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2010 Eagleman 70.3

ASI Photos

Trying to find the words to summarize a pretty wild day at Eagleman 70.3.  I had been training pretty hard in all phases of the game, putting a lot of time in at the pool, on the bike, and on the run.  Looking at past results and present training, I knew I had a decent chance at doing pretty well in the age group. At the same time, traveling to a race of this caliber always brings unexpected challenges.  Getting a race that involves so many variable just right is pretty elusive.  One part might go well and the other parts may suffer.  Hitting everything exactly as planned is pretty difficult.  One of the nice things about the 70.3 distance is that it is an unfolding process that allows for some analysis, evaluation and trajectory change as things progress.  Get lost in any one moment and all subsequent moments can be lost.

After arriving down to the race location, first surprise of the day was that no wetsuits would be allowed for anyone.  I’ve never done a race that did not allow wetsuits.  In another life, that would have caused much concern. Not now however, as I have been training with the West Side Swim Club for the last 1 1/2 years, and can quite honestly say it has changed the way I look at the race.  We do enough crazy stuff in the water (with about +14,000 yards per week for me) that swimming 1.2 miles without a wet suit doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. Fortunately I had purchased a brand new speed suit from MRC club sponsor XTERRA wetsuits. Unfortunately it was sitting in my bedroom in Massachusetts.  There was a lot of that going around because no one could remember when this had ever happened.

Swim was pretty good in terms of conditions.  Wide start and straight shot with a little chop.  Felt great during the swim even though we were going against the current.  At the first turn I started to get pushed sideways inside the buoys and had to readjust course, costing me some time.  Since we are swimming in a little harbor, we really don’t get the benefit of the return current.  But I felt strong throughout the whole thing, even though my time wasn’t great. With some of the race in speedsuits and some not, hard to really judge where I was.  Little disappointed but nothing to do about it now.  Out of the water in 360th place, and 39th in my age group.

As soon as I hit the bike I started to feel the heat, which was projected to climb into the 90s.  Plan for the day was to drink like crazy on the bike.  My run/bike coach Cort Cramer and I had a game plan for my heart rate, which immediately went out the window in the heat. There was no way I could keep my heart rate as low as it had been in training in that heat without sacrificing some serious speed.  So the next 56 miles became an exercise in tightrope walking, going between where I wanted (needed) my MPH, my pedal cadence, and heart rate to be.  The bike is extremely flat, which I do not like much.  I would much rather have some climbs, descents, and technical turns.  This is a turn and burn course.  Albeit a beautiful track into a wildlife preserve, I found it pretty tedious and couldn’t wait to be done.  This was underlined by a pain in my left hamstring at the insertion point.  Made it tough to stay for long periods of time in the TT position, where you wanted to be with the wind kicking up.  Also ended up drinking over 144 ounces of fluid on the bike in 2:28.  Toward the end of the bike was passed by Pat Dwyer of BTT, which helped me kick things up a little bit more and finish hard on the bike.  Off the bike in 22nd place in my age group.

I knew a lot of the day would come down to the run, which would be a war of attrition.  It is not always about who goes the fastest; it is sometimes about who slows down the least.  That would be today. Off the bike my hamstring was killing me for the first 1/4 mile, but I figured it would loosen up and it did.  Originally I wanted to run in the 6:30s.  I knew that was out the window right away.  My mind settled on the thought this was just a training run and I had tick the miles off.  No need to run fast, just had to keep running.  People were already hurting and going slow.  I had just got done reading “Born to Run”, and a primary message in that book is run for fun.  Not that you can’t run hard, but run happy.  So, even though the heat was miserable and I was hurting at mile 1, I made a point of cheering everyone on that I passed.  I quickly became annoying. But, every time I did it, I felt better.  Giving words of encouragement made me thing less of how much I hurt, how hot I was, and how much I wanted to walk.  I was able to keep pretty consistent in my splits and steadily pass people until the turn around when I lost the slight breeze and it became like an oven.  I mustered on, kept cheering for people, and just focused on getting done and being happy (which was tough).  The last few miles were really hard to maintain, and my pace slipped a bit.  But overall I ran pretty even splits, and finished the run in 1:31.  This put me in 7th place in my AG and 71st overall.  After crossing to the finish line, I was helped to the medical tent where I promptly laid down (collapsed) onto a cot for a little while while I got some nice little ice bags put on me.  Had a short chat with Desiree Ficker, who was very nice, regreouped and found Lara who was amused with my predicament of being in the med tent.

I decided to head over to the awards just in case I got anything.  Turns out that the top three 40+ competitors getspecial Masters awards, and it just so happened that all of them were in my age group.  So, I ended up getting a fourth place trophy in my age group.  But the fun didn’t end there.  There were two Kona (Ironman World Championship slots) in my age group, and they are offered in order of finish.  If someone doesn’t want the slot, it goes to the next person, etc.  Typically this is a formality as most people want to go to Kona for the chance to spend thousands of dollars in order to torture themselves for half a day. But not today.  First person gets offered the slot (who happens to be “Coach” Troy Jacobson of Spinervals fame).  He’s not there to get it.  Second person – nope.  Third person – nope.  Now things are getting interesting as a Kona slot is getting closer to me.  Fourth place – nope.  Fifth place – nope.  Six place – nope.  “Gary David – Do you want a Kona slot?” Huh?  That’s bizarre as they never go this deep. Given that I have neither the time nor the money to do an Ironman at the moment (let alone in Hawaii), I had to decline as well.  I think it went down to 11th person in my AG.

On reflection, I was trying to figure out how to classify my race.  It wasn’t a great race, but it was a pretty good race.  A lot of stuff happened in the midst of it that I had to ignore or not worry about and just keep plugging along.  And given the state of the world in all of its disrepair and disaster, spending 4+ hours “playing” outside is far from adversity.  Keeping things in perspective, I was pretty fortunate for the day I had, and thanks to those who helped me achieve it.


Another race in the books

Hard to summarize a 10+ hour event (unfortunately took that long) in  a post.  But, I’ll give it a go:

Lead up to Ironman Lake Placid was pretty ideal.  Thanks to my wonderful wife I was able to have some very solid training, and then a really good taper going into the race.  No major illnesses, injuries, problems, etc.  Everything was coming together very nicely.  I was looking forward to getting the race going, and tried to have a very positive outlook on what was going to come.  All in all, everything according to plan.

Our accomodations are fantastic.  Literally a five minute walk to the oval (staging area) and the swim start.  On race morning, got up at my usual time of 4:00am, drank coffee, had yogurt, etc.  All the normal routine.  Plenty of time to get down to transition, get my nutrition and fluids together, get back to the condo for some relaxation, and off to the swim.

Oddly enough, I was REALLY looking forward to the swim.  I’ve been busting my hump trying to improve my swim, and I have been seeing some very positive results.  Last year I just wanted to get through it.  This year I was actually looking forward to it.  Lined up center-right, cannon goes, and mayhem ensues.  Unless you’ve been in whitewater rapids with Rampage Jackson, kind of hard to describe what goes on.  Needless to say, pure carnage.  Arms and legs everywhere.  Three solid strokes and then WHAM, you get pummeled (or pummel someone else).  Tough to get into a rhythm, but crucial to stay relaxed and calm.  Long days means lots of energy needed.  Can’t waste it at the start of a swim.  So, I keep things together, looked for holes in the midst of all the bodies, and got to work.  What a difference a year makes, just cruising through the water with no worries.  First loop done in 31:45.

Second loop much smoother than the first.  Able to stay right on the bouys all the way around.  I was hoping to come in faster than the first loop (or close), but was not pushing it.  Just cruising nice and long strokes.  Came out of the water in 1:05, which was a 4 minute improvement over last year.  More importantly, I wasn’t even working that hard.  Could have easily gone faster, but the plan was to be around that mark.  Would have like one more loop just for kicks, but had to start the bike.

The strategy for the bike was to ride an easy first loop, and stay consistent.  Rode very steady up the first hills out of town, then blasted down the long descent into Keene.  What a blast it is to have the whole lane and rip over 50 mph.  Just had to steer around other riders who were using their breaks.  Hit Keene and started the long straight ride up Route 9N.  All in all, feeling very good.  People were passing me, so that was a good sign.  I was cruising around 22mph, hitting my hydration and nutrition marks, and enjoying the time.  Had to make a bathroom stop at 20 miles into the bike, which was a good sign as well in terms of being hydrated.  Could have gone on the bike, but didn’t want to risk fouling my nutrition.  Plus, never tried that trick on a bike before, and never do on race day what you haven’t done in practice.  Coming back toward LP, a lot of climbing to be done.  Kept things steady and smooth.  A headwind was picking up on the way back, so I didn’t want to push it too hard.  Sticking to the plan, I did the first loop in around 2:50.  I was hoping for 2:45, but wasn’t going to worry too much at this point.  Mistake would be to try to make up time on the second loop.

Hitting the downhill on the second loop, stayed tucked and never touched the breaks.  Knees were buried into the top tube to control the bike as it bounced on the road.  Wind was starting to pick up as well, making it a bit more challenging.  Couldn’t see how fast I was going because the bike was shaking pretty bad.  Hitting a right-hand curve, had to lean a bit and fight the wind.  A bit of a sketchy moment, but everything held together.  After the downhill was over, checked my computer and it registerd a max speed of 55 mph.  Never gone that fast on a bike before.  Tremendous fun.  Everyone should try it.

Continuing toward Upper Jay and Jay, the tail wind was making things easy.  Of course, that would soon be a head wind.  Until then, had to do the out and back on Haselton Road.  Coming back on that road, a peloton of about 40 people go by.  The penalty tent couldn’t have fit everyone.  I turned to the guy riding next to me, and ask if people are taking 20 second pulls off the front.  For those who don’t know, Ironman races are not draft legal, meaning you have to maintain at least 7 meters between you and the person in front of you.  You also have to pass a person within 25 seconds and get to the right hand side of the road.  This was amazing because it violated almost every rule.  Come to find out that no race officials are on that road because it is too narrow for motorcycles and cyclists.  So it is a draft fest for 14 miles.

Coming back past Whiteface, the wind was really picking up, making it a lot more difficult going uphill (with about 3 miles of continuous uphill).  Strategy was to keep heart rate in zone 3, cadence high, and get to the run.  Did the second loop in 2:53, which put me at a 5:43.  Not thrilled with the overall time, but at least I was consistent as the conditions got harder.  We were supposed to get rain, but instead we got a lot of sun and wind.  Not a hot day, but when you’ve been staring at rain clouds for two months. 78F feels a lot warmer.

Strategy for the run was to hit around 7:30s and keep heart rate in zone 3.  Started out extremely well.  After a quick pit stop in the transition area (another good sign of hydration), I was on my way out of town downhill.  I’ve been doing a ton of downhill running over the previous 6 months to prepare for the race, and now I was eager to see how my legs would feel.  All in all, felt fantastic.  I was staying relaxed, not working terribly hard, and hitting around 7:30s per mile.  Perfect pace and according to plan.  I knew my bike time put me out of where I wanted to be, but I thought I could still put together a good time.  So I rolled on, hitting the water stations and eating gel every 5 miles.   First loop done in 1:38.

Now for the second loop. This is when the hurt starts.  Pace starts to slow as legs lose their pop.  Going downhill of town, no pain in the quads at least.  Major accomplishment as this has been my biggest problem in downhill races (like the Boston Marathon).  Eccentric loading has been my motto for a while, and it was paying off.  However, the things were starting to slow.  Harder to keep things moving at the pace I wanted, getting hotter, wanting to be done.  On River Road, started to walk through water stations to get as much fluid as possible.  Cola and ice, water, sponges.  Then off and running to the next station. Kept this pattern throughout the rest of the run.  My goal time of close to 10 hours was already gone, and motivation was slipping significantly.  But, it was a nice day, and pretty inspiring to be part of an event like this.  People were making friends on the course as a lot of people were reduced to walking.  But continuing on.  At least I was able to pull things together between water stops, which was another improvement over last year.

Coming back into town is a huge uphill.  Kept grinding up that, knowing it was my last trip.  Going down Mirror Lake Road, there are tons of spectators, including all the MRC people (and my family).  Great to see them there.  Even though the turn around for the run is only about a mile off of Main Street, it seems like forever.  Hitting the turn around, I was able to kick things into gear and get back to a decent pace.  Still having some pride, I did not want to be passed in the oval. I started cranking again, and was able to finish in style at 10:39 (a 2:00 second half for a total marathon of 3:38).

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  A lot of improvement over last year: faster swim, faster run, better training.  Even though my time was a minute slower than last year, my finishing place was higher in my age group (27th) and overall (145th).  At the same time, I was not near my goal of close to 10 hours.  Bike was slower, and while that was strategic, it was too slow to make up.  Gives me a lot to build on for the next time I try this insane venture.

Part of what makes this difficult is the death of a dream.  That’s overly dramatic for sure, but you hope for a certain result, envisioning it when you train, when you are too tired to get off the couch, waking up early every day, sitting on a trainer for 2+ hours, excluding things from your diet, neglecting your relationships.  All of this is for a dream or vision of where you want to end up.  And then that dream is gone and unfulfilled.  What then?  What happens after that?  A lot of what-ifs can ensue.  What if I went harder on the bike?  What if I went slower on the run? What if I trained a little differently?  What if I’m just not that fast and this is it?

As my wife noted, Ironman is a really strong metaphor for life.  Over the last three years, we’ve dealt with a lot of “what ifs”.  If I focused too much on those what ifs, I would likely end up being an alcoholic.  You can choose to focus on what is not there, what did not go according to plan, what dreams may be lost.  Another way to go is to look at what you do have, what you did accomplish, what you were able to fulfill.  The danger in that is falling into complacency.  You can always say “Well, at least it is not as bad as (fill in the blank).”  True, but that doesn’t mean we should settle for a low bar.

I do know in trying to reach my goal, I have become a swimmer.  I can do flip turns, start off the blocks, swim the IM (kind of), and feel at home in the water.  I do know that I can train a lot and manage it without getting injured.  I do know that I am fortuante enough to be able to pursue these things while most others cannot.  So, while I did not get where I wanted to be, I am definitely not where I was.  That is important.

There were a million inspiration stories out on that course.  One of the things I like to do, and what everyone should do, is watch the finishers trying to get done in 17 hours and officially be called an “Ironman”.  Did they put in less time, effort, sacrifice, than pros?  Hard to measure and compare.  But one of the great traditions in Ironman is at the World Championships in Kona, where the winners come to the finish line as the last people try to cross the line in the official time.  Where else are you going to find that?  Where else are you going to find pros walk the marathon course after their day is done out of respect to the age groupers?  Not at any marathon or other race.  So ultimately, the greatest thing about race day was just being there.

T-minus Two Weeks

According to my clock, less than two weeks left till Ironman Lake Placid.  I was out running today in the heat, and for some reason I flashed back to run I was doing back in the winter.  Sat on the trainer for two hours, got dressed up like I was going deep sea diving (including a Gore-Tex face mask to blog the below zero wind chill), and went out to run 8 miles.  Also thought about my first ‘long brick’ of the year, where I biked around 80 miles and then ran 6.  That was a rough one.  Now, cruising through 8+ mile runs after ride of 100 miles.  Quite the long road, but glad it is almost here.

I’ve always thought it is not about the race; it is about the training.  Training demonstrates dedication, character, discipline, etc.  I would like to say I have these qualities.  Some days are better than others.  But, overall I’m pleased with the training.  Longest week was around 23 hours of training.  Did that a few times.  Plenty of long bikes, sore legs, early wake-up calls, lack of sleep, and general discomfort.  Lots of hours on the bike riding in all kinds of weather.

For those not acquainted with an Ironman swim start, it goes someting like this:

Loads of fun.  Last year the goal was to survive the swim, this year the goal will be to swim the swim.  Major change in the equation only possible through the endless laps at 5:30am with the West Side SC.  Thanks for the laughs.

On my increasing media saturation front, I got interviewed by the local town paper, the Stow Independent.   The article is about the fundraising effort for Minuteman ARC.  Had a very nice conversation with the reporter.  As we chatted, it dawned on me how incredibly easy this all is.  Not easy by itself, but easy in comparison.  Recently, on a trisomy discussion list, a mother posted that her unborn child had been diagnosed with Trisomy 18 (or Edwards Syndrome).  The nursery that they put together now may not be used.  And if it is used, might have to move the stuffed animals over for an IV, or oxygen tank, or some other medical device that shouldn’t be in a nursery.  But, throughout all this, they really just wanted to have some time with their child.  Ended up that their child died before being born.  After being delivered, they held him for a little while, and then had to let him go.  That’s hard.  That’s unbelievably hard.  Riding your bike in the rain is a diversion from stuff that is hard.  No complaining allowed.

Still time to donate to my cause supporting Minuteman ARC, at the following link.  And hug your kids.

One week to go

Finally, the last hard week of Ironman training.  Doesn’t mean it is the last week, and tapers are for some reason very fickle things to get through healthy, but at least from here all the ‘hard work’ is in.  The plan for this week is to get about 23 hours of training in.  Body seems to hit a point where it has responded to the increasing workload, and the mind is getting numb to the fatigue.  I guess that is the place you want to be.

The only other part is the near sense of panic that comes with the end of hard training.  Always wonder if you did enough, if you could have done more volume, more quality, if a couple of missed workouts are going to make the difference.  Can’t worry about that though,  Did the best I could with the time I had.  So, with that we’ll have to see where things go on race day, which is under a month away.

Big props to the West Side Swim Club crew that went to Middlebury and all set PRs.  You can read the full story here.  The comfort level that I now have in the water is all because of swimming with that group.  It’s hard, it’s long, it can be miserable, but gliding through the water at a race is priceless.

Really cool new LiveStrong Nike ad.  Whenever I don’t want to train or am feeling lazy, it is pretty humbling to think about those who are struggling because their children are being born with some kind of chromosomal condition.  The kicker is that there is nothing you can do.  There’s no ‘cure’.  There’s no hope (at this point) of eradication of the ‘disease’ because it is not a disease.  It often is the cosmic lottery.  For Trisomy 13, the odds of having it are 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 16,000.  A small percentage of those have mosaicism.  Bingo.  According to the death odds table, you have more chance of dying in an airplane accident or a flood than having a child with Trisomy 13 mosaicism.    Thinking about those families who all they want is their baby to make it to term and be born alive so they can hold it for a few minutes (many children live longer than the odds say), having sore legs doesn’t seem so bad.

Thanks to all of those who donated so far to the fundraising for Minuteman ARC.

Two races in two weeks

Big update is the joy of tapering, followed by the agony of racing. I was pretty fired up to do the Patriot Half Triathlon, which is a 1/2 Ironman distance race, only you can’t call it that because “Ironman” is trademarked, meaning that any reference to distance other than “Half Triathlon” risks legal action.  It is a great race that keeps improving every year (third year in existence).  I’ve done it every year, if you want to count last year’s aquabike (Swim – Bike).  The organizers moved up the race from July 4th weekend to mid June, making it the perfect tune up for Ironman Lake Placid.

Long story short: I got a flat at mile 4 of the bike.  Of course, this happened just after my friends in the Landry’s van rolled by me.  I kept thinking “Do I have a flat?  I hope I don’t have flat.  I think I have a flat.” And the comments of “That sucks” as people rode by was a big confidence booster.

I remember a triathlon that was televised, where a French guy was leading, only to get a flat tire.  He then cried (literally) to the camera: I got a flat.  Kind of funny.  It wasn’t that bad.  Although it did bring to mind some wonderful flat tires in triathlon history, just this gem from Norman Stadler in the 2005 World Championships:

You gotta love the big German.  Although, when I was trying to fix the thing I was tempted to do this:

But, since I don’t have the money for a new one or repairs, I resisted and just got back on the bike.

Overall, the race went well.  A solid swim where I was 25th overall (big improvement); an even bike split for the two loops (sans the wheel change) and a 2:32 time (22.5 mph average); and the 6th fastest run split at 1:29 low.  I was grinding all day, and ended up 18th overall, and 4th in my age group.  The great thing about being fourth in your age group is that you don’t have to stay for the awards.  Minus the bike incident, I would have probably been in 7th or 8th overall and 1st in my age group.  Oh well.  First flat in a triathlon for me (don’t ask about cyclocross malfunctions).

Previous week did the Ashland tri, in the rain, again.  Another much improved swim, faster bike, and faster run than last year.  Got me 8th overall and 1st in my age group.  If you subtract the pros from QT2 that came out to entertain the wet masses, I was about 4th.  All in all, great training for Lake Placid.  Now three more weeks of large volume and tired days.  But only three more weeks, and then onto the show.

Back in the Saddle for IMLP 2009

It has been a while since I updated this, about 5 months to be exact.  Hard to find time to put your thoughts and updates on a page when you spend your time chasing two girls under 4 years old.  And now that Ironman training is in full swing again, it is even harder to find the time. But, the updates will begin again, and with more frequency, because I am doing Ironman Lake Placid to support an important organization, Minute Man ARC for Human Services.  As many of my friends know, and probably many more don’t know, my daughter Hailey was born with a rare chromosomal condition called Trisomy 13 mosacism.  Without going into the genetics (I got a C in high school biology), we are all Hailey eating popcorn at Minute Man ARC Walksupposed to have 46 chromosomes, with each set of 23 being an exactly duplicate of the other.  When that doesn’t happen, things can go wrong. How wrong they go depends.  Sometimes it can end in miscarriage.  Other times babies can die shortly after being born. They can be plagued with a variety of congenital defects and developmental delays.  Or the anomolies can be relatively unnoticeable.  It all depends, and there can sometimes be no way of knowing what the impact is going to be.

We were lucky in that we found out relatively quickly that some of Hailey cells have an extra 13th chromosome.  Since this was found through a blood draw, we don’t know if this is limited to her ‘blood line’, or extends to other parts of her body (I said this was complicated stuff).  Anyway, the upshot is that because we found out right away, we were able to begin to receive services from a wonderful organization called Minute Man ARC, which provides a range of assistance to families and people that are in needed of extra help in learning and doing many of the things that most of us take for granted.  Like most organizations that do good work, they are underfunded.  So, I decided to take on IMLP one more time (I swear just one more time) to raise money for them.

So far, the training is going well.  I hit about 23 hours of total training time last week, which breaks down to around 4 hours of swimming, 12 hours of biking, and 7 hours of running.  This week will be a bit of a minor recovery and travel week, and then ramping things back up to 20+ hours again.  The goal for time is to be last year’s 10:38. The more important goal is to raise money for Minute Man ARC.  So, if you are so inclined, you can go to and make a donation.  The money you give will go a long way toward directly providing assistance to those who are very much in need.

Amelia and Hailey at Easter

Amelia and Hailey at Easter

Spud’s Big Mess

This has the potential to be interesting.  Saw this sign at the mall when wife and I had date night at the movies

Kind of reminded me of this