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Race Result

Racer: Kevin Kunkel
Race: ChesapeakeMan
Date: Saturday, September 30, 2006
Location: Cambridge, MD
Race Type: Triathlon - Ironman
Age Group: Male 35 - 39
Time: 10:23:17
Overall Place: 8 / 174
Age Group Place: 2 / 27
Comment: ChessyMan race Report: It's long but so is the race

Race Report:

I know I havenít even finished by Reston race report but I have got a lot of e-mails for me to write my ChessyMan report (which was a real shock because rarely does one respond to mine) so here goes. Coming in, this was my ďAĒ race for the year. I know I signed up late but Iíve had a bunch of nagging running related injuries which I was afraid was going to derail me so I didnít want to get my hopes up. I had to try and be even-keeled, but anyone who knows me knows that is difficult. ;-)

I welcomed and heeded many of the messages of support and caution that I received from this list, respectively. I knew of the perils (nutrition, pace, etc.) going in but there is one quote I remember that kept ringing in my head--and I apologize if I screw this up. The great Peter Reid once said something to the effect, ď...take confidence in knowing that youíve done all the training, so just go out there and rock!Ē Thatís the approach I took going in. I did a lot of biking and swimming (not much help as youíll see on this one), but I was concerned as a former marathon runner that my lack of sufficient run training was going to be a major issue. In having spoken to Stv on a number of occasions he made me feel at ease in that if I got a lot of miles in on the bike then I would feel rather fresh going into the run, regardless of my run training. This rang pretty true. I took a good two week taper which was difficult for me. I decided to spend a lot of that time with my family. It was only then I realized how much time I really spent away from them. Thatís really the hardest thing about IM training. Itís not the sweat and pain; itís the time away from the other things you care about. This really manifested itself on the finish line, but Iíll get back to that later.


One of the greatest things about the TriRATS list-serve, and the Club for that matter, is the network of acquaintances that soon become good friends. You begin to network and establish connections to races. For me, that was Keith B. camping at Eagleman, or rooming with Rob Weitzel this time at Chessy. Rob and I headed up Thursday afternoon. That way we could take advantage of the pre-race carbo dinner at the Hyatt (very, very nice hotel in my opinion) as well as go to packet pick-up before it gets crazy. I swear we must have been the first people at packet pickup. They were just putting everything out. Vigo was there and he managed to talk to us for some 20 minutes. He is one of the nicest guys Iíve ever met and the most approachable RDs there is (maybe our own Dave Glover would give him a run for that title). One thing that was a little disconcerting was that he kept checking to make sure we had everything. Iíve never had to do a race where you have 5 bags for all kinds of different things. Itís a lot to keep track of on top of all the other gear youíve schlepped to the race. One thing at Chessy man this year was no t-shirt unless you finished. Rob was a little concerned there. He said, ďDamn! I have to finish this thing.Ē

Speaking of nice guys, we ran into one other competitor that Rob knew well from past races. His name is Stephen Brown who came down from Philly. This would be his 3rd ChessyMan which is impressive since there have only been 3! His story becomes even more amazing as youíll soon see.

After packet pickup Rob and I headed out for a very short bike ride. I hadnít been on a bike in a week and I just put on brand new tires and tubes. Many of you have heard that Iíve had a number of flats and I finally tracked it all down to my very thin Vittoria lights being gouged and slashed during the brutal beating they took back in July at the NYC Triathlon. I decided to go with some Conti 4000s since they provided 2500 miles of flat free riding on my road bike this summer. We decided to ride the run courseóor at least one loop of it (approx. 9 miles). Going out we were headed into a 20-30mph headwind. Iím running a Hed3 front and a disc rear. The wind was coming at about 45 degrees and it was playing hell with the front of the bike. The disc fared a little better because my race weight puts me over 175lb so I guess I had enough weight on the wheel. Needless to say, Rob was trying to stay out of my downwind in case a gust came up and took us both off the road. We were going easy but 15 mph ion the headwind turned into 30mph coming back with the wind. I was hoping race day wouldnít be the same otherwise, I would be wishing for hills rather than wind. After the ride we grabbed a shower (no Mike Gilette, not together) and headed over to the Hyatt for the carbo dinner.

The food at the Hyatt was fantastic. The best spread Iíve ever seen pre-race. I thought it was odd that they do the dinner two nights before, but it allows you to really relax the day before. At first I was going to head up Friday but Iím glad I didnít. It was great to really relax going in to such an event. I highly recommend it. After the dinner, Steve, Rob, and I headed back to the America Best Value Inn where we were staying. It just so happened to have a liquor store next door so we got a 6-pack of micro brew and decided to sit by the pool. It is here was I was introduced to Steveís story. In February he was diagnosed with Leukemia. He actually went to Vigo who does some work in the field and got him in touch with some of the best doctors around in the field. He went through two rounds of chemo and is now in remission. I thought, this is amazing, 6 months ago Steve probably thought he was dying and here he is 36 hours away from competing in an Ironman! What an inspiration. I donít have anything to complain about compared to him (more on this later). Just about the time I was done hearing Steveís story and after throwing back a few cold ones the wind and weather became furious with massive thunderstorms. We were in this little fiberglass enclosed atrium that sounded like it was about to come apart. The winds went from 20-30mpoh to something more like 50+. When we got back to our room we found out that we were under a tornado warning; a couple of which touched down just across the bay. I was starting to think the Gods werenít shining brightly on me.

On Friday the three of us just slept in and relaxed. We went out and ate and Dennyís for brunch and then with Robís girlfriend and mother coming up, we all went our separate ways. Steve wanted to check in his bike very early and get an early dinner. Rob and I checked in our bikes just before the 6PM mandatory race meeting. After that Rob went to eat with his family and I was on my own. I ended up stuffing myself at a Chinese buffet. It worked out OK as youíll see race day. Later that evening my friend (not loveróMr. Gilette!) and fellow RAT Will Waskes came up and crashed. He wanted to watch a race like this before he decides to take the plunge and he wanted to video my first race. He was pretty tired. He and his girlfriend just came back from a 5 day trip to Paris and London thanks to my wifeís United Airlines companion passes. He literally came from the airport on up to Cambridge. I ended up getting to sleep around midnight and actually slept pretty well considering.

Race Day:

I woke up to the simultaneous ring of my watch alarm and Rob knocking on my door. He was staying in the room next door so that was easy. I managed to drink two Carnation instant breakfasts and a banana. Will and I drove over to the Gazebo outside the Hyatt which is the rallying point. This was probably the best pre race location of any race Iíve ever done. It was very organized and baggage drop locations were very clear. They had free Starbucks coffee for all which I did manage to get a cup down before Vigo pleaded with us to get our wetsuits on. It was a chilly morning. According to Rob it was 39. There wasnít a breath of wind which was odd since it had been howling ever since we got there. The Choptank river which just the day before was coming over the banks of the dock with 3-4 ft chop, was now completely serene. This was a welcomed change. The race start time was 7AM which was coincidentally sunrise. It was really pretty to start the race right as the sun came up over the horizon.

Swim (1:22:05, 52nd of 174)

I got in the water and you could see the jellyfish everywhere. Luckily Iím not one of those people who are very sensitive to the sting. When I got one I felt a slight sting like sunburn and it fades a few seconds later. The small nature of this race (200) helps with the pre-race and early race panic that can be onset during the opening moments of a mass start open water swim. When the gun sounded I got into my pace right away. I stayed to the left of the masses and took it very easy. You start at the Hyatt and work your way toward Great Marsh Park (EagleMan fame). Iíve been told to treat the swim as the warm up for the rest of the day. We headed out in a slack tide that was turning against usómeaning, the current was forcing us backward the longer the race went on. This must have really picked up because the water was tranquil and I had just come off the best swim of my life 7 days before (24 min for 1500m). I felt that I should have easily come somewhere between 1:10-1:15. I did mange to get stung about 20 times but it wasnít that bad. The unique nature of the point to point swim is awesome. I still havenít quite figured it out but both times I have swum there the water near the exit is much colder then the rest of the river. I wish someone could explain that.

The swim was rather uneventful other than the aforementioned jellyfish. One thing that struck me is that even though I swam longer than Iíve ever had (2 miles was my limit), and that I was in the water long past an hour, the whole thing seemed to fly by. My legs were a little wobbly when I first stood up. I guess laying down for nearly an hour and a half will do that. Will was documenting all this on a video camera and captured my 2 step fall back into the water.

T1 (2:51, 10th of 174)

Since this was my first Ironman and that there were only 200 competitors they moved the transitions up significantly from those of you whoíve done Eagleman. You simply came out of the water like 50ft, were handed your bike needs bag and ran into a tent. Since my swim was pretty poor all the seats were taken in the tent so I did my best standing and hopping in the middle of the tent trying to get my wetsuit (and jellies) off. I ran out of the tent like 15ft to my bike and I was off. Iím usually a solid MOP in transitions but I was in the top 10 here--kind of a surprise.

Bike (5:13:55, 10th of 174)

At the beginning of my ride I thought I was in trouble. Rob kept telling me how he may use a sweatshirt and that he would use arm warmers and I was like, ď...why? I like the cold.Ē After about a 100m at 20+ mph I was wishing I had some warmth. I was freezing to the point of shivering. Luckily my DeSoto one-piece (best piece of tri clothing there is imho) dried quickly and it was great.

The course is not simply two loops of Eagleman. There is a 6 mile out and back on the first loop that takes you nearly to the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and the Choptank River. There we turn around come back about half way to down and then make a right joining the Eagleman course. Because we do this the 1st loop if 65 miles and the second is 47. This led to some confusion for Will which Iíll get to later.

On the first loop winds did begin to pick up. I would say it was a little windier than Eagleman this year. The winds were not out of the west as normal for these parts. They were coming from the E/SE which was good because on the last 10 miles of both loops you were with the wind. I made up a lot of time on these segments. The first third of each loop was squarely into the wind. The second third was a distinct crosswind. They werenít all that bad because the disc and H3 held up fine. And then the last third was with the wind. This part also happened to be the most beautiful part of the course; coincidentally, not part of Eagleman course again because you work your way back to Cambridge HS, not great Marsh Park as is the case with Eagleman. It was here that at some points in the marsh that water crossed the road thanks to the massive thunderstorms just 36 hours before. All in all my speeds ranged from 18-19 mph into the wind to 27-30mph with the wind. So the course may not have any hills, it certainly has some variability due to the winds.

I did manage to take in some of the wildlife; for example, I spotted 3 bald eagles. I almost had a run in with the wildlife. At about 95 miles I was making my second trip through the marsh when a flock of Canadian Geese were coming in low over the road from my left getting ready to land in the body of water to the right of the road. The last bird in the flock nearly hit me in the head. I ducked and the bird swerved at the last second. I saw the whole race flash before my eyes. Those things weigh over 20 pounds. That would have surely knocked me off the bike.

The aid stations were 10 miles apart and for the most part were very helpful. There was one time at the stop at mile 90 that all the high school kids were playing a game of football behind the stop so no one was there to hand me a bottle so I came to a complete stop and picked up a bottle of water off the table.

Going into my first ironman I knew that nutrition was going to be the key and especially the nutrition I took in on the bike would be most important. From reading a lot on the subject and hearing from others on this list, I realized I would have a bigger concern of over eating rather than under eating. I think this is a common mistake. For the record, I drank two bottles of Accelerade in the first 20 miles. Then I switched to water and Gatorade Endurance that the race provided. With the water, and over the 112 miles, I consumed two gel flasks of Hammer gel. So the totals are 48 ounces of Accelerade, 48 ounces of water, 60 ounces of Gatorade, 12 gels, 1 can of Red Bull at the bike special needs (mile 65).

Some TMI is coming so beware. The consumption of all these fluids and the face that temps rose to low 70s, I had to urinate 9 times on the bike! I know thatís a lot, but its better then getting bad stomach cramps from eating. Now for the record, I didnít urinate on myself like some do. Thatís just foul in my opinion. You do have to drink out of those water bottles directly below you know! I did the oleí Tor de France ďnature break.Ē That is, stand on one pedal, point downwind, and let it fly. It took some mental breaks to get past the stage fright but Iíve got it down to a science now.

During the course of the ride I really didnít keep track of my time. I looked at my average on the bike computer a couple times and at about mile 57 (just missed 56) I glanced at my time which was 2:38 so essentially I negative split the bike by about a minute. I think thatís what youíre supposed to do so Iím happy. Iíve never had a 100+ mile bike ride go by so fast. I got stronger as the ride went on. Seriously, my legs felt better at mile 110 then they did at 10. This was the case with most of my training rides as well. I tend to get stronger and faster the longer the ride. I credit this to all the biking I did this summer. Those 250+ mile weeks back to back to back really help.

As I mentioned earlier, when I came in for my special needs, Will was yelling at me telling me my time, my place. He thought I was way behind where I should be because he thought I was at mile 56 when I was actually at mile 65. I must have passed 50+ or so during the ride. It was interesting to note that this all happened in the first 75 miles. After that I saw virtually no one.

T2 (2:00, 13th of 174)

I came ďbarrelingĒ into T2 according to Will. He said I really looked fresh compared to a lot of folks out there. I ran into the tent and simply put on socks and running shoes. A lot of people completely changed but I felt good in my DeSoto. Will told me I was in 10th place going into the tent. 9th place was still in there and it was a guy from Indianapolis that I sat next to at the carbo dinner. We shared a few pleasantries heading out onto the run. I passed him as we came out and I heard yell Will from behind, ďyouíve run into 9th placeóway to go!Ē

Run (3:42:28, 5th of 174)

When I started out on the run it was nice and sunny with come clouds looming to the west. I thought itís going to get cloudy with a chance of rain (my father the meteorologist ringing in my head). I grabbed a visor in T2 but left my glasses. I was wishing I had them but I tend to sweat so bad when I run that it doesnít dry and it runs into my eyes when I wear glasses. The run course is very simple. A 3 loop out and back into soy bean fields. Luckily this year they had aid stations every mile. I took the approach that I would run from station to station and walk through until I consumed the water/Gatorade/coke and then run again. This worked exactly to plan. I never needed to walk at any other times. The legs felt rather fresh throughout the run.

On the first loop I took stock of who was ahead of me when they were coming back while I was still going out. Most people looked quite fresh. The pro and defending champion appeared to be motoring along as was the only female in front of me who was a pro from Canada. There was one guy a few minutes behind me who seemed to really be moving. He managed to catch me on my third loop. I wasnít slowing down; he just so happened to run the fastest run split of the day.

Nearing the end of the first loop I finally attempted to use my watch to take splits. I managed to click it at 4 and then take a split at mile 5. I looked down at my new watch and it read 7:22 on the big display. On my old watch the current split being run was displayed on the large display. So I thought I had just run a 7:22 mile. Even though I felt great I knew I probably couldnít keep that up, so I eased back. It wasnít until after mile 10 or so that I realized the 7:22 was hours and minutes, not minutes and seconds. Steve Smith told me the exact same thing happened to him on his first ironmanógo figure.

When I competed my first loop I finally got to see my family: Joanne my wife, my sister-in-law Claudia and my nephew Andrew (1), and my sons Kurtis (11) and Cameron (1). Kurtis didnít want to miss his soccer game so they came right after. It was a real boost getting to finally see them. This time my wife outdid herself. My whole family were wearing homemade matching shirts that said, ďGo KevinĒ or ďGo Daddy for 140.6.Ē My wife has never gone to all that trouble before. I really appreciated it. It was a real lift mentally. Thatís one thing I take away from this experience. Unlike marathons and other stuff Iíve done, the physical part of the race was always in check. It was the mental fortitude that is key. As my wife says, ďexercising for 11 hours is really taxing on the brain.Ē

When I started the second loop I started taking splits. I was consistently running around 8:00-8:30 which is a normal 20 mile training pace for me. It felt very easy and relaxed. I had to make a potty break on each loop which would make those miles my slowest (around 9:00). The only bad thing that began to crop up on the second loop was my left achilles was starting to get really sore. Iíve never really suffered with achilles pain before. I figured it was happening on the left leg because I was somehow favoring that leg because Iíve been suffering with peroneal tendonitis and that is real close to the achilles.

When I finished my second loop I downed a couple E-tabs because the salt was really starting to accumulate on my black shorts. As the miles ticked off they were evolving from midnight black to gray to practically white by the time I finished. I washed those down with another Red Bull.

Will was offering a lot of words of encouragement. I still wasnít really keeping track of my overall time. He was yelling,Ēyou are going to smash 11!Ē I told him,ĒI feel great...like when I started...but Iím waiting for the marathon bonk.Ē You know, the funny thing is, it never came. The calories I was consuming must have kept my glycogen stores in check. I never real felt an energy drop off. In fact, my 3rd loop was the fastest. I switched over to Pepsi at mile 22 just in case. At the last aid station I grabbed the obligatory cup of chicken noodle soup; I knew I could use the sodium. I felt pretty crusty from all the sweat on me.

As I neared the transition area and made my way into the stadium I was amazed how good I felt. I never had any cramps on the run or bikeóeven though I stayed in aero for over 5 straight hours on the bike. Not to mention I had never ridden my tri bike for more than 56 milesóever! Donít let anyone tell you you have to do a lot of training on your tri bike. Use whatever makes you comfortable.

I crossed the finish line in 8th place, 7th male. I passed three people on the run, and got passed by one. One of the guys I passed at mile 24 was the male pro and defending champion who was walking. I couldnít have been happier with my performance. My A goal was to be top 10 and break 11 hours. I got both of those so what more could I ask for?!

Finish (10:23:17, 7th Male, 8th Overall, 2nd in 35-39 AG)

After the race, since I still felt so good, I of course started thinking man ĎI went easy on the bike...I could have made some time thereí. ĎThe run, I still feel so good. A 3:21 marathon would have me break 10 hours!í I will take all these little nuggets and put them away until itís time to train for another. In the meantime, I want to enjoy the moment. And you know what: I still am.

Post-race: Champions breakfast

I went to the breakfast looking to take home some hardware. As the 7th male overall and knowing they were awarding top 5 overall I knew 2nd in my AG was the worst I could get. Sure enough, thatís what I got (damn 35-39 AG), or as Vigo calls it, ďthe testosterone boys.Ē I also received another award which apparently comes in the mail: Fastest finish by a first timer. Thatís pretty sweet as well.

The best moment of the breakfast was when Vigo told the story of my new friend from Philly, Stephen Brown and his heroic fight against leukemia and the fact that he was here today. He was sitting next to me with his wife. As Vigo told the story there wasnít a dry eye in the house. All gathered ended up giving him a standing ovation. I have to say it was quite moving.

The ChesapeakeMan is in excellent race all the way around. I couldnít recommend it more. The organization, the small race feel, the support by those in Cambridge, everything made it an awesome experience. I will cherish the memories for a lifetime! I expect to see more RATS out there next year (thatís you Will) and Iím 95% certain I will be there next as well.

Lastly, as Keith wrote me an e-mail not long after the race, ďKevin Kunkel...You are an Ironman!Ē All I can say is yahooooooo!