jog a little, but a stabbing pain was radiating both hips, so I walked very briskly. No problem, I strategized taking in a little more salt, some water and jogging to mile 3 where my legs would magically open up and I would finish around 2 hours. The goal not reached but still a PR.
Unfortunately, it never happened. Mile 3 came and went with me running slowly for a tenth to a quarter mile before having to walk. The pain radiating through my legs while running, but disappearing while walking.
I went back to my training. Asking myself what I thought was happening physiologically. Tracing the muscles radiating from the hips, and assessing each individual pathway. I was at a complete loss. I had no idea what was going on.
Over the next few miles, I did everything possible to go from aid station to aid station stuffing ice down my shorts trying to numb my hips. Unfortunately, the temperature and humidity were increasing as well. I didn’t feel like it was really that warm, but I noticed all the walkers.
The last four times I did this race, there were finishers that walked, but I didn’t recall the immense number of walkers I was noticing. There were more athletes walking than running. It didn’t make me feel any better, but there was definitely something going on.
The first time I completed Augusta I recall it being even hotter, but not nearly the amount of walkers I was noticing this year.
The rest of the run was more of the same. a quarter to a half mile of running and then I walked until the pain subsided. I was constantly making deals with myself to run just a little longer each time.
After 2 hours, mile 10 was the marker I was finally able to surpass feeling completely defeated, angry, in pain and embarrassed. I was doubting everything I ever learned, my ability as an athlete and as a coach. If I couldn’t get through a 70.3 in less than 6 hours what right did I have to coach other people?
When I finally turned the corner towards the finish line, Maria, Jaime, and Hans all had their cameras or phones out. I was trying to signal to them not to take a pic because I felt so ashamed.
Crossing the finish line was completely anti-climactic as my watch blinked 6:16. The slowest time since my first 70.3. I didn’t care about it and I almost passed up the people handing out the medals. At the time I am writing this I still have not hung the medal on my wall with the others.
I grabbed a coke from the food tent and proceeded to find Jaime, Maria, and Hans. We watched Nancy run by just prior to the halfway point, cheering her on and encouraging her to keep moving forward.
After that, I followed Maria back to the hotel and we chatted. She expressed her disappointment with her race, especially the run. I tried to be upbeat, but my thoughts were very negative. I really don’t like being that way. It makes me feel weak.
I left the celebration early that night and went back to the room. I packed and escaped into the mindless abyss of television just wanting the day to be over.
Over the next days, I reviewed the race, trying to resolve my issues on the run. I realized there is one crucial element of my training that I neglected this season. Massage.
In the past, my regimen included regular visits to my License Massage Therapist. That habit has been occurring for every season of training for five years prior. I completely neglected this avenue of my training this season. Was this the answer? I have no idea, but I will be taking that lesson and integrating back into my routine.
The release of negativity was a relief since returning home. My coach, Jon Noland, always says the best thing an athlete can have is a short-term memory. I have taken the lessons from this race, and now I am moving on to my next challenge.
NYC Marathon: Goof Recap
If you didn’t have an opportunity to read the epic writing in the previous post, I discussed the reason “why” I ran the NYC Marathon, then I highly recommend that you do. Not just because the writing was fantastic, but it is my hope that the recap will be more emotionally moving.
Delta carried us to New York City and back with no issues. I was upgraded to the business class on my departing flight, and returned to Tampa in economy class. Even with my average size, I felt extremely cramped in economy. Scott and his six-foot-one-inch frame looked extremely uncomfortable. It is obvious, that Delta increased their upgraded business class at the expense of the comfort of the economy class passengers. My suggestion to anyone flying Delta to the NYC Marathon, just include the cost of the upgrade if the flight it over 3 hours.
The plans were made well in advance for room and board. After each of us declared our opinions for a hotel of choice, one of our teammates found a condo in Chelsea that would accommodate all of us comfortably and provide a full kitchen to save a little money on meals.
Per an email from VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) we were to pick up the keys at a local pizza restaurant located next door to the building housing the condo.
Team Tampa PKD arrived around 4 pm and the employees working that afternoon had absolutely no idea what we were talking about. Of course, we called the management company and were basically told they did not receive the contract. When we had the contract in hand we called the agency back but no one would answer our calls.
Here we were, in New York City, on marathon weekend, not to mention the third and fourth game of the World Series, homeless.
Teammate Kevin O’Brien to the rescue. Kevin works for a landscape development company and happens to travel quite a bit, which was lucky for us. With his Hilton Honors status we were able to procure two rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn located in Tribeca. Thank you Kevin.
The rooms were updated, immaculate and comfortable. Another, nice little value add of the Hilton Honors was the choice of extra points or free breakfast. Kevin being the generous person he is, opted for the free breakfast for us which again helped save a little bit of money. Again, Thank you Kevin.
With all of us now settled, we headed to the Javits Center to pick up our NYC Marathon packets. The bibs numbered up to 72,999. It still amazes me how easy it is to retrieve a bib, swag and t-shirt at the expo. It runs like a well oiled machine.
There is a booth for every few thousand bib numbers. The athlete walks up to the booth that includes their bib number, shows ID and their registration card. Then they receive their NYC Marathon bib and other instructions, verify their info and then walk towards the t-shirt area where on the way, they pick up a plastic swag bag that also serves as the gear bag for the race. The official NYC Marathon t-shirt area is well-marked with a line for the different sizes and within a few minutes of walking into the expo, the athlete has bib, swag and t-shirt.
That isn’t the most exciting part of the NYC Marathon expo. There are vendors from all over the country whom give runners have the opportunity to try and buy the latest gear and gadgets.
One aspect of the expo I really enjoy, is the aura and feeling of the environment. There is an excitement in the air of the larger expos that increases my heart rate a little and excites me to race. It is probably one of my most favorite parts of any race weekend.
The following day we made another visit to the expo simply to walk around and make some purchases. I found a couple of vendors that I had met at other races and made some new contacts for product reviews. Stay tuned.
I have loved New York City since the first moment I stepped into Manhattan years ago. I have a lot of friends here, and I just really enjoy the pace and excitement of the city.
There is always one place, that is mandatory to visit, at least once, every time I am in town. John’s Pizza. I couldn’t believe my ears, when Rich and Kevin decided not to partake. It was their loss, so Scott and I headed over to John’s for lunch. Carb loading, baby, I just love it.
I could write a full post on John’s, so I wont go into the heavenly scrumptiousness of their pizza here, but trust this self-proclaimed, pizza connoisseur, when I say the explosion of flavors that emanate from each bite, redefines the word delicious.
Saturday night, we were scheduled to have dinner with the PKD Foundation and the other runners from different areas at Carmine’s. Scott, Kevin, Karen and I were all pretty familiar with the city and had even known of Carmine’s as it is pretty well-known.
That night we entered the subway and got off at 42nd street in order to head over to 44th where Carmine’s was located, as we started up the stairs from the station, Scott mentions the address which made Kevin and I do a double take. 2400 W Broadway, which was Broadway and 90th street. At the moment we were on 44th st which means we were 46 blocks away. That was a few miles from where we were at that point.
Of course like men we decided that maybe the address was wrong and went up anyway. As it turns out, it was correct. There was a newer Carmine’s uptown and we were in the wrong place and already fashionably late.
It ended up working out for us again. We caught the subway up to 86th and when we arrived, food was just being served. How long could this luck hold, right?
The dinner was fantastic and we met a bunch of really amazing people who were just as passionate about running for PKD as we were.
Like good little runners we went back to the hotel and retired for the night in anticipation for the NYC Marathon the next morning.
As I mentioned both in the last post and in my NYC Marathon recap from last year; the logistics for this race are not the most convenient. It involves a ferry to Staten Island then a bus to security, a decent walk to the assigned village and finally another walk to the specific corral.
An announcement came out from the NYC Marathon staff, about two months prior to sign up for transportation to the start and of course we all missed and ended up getting assigned the 5:45am ferry to Staten Island. Since three of us had already experienced the ferry and knew that there was no accountability, we decided to just take the 7am ferry instead, not only giving us a little more time in the morning, but also keeping us out of the chilly temps for a couple of hours.
The lesson I learned here was there are two choices, either go by the scheduled time and arrive with a lot of time to spare, sit around have some coffee and bagels while waiting for the start, or go a little later and hope to make it to the corral at the time of your scheduled start.
We took the latter ferry and ended up having to wait for two ferries to get over to the island and then when finally getting on the bus, the traffic was so heavy we ended up having to rush to the corrals in order to make the 9:40 start. It was probably perfect for the rest of the team that had later starts, but for Rich and I it was a little tight. Personally, I do prefer the latter.
I found my green village, dropped off my gear bag with my long sleeve shirt and pants, and headed to the corral just prior to the 9am cut-off to enter the corral. Now I had about half-an-hour to stretch and use the portlet one last time.
I was talking to a woman from Basel, England when I heard my name being called. Ryan Wallace, was a Facebook friend and runner I met at last year’s race. A really fun guy to hang with, so after chatting for a bit we found we were looking at accomplishing the goal of 3:50 or better. Score! Someone to run with.
They opened up the corral to head closer to the start line around 9:30am, and just after the final note to one of the most beautiful renditions of our national anthem I have ever heard, sung by opera singer (and runner) Susanna Phillips Huntington, and announcements by the executive director, the gun went off and we were running.
The NYC Marathon is the largest marathon in the world. Largest meaning the most athletes run the course of any marathon in the world.. This year there were over 50,000 finishers. It boasts spectacular views, fantastic support from the spectators, and a challenging course. The route takes the runners through all five major boroughs of the city, starting in Staten Island, crossing the Verrazano Bridge to Brooklyn, heading north into Queens crossing the 59th St bridge, then into Manhattan crossing the Queensboro Bridge, north into the Bronx over the Willis Ave Bridge, turning south back into Manhattan over the Madison Avenue bridge and then finally the incline to the finish line in the heart of Central Park.
The experience this year was better than last, as the temperatures were much better as we started around 55 degrees Fahrenheit and just a little breeze versus the 30 degree temps and 33 mph winds from 2014.
Ryan, his friend, and I started the NYC Marathon conservative for the first couple of miles, but as we rounded the first 5k I noticed we started to increase our pace. I only was witness to it due to calculating my 5k under 27 minutes, which being under a 9 minute mile that soon, concerned me a little, but I was feeling really strong.
The spectators in the NYC Marathon are everywhere and they clap, yell and scream not only for their family and friends, but for any one they seem to be inspired by. Statistics pretty much show, that even know there were over 50,000 athletes running this race, and hundreds of thousands of finishers in marathons all over the world, less than 1% of the population has finished a marathon. In other words there were a lot of people to be inspired by during this race and the spectators expressed that.
Ryan and I ran together up to about mile nine, constantly telling each other to slow down, yet neither of us could hold a slower pace for very long. About that point, a pressure emanating from my bladder was increasing to a point where I was just not comfortable any longer, so I speeded up to the mile 10 aid station to relieve myself. My thinking was speed up, use the facilitates and then speed back up just enough to catch Ryan again.
Unfortunately, we didn’t cross paths again during the race. I was out there on my own, all by myself. It was just me and 50,000 of my closest friends.
There was plenty to see as I continued on my NYC Marathon journey. Achilles International volunteers were out in droves this year with guides helping blind and other challenged runners through the race. Guides would run in a formation with one tethered to the blind runner and then three-to-four others running on each side of them constantly helping to clear a path through the crowd. It was so motivating, that I knew somewhere down the line in my own journey I would have to help like that in some way in the future.
As I crossed the 13.1 mile marker of this NYC Marathon, and saw the clock I realized that I had been running for an hour and fifty minutes. That for me was fast, but I was still feeling really strong. The sights of the area’s architecture, parks, people and the smells of the local restaurants were consistently keeping my mind occupied as I just let my legs decide what they were going to do.
I was concerned though. I know enough about myself, that keeping this pace would have it’s consequences toward the final miles.
My favorite bridge on NYC Marathon course is the Queensboro bridge. It feels like it never ends, but the view of Manhattan and the Hudson is spectacular. Not to mention, the completion of the bridge is a u-turn with a horde of spectators that it feels like a roar of excitement is exuded from them. I felt a boost of energy when I crossed mile 16.
I was actually a little impressed with myself as I hadn’t really slowed as of yet. It is usually around this mile marker that begins the stiffness of the previous miles.
The next checkpoint for me is usually mile 18, but that too came and went without any real pain. My inner dialogue started having delusions of grandeur of possibly finishing the race around the 3:40 mark which be a huge PR for me.
As I crossed the Willis avenue bridge, I felt the start of a twinge in my left leg and a smile crept across my face and out loud I said to myself,”There it is.”
The NYC Marathon mile 20 clock showed I was two hours and fifty-two minutes into the race, which was already better than last year. My thinking at that point was that I could pretty much slow to a ten minute mile at this point and still cross under four hours, but that didn’t happen.
Mile 21 came at just three hours which was a first in a while for me. I am usually only at 20 by three hours and here I was a full mile closer to the finish. My period of optimism was cut short by a stiffness in my right leg that quickly became painful.
I walked though the next NYC Marathon aid station and grabbed a banana from the hand of a volunteer thinking just get some more glycogen to my legs so I finish this last five miles.
What little stride I had became periods of walking between miles 22 and 23 as the pain started to sear and engulf the rest of my leg. It was getting harder and harder to bend my right knee as the stiffness was setting in.
Central Park came and the crowds were getting louder and more dense. I did not want to walk through the park with all these people. I wanted to run in strong, but the pain was getting more and more intense. I actually yelled at myself, “C’mon legs. WTF are you doing!!!”
My mind drifted to Erika at that moment. As I was trying to run stiff-legged and just suffer through this intense pain, I thought that this frustration and uncomfortable feeling must be what Erika feels all the time. The disappointment at feeling run down, the pain that comes with these huge cysts on her Kidneys and the eternal uncomfortable feeling that keeps her from sleep and just enjoying life, must be one hundred times worse that what I was feeling.
If Erika had to continually go through this pain, then I could at least endure it until I reach the finish line.
I didn’t stop running, no matter how much it hurt. I thought about Erika and the last couple of years of misery she must have been going through, and how Jennifer would also have to also have a painful times ahead through her recovery from donating a kidney. It kept me going as I really felt like I was going through it for them.
I am not a totally idiot, I know that running the NYC Marathon of which I enjoy doing, really would do nothing for either of them. It was the fundraising and support where we as a team were doing the most good. Maybe it was for me. Maybe because I was not able to donate my kidney, that I the pain I was feeling now was so that I could empathize with both of them.
The NYC Marathon finish line was just as glorious as the other marathons I have completed. I was extremely happy to cross in 3:56 and at least beat my time from last year by about 10 minutes.
My official NYC Marathon finisher was medal handed to me, I was congratulated by a volunteer and ushered through to take continue the long mile walk to retrieve my gear bag. I was engulfed on all four sides with athletes as we all did the marathon shuffle through the park. There was a sense of peace and a little giddiness that filled the air.
We all did something extraordinary today. Whatever the reason “why”, we were bound at that moment by the accomplishment and conclusion of a journey that started with the decision to embark, the hours of training and the final step across the NYC Marathon Finish LIne.
Once dressed in dry clothes, I found Rich and we headed out to The Keg Room which was where Team Tampa PKD would gather back together. As Rich and I were in the first wave, where he PR’d at an incredible time of 3:27, we arrived first. Kevin, whom was actually in the last wave to take off, showed up next followed closely by Karen and finally Scott. Everyone finished and accomplished what they set out to do, but I was most proud of Scott.
Scott had micro tears in his gastrocnemius muscle (Calf) and had been trying to rehab it for the last couple of weeks. I really didn’t think he would finish the NYC Marathon and we all told him it would have been ok if he didn’t . He did though and under 5 hours with walking. He also said that he felt like he didn’t feel like he did anymore damage.
I am proud of the whole team. Team Tampa PKD was able to raise over 20,000 for PKD, finish the NYC Marathon and, most importantly, find a kidney donor for Erika.
What kind of challenge are you partaking in or plan to journey towards?
NYC Marathon 2015: The Why
My Why – PKD
The human brain is an advanced computer that controls many different systems. The body is like a room full of servers each independently managing a different system with one major system, the brain, as the master controller for all of them.
When the master controller has a difficult task to undergo, the systems will cluster together in order to complete the task as efficiently as possible. If one of the systems begin to fail, it doesn’t mean the task will not be accomplished it just means another system will take over the lack of work. The work may not be handled as efficiently, but nonetheless, it will be completed.
Only when the master controller issues a command to stop will the other systems desist what they are programmed to do. The question would be “Why did the Master Controller issue the command?”
This long analogy comes right down to a quote I use all the time. Internally, and with my client athletes. “The mind will quit 100 times before the body does.” Every excuse will come to mind while an athlete may be suffering, but it is the reason “why” they are challenging themselves that will override the mind’s command to stop.
My 15th Marathon was the 2015 New York City Marathon, and my “Why” was tested.
In 2014, at the completion of the New York City Marathon, I said to myself, “Self, I am really happy I did it. It was a tough race, in tough conditions (sub-40 degree temperature with 33 mph winds), but we did it. It may not have been the time we wanted, but scratch the largest marathon in the world off the list. I will probably not do this one again.”
My reasoning was the logistics of the race.
First, it is located in New York City. That just says a lot of $$$ is going to be spent.
2) Getting around the big apple in a timely manner is difficult for someone not living there.
3) I have a lot of friends that live in the city and I want to see them, which means, more travel, meals and more $$$ spent.
4) The race doesn’t start until 9:50 which at 4 hours means 1:50 which is after the usual 12 pm checkout time. Again, more $$$.
5) In order to pack the corrals with 50,000 runners, it is required to be in the runner villages close to 3 hours early, and in sub-40 degree weather for someone from Florida is somewhat uncomfortable.
6) After leaving the finish line when the legs are burning and everything is getting stiff, it is another mile to get to checked bags and then another half mile to get out of the park where there are no cabs. Then another 5 block walk to the subway.
Other than that the race is amazing.
This year, the reasons above meant nothing to me, because I ran this race not for me, but as a member of Team Tampa PKD for Erika Bragan, Jennifer Thomas and all of the other people affected by Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD).
In 2009, Scott offered me a chance to run the Chicago Marathon for the Polycystic Kidney Disease. At the time we were both in a boot camp class at a Lifestyle Family Fitness. He mentioned it to a few others as well, so I brought up the idea of a team concept, where we could organize events to raise awareness and funds for PKD and then split up the money so everyone could reach their goal. it actually worked for the 10 of us that competed that year, as we raised around $26,000 for the PKD Foundation.
In 2011, we resurrected the team and signed on twenty-two members and raised over $56,000 for the foundation. Again in 2013 we had just Five members and raised over 25,000 that year as well.
This year, we again signed five members. Scott, Rich, Myself, Kevin, and Karen. we raised over $25,000 again, but this year we also accomplished something else. Over the last few years, Erika’s kidney functions were reduced to less than 5% apiece. A normal human being can survive on 5% of one, but with PKD it is inevitable that the kidneys will fail.
Erika had already been put on the donor list for over a year, but it had yet to pan out, so we added not only raising as much financial assistance for the foundation but finding a donor for Erika as well.
For over a year, Erika has been in pain, not sleeping and basically been in a state of misery. Scott has recounted this for me numerous times, so when he said that it was time to start thinking about a transplant, I immediately asked him for the details to get tested. I wanted to help any way I could and if it meant giving up a kidney so be it.
The Bragan’s waited to see if being on the donor list would pan out, but as Erika’s kidney functions continued to deteriorate, family and friends stepped up to be tested as donors.
I was tested as a kidney donor, with the preliminary tests proving positive, meaning I was a match.
However, the secondary tests diagnosed protein in my urine which is common in endurance athletes. Unfortunately, for the medical staff, it is a risk for kidney stones which have a small probability to clog my ureter and if that was the case now, I would have another kidney to fall back on. If I donated one, it could be fatal.
I was heartbroken when I found out, but I understood the reasons.
On July 10, my friend and Team Tampa PKD teammate, Rich O’Dea was on a blind date at the Imagine Dragons concert. While getting to know each other Rich made mention of Team Tampa PKD, the marathon and Erika. At first, it seemed a nonchalant question when she asked how to get tested, so Rich took as her just being nice, but even after she ended up returning to a long relationship, she still communicated with Rich she wanted to get tested.
Her preliminary tests proved she was a match, and the secondary tests proved she was healthy enough to donate, so on Friday, Oct 23, the Tampa General Hospital Transplant committee approved the living donor kidney transplant from Jennifer Thomas to Erika Bragan, and scheduled the surgery for the 18th of November.
When I found out that Jennifer passed the second round of testing, I was absolutely ecstatic that she would be able to do what I and three other people could not. I am still absolutely overjoyed that Erika will lead a longer more normal life and Scott, Madison and Spencer will continue to have their wonderful wife and mother.
While in an interview with ABC, Jennifer was asked why should give up her kidney for a total stranger. Without skipping a beat, or even taking a breath she said, “Why wouldn’t I? The more important question should be, why is it so shocking that I would.”
I happened to be in the room when she was getting interviewed and I just about fell over. Without trying to sound conceded, or take away any thunder from her, but I felt like Jennifer was someone who actually thought just like me.
Jennifer’s medical bills will be taken care of 100% by the Bragan’s insurance, but the recovery time may cause a little bit of financial hardship.
Of course, Team Tampa PKD is stepping up and hosting an event called Tailgate for a Transplant prior to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New York Giants NFL Football game on November 8th at 1 pm. (If you would like to help, but cannot make it to the tailgate please click here)
This is my “Why”.
What is your ‘why’?