Saturday, May 8, 2010

Polar Bear

I raced today. When I arrived at the race venue I heard some words I hadn't really expected. "Kurt is doing the Du". G-r-e-a-t...... I won this race last year and was looking forward to defending the title so now I was going to be chasing a rabbitt. Super...... It didn't take me long to decide I would try to keep Kurt in my sights for as long as possible. This would accomplish two things. 1). It would be fun to see how much pain it caused me to try to stay with him while he tried to crack me. 2) I would use the process to in turn "crack" the guys I knew were chasing ME.
It all went down about how I expected. Kurt hadn't been feeling well (hence the DU) so I was hopeful he might have a little mercy on us on the first run loop. He decided instead to take it out fast and "see who wanted to play". When we hit the woods about 1/4 mile into it I glanced at my Garmin and saw a number I haven't seen before. We were running a 5:00 pace and I knew my time at this pace was very limited. I said screw it and kept on trucking. As Kurt started to pull away I looked at my pace again and saw I was running 5:49 pace. Now what am I supposed to do with that? Hahahah!!!! He was flying! So I backed it off to a 6:00 pace hoping I could hold it for the rest of the two miles and I really had a hard time dong that. I had effectively "Blown-Up" and was now scraping myself together for a tough rest of the race. My focus turned from keeping Kurt in view to keeping the chase pack at bay. I knew Tim Keene and Jared Buzzell were coming fast so I needed to get my act together in a hurry or I was gong to get shot out the back. I heard some footsteps and was quickly caught by two guys I didn't know. OK Boys, now we're gonna find out whatcha got! I decided to let these guys have it because I knew I could get them on the bike. I came into T1 in 4th place. Fast transition got me riding my bike before the two guys so now I was in second - again. I had an OK bike - faster than Kurt but slower than last year. I never felt great on the bike due in part to my effort on the first run. No problem, I wanted to push really hard today and see how I responded to a near blow-up. I got off the bike and tore out onto the second run. I wasn't wearing socks today - bad choice and I immediately knew that I would be shredding my feet. Nothing felt right but I still busted out of there. The run was slower than last year with some of the chase pack out splitting me. I got to the finish 22 seconds ahead of Jered Buzzell. He simply ran out of real estate as he was closing fast. So I was second, behind Kurt and ahead of Jared. I was pretty pleased overall even though I was slower than last year. It was nice to get out and tear it up. I learned a few things and will become better because I raced today. There were a ton of us there from the Midcoast Triathlon Club and it felt great to have had a part in growing such a great club. It's a great group of people just interested in having a good time and supporting each other at the races.
Mike Caiazzo won the tri. My friends Owen Lisa and Brett Helstedt were 2nd and 3rd respectively. These two guys go at each other every single time they race. I respect that, but what I really like is that they are the best of friends and no matter which one of them comes out on top you can still find them hanging out together after the race. They are doing Ironman CDA next month and you can bet I'll be watching online an rooting for both of them.
Doug Welling was 4th and it sounds like he was right on Brett's heels. Good stuff all the way around. A big shout out to my athlete "Meg". I have been coaching her and she kicked butt today. She trains hard and races hard - I like it!
Thank you to my wife for taking so many pictures today. I know people really like being able to snag a few shots without having to pay for them. She got some great shots today!

That's about it....not usually the way I race but you gotta shake things up now and then and she whatcha' get. Today I got my butt kicked but I kicked a lot of butt too. Comes around, goes around ya' know?

Giddy Up!

Monday, May 3, 2010

DNF Revisited....

True to form, I have been battling a chest cold for the past week while my first race of the season inches closer. I have rationalized that it isn't a big race, it's the first one of the year, it's only a "DU", bla, bla, bla. But the fact is I won this race a year ago and I consider it my duty to show up and put myself out there. So, as I've begun to "come around" in the last day or so I am now rationalizing again, but this time it's more like, "well, maybe the break was a good thing", "well, I needed to taper (for a sprint DU?)", and my favorite, "I'll just train really hard for the next few days and make up for last week". And so it goes. Bottom line? There's a race Saturday, I'll be there and I'll give it everything I've got and not make any excuses. I can't stand it when people race and then stand around and talk about how they should've done this or that....SO DO IT! Don't tell me about it...DO IT! Give me your best and that's it. End of story. Anyway, I'm starting to rant so I'll switch gears to the real reason I am blogging tonight, my 2008 experience in Lake Placid.

There are a couple of reasons I have decided to reduce this episode to writing, the biggest one being I have a poor memory and it's getting out there aways. Another reason is that I have several friends Racing the Lake Placid Ironman this year and several other friends racing other Ironman races and I want to give them a little motivation for their training ahead and their big day coming up this summer.

We headed to Lake Placid on Thursday before the (Sunday) race. This was to be my second Ironman and I was planning on RACING this time. The first time my goal was to FINISH and I did so in 2006 in fine fashion for a first timer clocking 11:39:39. SO, in '08 I was coming to race, to tear it up, to leave it all out on the course as they say. I had an excellent winter of training and everything was on track until May 16th. We were stripping shingles off a house in Portland that day and I stepped on a nail. I drove a rusty old roofing nail dead center into the ball of my left foot. This injury lasted ten months. I had x-rays, bone scans, you name it. There was nothing wrong structurally with my foot BUT it continued to hurt and hamper my running right up to race day. In the last few weeks leading up to "Placid" I revised my race plan to "swim hard, hammer the bike, try to hang on on the run depending on the foot". Not the best way to go into an Ironman but hey, it was what I had to work with, had to go with it. When we arrived in Lake Placid and checked in to "The Pines" we discovered we were on the fourth floor. No biggie in most places but this is an OLD hotel/inn and there was no elevator. We hit the stairs and (at the time) I didn't really suspect anything was wrong. But looking back I remember how tired I felt climbing those stairs. I should have known something was up. I did all my race prep in the next two days and hit the sack early after a chicken dinner at the hotel. I awoke on race morning a little before the alarm, not because I was ready to go but because I was SICK. I staggered to the bathroom in the dark and then layed down on the nice cool floor. I knew I was in trouble and felt like I was going to pass out so I crawled to the foot of the bed and tugged on my wife's foot to wake her. I then crawled back into the bathroom in time to empty the contents of my body several times (both ends, eeewwwww). This went on for about twenty minutes before I could get back to bed and lay down and assess the situation. Jodi was smart enough to just let me figure out on my own that I would not be racing today. This was not an easy pill to swallow given I had just put my family through eight months of committed training and was watching it go up in smoke at 4am in a hotel room. I sat up on the bed after a few minutes and tried to eat a bagel. It seemed to hold so I layed back down and eyed my wetsuit and special needs bags hanging on the door while I sipped some water. It was about that time that I decided the game wasn't over just yet. I sat up, slid my crocs on, grabbed my wetsuit and kissed my wife goodbye. I told her I was going down to the race in the event I felt better. Sounded like a good idea at the time. I hopped the shuttle and headed for the "Peak" tent when I got intown. The first person I saw was my coach Rob Smith and he took one look at me and said "Dude, you do NOT look good at all". I told him what was up and took a seat to try to figure through things. I was glad to be there even if I WAS sick because I was around people who understood how badly I wanted to race that day. Tim Keene was there and offered his support, that was great.

I'm not sure when I decided that "I'd just do the swim" but by the time my family got to the Peak tent I was in the water at the starting line refusing to take part in my own little nightmare. I figured I would do one loop and see how I felt. Couldn't hurt right? Looking back I'm pretty sure I was running a solid fever at the starting line. The gun went off and I was swimming up front getting pounded into submission when it occurred to me I may have made a mistake. "So what, keep it goin' , see what happens, keep your options open", and so on. I was just taking it easy and was able to swim the first loop without too much trouble but I knew when I got out of the water to start the second loop that it was over. I was feeling worse and there was only one thing left to I SLAMMED MY GOGGLES ON AND DOVE BACK IN THE WATER!!!! THAT'S WHAT I DID!! BECAUSE I WAS PISSED AND I WASN'T GOING TO LET ANYBODY TELL ME I WAS DONE - NOT EVEN ME!!!!! (I would have loaded that up with the f-bomb for you but my mother reads this and I try to keep it clean)

So, it was only about 100 yards before I REALLY knew I was DONE so I decided I would just swim easy, staying to the outside. About half-way down I couldn't see because my goggles were leaking (I thought), nope, the water was coming from the inside. I hit the beach and stayed to the right. A volunteer immediately identified that something wasn't right with me and asked if I was OK. I told her no, well yes, but NO..."I'm sick , I need to drop out or I'm going to hurt myself".....she told me to step over to the side and asked for my timing chip. It was tough to do I but reached down and tore the velcro strip off, hesitated a minute and then handed it over. DONE, day over, Ironman hopes dashed. I stepped around the competitors and had to work my way through the wetsuit stripping area. As I walked, wondering how things could be worse, I was whacked in the head by a stripped wetsuit. The thing wrapped right around my head and slapped me like a wet towel. When they unwound it I just broke out laughing and kept walking. As I walked trought the chute I could see the Peak tent up on the hill and my wife and daughter scanning the crowd for me. They spotted me and I continued to make my way out of the chute. Not fun.

As I walked up the road toward the tent, wetsuit peeled halfway, I spotted Bailey running toward me. She gave me a big hug and I said "ya' know how I always tell you "don't expect life to be fair?"....."this is what I mean". I carried her up to the tent and I sat down to begin accepting what had just happened. I saw Tim Keene again and I remember him being close enough to let me know he was there but far enough away to respect the fact that I was in the middle of swallowing a big pill and needed a little space. Everyone at the tent was great and I am fortunate to have them as friends. I'm glad I started this race. It wasn't the smartest thing to do but I learned a lot during those two swim loops. I learned that in the end, it's just a race. I learned that I never give up. I learned that it's possible to do the dumbest thing ever and the smartest thing ever in the same day. I learned that I care less about a DNF than I care about a "did not start". I learned that life isn't always about who gets there first (or even at all), it has a lot more to do with how you conduct yourself along the way.

So I settled into my big fat "Did Not Finish" and I accepted it with pride. Proud that I tried, proud that I trained hard and proud I that toed the line with some world class athletes. I headed back to the room for most of the day (101 temp) and followed the race online checking in on my friends every 5 minutes. Around 4:30 my fever broke and I was able to go back down to the tent and cheer on my friends and was fortunate enough to see Dave Brackett complete his first IM. I was thrilled for him. He is one of the people that will be doing Placid this year and I wish him the best. I hope all my friends have a great day, and if for some reason, things don't go as planned, or you hit a bump in the road, give this story a thought or two. Pull it from the back of your mind and ask yourself if YOU are ready to give up yet. I know your answer will be NO and that you will press on. I'll be pulling for you. As I always say - Lace 'em up tight, take no prisoners.