Rev3 Cedar Point 2013

September 9, 2013

“First you feel like dying. Then you feel reborn.”

That was quite ostensibly the hardest thing I have ever done.

On little sleep, I headed to the park. I noticed others who had their wetsuits on. That is when I realized I had forgotten my wetsuit. I didn’t panic, because I knew I could handle the swim without a wetsuit. Then I noticed the timing chips. Holy hell! I forgot my timing chip! My timing chip was back at the hotel sitting on top of my wetsuit! It would take me 20 minutes to get to the hotel, and transition would close in 45 minutes. Wearing my sandals, I ran to the car. On the way to the hotel, I realized I left my keycard and my driver’s license in my transition bag. Either the desk clerk lets me into my room or I’m hosed. I guess I have an honest face. I strapped my timing chip onto my ankle, grabbed my wetsuit, and headed back to the park. I coated myself in sunscreen and glide. Another participant noted that I must be optimistic for sun; I simply wasn’t taking any chances. On another note, you’re damn right I was optimistic. I was about to start a half ironman. You don’t do this with anything less than optimism and preparation!

This was not the swim I had planned. With the time trial start on the swim, I was unable to position myself to draft. I was unfamiliar with the new course. I found my way to the canal, but it was not a straight shot to get there. Once out of the canal, I could fee the swells lifting me up and setting me down.Being unfamiliar with the course, I stopped several times along the way to find out where I should be sighting. I kept in mind the basics of my swim, relaxed and kept going. I knew if I could finish the swim that I would finish the race. I made it out of the water.

The run from the marina to transition was about a half mile. I dried off my feet, put on my socks and helmet, grabbed my bike and went. I strapped my shoes once the bike was in motion. I played leap-frog with a few riders. I knew how to take advantage of the hills and took corners with intent, but my competitors could ride through the wind. I didn’t want to blow out my legs with 56 miles to go and a half marathon to run afterward. My plan was to take the bike easy so that I could save my legs for the run. Unfortunately, Mother Nature was in a mood; 17 mph winds took it out of me. The rain wasn’t so bad- it was more of a cooling mist. I took the course 10 miles at a time until I finished the course.

I left transition as though on fresh legs. I felt good and could not believe I had just ridden my bike 56 miles. A half mile later, the cramping started. Mother trucker. I started walking and began to believe I would DNF. They would have to pull me off the course, but I wasn’t going to quit. I would “find a way” and continue with “relentless forward progress” knowing that “glory doesn’t tickle”. I walked most of the next mile and a half and encouraged a few other participants along the way who were suffering the same fate. Then my friend Beth showed up. It was about time for me to try running again, and so I ran with her. She had her watch set to beep every half mile. We would walk a 1/10th of a mile and run 4/10ths. We would continue this pattern as far as we needed. My heart and lungs were willing, my spirit even more so, but my legs fought with me till the end. We pushed each other. Then, with a mile to go, she made her way to the finish; I would kick the last half mile.

The finish line was glorious. I felt victorious.

The biggest problem that I had was my nutrition. I finished the nutrition bottle on my bike but only made it through two bottles of Osmo. On the run, nutrition wasn’t settling well with me. I needed to experiment in the hopes of finishing. They offered salt, water, coke, and ice on the run course, and I took advantage of all of this. The salt helped reduce my cramping, and the coke gave me the energy boosts I needed to keep running.

I had set goals for myself. Overall, I had a gold medal goal of 6:30, silver for 7:00, and bronze for 7:30. In my two Olympic distance triathlons, I completed the 1500 meter swim in about 30 minutes; my goal for the 1.2 mile swim was 40-45 minutes. I knew I could bust out 19+ mph on the bike, but I wanted to take it easy so I would have something left for the run; my goal for the bike was 3-1/2 hours. My half marathon PR is 2:14:02; my goal for the run was 2-1/2 hours, although given the nature of the beast, I would have been happy with a sub 3 hour run. Given the windy conditions, I was entirely surprised to have met my goal on the bike; my swim and run both suffered. In the end, I met my bronze goal with a finish time of 7:23:41.

I am glad I did this. I do consider the possibility that I could do better, that I could do more. I do want more, but it isn’t in triathlon. If this journey has taught me anything, it is that I can achieve that which I dream.

Capital City Half Marathon 2013

May 7, 2013

This would be my fourth half marathon, yet two of them had not gone well, including this same event one year ago when I suffered a stress fracture that should have ended my race at mile seven. It ended my 2012 season. Two stress fractures and one pinched nerve later, I’m trying to prove that 2013 will be a different year.

I was well rested through the week. Then Friday evening, I headed out for my scheduled shakeout run. When I returned home, it happened. I only slept half the night as I fought my allergies. My face would not stop leaking. I was afraid to take anything for it as allergy medicine is known to cause drowsiness. Come race morning, I was drowsy for lack of sleep.

I met up with the MIT crew at the Hilton where I connected with Miles for Myelin, the Run MS team I am running with this year to raise support for the National MS Society. Our team captain, Melissa, planned to pace me to a PR finish. I also met up with another friend who would be running her first half marathon- go Ashley! Another friend, Cheryl, was also running her first half marathon; I would find her after the race. After some pictures, we all headed out to find our start corrals. There was a pleasant chill in the air which I can appreciate on race morning.

I had already made three different trips to the restroom only to realize these trips were unnecessary. Then, after finding my corral, the sudden and inescapable urge to find a port-a-john took its grip on me. I had a nervous bladder this morning.

I started with the 2:15 pace group. I expected I would always keep the pace leaders in sight, then surge ahead at the right moment toward the end of the race. I did not expect what actually happened soon after the first mile. The pace was easy enough that, as the pace group slowed down at the water stop, I continued on and picked up a little speed. I was looking for comfortably hard and found it. The plan was to keep at comfortably hard, then sprint the final 5K. There were moments that comfortably hard became prohibitively difficult; at these moments, I reminded myself to check my form: throw my elbows back, lift my head, bend my knees, shorten my stride, and breathe deep. These checks helped me keep my rhythm and enjoy the run.

I did not enjoy fighting through the crowd of quarter marathoners. There is a portion of the half marathon course where the quarter marathon route turns off then meets up again later for a merge. At this point, the congestion that was previously relieved at the initial turnoff is now revisited. There was one couple in particular who kept crossing in front of me, dropping back, passing me, wash, rinse, repeat. I was ready to throw elbows. This led to frustration on my part and early surges that hurt my performance later in the race. I had been holding steady around a 10:00 pace. Then around miles 7 and 8, I surged in an effort to pass people. This punctuated effort burned through my reserves and left me hitting a wall going into the mile nine.

I expected the last miles of the race to suck. I had not expected the suck to reveal itself so soon. I spent the last four miles cramping, especially so in my calves but also in my quads. The last two miles were a mental and physical battle against walking. I am happy to say that I did not walk. Had I succumbed, I would not have met my goal. Also, my hands started going numb.

I turned the corner onto High St for the final stretch. The ending is cruel as the route takes the participants up a gentle grade that at this point in the race ceases to be gentle. Further, the organizers extended the finish line beyond the point of last year’s finish line. Expectation of relief leads to disappointment as you realize you have yet another 100 feet to run- bastards!

I cannot tell you how I was feeling when I finished the race. I honestly don’t remember much at this point other than it wasn’t at all clear to me where to get my finisher medal. The corral was crowded. I was hurting. I debated a stop at the medical tent but decided to just continue on to the MIT tent where I knew I could jump in a barrel of ice water. It didn’t help that the corral led finishing participants to a set of stairs that you could not avoid. Once in the Commons, I made my way to the MIT tent, found my JustTri jacket, removed my shoes and happily jumped into an ice bath. Afterward, I propped up my leg to allow a bag of ice to rest on my ankle. It wasn’t until I was home that the fullness of my accomplishment washed over me.

It was encouraging to experience the love of my running family before, during, and after the race. Not only did my fellow Miles for Myelin teammate run with me during the race, but from start to finish I received the cheers and encouragement of friends along the course. They may not know that I heard them, but I did. Their support meant everything to me.

I wore a Camelback rather than fight through the hydration stations. However, I will be trying out different hydration belts this season. The crowds at these hydration stations are hazardous. My nutrition for the race included 24oz of water mixed with 400 calories of Heed plus another 10oz bottle of water. For conditions this morning, 24oz and 400 calories was perfect. On occasion, I would douse myself with the water.

For the pain I was in during and after the race, I honestly started asking myself this weekend why we do this to ourselves. Today, I’m looking forward to my next race. My accomplishment this weekend is not lost on me. I’m proud of my 2:14:02 PR. I look back on my training and the race itself and know that I could have done better, yet my experience in this race is a valuable lesson as I look ahead to remainder of the season.

Enjoying a post race beer.

Enjoying a post race beer.

Happy People Dancing Around the World

July 31, 2012

This is pretty much the best video ever.

See more at Where the Hell is Matt

Breathing Easy

December 28, 2009

Approaching 40 this past summer, I had smoked for 24 years and never accomplished anything athletic in my life. A trip up the stairs would leave me winded. I had a pack-a-day habit, unsuccessfully attempting every pharmaceutical approach available to quit smoking. It was not until I tied on a pair of running shoes that I was able to quit.

That is not to say that I quit smoking right away. I had bought the shoes in 2007 – a pair of New Balance 1223. They looked good, especially when I wore them out to the patio to smoke another cigarette. I thought they looked particularly good when I jaunted down to the grocery store for a case of Killians and a bag of Doritos.

Having lost my dad to cancer in 2007, and watching my mom’s health deteriorate since then, it was with increasing determination that I set out give tobacco the boot. It was not until I learned of my cousin’s success that I knew how to quit.

The Captain is two years my senior and had smoked all his life. Then, in 2008, he started running and quit smoking. He was running regularly, counting calories and losing weight.

On June 16 of this year, I smoked my last cigarette at midnight. I went to bed and, after a good night of sleep, I strapped on my running shoes and went for a jog around the block. Rather, I should say, I jogged from my driveway to the neighbor’s driveway and walked the rest of the way.

I was terribly out of shape. The pounding my lungs took that first morning was enough to keep me off cigarettes the rest of the day. Although I wanted the pleasure of a cigarette, I knew I could not suffer a cigarette. I continued this routine for the next several days.

It did not take very long for my knees to complain.

My doctor prescribed physical therapy, and I started riding my bike, instead. This lead to my riding the 100-mile course in Pelotonia in August but, that’s another story.

Now that the weather has turned south, I’ve put the bike away. My physical therapist cleared me to start running again, so I am working up to running the Commit to be Fit 5k in the Spring, and the Columbus Marathon in the Fall. I am presently running one mile, walking two, and haven’t had a cigarette in six months.

As for the Captain, he ran in the Akron Marathon this past Fall and qualified for Boston. He really had to set the bar high. Bastard.