Archive for the ‘Races’ Category

Two weekends ago I raced my first long distance event of the season, the Around the Bay 30k (click HERE  for this years results) in Hamilton, Ontario, except that I’ve been pretty quiet on the whole subject…until now.  In short, it was a complete debacle of epic proportions which has ultimately left me very disappointed and discouraged given all the hard work I’ve put into my run training over the past two months.

Seeing as how I finished over 20 minutes off my best time from two years ago (2:31:20), well, let’s just agree that it was a total shit show ending with me walk-slash-trotting at an abysmal pace for the final few kilometers.  In fact, as far as I’m concerned, this event should now be officially renamed the “Painful Shuffle Around the Bay 30k’.

But as the new coach keeps telling me, every failure comes with a new opportunity to learn and improve, meaning, now I’m stuck with the burning question that I’ve been dwelling on for the past two weeks:

What the fuck went so wrong?

The plan was not necessarily to go out and set a new personal best.  No, it was ideally just an ideal “training day” to get a sense how my over all run training has been faring, especially in regards to the whole quicker cadence thing (click HERE).  We agreed then that I should go out sparingly at a comfortable pace of 5:30min/km  for the first 5k, then begin to up my pace gradually over the next 15k or so, before unleashing the big dogs altogether and go for broke over the last 10k to the finish.

Easy enough, right?

Well, the first part of the plan went great and despite the adrenaline and rush of competition, I held myself back just as planned arriving at the 5k mark at almost the exactly anticipated time of 27:30, meaning that I was pretty much bang on my 5:30min/km pace perfectly.  At this point, I was experiencing no issues and was rather enjoying myself.  Well, aside from the fact that I way over dressed for the occasion and sweating like a complete bastard that is*.

But I digress…

After the first 5k I increased my pace by focusing on my “quick feet” just I have been practicing and my pace accelerated to fluctuating anywhere between 5:10-5:20min/km, or thereabouts, depending on the terrain, wind, hot babe runner in tight-tights, etc..  It was still a slower pace than that of my PB pace two years ago, but if I could keep that pace going and then some for the remainder of the race that would put me on a pretty even keel to finishing around the same finishing time having covered more distance in the end…quicker.

“So far, so good”, I thought.

“Yay me!”, even.

Then around the 18k mark the fatigue began setting in, even a little more than you might expect.  Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that running 18k in and of itself is no small feat (well, for me anyway), but this was a different feeling.  My energy began to sap from my body rapidly and all at the exact moment when those stupid long-ass hills started up in earnest along the dreaded North Shore Blvd. portion of the race.  In fact, these hills are what the race is known for.

I knew I was in trouble.

From there is was vicious downward spiral where my quads began to feel like they were being torn apart, and I developed a hot spot in right foot making my keeping any decent pace comfortable.  I knew that my shoes were a bit long in the tooth going in but I figured that they had at least one more long run in them.

Apparently, I was wrong.

By the half marathon mark, I was in big trouble.  From there, well, let’s just say it was a complete and total dumpster fire.  Mentally I had checked out, physically I was broken.  It started by my walking through the aid stations in order to give the burning sensation in my right foot some temporary relief and then graduated to alternating sporadically between a walk and a painful limp for the final few kilometers to the finish.

Here’s the whole shit show broken down pace-wise:

ATB Data

Yeah.

Not pretty is it?

I didn’t even want to collect my race medal when it was all said and done and instead of allowing the volunteer to place it valiantly around my neck as is customary, I snatched it out of her hand and quickly stuffed it in my race bag along with the token post-race banana and package of flatbread.  You’d think that she had just handed me porn, or something.

Fuck that.

Anyway, back to the question (blown shoes aside) – what went wrong?

Piecing together the day, it all started off pretty much like it does on any other given race morning.  One bowl of whole oats with brown sugar upon wake up, a toasted bagel and cream cheese about an hour later with the usual cup of coffee, and then starting about an hour before the start of the event I started nursing my premixed bottle of E-Load performance drink.

What I didn’t do however, was much fueling after that.  Once the race started I just got into my rhythm and blew through the aid stations as I hate jockeying around with 2000 other runners for a glass of whatever, so I tend to just move over to the right (or left) and carry on my way unencumbered.  And this was great for the first 15-18k, no issues.  I think the only thing I had to eat was a single dried honey date around the 7k and, maybe, the 13k mark.  By the time I had reached the hills, I was running on empty.

This was later explained to me by the coach:

“When you run out of glucose and glycogen in the muscles, your body switches from using fatty acids as fuel…to catabolizing muscle tissue for fuel.”

What this means is that when your body runs out of other sources of fuel, it will start to use its own muscle tissue for energy.  Isn’t that sexy?  This likely explains the “tearing” feeling I felt in my quads right around the two hour mark.  Obviously, this is not a normal condition, and your body will only start to use muscle tissue for energy under extreme conditions, such as if you are very sick (I was getting over the plaque I had contracted while in San Antonio two weeks before), severely malnourished or not consuming enough calories over an extended period of time to support normal body functions.

Terrific.

You see, every cell in your body needs energy to perform normal body functions such as moving, breathing, maintaining your heartbeat and healing damaged tissue.  And over the course of runner 30 kilometers, there’s lots of damaged tissue going on.  Normally, carbohydrates from your diet supply the types of sugar your body uses as its main source of energy.  To get enough sugar from your diet to supply your body with the energy it needs, approximately half of your daily calories need to come from proteins, fats and carbohydrates.  I likely had enough of these stored carbs from my early morning feedings and the previous evening’s meal.

During digestion, your body will break down those carbohydrates into simple sugars that are then converted to glucose, or blood sugar.  That resulting glucose travels in your blood to every cell in your body, where it is used to manufacture energy.  If you consume more sugar than your body needs for immediate energy (and Lord knows I enjoy my treats), some of the excess is converted into glycogen, a type of sugar that is stored in your muscle tissue.  If your body needs glucose, and no sugar is coming in from your diet, glycogen is released from your muscles and broken down to supply enough glucose for energy to last about half a day.

So when I failed to “stoke the fire”, per se, by replenishing those stores of glucose I had in my body before the race started by providing it with more regular quick burning stores of simple carbohydrates, my body more or less reverted to eating its own muscle tissue in an effort to get the necessary glycogen to keep me going.

So, yeah, great!

My body was basically cannibalizing itself for the last 10k.

Amazeballs.

So, what’s the learning opportunity?

EAT YOU STUPID BASTARD!

So going forward this is my new mission to figure out a proper fueling strategy for both before and  during my long workouts, especially now that I’m heading into my long bike training period as well.  During these training runs (and bikes, for that matter) I will need to begin experimenting more with what I am taking into my body, as well as how often, in order to be able to sustain the required energy level.

My issue with that though, is that I don’t necessarily want to spend the equivalent of the Gross National Product of a small underdeveloped country on gels and sporting supplements to do so.

But the dried honey dates just aren’t cutting it anymore.

Now, given that I “go long” at least twice a week (long, being over two hours), that’s a lot of expensive sporting gels.  Of course, I would definitely prefer real (cheaper) food.  But not only does that “real food” have to be the right type of quick burning fuel, but it also has to be easily portable to boot.  After all, to my knowledge, there is no catering service for long distance athletes that will agree to set up an elaborate fueling buffet station ever 5k or so along my predetermined workout route…is there?

Yeah.

Doubtful!

So let the learning commence…

*This is a long standing tradition I have with this event in my never being able – for whatever reason – to figure out how to dress appropriately for the occasion.

Musselman Triathlon

Posted: July 22, 2015 in Races
Tags: , ,

Five years ago I completed my first Half Ironman completion in Geneva, New York.  It was the first step leading up to my ultimate goal of completing a full Ironman event which I did two years later.  However, this first step, the Musselman Triathlon, was my first experience and lesson in racing long distance triathlon.  In short, it was a total shit show.  In fact, the real (and only) value of this entire experience was in how NOT to race long.

The end result, basically, was me hobbling across the finish line completely spent with a full blown ITB in 5 hours, 56 minutes and 47 seconds; the finishing photographs from this event depict that fatigue and agony quite. This event in 2010 still represents my worst performance at this particular distance and, for that reason alone, the Musselman Triathlon has always remained on my “To Do” list for an ultimate re-do.

This year was meant to be that re-do.

I originally got talked into this race again this year (October) by the coach (although she might claim different) back in October when I still had designed of getting back into serious competitive mode this year.  Of course, I’ve since lapsed with that attitude and instead spending more time on volunteer work as well as easing myself back into enjoying a normal injury-free training routine once again. In other words – if you recall – I gave myself permission to simply say ‘No!’  this year (click HERE).  Of course, I did drop the cash for this race back in October so, yeah, I still had this as well as one other race in August to contend with.

My only real goal then for the Musselman this past Sunday was: do better and, preferably, not limp to the finish line.

Easy enough, right?

Anyway, as things turned out Kelly and decided to make Musselman part of a weeklong camping vacation with HRH  and the coaches daughter in tow.  So that’s six days cooped up in a trailer with three girls, two of which are 10-years of age. Sounds like a nice, relaxing getaway leading into a half ironman triathlon right?

What-eva.

What the hell was I thinking?

Truth be told though, it wasn’t all that bad.

We pulled into the Sned Family Campground in Ovid, New York early Monday evening and moved into the ‘Pondside’ trailer where we would spend the next six days together.  While there we swam in the campground pool, played a few rounds of Frisbee gold, toured a goat farm and ate some cheese, drank some beer, cooked burgers over an open fire, roasted marshmallows and took some road trips into nearby Trumansburg, Seneca Falls and even Geneva itself.  I also polished off about 90% of a David Bowie autobiography and, yes, I even slipped in a few easy morning runs and a mid-afternoon bike ride out into Amish country.  All things considered, come Sunday morning, 7:00AM, I was about as ready to go as I was ever going to be.

Race morning started early enough with a 5:00AM wake up in order to quickly pack up the car (since we would not be returning to the trailer after the race) and make the 30 minute drive into Geneva to set up our bikes in transition and get ready to race.  Of course, as inevitably happens when you’re dealing with kids, we got behind in the plan and ended up arriving on site at the Seneca State National Park a bit late and rushing to get set up in transition.  In fact, as I wheeled Lucille into transition the announcer was making the call to clear transition and make our way to the swim start.  Shit!

Here we go again.

Here we go again.

In the rush to get set up, I made the mistake of leaving all my nutrition back in the car.

Fuck.

Likewise, Kelly accidentally spilled my recovery formula all over the ground.  Double fuck.  So far, things were definitely not going according to plan and I immediately started planning out my Contingency Plan, so to speak.  I knew already that there would be Clif bars and gels on the course and I still had my bottle of E-load, so I figured I’d be alright.

In short, it was the quickest transition set up, like, ever, and within minutes I was down by the swim start so that Kelly could start the arduous process of wedging my fat ass into my wetsuit and a few minutes after that I was being corralled into our waves for the start of the 2015 Musselman Triathlon.

The good news about this is that with all this rushing around and shit I never even had so much as two seconds to even worry about the race itself. Usually, I like to mill around a bit and soak up the adrenaline, deal with my pre-race jitters and otherwise try to enjoy the pre-race atmosphere but, today, before I even really knew what was happening, it was happening, and I was at the front of the pack in my yellow swim cap on the shore of Seneca Lake waiting for the siren to sound to begin next painful few hours of my life.

And painful they were, but more on that shortly.

Swim (1.9k): 29:58

By this point the only swimming I had done in the last 9 days was my daily appearance as the “Pool Ninja” in the campground pool.  Sure I did a few “laps” at Sampson State Park beach while visiting friends two days previously, but it wasn’t anything resembling a workout.  It felt more like I was more remembering how to swim so I was a tad bit nervous come a minute or so before our wave start.

I peed.

I felt better.

Anyway, Seneca Lake is pretty shallow so I was only standing in waist high water at the starting line.  When the starting signal went off everyone just kind of shuffled forward for about a 100m or so.  Me?  I started swimming right off the bat. I heard afterwards that others had dolphin-dived out quite a ways and I suppose that would have been the smarter thing to do in hindsight but, meh, I came to swim so swim I did (stick with what you know).

Next time.

Heading out into Seneca Lake for the first part of the course it got pretty rough in the water and waves were soon crashing over our head making breathing pretty difficult at times and I had to swallow more than a few mouthfuls of water before I had reached the first turnaround point.  I remember the first time around back in 2010 that I started off at the back of the pack and ended up exchanging fists and elbows for this first part and by this point I was pretty bruised and nearing full-blown panic mode.  In fact, this was where I first experienced “swim rage” – someone else’s that is – during a race.  These days, however, my swim confidence is much better as are my overall skills and this time around I found myself at the front of a small group of triathletes about 20 seconds behind the leaders.  Judging by the slaps on my heels I knew I had a few other swimmers drafting off me but, hey, that’s okay.  That’s the nature of the sport.

Swimming comfortably and sighting well, I more or less ended up right on the first buoy to turn approximately 145⁰ towards the second buoy just outside the main channel we would be finishing in.  At least now the water wasn’t meeting us head on and I focused on getting into a good rhythm and getting my breathing back under control.  All things considered, I felt good.  I decided not to drop the hammer, per se, but to wait for the channel before trying to make any break away from my group.  For the time being I was happy with letting them draft and tag along for the ride.

As we rounded the second buoy we started encountering the slower swimmers from the wave ahead of us in pink caps.  This usually presents a few challenges in having to navigate through a bunch of people either breast-stroking, or swimming off course, etc., but today they were fairly spread apart so it was relatively easy to pick my way through them and not have to get too close.

Once we entered the channel the current was suddenly in our favor and I decided it was time to go.  Likewise, I figured I’d try to break free from some of the drafters behind me.  Now don’t get me wrong, drafting during the swim is 100% a good strategy and I had no issues with them being there but I do enjoy a challenge and I love trying to “shake” them off.  I’ve learned the easiest way to do this is so swim up on another persons feet and then veer sharply to the left or right to pass and hope the drafter gets confused and is forced to slow up and recalculate their path as I make a break for it.  So, yeah, I did this a few times with the other pink caps until I was pretty confident I was on my own again.

I rounded the third and last buoy pretty much on my own, sighted the finish a ways up the channel and pushed for the end trying to pass as many as I could en route.  At this exact moment I had a “feeling” like I was being “watched”.  Now, I know I’m being watched by about a thousand spectators but this was a different kind of being watched. While I swam I peered to the channel shoreline I was now swimming along and, low and behold, there was Kelly and HRH  waving and ringing the cowbell. I offered a quick acknowledgement wave to let them know I saw them and that was all I needed to bring it home for the last 200m or so.

I checked my watch when I exited the water and, YOWSA!  28 minutes and change!

I was exuberant.

Even with the short run to the timing mat (which I didn’t exactly sprint towards), I still achieved a goal I had initially set for myself a few years ago to complete a sub 30 minute 1.9k swim.  Finally – success!  Furthermore, this represents almost a 6 minute improvement of over my 2010 swim.  Not bad, eh?  It was a while in the coming, for sure, and I was thrilled.

DSCF2901Bike (90k): 2:52:17

It was all business getting out of transition and I admit that I was pretty caught up in the moment and working to get out quickly.

Upon mounting your bike, there is a short period to get out of Seneca State Park before you turn right out onto the main road and then right again onto the long gradual climb out of the valley along Hwy 96A.

Now, there’s an interesting story here.   The last time I did this back in 2010, I felt a sharp sting on my left knee at exactly this particular point.  When I looked down I saw a very pissed off wasp angrily jabbing his hind quarters repetitively into the area just above my knee.  By the time I brushed him away he had stung me about half a dozen times and, believe me, it hurt! So it was a rather auspicious way to begin the bike leg.  Today, however, there was no wasp so I set myself to quickly grinding up the incline and out into Amish country.

For the next two-plus hours I cycled over rolling hill after rolling hill through the township of Romulus (click HERE  for the official course map).  As you can see by the elevation map (click the previous link) there was very little flat ground to really get into a groove so I made the mental decision to not hammer away as I might, knowing that it was going to be a long day in the saddle.  At some point (I think it was along the only straightaway along Hwy 414) that I heard “Fancy seeing you here” from directly behind me and there she was: the Coach.

Wow.

So let me paint you the full picture.  The Coach had started exactly 5 minutes behind me in the next swim wave, so to have caught me at this juncture fairly early on (40k or so) just goes to show you what a great athlete she is.  I could offer you here the excuse that I hadn’t done a lot of long rides yet this year as part of my training plan, that I’m not as comfortable in the saddle on my time trial bike as I have been in previous competitions (I wasn’t), my significant lack of hill training, the nutrition plan I’d just thrown to the wind or, shit, that I’d just spent 5 days in trailer with two 10-year-old girls, whatever*, they’d only just be lame excuses.  Fact of the matter was: she was killing it.

The good news for me is that I now had some recognizable motivation to pick up my pace a bit.  After all, who doesn’t like having a carrot dangled in front of them or a rabbit to chase, or whatever your preferred analogy is here.  Now to clarify, know that I have NO problem being “chicked”, but at least now I had someone to ride with like we have so many times before.

We continued to see-saw back and forth for the next 40-50k, including a bitchin’ fast decent down Odgen Rd. to Geneva Lake, more rolling hills along Hwy 89, and a sharp climb back up Swick Rd. and a rough and bumpy passage through Sampson State Park.  She’s pass me on the inclines (she clearly does a lot more hills than I do) and I’d zoom past her on the descents (inertia is the fat man’s best friend, after all).

Somewhere along E. Lake Rd. (about the 70-75k mark) my legs suddenly started to feel alive.  I have no idea why but they suddenly felt stronger so I dropped the hammer figuring I’d try and make up a little of time that I had apparently lost at the beginning riding like Mary Poppins.  This was easily my favorite part of an already very scenic course.  E. Lake Rd. is a rolling span of roadway through beautiful cottage country and there were a lot of cowbells to keep you motivated and going.  As further inspiration, I started to reel in a lot of the riders that had passed me in the early and mid stages and I used that as my motivation to hammer out the last few kilometers, especially the long decline back down Hwy 96A and back into Seneca State Park with an overall time of 2 hours, 52 minutes and 17 seconds.

What this whole thing equates to is- exactly – a 17 second improvement.

Whoopee fucking shit.

Okay, so maybe I have to work on my bike prowess some more.

Regardless, I was happy to be off the bike and after a quick pit stop at the “Stink Closet” in transition I swopped out my cycling cleats for running shoes, tucked a photo of mom and dad into my tri-suit and exited out onto the run course right behind the Coach who had rolled in a minute or two after me (2:50:11).

Run (21.1k): 2:16:39

Only 2 seconds separated me and the Coach out into the run course and I was happy to just sit on her heels and let me pace me.  I had no aspirations to blow past her.  She would later confide that she was waiting for me pass her but in all honesty, it was simply not going to happen.  She rocked her run too.

Anyway, when we went out on the bike course it was overcast and windy.  Now – lucky us – the clouds had parted and the noon sun was beating directly down and the humidity level had increased significantly given that we were right along the shoreline Seneca Lake through Lakefront Park.  Not my ideal kind of running conditions let me tell you.  In fact, I haven’t experienced this kind of heat and humidity in a race since the Cancun 70.3 back in 2011 if that gives you any idea what kind of suck (i.e. I actually hallucinated) was currently suffering through.  Except there, I did much better (2:01:37).

Yeah.

I did my best to stick to her heels for the first 2-3k or so or, or at least until we got to the first serious climb up to Lochland Rd..  And, believe me, this climb was up…like, waaaaay up.  I took one look at the Coach forging her way up the hill into the distance and I thought to myself, “fuck that”…and stopped to walk.

I was dying anyway.

The rest of the run was more like a shuffle, walk, shuffle, walk, shuffle, walk kind of deal through more god forsaken hills than should ever be considered by our sweet merciful society.  It was like being on the Bataan Death March, especially the long climb up Barracks Rd., which was more like a gravel cow path than it was a road.  At top there was group of hippies doing a drum circle.  Awesome.  Now I had a gradual, drawn out drum cadence with which to painfully I march to my death. Sure there were times after sipping on flat Coke at one of the aid stations that I felt somewhat reinvigorated but it wasn’t long before the oppressive heat and humidity ground me back down again.  It was awful and judging by the expressions on other runners faces, I wasn’t the only one having a hard time.

The good thing is that the crowd support was awesome along the course and the volunteers did an amazing job feeding me cold water, sponges, Coke and offering to spray me down with garden hoses if I was so inclined.  They were also very positive and supportive despite my obviously ‘sucktastic’ disposition.  My left Achilles tendon had begun to ache on the multiple inclines and my right ITB had started to give me issues on the declines.  In short, I was in agony.

Definitely not a good day at the office.

All in all, this was a total repeat of my run experience in 2010; an experience I wasn’t very excited to repeat I might add.  I did my best to find something of a pace in the last kilometer or so, just like I had in 2010 with the only difference being that I wasn’t completely hobbling this time; physically anyway.  I invited HRH  to finish with me and together we crossed the line with an overall run time of 2 hours, 16 minutes and 39 seconds. As shitty as it was, it was still 15 minutes better than 2010 so I’ll take that a victory, lame as it is.

When I got to the finish line, I admit, I felt a little wobbly when I first stopped and I had to be caught by the volunteers.  Not a proud moment for sure.  With a few Gatorades, a brief sit down and a well deserved ice cream cone shortly afterwards, I started to feel somewhat normal again.

Oh, all that, and one gi-normous Coke fart.

To summarize, my over all time was 5:44:36, was an over all improvement of 12 minutes (and 1 second) over my first crack at the Musselman bat in 2010.  And I’m 5 years older too I might also mention.

Booyah, bitches!

If my only goal was to better my first performance then, mission achieved.  However, I also know that I wasn’t performing to what I believe to be my full potential yet either so, yeah, there just might  just be another re-do at the Musselman in the future.

*And, believe me, I spent lots of time dwelling on these “potential” excuses.

It’s been three weeks since my Last Stand at the Incredoubleman Triathlon weekend but thanks to an aggressive business travel plan, I’ve only now been able to sit down to write about it.  Well, truthfully, I did draft some notes in my journal while flying somewhere over northern New York (click HERE) last week so I’m really just getting around to actually sitting down to craft out this post specifically.

On paper, the Incredoubleman triathlon had everything I look for in a great getaway event: great location, family as well as athlete focused, a sweet swim course, a cute (yes, I said ‘cute’) gazebo finish line, beautiful countryside to cycle through (Jefferson County) and a flat (and equally picturesque) run course.  Oh, and it had drones bitches.

That’s right, drones!

 

Kelly and I have actually cycled through these parts – Sackets Harbor in particular (click HERE) – last year on our Tour d’ Lac trip around Lake Ontario so we already knew what pretty country it was so I was excited to make this my last competition of the season, complete with family vacation with friends to boot.  Kelly even found us the ideal cottage to rent right on the lake only 20 minutes away.  How perfect is that?

Anyway, the plan was to compete in the Sprint competition on the Saturday and then complete the Half Iron competition on the immediately following Sunday.  I had intended this to be the last ‘tough guy’ challenge of 2014.  The reality however, is that I haven’t been feeling so tough.  My left Achilles tendon has been acting up and I’m still getting over some soft tissue issues in my right foot so I haven’t really been able to stick to my training plan as I would have liked.  However, I figured that mentally I’d still be able to suck it up and complete it successfully come hell or high water (which, if you read about our last trip through these parts – see the pics in the link above – there was an extremely good chance of this actually happening).  I had originally planned that the Sprint would be a good warm up for the second day’s Half Ironman but, truthfully, I was just going to be happy to get through it all without breaking myself any further (more to come on that point later).

Day One:

Day One set up

Day One set up

Day One started off like any other day-of-competition morning, an early wake up, equipment check, breakfast, coffee and poop before hitting the road.  Of course, that’s a bit harder to do with three people including a nine-year-old girl in toe, but within 15 minutes of our planned departing time we were on the road and heading into Sackets Harbor.  Not bad considering.

It was particularly cold out (5° actually – which is incredibly cold to be out biking and running immediately after being in the water) and windy and it was almost certainly going to rain judging by the menacing looking clouds on the horizon.  In reality, the weather forecast for the area was calling for 100% chance of heavy showers.  Goodie.   Although I was keeping my cool on the outside, inside, I was mentally bracing for a very difficult day.  My initial strategy was to go out fast in the swim (750m), power through the bike (24k) and then just ease into the run as to not injure myself any further knowing that I had to do it all over again tomorrow…plus 1.25k in the water, 76k on the bike plus the half marathon at the end. My nerves were quickly beginning to set in.

This is clearly my "I wonder if this race belt makes my ass look fat?" moment.

This is clearly my “I wonder if this race belt makes my ass look fat?” moment.

The good thing about having a nine-year-old around is that everything is so calm yet totally exciting. HRH  was excited to be there and she relished helping me set up Lucille in transition and just simply being a part of the experience.  When you have that kind of calm innocence around it’s easier to cope with that pre-race stress in the moments leading up to the eventual start. I was happy to walk around with hand-in-hand while doing my best to keep that calm façade for her sake.  After all, how can I expect her to have fun if I can’t demonstrate the same?  So I did my best to put all the stress away and tried to just enjoy sharing the experience with her, Kelly and our tag-along buddy, Doug – for whom, this would be his first triathlon experience – who was going to take pictures for us.  In fact, all the pictures included in this blog as his and have kindly been made available through his ‘Great Shots‘ website.

Anyway, my ‘just enjoy yourself’ philosophy worked and within 15 minutes or so to the official swim start I cool, calm and collected.  I stripped out of my warm sweats and my testicles immediately retreated into my chest (I mentioned it was cold out, right?) and I couldn’t get into my wetsuit quick enough.  I even peed myself right then and there before I even got in the water and the sudden rush warmth was very welcome; gross…but welcome nonetheless. Fortunately I was on the lawn adjacent to the concrete boat ramp which was going to serve as our swim start so I didn’t have to further embarrass myself by dripping a trail of piss and shame across the entire parking lot (nobody has ever said triathlon was a glamorous sport).

Exiting the water

Exiting the water

In keeping with my ‘go out strong’ strategy for the swim I positioned myself smack dab front and center of the pack on the boat ramp.  Those in the half iron swim start hadn’t gone out too  fast so I figured I might be able to keep pace with the lead swimmers in the Sprint.  Now, most competitions I’ve done have some sort of siren or a pistol of some sort to signal the start of the race, namely the swim. Some events have even had cannons * or a more ‘le grandeur boom’ method of starting the race; at the Incredoubleman, a guy on the side of the boat launch counts you down: “3…2…1…GO!

Yup, spared no expense there!

I jest. Honestly.

In fact, the easy-going way that the athletes were all launched into their days quest was simply perfect for keeping in the moment and with the spirit of the area itself; laid back and humble.  I really can’t think of a better way to start the day given where we were.  Anyway, we were counted off and I jumped immediately in the fray of the first four swimmers, took three strokes and…BAM!

Heel right to the face.

“Oh, pretty…stars”, I thought.

"All bid'ness", as they say.

“All bid’ness”, as they say.

The next 2 nanoseconds felt like hours debating if I was okay and assessing the problem, then strategizing the next move.  What pace?  How was my Form?  Then there were those pretty stars again, wait, what happened?  And before I knew it I had snapped back into the moment and I was still…swimming.  Booyah!  Sure I had dropped back a bit from the other leaders but I was in fact still stroking and despite the ache in my jaw I was turning over okay; may as well go with it and continue on.

I tried to accelerate back to the lead swimmers what going out against the choppy water was rough going to I decided to salvage my own pace and settle in for a solo swim and see if anyone of them craps out from going out too fast.  They didn’t but I managed to hang onto 4th position just a few seconds behind the lead three and we exited the way in close proximity to one another.  My swim time (including the run into transition) was 14:22.

I'm never the epitome of a "happy racer".

I’m never the epitome of a “happy racer”.

The transition area was a small field set up on the other side of the road opposite the boat ramp so I hustled over into the bike area, got dressed and hustled out still in 4th position.  I did notice though that some of the lead swimmers were part of relay teams and as such didn’t have to really deal with the whole swim-bike transition of stripping out of wetsuits and into cycling cleats, etc., so I was happy to just be hanging onto my position.

It should be mentioned here that the water was amazingly warm compared to the chilly air and headwinds immediately upon exiting.  I figured I wouldn’t be out long enough to really warrant getting all dressed up in warm cycling duds but I did make one fateful mistake in not bothering to put on socks prior to setting into my cleats.  I’ll explain more on that shortly but it with a severe chill beginning to set in that I made my way out of the downtown Sackets Harbor area and out onto bike course along Smithville Rd.

Before the chills set in.

Before the chills set in.

I’ve already mentioned that the headwinds were fierce and very shortly out onto the ride a slight rain began to set in.  This was only the short and easy portion of the weekend but it wasn’t going to necessarily easy-going either.  Now I admit to being more or less a crappy weather suffer bunny so I wasn’t concerned much with the cold and whatnot but I was still mentally braced myself for some hard-going.  And I was right. The headwinds never – EVER – let up along the entire 24k route.  Serious!  I’d round a corner and just begin to think to myself “good, finally maybe I’ll get a tailwind”  and then, no sir…no such luck.  I’d round the corner directly into another headwind.  It was just one going to be one of those kinds of rides.

As per usual, I got into a position where I was riding pretty much on my own, behind the leaders but still ahead of the main pack.  I seem doomed to forever be trapped in this kind of position on the bike.  Oh well, not a bad problem to have I guess.  I steered back into downtown Sackets Harbor into transition in a time of 46:06  not bad given the strong winds (6th best of the day).

INCREDOUBLEMAN_D1_193Here my transitioning error of not bothering to put on socks for the bike became an issue in that – unbeknownst to me while on the bike – my feet had pretty much froze into blocks of ice.  I couldn’t even feel them pounding on the pavement heading out of T2.  Anyone who’s tried to run off-the-bike with frozen feet will instantly know what I’m talking about.  It sucks.  In fact, it wasn’t until, say, the 1.5k mark or so when I began to get any feeling back in them at all.  It was pouring buckets now but my legs were turning over fairly easily so I worked on keeping a reasonable pace knowing that how hard I pushed today would no doubt govern how well the Achilles tendon on my left foot would hold up during tomorrow’s half marathon.  For the time being though, it felt okay so I keep my pace steady and fished the run conservatively in 9th position overall with a time of 23:36.  I was happy to have cracked the Top 10 in 9th as well as claim the 1st place in my age category, so that was cool.  Plus the award coffee mugs were pretty awesome.

See how excited I am despite being so wet and cold?

INCREDOUBLEMAN_D1_283

I would have been even happier if it was filled with something hot.

Anyway, shortly later after scarfing down a bowl of delicious clam chowder and hot chocolate from the nearby food truck we packed up and made our way back to the cabin so I could have a warm shower and begin the damage control of stretching, refueling and looking after my feet for the next days’ more significant challenge.

Oh and, yes, I might (or may not) have blow-dried the arm pads on my aero bars as well.

Don’t judge me.

Day Two:

I woke a bit earlier the second morning (which was fine given I wasn’t sleeping much anyway) since we had to be on site a bit earlier being in the first wave at 8:00am.  I gave myself a once over and everything seemed to be in good working order.  My Achilles was tender but not in the kind of pain I’ve been experiencing in the previous weeks leading up to this events so I was hopeful.

Similar to the day before, I set up in transition first thing with HRH  before heading off to get body marked (I also had a little inspiration added to my right calf to boot – see pic) and shortly afterwards into my wetsuit at the 20 minute to go mark.  It was just as chilly this morning as the day before except that instead of the forecasted torrential rain later in the afternoon as it had yesterday, it was calling for the clouds to lift and for the temperatures to rise…slightly.  Unfortunately, the headwinds were not going anywhere.  Similarly, the water was just as gorgeous as it was the day before except that the winds had now made the water even rougher than the previous day.  So while it was definitely going to be nice temperature-wise, it was certainly not going to be easy; just my kind of swim actually.

I went for a short paddle to warm up and did the prerequisite pee prior to being counted down again:

“3…2…1…GO!”

Just as I had in the Sprint yesterday, I had planned to go out a bit quickly to feel everything out and make the decision from there was going to be my plan of attack for the rest of the day (I’ve never been good at following a race strategy preferring to race in the moment as the mood takes me).  My initial thoughts prior to beginning was to go out hard in the swim/bike segments knowing the chances were slim that I was going to have strong half marathon to finish on.  I caught the heels of the swimmer ahead of me and together we powered ahead of the main pack through the chop to the first turn around.  The good thing was that we had our own race marshal in a kayak to lead us to the first buoy so I didn’t really need to sight so much as to just keep myself in the draft position on the lead swimmers feet.

About half way to the first turn around, the water got much rougher and the lead swimmer was showing no sights of backing off his pace so I made the decision to let go and reestablish my own rhythm through the waves.  I was a bit disappointed at first as after watching the start yesterday morning for the half iron event I figured there was a good chance that I’d be in the lead, if not first out of the water (something that has never happened to me before).  And here I was in the lead by a good stretch, but still in second behind, apparently, Aquaman, as he powered through the opposing current out into the harbor.  Over the course of the next 200-300m or so I watched as the lead kayak got slowly and slowly further out in front as the lead swimmer put some distance in on me.

“He’ll tire eventually”, I kept reassuring myself.

To this point, I made a note to stop stressing about how close or distant I was in proximity to the lead kayak and just focused on my own pace and relishing how good my turnover was feeling.  Upon rounding the first turn around the water was suddenly calm as we had turned from swimming directly into the current to swimming along with it.  Perfect.  I re-sighted my kayak (and lead swimmer by proxy) and picked up my stroke with an effort to make up some time/distance.

It was on; time to reel back the leader.

I had had a discussion in the car that morning on the way to the event about what I ‘think about’ while swimming and racing; truthfully, very little.  And while these post race reports might give you the impression I am constantly thinking, strategizing, assessing and whatnot, in actuality, I’m not.  Although I might do all the aforementioned things at specific points during the race – albeit briefly – typically, I’m either humming to myself or singing the chorus to whatever song happens to be motivating me at the time and that song depends on the day.  Some days I might be revving myself up with the classic Bill Conti ‘Going the Distance’  (click HERE), or maybe something a little more balls-to-the-wall like ‘Kickstart My Heart’  (Motley Crue), ‘Just Got Paid’ (ZZ Top) or (lately) ‘Shit Shots Counts’  (Drive-By Truckers) – and, yes, I did play each of these in the car on the way there – but today, however, it was something much more mellow and sedate despite what was currently transpiring in the water: ‘Angels’  by Robbie Williams.

Yes, I know.  It’s hardly the adrenaline-inducing pump-up anthem you’d expect to listen to under the circumstances, but the song has becoming pretty meaningful t me over this year as it was one of my mom’s favorites and the song that was sang at her funeral service.  So while I had picked up my pace in the water a bit, in my head I was cool, calm, relaxed and loving it.

Along the back stretch of calm water I had quickly made up some time on the lead swimmer and I could see the bubbles from his kick just up ahead of me.  Maybe being first out of the water wasn’t so far-fetched and I motivated myself to try and do just that as it looked like the leader was beginning to tire.  And then it happened: the leader veered off course to the left heading for another buoy intended for the shorter Sprint course.

Inside, I did this:

Sensing the moment, I quickly re-sighted the shore (they had one of those inflatable dancing guys at the finish line) and dropped the hammer. This was my chance. The next 700m or so was nearly at an all out pace as I knew I was now swimming with the current so it was definitely the ‘now or never’ moment I had waited for.  In moments, the “leader” had realized his mistake I think I saw him readjust his course back towards me and the shore; I figured he was either going to try and sprint in ahead of me, or catch my draft but, either way, I was determined not to let it happen.

With 200-300m  I gave everything to make sure I exited in 1st place.  This has never happened before (I came close in Brockville last summer exiting the in 2nd place) and I was really eager to experience it, even if just the once.  I reached the ramp with a swim time of 34:35 (not the greatest swim time of my short and unimpressive triathlon career, but not bad given the rough water for the first half), a mere 10 seconds ahead of the former leader and, together, we had put a gap on the rest of the group of about 4 minutes.  We charged into transition where our bikes were racked closely together and we chit-chatted a bit while we both went through the process of what was promising to be another cold and windy ride.  I avoided yesterday’s mistake and put on my socks and even rolled up some arm warmers to boot prior to leaving T1 for the transition line and out onto the bike course.  By this time I had let my lead lapse to second but I was still in good shape.

In the opening 1-2 kilometers I fussed and adjusted with my kit to be comfortable, took a sip from of my water bottle and battled the immediate headwind in an attempt to catch up and establish contact with the leader whom I could see just a little further ahead up the road.  Within minutes I had reestablished contact and I when I made an initial pass attempt I noticed that he already seemed rather uncomfortable.  I mean, who could blame him?  We were wet, cold and riding into a strong headwind – I’m sure I wasn’t the perfect picture of comfort either – but I  know I tend to do perform well in uncomfortable conditions so it was definitely on like Donkey Kong.  Shortly thereafter, we entered a short out and back stretch along Ridge Road and I made small push to see what the response might be – and there was none – only that same look of being cold, wet and miserable.

I made the decision then and there: “I’m going”.  So I channeled my inner Jens Voigt and attacked up and over the next incline and I was gone, baby, gone; I would never see another rider over the next two and a half hours.

The next 15 minutes or so were pretty surreal.  A white van had pulled up in front of me with his hazard lights on and continued to stay just ahead of me.  My initial reaction was “what the fuck is this guy doing? Does he know there’s a race going on? GET OUT OF MY WAY YOU ASSHOLE!

And then I realized that this was in fact the pace car and that I was in the lead.

Huh.

That was all the inspiration I needed, I lowered my head and amped up my pace even more.  ‘Let’s see how long I could hang onto this lead’  I thought to myself; maybe as well enjoy it while it lasted.

The next 40-45 kilometers or so were pretty uneventful, just me riding full gas (well, as much ‘gas’ as I could muster anyway) behind the pace van as it continued to lead me through the winding rural roads of Jefferson County.  I have to say that Jefferson County is ideal biking territory; lots of vast expanses of fields, meadows, farmlands, rolling hills, and just enough hills and wind to keep things interesting (passing by the ‘Painful Acres’ farm was definitely a poignant moment).

Here’s a look at the course elevation-wise:

Elevation

Definitely some hills.

Lookit me; all artsy n' shit.  You might even think I was fast!

Lookit me; all artsy n’ shit. You might even think I was fast!

I had a, shall we say, “moment” somewhere along Cady Road where I was cresting the top of a long incline and at the top, the clouds gave way to sunlight which filled the entire valley to my right and it was gorgeous.  Had I been just riding for fun, I would most certainly have stopped and reflected for bit but, as it was, I took a few quiet seconds to myself to reflect , think of my mom and dad and what was currently happening – I shed a tear (okay, maybe two) – before I refocused my composure and got back to pushing.  Now there was no way I was going to give up the lead; not without a fight anyway.

If ever I get any distance out front on the bike in any other race, it’s only inevitable that at some point I will get caught.  While I think I have some bike skills, they typically pale in comparison to the cycling machines that will inevitably fly past me on their $10,000 carbon fiber rocket ships.  Today, however, I was feeling stronger in that I had already passed the first hour and there was still nobody in sight.  I looked back periodically along long stretches of road to see who might be closing in on me and the road was always empty; completely void of activity at all in most cases.  I was truly alone with nothing else to motivate me pace-wise except myself (this was in itself, a new experience for me) so when I passed Kelly, HRH  and Doug who had driven out on the course to cheer me on, it was a very welcome sight indeed; so much so that it gave me new inspiration to continue riding hard despite the fatigue beginning to settle in my quads.  No point in adjusting my strategy now, and it was back to the ‘go hard and build a gap into the run’  strategy I considered earlier.  Whoever wanted a podium spot today was going to have to bury themselves on the run to do it.  I have to say, it was fun to have the car pass by with HRH’s face beaming out the back window and although I couldn’t make out what she was saying, her ‘thumbs up’ sign of encourage was reinvigorating and gratefully appreciated.  I think I may have even made a silly face for fun.  Maybe…

For the next half hour or so, my carload of fan support appeared and reappeared along the route and getting those quick visuals and words of support was awesome.  I was beginning to think that maybe winning this thing wasn’t so far-fetched after all, but I tried not to let myself think that far ahead as, as it typically happens, everything can and usually does happen with you least expect it. But it wasn’t going to happen without me at least giving it everything.

The next half of the bike course was uneventful as the pace car had ceased driving in front of me and the loneliness began to creep in. I focused on getting over the hills (which were significantly tougher the second time around) and fighting through the headwinds (where were getting tedious and frustrating) and with 2-3 kilometers left, I ate what was left of my Shot Blocs, sipped the remainder of my bottle, and powered back into town very spent but completely happy with my performance, as well as having ridden the top bike split of the day in 2:56:00.

Now, I will admit here that my legs now felt like lead poles.  I had done everything I could to push the limits of my swim and bike and now I was paying the unfortunate price, so it was time to mentally prepare for and settle into what would inevitably be a long and painful run to the finish.  I was thrilled to still be in the lead, and after a short pee break in transition (hey, at least I knew my hydration strategy was working) I let myself enjoy some of that excitement.  I tucked the zip-lock baggie containing photos of my mom and dad into my tri-suit, donned my dad’s favorite ball cap and made my way out onto the run course.  I was being realistic with myself in that it was very unlikely that I would be able to sustain any decent pace through the entire run, but it was also really cool to be on the receiving end of all the assorted whoops and cheers of approval from the spectators for being in the first guy.

Another first!

Me…in the lead… on the run  no less!

I will savor that feeling for a while, I assure you.

I would find out later, that at this point early in the run I had accumulated an overall gap on my completion off-the-bike of 12 minutes.  In any other event in previous this might have been enough to cruise to the finish line but today, I knew it was a matter of seeing what would happen.  My legs felt beyond tired but my feet weren’t as bad off as they had been yesterday (cold), so I was optimistic that things might not be so bad.

Just…keep…going…

I tried my best to keep to a somewhat easy and comfortable pace, walking through the aid stations to rest my Achilles temporarily and – I have to say – being in the lead kinda sucks.  There’s not really a lot to keep you going in the sections of the course where you’re all by yourself and you know that the others are closing in behind you.  Or so this was the feeling I had at the time anyway.  At the first turn around somewhere along the 6 or 7 kilometer mark, the next two athletes came into view and we exchanged quick pleasantries as we passed on another.  I was also cognizant that I had started to limp slightly as my Achilles slowly began to tighten and that my competition now smelled blood.  Moreover, they were running smoothly and seemingly effortlessly by comparison.

At just over the half way part while looping back in Sackets Harbor, I could see the next athlete (the person immediately behind me in the swim) closing in fast.  But I was still hopefully that I still build up enough of a time gap to pull this off.  Maybe.

Wrong.

Shortly afterwards while rounding another corner I knew that being caught was inevitable at the “safe” pace I was currently running at.  So I began to have a conversation with myself about what was smarter.  Was it better to push to the end and, maybe, claim the top spot of the day which would be a HUGE first for me, or was it better to keep doing what I was doing and playing it ‘safe’ in order to spare myself serious future injury, and simply allow for whatever that end result was meant to be.  It was the classic ‘Emperor’s New Groove’ scene (click HERE) where both a devil and an angel appear on Kronk’s shoulders and trade arguments back and forth.

At about the 16 kilometer mark, my Achilles was really beginning to complain so at the 18 kilometer mark I made the ultimate decision to let my lead go (I guess the angel won out in the end).  It was the hardest decision I think I’ve ever had to make in a competition.  I got to the second-to-last aid station and did something I have never done – I stopped.  I waited the 30 45 seconds or so until the other runners behind me came into view and I shook their hands as they passed by and I congratulated them for their effort.  I was extremely sad and disappointed to see them take my lead, but how can I expect my nine-year-old to accept defeat graciously if I am not also capable of doing the same; that was my final rationale and I was good with it…eventually anyway.

From that point on, I walked/ran at a comfortable pace to the finish in town where I walked across the finish line hand-in-hand with HRH  with a completely unimpressive run time of 2:09:51, good enough for 3rd over all.

How I felt at this point is, really, indescribable.  In one way, I was disappointed not to be strong enough to push for a 1st place finish, but I was also happy to have experienced some genuine race ‘firsts’ and confident that I had ultimately made the right decision not to push myself to the breaking point.  I congratulated my victors again at the finish and reveled in their telling me how much effort it had taken to actually catch me.  So I guess that part of my plan anyway had worked perfectly.

So, now with all that behind me, I can actually get back to refocusing on my off season recovery and rebuilding myself back to being competitively strong once again – within limits of course (click HERE).  First, however, I had a promised play date with the kid back at the cabin, steaks, a celebratory apple pie and more than a few beers to tend to; the perfect way to finish off the weekend if you ask me.

 

In fact, the Incredoubleman triathlon coordinator actually had a small cannon both available and intended for this purpose. What was lacking was a conveniently available licensed operator to actually use it.  The world is a funny place.

So apparently I am no good when it comes to going to these competitions on my own. With Kelly, we get there and organized and I get twaddle off to the starting line successfully, on time, feeling good. On my own, I have the logistical prowess of a newborn baby deer. You might remember my last epic fail when I tried to do something like this in Woodstock last year, so it’s safe to say that today’s planned Toronto Island Lake Swim didn’t, well, let’s just say it was the hardest swim I’ve never actually done.

Come; let me regale you with tales of my extreme dumbassery.

Yes it’s a word.  Look it up.

Anyway, I woke up Saturday morning at 5:45am on the dot (otherwise known as “stupid o’clock”  in our house) to make a breakfast of scrambled eggs and coffee. I’m usually not this ambitious in the morning, but I’m not usually waking up to swim 3.8k in the lake most mornings either. I like to allow for time to let it all settle and drop a bomb in the bathroom before I get on the road to the competition; no muss, no fuss…easy as falling off a log really. And this morning was really no different, just up a bit earlier.   I had already packed my wetsuit and gear (not that swim goggles and a towel really counts as ‘gear’) in anticipation of the early departure (post-bomb, of course) so I was out the door and moving comfortably (and satisfyingly empty) by 8:30am heading for Toronto. Everything was going according to plan.  I was going to do this. How hard could it be?

The trip to Toronto was pretty uneventful and I found parking fairly easily and mad my way to the Jack Leighton ferry terminal. I have never been to Toronto Island before, but the emails from the organizer I had been getting mentioned that there would be accurate signage and lots of “Toronto Lake Swim Volunteers” to point me in the right direction. Again, easy right?

I have to say, it’s kind of fun to take a ferry and as much as I’m not a fan of Toronto or big cities anymore, the skyline from the ferry is pretty impressive. Here is my obligatory tourist ferry pic:

The obligatory tourist shot.

The obligatory tourist shot.

Okay, here’s one more from the island:

Okay, make it two.

Okay, make it two.

My first inkling that something might be amiss is that I didn’t notice any other, well, ‘swim types’ on the ferry. There seemed to be a complete lack of dry bags, wetsuits, competition t-shirts, etc.. It was just all baby buggies and knock-off designer bags as far as the eye could see. I didn’t let this worry me though as it was only a small event (less than 300 people) so I’m sure the athletes were just blending in and I went back to enjoying our taxi ride over to the Island.

The ferry disembarked directly on Center Island, or the main focal point of the island. I looked for some signage as to I go next but, huh, nothing. Then I looked for these volunteers – again, nothing. Huh. I started to get that sinking feeling in my gut.

The instructions I had printed out told me to make my way for the ‘Center Island Pier’, so I located it on a nearby site map and began the 5-10 minute trek over to what I hoped was the staging area. Again, along the whole way there I saw nary a potential “athlete” aside from the casual joggers who , clearly, had a different agenda. I was starting to get nervous. I checked my watch and it was 10:40am; so there was just another 5 minutes to get signed in – my heat wasn’t scheduled to begin until 11:50am though as it had been pushed back to accommodate for the anticipated cold temperatures and wind (more on that shortly. I quickened my pace anyway just a little.

Up to this point, I had still seen absolutely nobody that might be participating in an open water swim. In fact, there didn’t seem to be anybody in the water, like, anywhere. Not surprising given how chilly it was out, but open water swimmers are beasts so I tried to maintain the face that I would arrive at the pier and be instantly welcomed by my fellow loony lake swimmer brethren.

And finally I arrived at the pier, aaaaaaaaand…nothing. Like, nothing. Not a thing. No wetsuits, no registration tent, no signs, no buoys, no turnaround points, no timing chip booths…nada. In fact, the pier was pretty much deserted. My heart did one of those flip-flops. Uh oh!

I approached a bored looking lifeguard and asked about the “Lake Swim”. He looked at me blankly. Clearly, he had no idea about any lake swim, or swim meet, or anything of the like.

“Well, it’s really rough out there today. Maybe they moved the course to the east side of the island at Ward’s Beach. It would be more protected out there”, he suggested.

I vaguely remember an email mentioning that the course had been ‘altered’ to accommodate for the rough water conditions, so I was hopeful that this was in fact the case, so I asked to be pointed in the direction of Ward’s Beach. “It’s down that way”, said the lifeguard as he pointed eastward down the walking trail.

How far could it be, right? I’m on an island for Pete sakes!

I found another island site map and was instantly dismayed to learn that Ward Beach was exactly 3 km’s away.

I was already short on time, so I synched up my knapsack with my wetsuit and gear and started jogging for east end of the island. By now it was after 11:00am, I had missed the official registration period, and I still had 3 kilometers to get there. My heart beat began to rise as the panic began to set in; and I was off running down the trail.

In what might have been record time for me to cover that distance in flip-flops, I arrived at Ward Beach to…nothing…UH-gain.

Shit!

There were some retirees, some fishermen, a few people spread out on beach towels reading, a lazy cyclist or two but, otherwise, nothing or anyone to suggest that a swim meet was about to take place.

I started t craft some’ hate mails’ to the event organizers in my head thanking them for all the ‘signage’ and ‘volunteers’, n’ shit. Shit, at the time I was probably blaming them for homelessness, world poverty and the depleting ozone to boot – I was that livid.  Here I had driven two hours in morning traffic, paid $25 for parking, another $7 for the ferry and it was now beginning to dawn on me that the chances of me ever competing in this thing were fading quicker than Justin Bieber’s teen idol status.

It’s true, I was pissed.

At that point, a fire fighter named Troy drove by and I flagged him down to see if he knew anything about the swim. I got the same blank stare and I wanted to scream. Didn’t anybody know about this thing? Troy was actually a top-notch guy and offered to look up the swim’s website to see if any course changes had been made. After all, it was “pretty rough out” he reminded me.

Then I heard those four dreaded words which made my heart retract down into my nut sack:

“What’s the date today?”

I hesitated. “Saturday, the 17th?, I offered hopefully.

I knew what his next response was going to be and Troy gave me that look that said: “Congratulations dumbass. It’s tomorrow.”

Double fuck.

Somehow, someway, I managed to screw up the dates on my calendar. Even though the 17th had been squarely looking at me from the top of the photocopied email instructions I had been carrying, I had placed the event in my calendar at home on the 16th.

Let the dumbassery commence.

I was gutted. I had spent the better part of a week scheming to find someone of babysit the child so I could make the trip to Toronto to do this thing and, now, after nearly $37 spent already in getting here (never mind the price of gas or the original registration fee), there was no event.

Yes, I’m a dumbass.

Well, ‘fuck this shit, I’m swimming anyway’  I thought to myself, so I wandered back to the Center Island pier. Maybe I could still do the course on my own and recoup my day’s plans for an open water swim.

The lifeguard greeted me again and when I inquired if I could go out, he told me the water temperatures and current conditions had pretty much closed the swim course for the time being. “It’s too rough today”, he said. Not surprising I guess as waves were crashing over the breaker wall just beyond the beach. For the past two days or so, the swim’s organizing committee had been sending out regular updates to this effect: “cold weather conditions…high waves…wind warnings…blah blah blah”. It was most certainly not going to be fun, I got that. But then the lifeguard offered a glimpse of hope:

“You could try further down the island at Gibraltar Point”.

So Gibraltar Point it is…just another 2 kilometers away in the opposite direction.

I started walking.

When I got there, the water conditions definitely did not look any more favorable. In fact, there were big waves rolling into the beach and over another short breaking wall stretching out into the lake to the east. There was no one else on the beach aside from two, very bored looking lifeguards.

I asked them what were the chances they’d let me in to swim.

“It’s pretty rough”, they said. I rolled my eyes at them on the inside.

“Yes, I know. I’m okay with that”, I replied.

“It’s cold too”, they warned.

Yes, I’m okay with that as well. I brought a wetsuit so I’ll be good”, I replied again. I was practically pleading by this time.

“Well, okay. I guess. Maybe I’ll just go out with you in the boat”, one of them said.

“Deal”.

I was just excited to get the approval to go out. The problem was, that even though they were going to let me out, Gibraltar Point only existed as a small beachhead between a white marker on the left, and the breaking wall to the east…maybe 350m apart…at best.

In other words, from here:

Point A (west)

Point A (west)

To here:

Point B (east)

Point B (east)

Yeah, not much of a swim really, but I didn’t want the day to be a complete loss so I started to get into my wetsuit while the lifeguard prepped the boat and made her way out into the surf. Likewise, from the pictures above the water doesn’t really look very choppy, right? Well, believe me, they were. I was told later by the lifeguard that in her opinion, the swells were approximately 3ft. in size.

The first thing that hit me however, was the frigid water temperature. Upon my first few steps out into the water my feet turned into frozen TV dinners and I almost packed in my plans right then and there. Of course, by now the lifeguard was out in the boat so I was pretty much committed by this point. I summoned up my best tough guy façade, put my face in the water and started to paddle for the white marker on the left. Almost, instantly, I had brain freeze…over my entire body.

Fuck! This was cold!

I’ve been pretty spoiled swimming in the warm waters of the Flatwater Center this season, so the 11°C/54°F lake temperatures were, well, let’s just call them pretty “bracing”. I could feel my testes instantly retract into my abdomen.

I started my first swim to the breaking wall and was pretty much tossed around by the waves for the entire short distance. At one point I was even thrown on my back. And so I went back and forth under the close scrutiny of the lifeguard for about 45 minutes or so. And in all that time I probably covered, maybe, 1.5 kilometers. I was feeling pretty defeated and exhausted (Probably even more so than my Ironman Wales swim) but still happy that I did something.

Just see how happy I am:

DSCF1920

This is “pre-freeze”

Upon exiting the water, my feet, face and hands were completely numb and it was sometime before I could manage full sentences with the lifeguards for all my chattering teeth. I was actually kind of relieved that the event as tomorrow, because I’m certain that it would have been one bitch of swim had the organizers gone through with it – and I sincerely doubt they would have.

So despite all the confusion and disappointment and shitty ass planning and imminent dumbassedness on my part, at least I got a swim in, short as it was and the lifeguards got something to do for 45 minutes or so.  Just see how excited she is?

DSCF1919

In the meantime, I’ll just have to take a mulligan on this event and make plans to come back next year to participate. At least I could chalk the day up to either a ‘tough weather’ or ‘conditions simulation’, or maybe even a ‘mental toughness’ training day prior to my next competition in September (click HERE).

Whatever I choose to call it, I’m also never…ever…going to plan these things again without Kelly to also manage the logistics given I – apparently – can’t be trusted to do so. Stroke, pedal and run I can do, sure, tough weather and cold conditions…no problem.

Scheduling…clearly not.

  • 1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run
  • Chip Time = 2:40:19
  • Category Place = 19/45
  • Overall Place = 70/300

In lieu of my father’s recent passing and all the imminent shittiness that went along with it over the past two weeks, I decided to press forward with my planned Olympic triathlon in Gravenhurst, Ontario last Saturday.  I decided that a brief getaway out of town, a nice and easy scenic ride on the Friday with Kelly through the rolling hills (not to mention the fast burn the following day), and a comfortable stay at the Four Ninety Bed & Breakfast would be ideal to get my mind off things and maybe burn off a little pent-up stress and frustration.

Oh, and there was always the added bonus of finally getting to use this bad boy:

SHAZAM!

SHAZAM!

Yeah.  Take it in bitches.

This Thule Vertex bike rack (click HERE) was the latest investment into our healthy lifestyle and this trip served as it’s maiden voyage.  In short:  It’s awesome.  I love it.

But on with the story…

We left for Gravenhurst, located in the gorgeous Muskoka County, early Friday morning and after about a dozen bathroom breaks and a mid-trip Butter Tart pit-stop in Barrie we arrived in the parking lot at the local Bike Shop (yes, that’s actually its name) for suggestions on a nice route, some gels, and with one quick wardrobe change we were on our bikes and riding out of town in near record time.

We followed Bethune Rd. out to Doe Lake Rd. and onwards to Uffington Rd. and past the pretty riverside cottages along Mathiasville Rd., before returning back along the glass surface of Airport Rd. and back again to our B&B to get settled in. They say pictures say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s 5000 words worth about our ride:

Rural amenities.

The rural amenities.

Nearing the end down Airport Rd. back into Gravenhurst.

Nearing the end down Airport Rd. back into Gravenhurst.

The wharf.  Definitely NOT the ship we would be riding.

The wharf

Mathiasville Road.  Yeah, this didn't suck.

Mathiasville Road.
Yeah, this didn’t suck.

Fancy a swim to cool down?

Fancy a swim to cool down?

All in all, we covered approximately 55 kilometers together with a few roadside breaks. I do enjoy these easy rides with Kelly as a way to warm up ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning prior to the next day’s test.  Plus, it’s really nice to explore together and get off the beaten path after stupid amounts of time driving.  Later we enjoyed a nice pasta dinner (butter chicken fettuccine) on the patio of Boston Pizza over-looking Muskoka Lake and began the process of packing and getting ready for competition the next morning.  Truthfully, I knew that my training has not exactly been stellar over the past two weeks given the circumstances, so I figured that the event was either going to be an epic success thanks to one big release of anxiety and sadness, or it was going to be an epic blow up of Big Bang proportions.  Either way, it was going to be therapeutic to get it out of my system.

This particular triathlon has been on my bucket list for a few years now, but since they only have availability for 300 athletes or so, I’ve always missed the registration cutoff as it tends to fill up quickly.  The allure comes from the opportunity to start the swim in the middle of Muskoka Lake after jumping off one of the steamships and swimming back to the wharf again to begin the bike/run. How awesome is that?  So I was pretty excited given that the swim leg is easily my favorite.

Tell me this isn't cool as shit.

Tell me this isn’t cool as shit.

Anyway, we got a good night’s sleep and in the morning and after a breakfast consisting of a muffin, a glass of ozonated water (thanks Jeff!) and a healthy protein shake courtesy of our B&B hosts we made our way down to the wharf to set up and get ready.

Swim: 26:55

Pace: 1:45/100m

Now, I don’t know if it was the “special” ozonated water, or if I was still feeling overly lethargic or what, but I didn’t really have any of the pre-race nerves prior to the start like I normally do.  I still had my prerequisite poop and whatnot after officially registering, but other than that, it was all rather serene as Kelly and I made our way down to the dock to board the RMS Segwun  that would ferry us out to the middle of the lake.  This was a pretty neat experience actually.  I prefer open water starts and this was about as open water as it gets, never mind the grandeur of being out in the middle of a picture-perfect lake.  After a five or so minute ferry ride, we jumped off the boat and swam to the swim start to begin.  The water was absolutely beautiful; warm and smooth.  This was going to be awesome.

That's me.

That’s me…I swear!

I was scheduled to be in the first wave consisting of the pros and elites and men under the age of 45 so I lined up near the front on the inside of the course next to a girl in a pink cap who, later, I would learn was Kristin Marchant, an elite athlete who would ultimately be second out of the water and finishing third overall.  We talked casually for a few minutes (my still being oblivious to who she was) when another athlete suddenly pressed past us to position himself immediately in front of us.  He really seemed to want to be in the front and first out of the block.  Eventually word was given that we were set to begin in approximately a minutes time and this dude in front turns and informs us that he hasn’t swam 1k all summer.  Umm, really?  So either he was a total pro swimmer with no fear at all, or he was a complete moron ( a la Captain Boogie Nights from Goderich a few years ago), but I guess that would all be revealed in 60 seconds time.

Finally our start was signaled with a horn blast from the RMS Segwun  and we were off…and right over the numb nut in front of us.  He couldn’t have taken 4 strokes before about a dozen of us had steamrollered right over him in a mixed flurry of knees and elbows.  I kind of felt sorry for him as that was no way to begin a race but, hey, what can you do?  You can’t help stupid.

Pretty buff, huh?

Swear. Pretty buff, huh?

Anyway, I latched onto the feet of the pink swim cap girl (Marchant) and together with a small group of fast swimmers, we went out pretty hard towards the first (and only) turning buoy.  I managed to keep up for a few hundred meters but pink swim cap girl was on fire and eventually I had to drop back a bit.  By the first turning buoy I was approximately a hundred or so meters behind but still well ahead of the main field…swimming all on my own, exactly where I have become accustomed to being this year.  The turnaround was more than a 90°   turn and unfortunately I went a little wide.  Shortly afterwards, I saw the splashes of the feet in the lead group off to my side so I altered my direction and made an effort to make up a bit of that added distance.  I have to say, it’s hard to site in an open lake when all the reference points, including the islands and shoreline, look exactly the same, particularly with the morning sun is shining directly in your eyes, so I veered a bit off course once or twice more before I was able to realign myself and continue onto the dock.

I exited the water about a minute and a half behind the lead pack of swimmers in 11th  position, climbing out onto the dock to began the long run into T1 (my actual swim time according to my stop watch was approximately 24 minutes).  I do have to say, it was pretty awesome to run down the dock and into the frays of cheering onlookers (Kelly included), knowing they were all cheering for me alone as the main field of athletes were still in the water behind me.  A great start indeed.

So far so good.

Bike: 1:14:45

Pace: 32.1 km/h

I definitely have to work on my transition time as it took me exactly 1:47  to get out of my wetsuit, into my bike gear and out to the mount line to begin (I know I can do much better).  Anyway, once aboard Lucille we fell in behind a few other riders (who had also lingered in transition apparently) making our way out of the wharf up a long, gradual hill before hitting the town center and turning left onto the winding Muskoka Beach Rd. and out into the rolling countryside.  I already had a taste of what the ride was going to be like on the previous days ride with Kelly, so I knew it was going to be hilly and I was mentally prepared for that and the course certainly did not disappoint.  I settled into a pace that I knew I could maintain for an hour or so, arranged my nutrition where I could get at it easily and proceeded to get on with it.

Climbing out of the wharf.  I'm the stud on the right.

Climbing out of the wharf

Firstly, I’d like to say that the Muskoka Beach Rd. is beautiful and every bit as scenic as I had hoped; more so than what we experienced the day before.  However, it was also very challenging with the hills and crosswinds that tended to surprise you around hidden corners.  The road was also rough in a few places as you might expect, and on one occasion my aero bars suddenly tilted downwards after hitting a small unseen pothole.  Fortunately, I managed to quickly pull it back into place and pretty much carried on without further incident.  Whew!

For the most part though, the route was shady and cool so we didn’t have to deal with the added pressures of the heat and humidity they had been warning us about at the pre-race meeting. There were definitely some challenging climbs requiring me to get up and out of the saddle but, fortunately, what goes up must also eventually come down so these ascents tended to be rewarded with some fast breaking descents as well.  All in all, it was a fun ride…in the beginning.

Some of the original few riders I entered onto the course with broke away around the 10k mark while a few other riders dropped back so, once again, I was pretty much cycling on my own again. It seemed like today was simply destined to be one of those days when it’s just me having to create my own push which was fine as this has tended to be the case all year (in both competition and training), but towards the end, those last few climbs back into Gravenhurst proper were beginning to take a toll on my legs and I was glad to finally pull into T2 with a not-so-bad time given the conditions.

Time to get on with the suck.

Run: 55:40

Pace: 5:34 min/km

I already knew that the 10k run was going to be my Achilles Heel in this competition as I haven’t been running off the bike well this season, nor had I run much in the past two weeks in dealing with my dad.  Furthermore, what I hadn’t counted on was the significant degree of difficulty that this run course would end up being.

After tossing on my dad’s favorite sweat-stained CSL ball cap (my homage to my father today) and immediately upon leaving T2, we started the looooong climb out of the wharf again and from there, the climbs never seemed to stop.  In fact, if there were any flat sections along the route I’m not sure I ever noticed them.  Pretty early on, I had to give into the temptation of walking through the aid stations and, occasionally, on the hills as well as my heart rate had spiked significantly on that first climb and never quite recovered afterwards.  Needless to say there aren’t many hills to train on back in Ridgeway and I haven’t broken out the tire in quite a while (something I endeavor now to do more often).  It felt like you would no sooner get over one hill and another would begin immediately and I really struggled, getting passed over and over again by other members of my age group.  I wasn’t an overly happy camper at this point knowing that I wasn’t performing to my potential.

It wasn’t really until the 7.5k  mark that my legs began to feel somewhat normal again and my breathing began to regulate itself; much longer than I typically need.  Again, my brick sessions and run training having been going a bit off track lately so, really, this left little wonder.

Please don't let make me do no mo' hills.

Finally finished.

I finished as strong as I could in the last 1k or so and at least managed to give the appearance of doing well for the spectators benefit. In the end, I had finished 70th, a little over a minute behind my coach who looked to have had a really decent run (our swim times were identical, and I was less than a minute ahead in the bike).  Truth be told, I have some unfinished business here but, it was what it was, a chance to deal with my mounting sadness and melancholy and ultimately purge as much of it as possible from my system.  And while it may not have been the PB that part of me was hoping for, it was not the epic blow up either and the primary mission of blowing off steam was definitely accomplished.  I know now that leading into my next ‘Ultimate Challenge’ in September, I need to refocus on dropping weight (hence my going gluten free again) and getting more confident running off the bike, both of which I knew already.  Gravenhurst only cemented that fact.

Anyway, later, after an amazing breakfast back at the B&B of French toast with a mountain of freshly whipped cream and maple syrup (and bacon…lots of lots of bacon), Kelly and I took a leisurely drive around Lake Muskoka visiting the quaint townships of Bala Falls, Port Carling, Milford Point and Bracebridge followed by another fantastic meal of pulled pork egg rolls and battered perch (not to mention a few wobbly pops) on another scenic lakefront patio at the Creative Plate Eatery.

Peachbud 1k

Posted: July 6, 2014 in Races
Tags: , , ,

Nearly two weeks ago, the kid and I took to the mean streets (and sidewalks) of Grimsby for the annual kid’s 1k event.   I have to be truthful, I didn’t like our chances.  We haven’t trained the way we had in previous years but, she seemed eager to go and cruisin’ for a bruisin’ which, in fact, we did.  She killed it, shaving almost 2 minutes off her previous years effort with a finishing time of 7:34.2  (not that any of this matters, like, at all).  Most importantly, she embraced the whole good natured happy runner philosophy we talked about just prior to the start.  So what was this profound philosophy you ask?  Well, besides the obvious ‘if you don’t win don’t come home’  thing, she opted to go with something a bit more, well, unconventional: “Eat Hot Death”.

*Sigh* 

“From the mouths of babes…”  they say.  Anyway, it’s a long story.  ‘Eat Hot Death’ it was.

Afterwards, I attempted to run out 10k worth of pent-up anxiety and frustration during the 10k event and ended up totally shitting the bed, err, not doing so well.  But that’s also a long story.

So without further adieu, I present you this latest video diary from this years epic Peachbud 1k Fun Run.

Word.

Big thanks to my buddy at ‘Waving Cat Media’:  http://wavingcatmedia.com/

  • 2k swim, 90k bike, 21.1k run
  • Chip Time = 5:10:12
  • Category Place = 14/38
  • Overall Place = 78/286
The usual set-up, with my 2014 addition.

The usual set-up, with my 2014 addition.

This past weekend marked my return to long course triathlon in nearly two years having taken last year off to address some injuries and regroup.  It’s been a long process involving many long days of running in near-zero visibility and -stupid degree temperatures, numerous ridiculous leaping and skipping drills down the public Friendship Trail here in town in front of my neighbors, a rigid functional strength building program (which isn’t much more manly than the leaping and skipping drills) and, yeah, lots of other tedious stuff.  It has not been an easy road, like, at all, and Sunday was the first real opportunity to see it all in action.  Of course, there’s been some signs along the way this year that things have going well with new PB’s set at the Around the Bay 30k in March (click HERE  for results) and the Binbrook Sprint triathlon one week ago, but my focus and interest has always been on long course.  So this was the first ‘official’ test of the season in my mind.

Truthfully, despite my training successes so far, I was very nervous going into this event given my outdoor training season had been delayed almost an entire month thanks to Mother Nature being a total bitch throughout late March and early April, and this event itself being pushed forward two weeks.  I just didn’t have the immediate confidence I’ve had prior to competing in this event in the past, so this was going to be…interesting…and I’m chalking it up as a ‘successful failure’.

Swim: 32:54

Pace: 1:39/100m

This was actually the one part I wasn’t so worried about, as I love open water swimming and I have become pretty confident in the open water.  I’m still working on getting my 2k swim down under the 30 minute mark and I had some pretty lofty hopes of that happening Sunday, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

After setting up in transition, it was time for the traditional ‘Plucking of the Arm Hair’ ceremony where Kelly helps me into my wetsuit by coaxing my Nineteen Rogue swimsuit up my arms and over my shoulders with the assistance of a pair of industrial rubber gloves and copious amounts of baby powder.   Oh, it’s quite the process – believe me.  Check it out:

See how much fun this is?  (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

See how much fun this is? (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

Eventually, we managed to wedge all my bodily folds into place and I made my way down to the swim start with approximately 15 minutes to go.  The water was brisk, but completely bearable which was a nice surprise. The last report I got was that the water in the canal was still at Arctic temperatures but, thankfully, the water had warmed up a bit in the past two weeks.  I had a short warm up paddle and a pee before taking my place in the scrum of swimmers on the starting line.  I love this part.  I love the camaraderie of athletes all joking, shaking hands and wishing each other luck just before the madness is about to ensue.  It’s the total calm before the storm.  Different from the past years’ event, we were all to start in waves as opposed to one big mass group so any hopes of swimming with the coach again this year (click HERE  for a reminder) were shot as I was to be in the 3rd wave and she starting in the 4th wave five minutes behind me.  Oh well.

As per my strategy, I lined up on the inside of the course with a smaller group apart away from the main pack of swimmers in my wave.  When the horn sounded to signal the start our wave, my group went out fast and I fell in line behind some other swimmers whom I figured were going to have faster swim times; ‘Let’s see how long I can hang on’  I thought to myself.  This time around though, this strategy ended up being a mistake.

The swim start (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

The swim start (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

For the first 500m or so, it was all good and we maintained a pretty fast pace leading up to the first turn around, but just short of arriving there, we rejoined the main group of swimmers who were swimming to the outside of the course.  Now, either my group wasn’t as fast as I thought, or the buoy was closer to the shore than last year meaning we had actually swam a longer distance on a diagonal in order to get to it.  I’m thinking it was the later.  As we maneuvered around the buoy, I had to go over, around and even under some of the other slower swimmers all wearing the same white swim cap.  It was madness and I ended up swallowing a few mouthfuls of water in the process (luckily I don’t have a panic mode while swimming).  The second turning buoy comes fast and I worked to get ahead of as many swimmers as I could to avoid another melee and upon turning, it was suddenly WHAM! – straight into the oncoming current.  Furthermore, I had now lost the heels of other faster swimmers in the confusion and for the next 200-300m  I was all over the place trying to get around and past other swimmers.  I must have been swerving all over the course like a drunken driver making his way home after a night out.

Exiting the water (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

Exiting the water (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

Another few 100m’s in, around the half way mark, I ran headlong into members of the first wave ahead of me; it was an entire flotilla of yellow swim caps spread out over the course.  Usually, I’m pretty adept at weaving between and among slower swimmers, but this was a solid mass of neoprene bodies – side by side – approximately 20 swimmers wide; total roadblock.  I didn’t really see any other choice but to swerve all the way over into the middle of the swim course in order to get around them (aside from bullying my way through, which, while I have no problems doing this sometimes, with more ‘challenged’ swimmers I figure it’s just unsportsmanlike).  I veered around them knowing full well I was adding unnecessary distance to my own swim in doing so but, hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.

I continued to fight the current all the way into the third turnaround and by this time I was swimming pretty much on my own again. I could feel a few hands slapping my feet but other than that, I was pretty much in the clear as far as slower swimmers directly ahead of me were concerned.  In the last 300-400m, I picked up the pace a bit trying to steal back some time and exited the water in 32:54, well off from not only my best time here so far (31:48), but what I know I am capable of.  Not that I was terribly disappointed considering that I now had to make not only my longest ride f the year so far, but also my longest Brick run to boot; so one minute in the grand scheme of things is nothing.

Bike: 2:41:18

Pace: 33.5/km/hr

My transition was a bit slow (2:00), but I was being meticulous in making sure my shoes were on properly and everything was set up just so since I haven’t had the long opportunities on the bike yet, so I knew comfort was going to paramount with any chance of a decent bike split.

On the bike course

On the bike course

I entered onto the course uneventfully and got up to my cruising pace of 35km/hr  rather quickly, making sure to take in some water and focusing on getting my breathing back in check.  So far, so good; it was cool out but not cold and everything seemed to be turning over well.  Then we turned onto Feeder Rd. to head out of Welland and – BAM! – directly into a headwind which never – ever – let up for the rest of the ride.  Seriously, I fought the wind as best as I could for as long as I could and at every corner I thought to myself ‘okay, just get around this corner and there will be a tailwind’  but, nope, it was just more headwind.  There was simply no escaping it so I just accepted it and pedaled on.  It is what it is.

All things considered, my legs felt good as did my energy levels as I was being conscientious to fuel every 15-20 minutes or so as I am prone to forgetting to do (hence my shitting the bed in 2012 when I completely bonked in the last few kilometers from the finish).  I kept reminding myself that this was merely a practice day for my feeding strategy prior to my last completion of the season in September since I haven’t had that opportunity yet this year, not having done the distances I normally would have by this point.

At the 60k mark, I did something I have not yet had to do in a triathlon…stop to pee.  I’ve experimented with on-the-bike evacuation before, but I’m nowhere near that kind of mental dedication (or stubbornness for that matter) yet so I opted to pull over and let’er rip…directly into a headwind.  I’ll spare you the gory details.

Heading into T2

Heading into T2

The upside to this is that I felt, like, 3lbs lighter, and the minor cramping I was experiencing in my stomach subsided immediately.  The downside is that, while the entire stop might have only cost me, say, 1 minute in total, I had now lost my pace group heading back onto Feeder Rd. for the long 15k straightaway back into Welland…right into that damn wind.  Now, riding into the wind sucks at the best of times, but without pacers or even other cyclists in the vicinity, it’s particularly tedious…and it was.  I knew I had lost my ideal pace, but I had little choice.

As I turned back into Welland near the end of the ride, I emptied my water bottle and had the last of my Shot Bloks, got out of my cycling shoes and proceeded to spin out the legs a bit as I coasted into the dismount line to begin what I already knew what was going to be the hardest part of the day.  But isn’t it always?

I dismounted the bike nearly 10 minutes off my best 90k time (stupid headwinds, got through T2 fairly quickly (1:25) and after tucking my motivation into my jersey, proceeded out onto the run course to really begin embracing the suck.

Run: 1:50:59

Pace: 5:16/km

heading out onto the run course (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

heading out onto the run course (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

I already know that I haven’t spent enough time running off the bike – this became very apparent in Binbrook.  My last (and only) long run off the bike a month ago didn’t go particularly well either and it was with lots of anxiety that I started the half marathon on on this day.  I tried to find the right gear as I exited transition onto the run course.  Kelly was there in the early going as were some of my fellow TryForce gang and that was enough to get my mind past the nervousness and back onto the task at hand.  In the first 500m  or so I passed by my coach going in the opposite direction (she was, maybe, a minute or two behind me) and noted that she must have had an amazing bike (and swim). It did however light a little bit of a fire to get into my race pace to stay ahead of her.  Kristin from Legacy Performance with whom I have worked with on my run technique (click HERE) over the off season reminded me from the sidelines to loosen up my shoulders and give myself a shake out.  Yes, it’s true…I tend to run like a ‘football player’, I know.  I’m trying to loosen up and I am usually pretty successful with it during my training runs, but after 2 hours and 40 minutes of being aero, well, I was a bit stiff in my upper body.  Thanks for the reminder, Kristin.

All in all, I was pretty happy about the way my running legs were holding up off the bike.  As I passed through the first aid station manned by my TryForce peers things were going fairly well and their encouragement helped me get into a rhythm.  I knew it was going to get more difficult (much more difficult) in the later stages, but for the time being ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning didn’t feel so heavy and my heart rate was smooth and even, unlike what I experienced in Binbrook the previous week.  So that’s good.

Finally done!

Finally done!

Unfortunately, the “cool” weather they had predicted the day before (and, in fact, it was just that during Saturday’s sprint event) had instead become hot and humid…and me without my sun block.  Crap.  By the 10k  mark I was a gross sweaty mess (as usual) and I was pouring as much water over my head as I was pouring down my throat in an effort to keep from overheating.  I took cups of ice, sponges of cold water, anything they handed me in a matter of fact providing it was a single degree cooler than the air on Merritt Island which was getting to the point of feeling like breathing in hot soup.  I don’t know what it is about Merritt Island, but it always feels hotter than it probably is.  I followed my new routine of walking through the aid stations in order to get the water in as well as give a quick break to the soles of my feet which were by now burning from running on completely saturated soaks which, I have to say, is my least favorite part of racing.

As I kept watch over my time (on the new Ironman Timex I got for Father’s Day) I knew that meeting my personal best was not going to happen on this day but I still wanted to turn in as best a run as possible to the end. By the time I crossed the finishing line I had run a time of 1:50:59  which ended up being only two minutes slower than the personal best of 1:48:59  I set here back in 2011 (click HERE  for more details)…not too bad for a comeback year I guess.

In summary, my overall time doesn’t seem that impressive, hence the ‘failure’ part of my original sentiment.  However, I did have a quicker swim time than both my previous outings at the full distance and my run was only two minutes off the pace.  What ending up killing me were the headwinds out on the bike course which, is completely beyond my control.  Sure I haven’t done the same volume of training on the bike that I might have by this point in other years but, all in all, I didn’t suffer…much.  Had I gone harder on the bike which I know I am capable of, I inevitably wouldn’t have had the run that I did, so I’m considering this as my ‘success’.

10401895_10152448800025412_8327317860842120553_n

Challenge #3 complete (picture courtesy of: Garrison|McArthur Photography)

So while I fell short of my ultimate goal of going under the five hour mark, I’m still happy with the performance given the challenges I’ve been addressing the past two years.  I have one more ultimate challenge this season aside from my other planned events (see my EVENTS  tab) this year and the plan now continues to spend more time running off the bike and drop a few more pounds prior to September.

Onward and forward.