Posts Tagged ‘Musselman’

Musselman Triathlon

Posted: July 22, 2015 in Races
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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 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.


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.


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).


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.