Thursday, July 24, 2008

EAGLEMAN 2008 Part 2

Race morning at 4:45 I rise and quickly leave the BW hotel room so Dad, Mom and Josh can sleep. Some potty time and I am out of there. My race bags are already in the Tahoe, and the last thing I do is fill the drink plastic bag with my hydration with ice from the machine. I will eat breakfast enroute. At 5am their are several racers in the BW parking area getting ready to go in the dark . no words are exchanged, none are needed . .we know . .. .I pull out and start to work on yogurt with granola, a coffee flavored Ensure, hard boiled egg and some OJ .. .. The dark air is still warm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and I roll down the windows and blast some Pearl Jam "ten" to get fired up . . . .

I know the backstreet of Cambridge well based on Eagleman 07 and Chessieman so I skirt south of the prescribed directions and drive down to Leonard near the high school on Rt 16 to avoid the line of cars filing by Sailwinds . .a few enterprising souls are following my lead . . .I know that parking is going to be on the street and difficult to get anywhere close . .

Still blocks away from the park I pull onto School Ave and I park on Harriet Tubman Drive. I think I minute about the idea of how the underground railroad must have incorporated some swimming, coondawgs anyone? riding (horseback and/or wagon under moonlight?) and no doubt running. Coondawgs again . .. Talk about context!! I don't even stress when I back the massive tahoe and I clip off the right side reaview mirror on a telephone pole. Let's worry about that later . . .

I grab all my gear balance it on my aero bars, and head toward the park .. . It is not 6am and racers and early family support are everywhere and the air is already sticky . .. . still . . as the glow of the artifical and dawn light bask the bikes left overnight coupled with the race music, I quickly fall into the pre-race zone of shelving all the rest of life's issues and concentrating on what I need to do.

I sip on a water bottle as I organize my gear the way I like it in the assigned numbered stall 857, I see a body marking girl by my row, then drink and walk and rehearse the exit from the water to my stall spot during T1, then from stall 857 to the exit for the bike route. I inflate tires, drink some more and I hit the port-o-let line, time for some business, drink, check food and drink for the bike, where are my salt tablets?, is my bike mechanically OK? Do I have all my tools? Am I drinking? Should I risk not bringing the weight of the wrench on the bike?

Ahh, pre-race morning jitters . . . relax, not like you are going to fall on your face, but still those competitive juices are flowing now!! . .This year I am in the 40-44 group a bunch of hard core and seriously cuthroat bad asses and also a much later, and ergo warmer (hotter) starting swimwave time, . . .I pause for the anthem, always do since 9/11 and the requisite OOOOssss chant for the Baltimore Orioles cry during the 'O say can you see part". I then put on my wetsuit over my new sunscreen body glide . . .I immediately start sweating profusely and quickly undon the suit, that will go on last minute!

I still have 35 minutes to my start wave time of 7:24 .. . I venture over to the swim start and observe a young pro receiving last second well wishes from his young cute girlfriend/wife. I notice that his race number is #1 . . that must be TJ, last year's Eagleman champ and winner of IM Arizona in April . . . .he looks over at me and I say "give 'em hell today TJ, a repeat would surely get you more of those TYR ads!!". . .he seems to enjoy the recognition, smiles at me and tells me "let's wait and see what happens" and wades into the water for his swim start . .

As it turns out the pro leaders exit the water minutes before my wave even starts. TJ is 4th out of the water about 2:10 behind Big Horse's pro buddy Mark Van A who is first out in 23.27. Both Mark and TJ fail to finish the race, Mark due to difficulties during the run brought on by the heat and his torrid pacing after leading the whole way into mile 1 of the run. TJ due to what I believe is a flat on the bike dropping his avg to 21.4 and the lost time prevents him from placing in the top tier. He probably elects to duck the wear and tear of the heat on the run and husband his reserves for trophy hunting later during the season.

With less than ten minutes to start time, I lay down on the grass and stretch a bit both to pass the time and go over my plan for the day; moderately hard on the swim, cautious on the bike until mile 40 to see where I'm at with my legs, and then hopefully a sub 2 hour run . . . but who knows? By now at 7 15 am any shade has been claimed by family members hunkering down for a hot day of waiting and watching as all the pros transition to the bike, man they move fast getting into and out of T1 in about 2 minutes, where I will be closer to 4 . . . . .

Now it is 7:18 and my wave is called to enter the water for a 7:24 am start . . .I wade in to the bath that is the Choptank and eyeball the siteline for the big orange buoys . . .They are laid out in a counterclockwise pie wedge formation, starting at 4 o'clock and straight out into the river to 12 o'clock and then two hard left turns to race from 12 down to 8 o'clock finish at the boat ramp . . .the idea is to capture some down current on the second half of the swim . . the starting buoys provide a 20 yard wide start line and I move far to the left and to the inside . . .visually it appears a few yards longer to the first buoy and many of the stronger swimmers lineup right center and to the right . .I am not worried as for me getting kicked in the head at the start to jockey for draft position on other swimmers is not my bag baby . . .I would rather fall into my natural position in the bottom 25% and not be whacked at . . .

There is the gun and boom a few steps wading and we are in . . .all around there is a literal sea of humanity as 218 testosterone laden fully energized 40-44 year olds motor out and fight for an eight foot by two foot tube of water, ideally right on the feet of a slightly faster 8 by 2 foot mobile tube . . .I am not sure how much easier drafting makes it, but I will say that the air bubbles waking behind a swimmer does create less dense water and is thus easier to swim thru for the follower.

For me the key is not to try and keep up with the swimmer studs and enter the red zone in the first 10 minutes of the race . . .swimming is about finding a rhythm and ensuring that you are onboarding plenty of oxygen within your breathing . .your muscles will thank you hours later in the race. .. I fall into a comfortable but pressing pace and stay as close as possible to the line of buoys in front of me . . .There is an occasional bump as I parallel or bump someone but by and large I have room after five minutes or so . .The buoys are tricky to sight as we are looking right into the sun , fortunately I invested $14 in sunglass or tinted goggles and am able to ID the buoys quickly between every 10-15 strokes . . .At the first turn I am in reasonable shape although I can start to tell that my cardio wind is not tip top . .. .also I am overheating in my wetsuit . . .silly me does not realize that I could cool myself by letting in some water, . .After the second turn I race back toward the boat ramp . . .the stress on my cardio and the heat again illustrates itself . . although now my stroke and breathing on my right side has started what I call "the veer". that is muy right stroke is stronger than my left so I start "veering right" .I correct it and overcompensate back to the left, but I am now zig zagging and costing myself a few precious swim minutes . . .The boat ramp is tantalizingly close now, but still so far , , ,no one is passing me, but I am not passing anyone either .

I exit the water in a disappointing 46:17, 8 minutes slower than the 2007 current fueled and veer free swim, into T1. I am 183rd of 218 40-44s, like I said tough age group. I walk for just a sec to collect myself, and bring the heart rate down. OK its hot, you have a long race and let's focus on the bike now . . .I swap out wetsuit for bike jersey, socks, helmet, some barely ice left gatorade and out of T1 in about 4:30. My shoes are already in the pedals and I clip in and prepare for 56 miles of heat and cycling . .

The first 15 miles I force myself to relax and eat and not push too hard despite being passed by nearly everyone and their kid's tricycle . . I check the computer and I am slowly building my average from 17 to 17.5 to 18. At mile 30 I am feeling pretty good and even am passing some folks who obviously overcooked their chicken legs and now are becoming fried chickens . . .The looks of desperation on their faces tells the story and many will not finish the run later on . . .

After 2 hours I am right at a 18.5 pace and 37 miles with 19 to go. The course is relatively wind free but there are a few gusts, just enough to be annoying and not any to help us out . .. Knowing the course helps and I have saved some legs for the last hour which is usually faster based on the prevailing winds. I actually start passing some folks and as most of the stud riders are ahead of me the only people passing me are 25-40 year olds females and any distractions like that are a good thing on a 3 hour cycle . .

Although this incident is not the case. I find myself passing and being passed by a gaggle of girls at the same time just when the motor cycle come up and points at us and scribbles down race numbers . . What? Drafting? We are momentarily close, and the girl passing me is nailed . .I see her a few minutes late at the PT (Penalty Tent) I also notice that the cycle makes several repeat passes and is eyeballing me . .. Out of fear, I put down the hammer to get out of there, and now I am over 20 mph and sticking there . . .I latch onto the behind of a passing female Jan Ullrich looking girl from syracuse (Not a good thing but a good pacer nevethe less!) and we fly over the last ten miles from 44-54 toward T2 at about 21 mph. We are passing now and I spot several 40s males that flew by me in the first miles of the bike. My avg is now up to 18.8 mph and I fear I may have overdone it as I spy the first deathmarch victims on mile 3 of the run course. I slow it down and try to eat and drink a bit to steel myself for the run. I hit T2 at 3 hours on the button and within seconds of my bike split last year during my PR race .this year I am 160 out of 218 for the bike moving up 18 spots to 165th of my age group . .hmmnn I am within 8 minutes of my PR last year . .wait a second, you dolt, didn't you see those walking zombies on miles 3 and the return mile 10 of the run as you biked past . . . .Those chickens are baking out there and you are talking PR again . . . .

I get in and out of T2 in about 3:30 popping a couple of salt tabs ..I spy pops at the corral exit . . .I run a bit out of my way but I want to say hello then I see Josh and mom in the shade by the playground . .. I put on my best turkey trot stride and pretend I am feeling great. Within 3-4 minutes as I enter mile 1 I know that I am not great . .in fact I can feel the stomach start to rebel and knot up . . .by the end of mile 1 my trot has been reduced to the Refrigerator Perry SuperBowl Shufle (RPSS) and the stomach is still worse .is it the salt tabs? Too much bike eating the last two miles? Too hard a pace on the bike coming into T2? The answers are yes, yes, probably, who knows? Does it even matter now? The damage is done .

BTW did I mention it is damn hot, like Africa Sahara hot!! I am still in the shade of the run course and already in trouble . .. . On the bike and the swim I have written some energy checks that are now bouncing when they hit the bank as my energy reserve account is way overdrawn. I stop and walk for just a minute seeking relief . . nearby I spy a gal my age with what looks like a soft foot cast on ., . .yes she has an ankle fracture but here she is . . . .Somehow she is here, she obviously cannot run but is operating at a walk hop pace , ., .Although I am impressed at her courage I am like . . .OK yo you know you suck Tim but ya gotta get ahead of that!!

I start the RPSS and then manage a run toward mile 2 but my stomach is now in full rebellion . Then my buddy Rick Armiger from Carroll Manor who I ran with most of Eagleman 07 appears by my side .. .he competes as a clydesdale and is in a late wave and met me at about this point of the race last year. I pick up my pace and we catch up on tri life for a bit. He tells me about IM Austria 07 and how sick the fans are in Europe literally screaming ecouragement at the IM racers . . .he is settled into his 9 minute run pace and I know I cannot hold it and wish him well. .I can only hope for the burps to come followed by the other air pressure release mechanism to set my belly right so I can run and try and catch him but now the shady part of the course is behind us. We have entered the new paved area and there is no shade and the really trouble begins!

It is hot, I have now been walking close to ten minutes. I am not talking the hot where you are at the beach, but the hot where in barefeet you have to step on the white lines of the parking lot and can't wait for the car A/C to blast you. I mean hot like when the old church ladies on their porch with their Ice Teas and hand fans are cacklin "Now look at them fool boys out there fixin to run in this here heat" . . .My body is so hot the sweat just makes me wet and streams down my face . .I know if I am not careful the sweat turns off, and the chills come while your head is still on fire . . .this means one step closer to heat stroke and a definite DNF This is me at mile three, I am in full blown walk mode now, burping, weaving and searching for any reason not to call it a day and curl up in a ball under a tree. Well problemo numero uno, dey es no arboles trees, senor einstein!!

Why keep going? The PR is out, my run time is way shot, and I can walk to the finish in a mile and a half or so cutting thru neighborhoods. . .why 10 more miles of this agony? At this mental crossroads, the idea of finishing crystalizes as an older woman official saunters over and asks me why my tri jersey is around my shoulders as she examines my physical being and assesses my disposition. I answer her with a loud belch as if to say "Cuz I am in gastric distress and need my belly to dispel gases here!!" She asks me if I want to pull the plug and head to medical and she would give me some electrolytes ." I look at her like she is high. She answers me with a "Well if you stay out here with your shirt up like that you are sure going to have a funny looking sunburn tomorrow!" I laugh and damn if it did not hurt my belly even more . . ..I then find my reason to not quit.

I think to the recent 2007 Kona Ironman and Rutger Beke. Here is a pro guy who in 2006 was in the top ten of everyone after the bike and finished well near the top end in 9 hours or so . . . .In the 2007 race again he is challenging after the bike when an achilles injury forced him to walk the marathon watching 100s of age groupers stream by and he finishes in 11 hours or so in 800th place. The news media asked him why not just pack it up? And he said he would never do that out of respect to all the age groupers whose dream it is to someday compete in a Hawaii spot . . . Armed with inspiration, I know that even if I had to walk or crawl through the 95 % heat I was not quitting until they pulled the guerney up and placed me on it . . . .

At the mile 4 aid station, I discover the joys of ice . . .ice in my hat, ice down my pants, ice down my back, ice in my hands . ..I also pass gas now like a two stroke weed wacker engine and powers me into the RPSS and then a jog and then I am down to two short walk per mile water stops. Ice strategy now is working and by mile 6 I am running with just a brief water stop walk and then off again. I am passing some folks finally . . .looking around me the number of runners vs walkers is 1 to 10 . . .The deathmarch carnage is complete. It is now high noon and I near the halfway turnaround point at 6.5 miles. I have no idea what my time is but I am making progress which is all that matters.

On the one hand I'm half done, on the other the effort to get this far has all but forced me to quit and now I have to do it all again. this concept is very mentally taxing to retrace all my steps and undo all that work!!. . .I spot one of the only other people around me running, a pretty 20 somethings gal, that is until I see that she is actually 34 . . .... . .That is something about TRIs, your age is written on your left calf for all to see . Of course nearly every TRI girl is in bonkers shape and looks ten years younger than actual too!! We chat to forget the pain and settle on talk about our kids, (She has two), . . .her husband is also racing and her kids are with Mom and Dad in Annapolis . we are passing people but more importantly passing time and mileage.

I hear a "yo Tim Allison" and know it is Jay C. the swimmer from Sherwood Forest, MD. He is at mile 5 and in full blown walk Jay trys only to run when chased he says . . .but I know he will not quit and he will finish. He has Placid coming up and he finishes that race too under rainy conditions and becomes an Ironman.

My milf and I arrive at mile 10 and back to the scene of my near quit at mile 3. I send her on her way and stop near an earthmover machine to try and pee but really more an excuse to stop and rest for a minute . .. As I start back into my RPSS, the hammy twinge starts . ..that is not good!! I force down the last of my cliff blocks and salt tablet that is mostly salt as the tab has melted in my race jersey . . . .I set off at a stiff legged pace that would rival a wounded Ewok on stilts . . . .

Nearing mile 11 I am beyond cracking, bonking or any term that I know to explain what I am feeling and hitting the wall, . .well actually there is a term . .I am walking brain dead . .. so brain dead in fact that I pass a man laying prone on the lawn of a house and not moving . . . .a minute goes by and a race official on a bike heads toward me and shouts "Is there a fallen runner?" I am processing this data when I hear behind me, "Yeah, he is passed out in this yard right here". , , ,

Before I can even feel concern for his well being . .I think "And shame on you Tim, with you thinking you had cracked!!" I resume my RPSS up to mile 12 where a camera snapped both running pictures above . . .Both hammies are now in charlie up mode with each step and I decide I will just walk it in from here and give up the ghost . . .. . . Then my 34 year old Milf steams by (When did I pass her?) and I hear her say, "Josh is certainly going to be dissapointed when Dad is walking in to the finish" . . . .I search deep down inside and put forth a final effort and manage to catch up to her . . .by now we can hear the crowd and the loudspeakers at the finish less than a mile away . . .Every step hurts but I do not stop now . . .I am running now like an ant . . .. A lot of leg turnover with no stride length at all . . .100 yards from the finish I spot Dad's patented straw hat and see Josh. I pull him over the barriers and tell him to run like he stole something .. Josh looks at me, take my right hand, and says "You are wet daddy" . .. we run together and I tell him to move, move, move. . . .We cross the line at 7:01 clock time or a chip 6 hours and 23 minutes flat, slower than all but my first 70.3 back in August 2005. I do not care nor do I have any clue of this actual chip time now until I check the Columbia website days later. Right now my math skills are right up there with my organic molecular biology acumen . . . . . ..Just to reiterate how tough the conditions are, my worst half marathon ever and 2:27 run split is 119th out of 218 40s and actually moves me up 24 more spots to 141st of 218 40s.

By now 7 hours into official race time, there are no open chairs, staff is prioritizing the most wasted individuals, and the lines for massage are unmanagable . . .I want shade and to sit . .. my Mom is overheated and dad escorts her back to the car and the A/C. Josh and I are left to fend for ourselves ., .we walk thru the food line and nothing appeals .. I grab a couple of cookies for Josh and two sodas but cannot find water anywhere . . My brain is not working right . . .wait watermelon . .I grab a couple of hunks and Josh and I find some shades and sit on the grass. People stream around us and I could care less . . Josh tries his first bite of watermelon, I tell him to spit out the seeds . .He scrunches up his face like he always does . then a big grin .hey Mikey he likes it!!

After 20 minutes I am starting to recover we limp over to the transition zone and I start to collect my gear . .There is a throng of people crowding around the tent that will display who is qualified for the 70.3 florida championships and better yet Kona . . . .I am not in that enviable position but I am a finisher and I am a triathlete not at home watching th TV . .. ..MAN IT IS HOT!! We file toward the exit to check out. . my race numbers have sweated off a long time ago and initally the checker girl wants me to produce some alternate form of proof like my race number long ago packed . . .Josh and I stare blankly at her and then she tell us to go ahead .. I guess bike stealers typically do not employ overheated 4 year old kids with them . . . We find the Tahoe fire up the A/C and throw in the gear . .grab the cell and plan to meetMom and Dad for some food . .. Where should we go I ask? I hear the 4 year old voice behind and know the answer before it comes out . . .Old McDonalds Playland DADDY!!!

Two hamburgers, two bottles of water and 10 McNuggets later we are on the road headed for home 5 hours north in time to babysit Quinn and baby luke so Heather can go to the Sex and City movie and nite out with the girls. Josh falls asleep somewhere on the eastern shore and does not wake up even when I pull into the driveway in Chatham at 7:pm . .. . . .. Eagleman 08 is in the books and I set my sights on what I need to do to prepare for my first IRONMAN in Louisville in 12 weeks.

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