Monday, August 30, 2010

Hero to a Zero in Seven Days or Less...

Did anyone race the Kennebunk Fire Tri this Sunday? If so, you may have seen someone there that looked like me, sounded like me but did not race like me. Yes, we're going to file this one under "what the hell was I thinking?"! I raced Timberman last weekend and threw down all I had on that course and came up big - for me anyway. A mere seven days later I watched a triathlon from a different point of view - the back! The swim wasn't too bad after I did my textbook "blow up in the first 200 yards, let everyone go, then spend the rest of the swim catching up" routine. Getting good at that.....imagine if I ever figure out the swim? I'll be something! Not sure what, but something....pretty sure the term "swimmer" won't be used in the same sentence as my name. Let me back up a second. For the first time ever I overslept on race day. Can you imagine? That's like sleeping right through Christmas for me. I got a new phone last week and used it for an alarm and well, I guess I need to have my daughter show me how to use it again. I woke up at like 5:35am or so to Jodi saying "hey - aren't you supposed to be gone by now? NINE minutes later I was ripping toward Kennebunk with a coffee in one hand and a bagel in the other catching a great draft off Chris and Tracy on the highway. Thanks guys! Made it to the venue by the skin of my teeth, checked in, hit the bathroom line, both 20 minute ordeals, racked the "alleged" Rocket and headed for the swim start. I have never been a bigger cluster before a race. This thing was doomed from the start, I just didn't know it yet.
I had registered for the "open" division this year thinking that it would get me out into the race field with less traffic in both the swim and the bike. This plan turned out to be a waste as they had us do a "mass start". So now I'm just the slowest guy in a yellow cap instead of an age grouper with a shot at some hardware. Anyway, I got through the swim and out onto the bike after what must've looked like my first time coming out of T1. I got going and the heart rate wouldn't even come down into the 160's. Hmmmmm. That was the first indication that something might be a bit "off". Imagine that. I have always been able to solve most issues on the race course by just going harder - pushing through it, so that's what I did. And it didn't do squat. I was working hard and going nowhere. Now, the bike is probably my strongest of the three disciplines and I pride myself on not getting passed in races. So you can imagine how I was feeling when people started whizzing by me like I was tied to a stump. I actually looked down to see what was wrong with my bike! I had given it to Josh Freeman when I got there to have him tweak it a bit and I was sure he must've done something wrong! Maybe let all the air out of the tires? It couldn't possibly be ME, I'm an All-Star! Hahahahah Well, Josh, thanks for the awesome tune - the bike was running great, it was the motor I was having a problem with. It got worse from there. My friend Stacy caught me and blew by me. As she passed she told me to get my act together and get moving. I tried. My legs just wouldn't go. Then I looked at my Garmin and it said 175bpm. Not so good. I caught her and went by then I coasted down an incline to recover and she caught me again. This time she really layed into me with a tirade I can't print here but I can tell you that she was not impressed with me catching a breather on the downhill. I passed her back and managed to stay ahead but not by much. Our friend Erin blew by me too - oh yeah, and Catherine...and the rest of the PBMC team. I think word was spreading fast and everybody was coming to get me!
I wanted to stop so badly but I couldn't quit - I never quit. Not an option. I tried to survive the bike and hope that I might feel a little differently on the run. I got into T2 and out on the run and was pleasantly surprised with my 7:20 pace for the first couple of miles. The wheels came flying off the buggy around mile three and the last few were ugly but I got in without hurting myself or someone else. I finished 52nd overall (3rd in the open division). Lots of people would be thrilled with that but I was thinking I should be in the top ten. Guess I was wrong.
I learned a lot (again) that day. I learned that you'd better be in some really crazy race shape to pull off a 70.3/Olympic back to back and do both well. I learned that no matter how crappy you race your friends are still at the finish ready to congratulate you. I signed up for this race because it was the "Club Championship". Hope I helped but not sure I really did. It was still fun to be out there though and I had to just laugh at myself....I was so trashed the few days before this race that I couldn't even get out the door to do a simple workout. You might say the writing was on the wall. I know better but I guess sometimes you just can't see the forest through the trees!
So back to the drawing board I go. I'll rest, recover and refocus. And I'll be back out there tearing it up!
-Signed, "Rookie for a Day"

Friday, August 27, 2010

Timberman 70.3 Race Report

This past weekend I competed in the Timberman 70.3 (Half-Ironman). It was held at Ellacoya State Park in Gilford, NH. As I stated in my previous blog, I did not feel as though I was in top form going into this race so I had no idea what to expect. I was in the 7:40am wave and I waited around for a bit to get rolling. I saw Angela take off and absolutely blow up her wave right from the start. It was really cool. I was like "Yeah, I know her" hehehehe. Anyway, we got into the water and I decided I would move up to the front and try to get a jump at the start. The gun went off and I got into a good hard rhythm but couldn't hold it and began to feel like I might need to stop and breathe. Too hard too soon - again. My break cost me a minute or so and my goggles were leaking too so I had to figure that out. I kept my cool and was able to pull it back together for a half way decent (35:56) swim split but I know I was a lot slower than I should have been. No worries - get it back on the bike. I had a good wet suit peel and got out of T1 in short order. I was greeted by friends and family and was able to forget about the swim pretty easily as I settled into a good bike cadence. I had decided I would try to back off my '09 bike split of 2:28 in an attempt to set myself up for a sub 1:40 run. I did pretty well and was on track for about 2:34 or so but I felt so darn good out by the speedway I decided to just go with it and see what happened. I was rolling through the field at a heart rate of about 142 and felt like I was keeping it under control. I was trying to run down Angela before she got back to T2 so we could run together but she pounded me so badly on the swim I couldn't totally close the gap. I ended up with a 2:29 bike split which totally shocked me given I dragged ten more pounds around that course than I had last year. Of the bike and into T2, good transition and out on the run. 13.1 to go. I wanted to start with a couple of 8's but I looked at my Garmin and saw that 7:20 - 7:30 was feeling surprisingly managable so I went with it. I saw all my friends on the run and was able to cheer the boys from the Speed Lab on. It was great to see the first timers out there tearing it up and particularly good to see my old chum Mike Matheson out there having a great day. (My friend Pat Kelley was injured on Monday and raced with a bum leg, gutting out his first "half" in impressive fashion.) The first loop went very well and I was back to the venue in about 50 minutes or a little less. I took a little inventory and decided I was still feeling really good so I decided to try to push it hard for the second loop and make a run at getting in close to 1:40. With three to go I still had a shot but my pace was slipping to the 7:50 range and I just couldn't squeeze any more out of myself. As I made the final turn into the park to run the last couple hundred yards to the finish I had a guy slip by me and ask if this was the lane for the finish. I said yes, and he took off. Now, I had no idea whether or not he was in my age group but I wasn't going to wait until after the race to find out that I let somebody trim me up at the line. I turned it up a notch and drew even with the 49 year old Frenchman from Quebec City. I was hoping he would be gassed from the short burst he had already used to get ahead of me. I was wrong. Once he saw me to his left he took off on a full-on sprint and I was matching him stride for stride. The finish chute was lined with spectators and they started going nuts seeing what was going on. This was going to be a brawl to the line and they knew it. With about 50 yards to go I snuck a look to my right to see if he was cracking but he was locked in on the finish. I put my head down and gave it whatever I had left. I knew my friends and family would be at the finish and I wasn't going to let them see me get beat to the line. As we approached the line I thought I might just do a "Pete Rose" to make sure I got in before him but I decided against it. We broke through the line at the same time and I am pretty sure I got him by less than a foot. Then I just let everyting go and I fell forward into a full bodyslide in the wet grass ending up face down at Chrissie Wellington's feet - she was there putting medals on all the finishers. I staggered to my feet and looked to shake hands with the guy but he just walked off and I didn't really have the energy to chase him again. I'm not sure whether he was mad at me or came away with a healthy respect for somebody that refused to let him have it. As it turns out, he was in the next age group up and I had beaten him overall by about twenty minutes. I ended up running 1:42 or so and finished with a 4:51 time almost identical to last year. I can't explain it other than to say that I had a great day, the weather cooperated and I was very pleased with the outcome.
As for my finish line drama....I can only say that that's how I race. Plain and simple. If you pull up next to me near the finish I'm going to lay it all out there. I think people that know me understand that. Someone asked after the race why I bothered sprinting given I had no idea whether the guy was even in my age group. I didn't quite understand that - it's a race amd I'm racing. THAT guy was racing so why wouldn't I? PLUS, there were hundreds of people standing there along the chute (in the rain) that all were there to support a loved one or a friend. I figured if I have enough left in the tank to lay it out there and give them something to cheer for I'm going to do it. My friends drove two plus hours to watch me race, my family has endured many hours of training and travelling to support me. I'll be damned if I'm going to jog across a finish line. And that's all there is to say on that!
I went to the awards presentation and watched my friends Mary and Ange get their awards for being in the op of their age group. VERY cool - this is a HUGE race with lots of talent and they both got on the podium. Impressive.
I stuck around for the Clearwater rolldown and was rewarded with a slot to the 70.3 World Championships in Florida on November 13th. This was not even on my radar screen this year but now it is and I am excited about the race.

My friend Doug is racing Ironman Canada this weekend and I'd like to wish him the best! Leave it all out there Doug!
I am racing The Kennebunk Fire Tri this weekend....stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Catching up...

So I try to only "blog" when I have something to say that I think people will want to hear. I have not posted anything in two months. This has not been for lack of something to say but more for lack of time to say it. I have finally gotten to the point where I feel I can take a breath and actually put the last couple of months on paper so to speak. I like to write about my races and several of you have been asking for the updates. I've missed a few and will list them below but I don't think they'll have quite the same sizzle as they do when I do them right after the race. We'll see.
Those that know me well know that I was working full time for Bancroft Contracting in South Paris. I left in mid July. I spent 4 1/2 months driving almost two hours per day and I just hated the drive. I felt so unproductive and detached from my family. I was torn because I liked the job and the company but struggled with the commute and the time away from home. It was a tough choice but I decided to go back to my contracting business and make it work. I don't look at my time there as wasted. It showed me a lot of things that I think I was taking for granted - my time with my family, my ability to train and race in a sport that I have come to love and has become a big part of who I am, and my desire to be my own boss and run my own business. I came away with some close friends in the entire Bancroft and Small families and I am a better person for knowing all of them. I'm proud to call them my friends.
I have never been more excited and energized about having my own business. Since I started back up I have been busy, busy, busy looking at new work, writing proposals and contracts and getting jobs started. I couldn't have asked for a better start given that the day I drove home from South Paris I had no work lined up at all. I have given my wife a few reasons to be nervous over the years but this move was tough on her and I am thankful she had the faith in me to do what I said I could do. I've never worked harder in my life, and I've never been happier. So that's the scoop on "work". I should take a minute here to sincerely thank all of my Facebook friends and the entire "Triathlon" community for helping me get started again. I posted a short note on FB when I was getting started and the result has been tremendous. So THANK YOU everyone, it has been great!
As a result of the above you can imagine how far down the list "triathlon" has slid in the past two months. I have managed to cling to some early season fitness and throw up (no pun intended)some decent efforts on race day despite what I'd call intermitent(sp?) training. It's funny, when you reduce your priorities down to "OK, what do I need to do to make sure my family survives", things get pretty streamlined in a hurry. Triathlon and training goes out the window and you find yourself wondering whose stupid idea it was to only put 24 hours in a day. Anyway, I think the next race I did was the Black Fly Tri in Waterville Valley (7/9-7/11). This a three day event that did last year. Last year I lost overall on the weekend to Rick Durgin by something like 28 seconds. This year I did much better. I lost to Mike MacDonald by a mere ten seconds - ON THE WEEKEND! I can't remember too many of the details but I can tell you that I put it all out there on all three days and I got beat. Mike has really turned it up this year and it was nice to see him have a great weekend. Oh yeah, Durgin beat me again too. Seeing a pattern yet? No? Well stay tuned. I did do very well overall. I came home with some hardware but my friends kicked my ass. This was a tough pill to swallow as I knew I should be stronger but the fact is that I wasn't strong enough. I decided to bear down on the training and focus on the diet. This turned out to be pretty tough given I had just quit my job and needed to get some work going!
In July I was able to take a trip to Lake Placid to watch my friends compete in Ironman USA. We had a ball and did some great training while we were there. Rick and I rode up Whiteface Mountain on Friday and he beat me handily and I never felt good the entire way. It's an 8 mile climb that just never backs off and gets steeper as you go. It's like 4800' or something. Anyway, we rode the 56 mile Lake Placid loop after climbing that and I still didn't feel great. When we got back to the camping area and had a beer I got thinking about Lance Armstrong and his book that I had read. Lance was training in the mountains and did this four hour climb and was not happy with the results. He got to the top and told his coach "I'm going back down, and I'm doing it again". So while I was sitting at the picnic table, legs trashed, I looked at Rick and said "I'm doing it again tomorrow". He just looked at me and said "OK". And that's just what we did, and he kicked my butt again. But I felt better, much better and it showed me that I am stronger than I think. I'd be fine. Mike MacDonald and Mark Bancroft joined us for the second day up the mountain. Mike beat me by a couple of minutes but Mark struggled. We found out a couple of weeks later that he had done the climb with an 11/23 cassette on his tri bike. Whoops. That means he is one tough dude and a pretty darn good athlete. Most people would have thrown in the towel ut Mark didn't give up, he climbed that sucker and met us at the top. He did mention that he needed to find some new friends though!
Forgot to mention I jumped into the Pirate Tri at Point Sebago in June. I did well finishing 10th I believe. Tough little course. Angela beat me. She is having a tremendous year.
Before I knew it the Beach to Beacon was in my face and I was going "holy crap, I'm not ready for this...!" So I decided to make a training day out of it and bike to the race, run the race, run the race backward, and bike home. I saw Mark and Ange at the start as well as Josh "Off the Couch" Freeman and his wife Annie (she smoked me). I saw a bunch of other friends too. It was great. I thought I might be able to run 6:50's but I knew I'd have to dig deep to do it. I dug a bit deeper and ran 6:49's, I think it was a PR. Josh Freeman and several others were breathing right down my neck at the finish. (I give Josh a hard time because he literally got up off the couch last year and ran B2B with little or no training posting a 7:20 pace I think!) Most of my friends kicked my butt but I managed to beat 5200 or so of the 5700finishers. Not bad for a guy that has been having a hard time getting his training in. Rob Martin beat me by a few seconds too. He was pretty pleased and it occurred to me that I now have people that chase me and measure their effort and results against mine. That's a pretty cool thing and in a way it motivates me even more. So, Rob, welcome to the list of people I plan to beat - yes I am keeping track :). I ran the race course backward then bagged the ride home opting for a day at Pine Point with Jodi and Bailey, the (Pat) Kelley Family and the Bracketts.
Last Friday I jumped into the St Peter's Four Miler in Portland. This is a great little race with awesome door prizes. Brackett showed up thinking he was going to beat me. We ran the first mile in 6:15 - whoops. Mile two was slower but Dave slipped off the pace and I lost him. I finished in 27:01 (6:46 pace)- good for 3rd in my age group. Dave came in about 40 seconds later. He plans to beat me in the Pumpkinman Sprint next fall but he knows I'll be ready. We both had a great run and I think 27:01 was a PR for me. Strange, I'm ten pounds heavier than last year and running well with screwed up training. Not going to hang my hat on it, just an observation.
So now I have The Timberman 70.3 (Half-Ironman)staring me in the face for this weekend. Am I ready? Who knows? Last year I did 4:51 and luckily had a Clearwater slot roll down to me. My goal this year is 4:45 broken out like this: 31:00 swim, 2:29 bike, 1:38 run. With transitions that should get me where I'd like to be. I am going to have to lay down a well executed race in order to do this AND the heat needs to NOT become a major factor. Why do I think I can go faster than last year given the training issues I've had and the additional weight? Because it's all about the run and I plan to gear my race to the second half of the run, AND I plan to turn myself inside out in the process. I have a bunch of friends coming to watch and cheer me on and I plan to leave it all out there. The winter is long in the Speed Lab and I am the leader (well, only because it's my house) and Leaders lead by example. I plan to give a good example for everyone to think about while we all train for Ironman Lake Placid 2011 - oh yeah, did I mention I signed up for that? More on that later.
So I think that catches me up a bit - sorry for the delay in getting something out...I'll try to be more active now that I have secured some work!. I'll close with some things I have observed and done this summer...

I watched my best friend lay down a 11:10 Ironman split. Pretty damn impressive.
I have watched a new friend kick the crap out of a bad (multiple) Pulmonary Embolism(s) and live to tell about it.
I helped Tommy Bancroft get up on water skis for the first time.
My parents have retired and are enjoying themselves after a lifetime of hard work.
I went to the Tri For Cure and realized that there are a lot more important things in life than who wins the race.
I learned that I can do anything I set my mind to.
I joined a Business networking group that meets every week.
My wife is a Zumba fanatic - she's into it. Good for her. She also gets mad when I mow the lawn. Imagine that.
I am now 41 years old - still don't have all the answers but I'm working on it!
My daughter is becoming a young lady and a pretty darned good dancer.

There are still only 24 hours in a day....