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.

EAGLEMAN 2008 Part 1

Eagleman in June 2008 is my most meaningful race to date. Not in terms of PRs, or a great swim, bike, or run leg, but in terms of discovering what the significance of triathlon racing means to me, how the participation in multisport shapes my life, and how the fulfillment of goals provides security coping skills and grounding within the uncertainty that the rest of life creates.

A year ago, Eagleman found me establishing a PR by 11 minutes over the May 06 Devilman time of 5:52, created by perhaps ideal weather conditions, tides, run training, and health. The 2008 race is a whole nother story but one hopefully worth your hearing!

Firstly, two weeks after Eagleman 07 my wife Heather and patient race supporter, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Throughout the summer and fall 0f 2007, she dealt with doctors, hospitals, procedures, drugs, MRIs, and more of all of the above . . .. By November she had lost her hair, her health, and most of her spirit. As if this challenge was not enough, she was forced to carry Luke, son number 3 through to term until October 15, 2007 when he was born at 5 lbs, 4 oz and healthy, (No hair either though!) The uncertainty of her health greatly impacted how she thought about life, her goals, her needs in life, and where she wanted to go as a person and for her family and what more she needed from me., or in my opinion, more of everything I was doing and then more than that. Of course during this time I was also forced to reassess how I factored in her life, and how I meet or do not meet her needs on a daily, seasonal, (race season that is) and annual basis and could I still make her happy.

In short, juggling the family needs, Josh 4, and Quinn 2, and the needs of an ailing wife and newborn, and work left little time for triathlon (or no time depending on who you are). .. . However, for me a run or a swim never failed to lift my spirits sometime just a thought, a feeling, an inside joke harking back to a previous race or training run . . .would allow me to cope with the life situation for one more day, one more, trial, one more setback. I felt that this is much more effective than other less healthy alternatives, can you say NYC bar scene? . .. .However, a sick wife needs, three young boys need, the boss needs, bills need, and even the old and sick dog, Casey was needing too . . .. I always felt that even though I was checking a need off the list, three more needs were going unfulfilled . . .kind of like swimming and that sense of slowly sinking and finding it harder to resurface despite kicking and paddling as hard as you can . ..

As if the immediate family needs were not pressing enough, in late July my mother suffered a brain aneryism and her recovery and rehab stretch through the fall. While my sister and father provided day to day support, I also was providing backup and weekend support which mentally stretched my coping skills way into the red zone . . ..

I truly started to question which needs truly are important ones in life, and also if you are miserable how to find ways to feel happy and not be to feel like a prisoner in my life strictly serving all those needs of everyone around me.

That is where the concept of triathlon came into play. The athletes and personal trainers , I see and swap stories with at my swim gym one or twice a week in the early am hours, the early am weekend bikers on my 14 mile loop in the Great Swamp, (getting it in!) the same runners I see at lunchtime week after week in Central Park, fast slow, and inbetween .what drives them to be here? To take on the physical training pain, in the heat, rain, orearly in the morning? .. I discovered that I take comfort and happiness in the unspoken bond of shared suffering and sense of comraderie knowing that here are people are using the same outlet to cope with the problems or issues in their lives. In short to "feel alive" and live in the moment, paying attention to putting one swim stroke together, smooth out the pedal cadence, or run step after step . . . ..thoughts then are only secondary to the task at hand . . .

Driving to Eagleman on Saturday morning, with my relatively newly potty trained 4 year old, I reflected on what my goals were for the race on Sunday when the weather forecast was an advisory of 95 and 80 humidity. To quote a new friend of a friend and serious age group racer known as the Big Horse, "the weather chef in Cambridge, MD threw in a double helping of hot with a side of humidity to go with it. He also threw in some baking sun on the house. What can I say, he believes in big proportions!"

Obviously any thoughts of a PR were out, coupled with less consistent training this spring and no warmup race like years past. What were my goals then? To just finish seemed unworthy, so I thought let's just race and try your best and enjoy yourself and the community of it and see wht happens. (Of course a day later on the course just finishing turned into a serious goal that many racers including defending champ TJ Tollakson failed to accomplish, and I had to remind myself not to quit several times too.)

After several roadside stops in north Philly, New Castle, DE, and rural Rt 50 MD for Josh to practice his newly acquired urination skills, we arrived in Cambridge, MD, exit the A/C and are heat blasted. Unlike the prior year while staying at the luxerious Hyatt, we would be staying in St. Michaels, MD 40 minutes north at the BW (Best Western) that nite with mom and dad joining us for eats and the race the next day.

For now, Josh and I crossed the Rt 50 Choptank "look at the big water bridge, daddy!!" and hit the Rt 50 "Old McDonalds daddy!". Josh ignored his Kung Fu Panda happy meal (except the apple juice) and made friends in the tunnel network and ball mazes while I hydrated and ate Clif Bars and a banana (with a couple of his McNuggets, shhh!)

We then hit the sailwinds expo, did packet pickup and I scored a new hydration bracket for my front aero drink, as well as some Cliff Blocks as I had failed to pack my nutrition.

We then inspected the bike, did not bother with swapping in the race wheels, not like I had ridden more than 35 miles anyway! and headed to the transition area for racking. It is almost impossible to describe how thick and hot the air was sweating helped little. . .to make matters worse the rains had flooded the transition area parking lots and forced us into a long walk to bike racking . . .Josh and I ended up "swim practicing" in the "tank with other racers just to cool off after dropping off the P2C rocket. The water temp was quite warm, 74 and I started to wonder whether wet suits would even be allowed . . .

We then hightailed it to St Michaels to the pool and to meet the folks. Josh swam, we had a nice dinner in St Michaels and an early to bed in the cool comfort of the AC. I organized my race gear, checked the bags, rechecked the bags and thought about my prep and time needed in the am to get to transition. Dad was going to stay with Josh and mom and not arrive until my T2 estimated arrival time of 11 am to avoid the heat as much as possible . .. . .(cont in Part 2)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chesapeakeman Saturday September 30, 2007

Overall Male Time Swim Place/Time T1 /Time Bike Pl/time avg. T2 place/ T2 Time Run Pl
67/119 12:51:52.30 97 1:46:36 55 5:12 100 6:41:07 16.0 102 8:32:54 42 3:56 27
M-thon Avg mile
4:15:03 9:45
Race week is crazy and not sure if I was even gonna make the race start . . .work picks a bad time to suck (THANKS IRENE!!) and finding time to train the last two months has been hard, especially for the bike portions. I did manage a 20 mile and a 23 mile run and one 65 and one 85 mile bike ride perhaps the bare minimum of what can carry you through! .

Truth be told Heather has been quite sick and also ready to deliver Luke, plus my mom is recovering from a stroke and doing great two things beyond my ability to plan for or control . .. but . . then to top it off the day before the race, my father and stalwart race supporter is undergoing outpatient surgery and he needs me to be his support. I drive down to Baltimore Friday morning by 10am and Dad is already in the surgical area . .

His surgery goes well but post op there is a complication and the doc does not want him to leave until 5pm . . I tell the doc that I need to check in for an Ironman by 4pm, rack the bike, race packets etc for the Sat am Ultra . . .the doc is both equally impressed that I am doing an ultra and that I am with my dad the day before, so he gives me strict instructions on how to take care of Dad and gives the green light for us to leave the clinic around 1pm. Now in order to make the race we hightail it down the Maryland peninsula to Cambridge, Md and again the Hyatt to check in. (Least we know the lay of the land now!!) Dad puts in a well needed rest around 3pm and I am nervous to get everything set up right!! Packet pickup turns out to be a breeze in the hotel, (only 165 in the ultra with some aqua and A/V folks to make a field of less than 300)

I drive over to “Howling Winds” Sailwinds Park Sat afternoon and check in the bike and the wind is crazy howling!!! Luckily I made the decision to race my tried and true Postal blue Trek 5200, (Lance's 2004 machine) in lieu of the Cevelo p2c a rocket no doubt but less maneuver and posterior friendly. The TREK is uber comfortable, dependable, (Knock on Wood) and not as aero but for 112 miles who cares right? The race meeting at 6pm Friday nite shows many racers and nervous first timers like myself. There are 165 of us for the full monty and another 150 swimmers and bikers only. The tide is supposedly going to be in our favor but the wind is crazy out and all blowing upriver, a bad omen!

Race morning I get up at 4am to eat. I have read in Joel Friel’s Training Diary that the nutrition is almost as important to Ironman as is training. I onboard 1500 calories of yogurt, cheerios, two Ensures, a boiled egg, OJ, and a nip of coffee. I then notice I forgot to put my bike race sticker on the bike. I drive out to the park and check on my bike. It is dark at 4:45!! I also then hit the high school and submit my special food bags for the bike and run pit stops, (The fritos are muy importante later on!!) Several guys are waiting for the shuttle bus back to racestart at the Hyatt so I offer a ride to four guys back to the hotel and they are appreciative . .talk is light and to a minimum, everyone is in their own head preparing for a long hard day. The body marking tent on the Hyatt beach front is welcoming beacon of light and U2 music It’s a Beautiful Day . .. I say hey to the race director, Rob Vigorito who also runs EAGLEMAN and then retire to the hotel hall for some warmth and to stretch and get the wetsuit on and my mind right . .pacing and being humble is the key to finishing this race. .

Dad wakes up on his own and comes down and sees me in the hall and I lead him to the Starbucks and his race morning wake up call. The weather is still windy but looks clear and not overcast. Then as if on cue, the sun breaks over the treeline and the Choptank river and a black helicopter swoops down. The anthem is a welcome break for all and I nearly am reduced to tears as emotions linked to all the training and turmoil of the last year bubbles up. Dad has the video cam memorializing the start. I now am ready to embark on a journey of self to erase all the bad from the NYC job, multiple family health issues and even my own near death related to the 2003 snowmobile and turn back the clock on the aging process. . It is my time to give a “oh yeah is that all you got for me?” Well how about a 140.6 mile journey in one day to show who’s boss here! . ..

At the swim start, I have a moment of doubt and am feeling unprepared but I turn the brain off and jump in with both feet. Honestly the swim start is easy as I am not being jostled or kicked with only 300, but the waves and wind are incredibly difficult. As the waves whack at our faces to the point the buoys on the horizon and into the sun are not visible! After departing the protective confines of the Hyatt pier I panic a little bit as we exit the harbor of the Hyatt pavilion and strike off down river. . . I quickly fall back and no other swimmers are visible. The jetskis help us stay on course and I am corralled to the left. I still see ZERO buoys and am just keying off stantions of the Rt 50 bridge a mile or so away . ..

I am now seriously worried about the 2 hour 20 minute time cut off. After being corralled to the left I find a buoy and now sight off the Rt 50 Choptank bridge which serves as the halfway mark. How much extra did I just swim? Is everyone ahead of me? I work my ass off in the swim for what seems like an hour and finally come to the bridge. I have to do that all again? I do manage to keep a straighter path on the buoy lines now and actually pass a couple of swimmers now. I also notice that the jet skis and kayaks are focusing behind me in the water meaning, yes, there are poor souls back there still!! After passing under the bridge I recall Rob telling us at the race meeting to look for the antenna and the park is right underneath. I also start to grasp some familiar sitelines from the Eagleman swim course turnaround at this point. The boat ramp is now visible but I am confused, I see the beach and people standing on the dock but how to climb onto it? How did we do it in Eagleman? I am winded and not thinking straight . .then as the confusion raised into self doubt, I finally see that the dock had a second dock and the exit was on the ramp between? I heard my number 4 and name being called and then I was out of the water . .Man am I dizzy and cannot walk straight . . . .Timecheck 1:46, slower than projected, but projections did not consider North Atlantic conditions either , ,, hmmnn, Ok, out of the water not too bad after all that happened a bit wobbly, I stagger sideways toward the T1 tent, al the swimming as thrown my equilibrium off a bit! I duck inside with my bike bag and am pleased to see I am actually ahead of 40 or so of the 300 swimmers . .hey any moral victory at this point!!

I am hit quickly by the chaos in the changing tent. I find a chair and quickly undress throw the wetsuit in the bike bag and head outside to see Dad videotaping. I am the only person in the T1 and I whine about the swim and then I duck into Mr. jiffy john, but secretly I am elated to be out of the water as I head no idea of whether I could swim 4000 yds or not. It is going to be a long day on the bike considering my longest ride was 85 and total ride mileage is like 300 miles. I start slow and right away, that prevailing great north wind forces me down to a 53-21 gear on the ride out the peninsula past the E-man run turnaround . .. OMG this bike is gonna be LONG!!!

A few folks are passing me but by in large I am on my own. I pass a couple of mechanicals and ride with an out of shape aqua/velo guy for convo until I need to leave him behind. I stop to pee at mile 30, and approx 50 and then decide to learn how to pee on the fly. Harder than it seems at first but I figured it out. See pops at mile 66 and then back out for the second loop. Very lonely out in the Blackwater but pretty. Now I am past survival mode and thinking of actually upping the pace a little as I have the wind figured out. I enjoy a brief 10 mile bike spurt between mile 75-85 at around 21mph with the wind at my back when disaster almost strikes. I am approaching a left turn onto the northbound rode and a cop is posted to stop traffic. He waves me thru and I duck into the turn to conserve what speed I have. Next thing I hear brakes and the hood a small coupe with two young girls is rapidly approaching, I cannot cross over the road, so I swerve into the side of the cop car locking up my own brakes and executing a neat power slide. I am now along the cop car between the coupe as it slides by still at a healthy rate of speed, I wobble, bounce off the side of the cop car a bit and regain balance. The cop is silent in disbelief. My shoes actually never get unclipped and now I am steamed that the cop was not looking before waving me thru . ..

. I ride for a few minutes in anger and also realizing how close my race day was to being over and also the concept of a crash and what would the wife say to that even thou it was not really my fault? Not again! I decide that my luck has turned when a forest fire actually alters the second loop and cuts down a couple of miles from the 112 to a 107. Shhhh!! The wind is also a bit more favorable and I open it up a bit toward the end passing some folks. By mile 95 I am ready to get off the bike and am counting down the miles but am still trying to save energy for the marathon, and that means EAT EAT EAT! The best part of the bike was that every ten minutes I ate a Shot block followed by water. Then on the fives between I would sip gatorade . . my stomach never got bloated but I did not tap my energy reserves . . .I think I went thru six packs of Shot blocks, four gatorade 24 oz bottles and six bottles of water on the bike.

The run transition goes smoothly, boy there are some hurting pups in the T2 tent!! I head out after a 6:40 bike leg slow but I survived! and then a solid 5 minute transition time. I strip off my bike shorts and jersey with pockets to my race kit. Look around and don’t see pops anywhere, maybe the heat got him. Turns out that he misjudged my transition as I did both a shorter course and at a greater rate of speed and the five mile distance reduction. At mile 2 of the run I start pacing with a guy who is moving pretty good. Turns out he ends up finishing 3rd overall!! He is on his mile 18 third loop and i am just starting out!! but it is confidence building for me when I can stay with him for a few miles and not feel like I am pressing myself too much. Unlike previous 70.3 the stomach is fine, I feel good, but I know I need to stick to my pacing plan as in both my Baltimore marathons, I had cramping issues in the latter miles. Stay humble!!

The course is an out and back 8 mile loop which we repeat three times. The idea is that since there are only 150 or so runners you can see each other more often and are less lonely . . that and you need way fewer water stop personnel!! So I stick to my race plan which is to walk the water stops each mile for 30 seconds and onboard fluids and I stick to that despite feeling strong. I drink I even pee which no one else is doing and I walk the stop for 30 second chunks until mile 19 and I think wow, I am doing OK Let's do this!! After an hour or so no one has passed me and the studs are all in the finishing corral at approx 10.5 hour or so finishing times (Brady deHoust won it in 9:32). I noticie that I am gaining on nearly everyone ahead. The cramps are not rearing their ugly head thru the telltale hammy twinges I seem to always get as a foreshadowing. I had been chasing this guy (Craig Strimel it turns out who also posts a great marathon time of 4:23) for like 8 miles and I can never catch him, although we are both passing stragglers now and near the same pace.

I stop walking the water stops after mile 19 and then I finally catch him at mile 22 and then I let it out . .The feeling is undescribable. The sun is setting, I am feeling weightless, just concentrating on lifting my feet off the ground like stepping on hot coals . . . .I am flying now, ( or so it seems!! As I am passing people and then marking the next victim . . . By mile 24 I truly believe I am safe and start really moving it at a sub 8 minute pace, I pass a couple more and finish on the stadium track looking for pops. I cannot see him but he is in the middle of the football field taping the result. I finish the run in a state of euphoria in 4:15 the 27th best run split of the 165 entrants. . . .I miss five more overall male spots by less than 2 minutes but finish 67th out of 120 males with a kick ass run.

The chicken soup hits the spot and I feel tired but satisfied. None of the food is appealing though and I lose my finisher shirt, and backtrack to the finish to pick it up. I came in sub 13 hours after having no expectations except to finish. Not too shabby and I am overjoyed with my accomplishment. Post race we have a cheesburger and a beer at the Hyatt and we are up at 7am to head home the next day and I am sore but not old man hobbled sore!

Epilogue - Visions of a November marathon to qualify for Boston as a bonus based on fitness are dashed based on too many conflicts at home and work . . .I am also tired and shut it down until 2008!!

Pine Barrens Olympic September 9, 2007

Pine Barrens Sept 9th Warmup for my first ultra at Chesapeakeman. This Olympic is near the Atco motor speedway in south Jersey about an hour from LBI and the site of my first ever tri in 2005 with Dad along then. I shoot over early at 5am, leaving the family and rugrats with the care of Margaret and her ATV riding ex-husband . . Whole nother story there!!

Arrive early and set up and feel like . .wow! this is feels a lot different than two years ago when I had zero clue of what I was doing down to not even knowing I needed to wear the swimcap they give you and not your own!! I elect to swim sans wet suit for two reasons, first it is warm like 74 in the water and also to push myself. Well can you say backfire!!! My unaerodynamic form is quickly exposed as my swim time in the mile to 48 minutes and the back of the pack I keep paddling and fighting the water and am not getting anywhere!!

. . I am steamed getting on the bike!!! The course is flat and a large square and I start hauling it and avg over 21mph for the 24 mile course catching some stragglers. I had never biked this fast before and best my previous bike time here by 6 minutes . . .and is also my fastest bike avg. speed by 2mph . Still mad starting the six mile run on the sand trails of the swamp. Now the fun begins, I am pissed and people are shocked as I fly by. Finish in 44 minutes for 10K in the sand top 10 of everyone in the run and my overall finish rank is top half but I am still upset from the swim. I gotta go 2.4 miles in the Choptank in less than three weeks!!!

Anthracite Oly July 18, 2007

July 15th Anthracite Jim Thorpe, PA popped over from Lake Mohawk in Sparta for a 90 minute drive to Carbon County Coal country. Small race but Mauch Chunk Lake is BEAUTIFUL!!

A small local race but well supported by the area and well staffed with volunteers. I know the course from last year and the bike course is up and down several monster hills.

About 150 folks line up in three waves for the one mile swim. For the first time ever I feel what it is like to draft and stay with some of the slower males under 40. I pop out in 33:58 minutes, a PR!! and am pleasantly surprised!! I am hitting form on the swim only losing a few minutes to my peers and lif only I could log a 34 minutes for a the 2.4 mile ultra coming up!! . the bike starts with a 1.5 mile climb straight up Summit Hill. I had practiced some climbs at home and am prepared passing some straggles, exit Summit Hill and then hit 49 mph shooting down to Lansdale, . . .OK not Tour de France like but very fast and scary as there is a traffic light and a sharp right turn at the bottom of the hill. I take a wide turn miss the oncoming cars and head back up the hills to the long run in to Jim Thorpe . . .On the downhills you can actually go as fast as you want and I top out around 46 mph and hold it which is a bit faster than the group I am with . .around a corner and up the wall which is a 10 degree hill for a half mile .. .

The Cervelo is an amazing machine and worth a couple of minutes per each ten miles. Finish strong on the bike in 1:24 better by 3 minutes last year’s race. About half of all bike splits very good for moi! Less than one minute transition to the 10 K run that takes you up the Switchback trail and I mean straight up!!. . .Stopped behind Mr. Tree to pee at mile 1 as I always do and then hit it. Run up the trail and have some kick picking off some folks and finish in the top 1/3 of everybody with a sub 50 minute 10K with the switchback trail hill. Time of 2:53 is 22 minutes better than last year!! Reunite with some friend racers from last year and head back to the lake by 2pm to catch a swim with the kids and the family.

Overall 35-39 Sw Place Time T1 Place Bike Place Split T2 Time Run
65/185 18/31 111 33:58 116 4:05 90 1:24:01 90 1:23 65 49:55 2:53:22

Eagleman June 2007

June 8th, 2007 Eagleman is the first sanctioned Ironman event for me and I drag the whole family along to Cambridge, MD with over 1500 racers . . .I have never been in a race with more than 300 folks, nor an IM sanctioned race so this is a big deal for me. My fitness level has progressed to the point where I feel like I can not embarass myself and actually finish ahead of some in my age group. It is amazing for me that I can finish in the top 416 of 8000+ in a ten mile running race but a month or two later I will be lucky to finish in the top 75% of my age group and maybe top 60% overall.
The drive down from NJ is known to us and we stay in Annapolis at Sherwood Forest friday nite with the folks and leave Sat morning for the 90 minute ride to Cambridge.
Heather, Mom and the kids head to the pool after check in at the hotel. We are all staying in Cambridge at the Hyatt which is luxurious and ($350 a nite!) but is right on the Choptank and has a great pool with a water slide . . .Josh should not be on it as he cannot swim, and QUINN is DEFINITELY not allowed, and he is very upset and cries and sulks poolside. Josh cannot swim either but loves the slide into the wave pool. We all have a nice dinner at the hotel and all of us cram into one hotel room, Mom, Dad, Heather, Josh 4, and Quinn 2.
I am nervous as hell for the bike check in, my new wheels on the Cervelo 2pc are not latching right!! The 1.2 swim in the Choptank (North Atlantic) is also unnerving. I take dad to packet pickup and bike check in the new P2c rocket. Nervous as hell after the bike check in, I demo the new e-bay wheels on the Cervelo 2pc and they are not latching right!! They keep scraping on the frame as the wheel hub stay is bent . . .Can't fix it now but I jury rig it and hope it will hold up for 3 hours tomorrow.
Race morning with Dad, we leave the hotel at 5:30 and as I am wave 3 with the 35-39s and in we go very early on. .Even with a big race I am now better setting up my transition area and am less nervous than I had thought . Man there are bikes everywhere! It is for the best that i am in an early start wave (#3) My swim is not great but the river currents working in our favor and I exit in 38 minutes a PR of over 8 minutes for the swim and hit the bike with a good transition of 4:28. Even still my swim is only 184 out of 232 that illustrates how competative these guys are!
Onn the bike there is no breeze and flat course and my bike form is improving. Overall the bike course through The Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County is gorgeous and we will revisit for Chesapeake man later in September. Almost ideal condition the only thing better would be a tail breeze. I do stop once to pee once and navigate the course and finish in 3 hours a PR by five minutes. It is amazing that at 20mph how I am still being passed by everyone it seems. I tell myself bike your pace and you started ahead of most folks. I am so ready to get off the bike after 36 miles making the last 20 a waiting game to finish to get to the run. I pas the time eating bananas to avoid any chance of leg cramps on the run. I have not discovered the sophesitication of electrolyte supplements or hourly caloric mangement. I do think to myself, how do people stay down on these aero bars for hours is amazing. This is my first long race on the p2C and my 3 hour bike split a five minute PR, mostly due to the bike and race wheels I imagine. My time however is still on the slow end for my age group at 200 out of 232 . . .These guys are serious!!

I have a solid T2 transtion time of 2:42, 81st out of 232 and about a minute of that is running out of T2 100s of yeards to the timing mat! How these guys do a 1:30 T2 is amazing.Start the run and discover that I had overate the bananas on the bike, (I need to work on my eating strategy!!) My stomach is bloated and I cannot onboard food. Hang in with a guy from Carroll Manor , MD training for Ironman Austria . I take about 30 minutes to work out my stomach issues. As I feel better my run training evidences itself and I ditch him at mile 8 and start moving now passing everybody. at about 7:30 pace I am not eating anything for fear of any stomach flare ups and then sure enough at mile 11 I run out of fuel and bonk big time. I have to walk for 30 second intervals and am struggling. About half a mile from the finish big rig Rick the clydsdale from Caroll Manor comes chugging by me trying for a 5 hour finish, (He posts a 5:11) I probably have lost about three minutes to the field over the last two miles but I spot Josh with Heather and the family and I pluck him out of the crowd to escort me home and I still set a PR of 1:55:45 for the half marathon or 126 out of 232 in my age group. My overall 5:41:14 is overall a PR for half ironman of over 12 minutes from Devilman in May 06 and places me 171 out of 232 and 930 out of 1600 overall. YAY!!! Best race ever!! Also I am only ten minutes off my goal of finishing in the top half overall, not bad for a newbie with a steel rod in his femur! I am beat up and exhausted and not thinking too clearly but am quite pleased on the 5 hour ride home to NJ and savor the Mickey D's stop along the way home thinking about how to shave ten minutes off my time for a top half and a sub 5:30 70.3 time. Maybe next year! I'll be back in 08

BASSMAN Sprint April 29, 2007

Bassman Sprint, Bass River, NJ. . .A “C” race as I am just starting to bike a couple of times, tough to get out of the house in daylight with the two rugrats and their needs. Running a bit and the swim is coming along and I am now not dreading having to go in for the start . . .Beautiful day for the half mile swim in Lake Asbegami in the Bass River Forest off the Garden State Pkwy less than a half hour from the LBI Beach House. I roll out of the water into T1 in 18 minutes right in the pack!! The bike is 29 miles and flat with a breeze . . .I start slow but pick it up until mile 26 when I am out of gas!! Still avg. over 19 mph to hit the 4 mile campground run pick off a bunch here on the four miler with in 7:40 pace and finish strong midpack in 2:23.

Place Swim Pl Time T1 Time Place Bike Pace Run Time Pace all Time
84/208 122 18:03 95 3:30 102 1:30:58 19.1 54 30:36 7:39 2:23:05

Cherry Blossom 10 Miler April 4, 2007

2007 Cherry Blossom Sunday April 5, 2007
OK on April 4, 2007 - Long am drive Saturday to North Baltimore from Jersey. Picked up my buddy Paulie in Carroll County and then we hightailed to registration in Crystal City and accompanying Cherry Blossom traffic sucks!!!. All the hydration along the way and we both Gotta pee!! Race into Packet Pickup and the expo at the Mariott Crystal City straight to the lil boys room. Aaahh, better and then headed to packet pickup. We then proceed to Arlington to Rama's house where we are staying for the nite pre-race. We then all drive out to Georgetown to catch the G-town final 4 hoops game in a GW bar of all places. Crazy packed. I drank water and nipped at a beer while Rama and Paulie got their swerve on. Cap the evening with a fat dry baked potato at Old Glory for carb loading and I left early and drove home leaving them to cab it
Race morning on the mall is gorgeous!! Paulie and I drive to the FRB building on 20th and Constitution where I can park as a FED employee and ditch the car and walk across the Lincoln Memorial. Pre-race did my thing stretch, port-o-let and I lined up toward the front just behind the Kenyans and pros in the next chute based on my previous year finishing time of 74 minutes for the ten miles. My goal this year was a sub 70. Several Ironman logoed hats and shirts nearby in the chute and as this is my year to move up in class to hopefully an ultra distance (Chessieman?), I am inspired to fire it up for the season!!
At the gun the crowd carried me to a 6:30 first mile, a bit too fast for a 39 year old with a steel rod in his leg. Notched it down to 6:50s and settled in around the Lincoln Memorial, to Arlington cemetery, 5k in 21.12 and then under the Kennedy Center and into the park. .. by now we have separated out the pretenders from the real runners and the speedwork is starting to pay dividends as I am sticking with 6:50s. Still pretty commuter like flow and then I see a big gap to my left. . .Why is no one running there? Aha, a poor women expressed out a poor dining choice Mexican? and it was all down her legs . .. .Time for a normal runner to pack it in til next year, but she is a sicko, and getting us all sick too!! Picked up the pace for a half mile to pass her and now the pain is starting to kick in at the 10K mark passed at 42.40 on a sub 70 pace with a minute to spare . . .
Ran near Boston Marathon famous Bill Rodgers for a mile or so and he is still gazelle like in his form at 59. Starting to hit the wall at mile 7 but hanging on as we shoot back down Rock Creek Park from the Shoreham Hotel turn around and nobody is passing me . . . though I am not passing to many either . . everyone is in pain now it seems but am still on a sub 70 pace. Dial it up for mile ten afte the Kennedy undertunnel with everything in the tank and hit the tape sprinting with a 20s something racer at 68 minutes two seconds . . .new PR and a beacon for what is to become a great race season .. .Sure is nice to be done early. Placed 416 out of 8000 or so . . .
Post race chicken cheese steak and coors light in Caroll County MD, on way home hit the spot!
Men Overall 35-39 Gun Time Net Time Pace
364 63/856 1:08:10 1:08:02 6:49