||Duke Blue Devil
||Saturday, October 16, 2004
||Triathlon - Ironman
||Male 25 - 29
||That's the way to end it.
(2) Beat last year's time (10:36)
(3) Beat PB (10:18)
(4) Run 3:30 or better
(6) Top 5
Okay folks, if you’re in your office, and there’s a Starbucks within walking distance, it’s highly advisable to take a moment to go grab your favorite style grande coffee, mocha, or latte.
Some of my feelings as I sit and write my final race report for the 2004 season are these; sore, tired, happy, full, thankful, relieved. I’m sore from 10-hours of ironman racing. I’m tired from 10-hours of ironman racing, then not sleeping well that night. I’m happy that I’ve had an injury free season, where I improved on each discipline of triathlon. I’m also happy that I had my best finish to date, and that it came in an iron-distance race –- that makes it more special for me. I’m full from all the pound cake I’ve eaten starting the morning after the race. I’m thankful that I have great friends to train with and help me improve, that Deidre supports me and my drive to become better year-after-year, and that my family thinks about me on race day and prays that I don’t have problems –- that is comforting. And I’m relieved that the season is over. I’m relieved that it didn’t end on a bad note. I’m relieved that I can now swim on Saturday mornings, then ride to the dog pound, turn around,and park my bike in front of Great Harvest Bread Co. and indulge guilt free, or continue on and ride 80-miles at whatever pace/effort I’d like...there’s no longer the pressure to be race ready.
I experienced all of these feelings as least once on Saturday during the Irondevil triathlon (formerly the Duke Blue Devil). It was a day where things came together in more ways than just having my own solid race. I finally got to “race” with Guzek. Based on our respective strengths/weaknesses, the only way this scenario would play out was if the stars aligned correctly. They did, and it wound up helping us both. Glover took care of business, defending his title as champion for the 3rd straight year –- the same amount of times the race has been run. Steve Giorgis and Matthew Talbot extinguished their labels as iron virgins –- with Steve also placing first in his agegroup...ahh, icing on the cake is good. Julie Oplinger finished strong after doubting her arrival to the start line to begin with, and taking second place in her age group. And finally, Chris Colby, celebrating his third year of his last chemotherapy treatment, finishing his second triathlon an hour better than his time the year before (his first). Sticking around to bring Chris home was a pleasure.
This is a great race, put on by a great race director (Bill Scott), and benefiting a great cause (cancer research). Brad Rex does the race announcing, and he’s one of the best. Brad is a regular at Vineman, Great Floridian, and a handful of other iron-distance races.
I drove down with Glover and Guzek on Thursday. We arrived early enough to jump into Falls Lake for a quick 20-minute swim to loosen up from the 4-hour car ride. We stayed at the Hampton Inn, about a twenty minute drive from Beaverdam Park and the race site. Thursday night, they hosted a carbo-dinner at the park. It was a much laid back atmosphere with plenty-o-pasta and some really good tastin’ cookies. At the dinner, we met up with Steve and Matthew. Glover delivered another exceptional speech. At the end, he asked all participants to do three things on race day; (1) thank the volunteers, (2) offer encouragement to others racing, and (3) savor the moment...I was game.
Friday, we rode the run course to ensure the bikes were mechanically sound, checked the bikes into transition, and drove the bike course. Steve, Guzek, and I went for a quick 20-minute run while Glover and Matthew opted to swim. After that, there was nothing left to do but rest and relax. We had dinner at Sal’s – an Italian joint within walking distance from our Hotel. I was exhausted from the logistics for pre-race day. We turned out the light at 9pm.
Race day started at 4:30am. Breakfast was a plain bagel with peanut-butter, pop-tart, coffee, and diluted Gatorade. We arrived at the park around 6am with little to do other than load the bikes up with water bottles and hang up the transition bags. The air temperature was probably in the low to mid 40s, so I stayed in warm clothes and out of my wetsuit as long as possible. At 6:45, with wetsuit on, I made my way down to the lake. With the water temperature in the low 70s, it felt great to be in the water as opposed to on land. I swam around for 5-minutes to get the blood flowing. My foul-up was forgetting it was an out-of-water start, so standing on land after getting wet made for a shivering few minutes while they sang the National Anthem and had a short moment of silence. At 7:12am, I watched Guzek launch himself into Falls Lake as the leader of the Irondevil triathlon –- at least for a short while.
The swim course is two-loops, and in the shape of a rectangular. Buoy’s are on the left; four, then turn left for about 100m, turn left, then five more before the final turn to shore. I had a really tough swim here last year. I was in the water for 1:20, and very tired from all the strokes. This year was better. I felt pretty good for most of the swim. I did have some stretches where my stroke felt like it was falling apart, but only in between times where I felt fairly good. It seemed to be a little choppy in some areas, and I wound up ingesting a little more of Falls Lake than I would’ve liked. This caused a lot of bloating in my stomach and the need to burp four or five times over the duration of the swim to relieve the pressure. On the back stretch of the second loop, I thought about Guzek and Glover (and the rest of the strog swimmers) already out there on the bike. I was officially clocked with a 1:09.30.
Due to the colder conditions, I took a little extra time in T1 to dry off completely and put on the right gear to make the bike not too uncomfortable. I chose to swim without a jersey under the wetsuit so it’d be dry starting the bike. I also through on a lycra long-sleeve top over my race jersey and arm warmers. I carried a gel flask with Carbboom and a cliff bar. I chose to only drink my own diluted Gatorade, and not take anything but water from the aide stations on the course. At Lake Placid, the Gatorade was hard to drink because of its concentration and sweetness. I also had one bottle of Accelerade.
I started the bike somewhere around 40th position. I was excited about riding this course. I really liked it last year and always describe it as “fair”. The course is laid out as an 8-mile stem with a 48-mile loop. It doesn’t have any heart-pounding climbs, but does have a good amount of rollers that require you to get out of the saddle on occasion. If conditions are good, I’d say this bike course would be fast. But Saturday, while temperatures were mild, the wind certainly was not.
I passed quite a few in the first 25-miles. I caught Steve Giorgis right at the second aide station and right before turning into a nasty headwind. From that point on, it was a matter of grinding out the miles. The winds seemed to be either cross or head, but rarely, if ever, a tailwind. I tried to just keep my head down and maintain a steady effort. I stayed away from looking at my bike computer to avoid negative feedback (i.e. “I’m going 16mph?!”). I rolled into special needs mid-way through to reload a fresh bottle of Accelerade, a fresh bottle of diluted Gatorade, and a full gel flask. I also ditched the long-sleeve top and opted to ride the second loop with just jersey and arm warmers. The volunteers at special needs said, “Your buddy is just a minute or so ahead”, speaking of Guzek. I assume they knew this because we were wearing the same PBN (Personal Best Nutrition) race jersey.
Guz and I talked about this scenario of being able to actually ride together in an ironman. While his swim dominates mine by a huge margin, in the past, I have ridden a little harder and made up most of those minutes. Guzek, taking a somewhat conservative approach on the first loop, with me taking a more aggressive approach may land us together, we estimated, around the 70-mile mark. So, at around mile 60, I caught the Big Horse. It was a shining moment. We both seemed to be on track for good days (I think mile 70 is a good check-point) and now had the opportunity to push one-another (if needed) through the remaining 52-miles. We rode within 20-yards of one another for a while, but Guzek was clearly the stronger rider between the two of us and pulled up front for the better part of the last 40-miles. He was always within sight, but probably a good 50-100 yards up the road. I was happy to see him riding strong and to his potential. I just sat back and grinded through the wind. We both passed a few guys who had passed Guzek in the early stages of the bike. The one time I did catch back up to him was when he was attempting the mobile leak -- unfortunately, unsuccessfully, and he soon had to come to a complete stop to empty the bladder. I tried to show him my technique and managed to slip off my pedal while trying to re-clip and racked myself on my saddle pretty good...that was dumb.
I was pretty worked from mile 80 to the finish. The windy conditions seemed to be taking a toll on my quads, and I was just tired of being on the bike. I was happy to get to T2 and hand over the bike to a volunteer. The bike split was 5:21, a 4-minute improvement over last year in tougher conditions. Into the T2 changing tent, the Big Horse was just finishing up lacing the runners and was out. I dumped my bag, through on the runners and visor, and scooted out to leg 3...the marathon, and my quest for the 3:30.
My initial feeling starting the run was, “uh oh” –- I did not feel so good. Shortly before the 1-mile mark, I caught back up to Guz who seemed to be truckin’ along pretty good. I think we both felt pretty worked from the bike effort. I know for sure that neither of us was about to say, “I feel spectacular. Glover better watch out.” The run is 5 x 5.2 mile loops, all contained within the park. The loop has three (some say four) good hills – so 3-4 hills x 5 = the run is hard. There are plenty of out-and-back sections that give you the opportunity to see others you know racing. I wasn’t feeling great, but I didn’t feel terrible either. I just kept moving at a pace that I felt was maintainable for that loop.
I’ve had a goal the last couple iron-distance races to run 3:30 or better, and have fallen short each try –- my closest being a 3:37 at IM Lake Placid in July. I decided that, rather than get caught up in splits and all the math, that I’d just run, and see where it left me. I looked at my watch one time the entire run, after completing my first loop -– just under 40-minutes. I started feeling better through loop-2 and even loop-3. I saw Glover each loop with a substantial margin over any chasers. Each time we crossed paths, we ran a few extra steps to the center of the road to slap hands. Guzek seemed to be holding strong as well, and although I saw him a little less, it was great to see the Big Horse still grinding out the miles. I doubt that even a flat course is great for a 225 pounder, so I think the hills were taking their toll.
Sometime during my 3rd loop, I wondered what my current position was. With the relay teams and the loop structure course, it was hard to tell who was in front of you. I asked a volunteer if he had any idea of my position. His response was this, “I think you’re definitely in the top 4, but it’s hard to tell with the relays. Don’t worry about the leader though, he’s not human” (speaking of Glover).
Early into my 4th loop, I passed the current 3rd place guy. He said, “You’ve been hunting me all day”. He was still running, but looked to be slowing. The next time I crossed paths with Glover, he shouted, “I think the guy in second is about to blow-up”. Shortly after, I passed a blown-up, former second place dude, and took his spot. My loops all felt the same. I ran the hard parts easy and the easy parts hard. I took coke and water at least every mile, and occasionally pretzels. On my 5th and final loop, it was clear that no one would challenge for second. I pushed on as hard as I could, knowing that the 3:30 was likely in my grasp. Then...ahhh, the final mile. The crowd near the finish was sweet. I has happy to take the right lane (finish) as opposed to the left (next loop). I savored the moment. Making the turn to the finish chute, the clock read 10:02.5x. I raised the arms, smiled, and cruised in with a 3:26 marathon and a 10:03 PR.
The volunteers were spectacular. It’s almost like you got to know them a little better each successive loop. I gave them a thumbs-up and a “thanks” each time I made my way around -- number (1) was to thank the volunteers. It was great to see folks I knew out there. Each time I saw Guzek, Glover, Steve, Matthew, Hope (aka Dr. Smiles), Julie, Chris, and others I tried my best to muster up some encouraging words -- number (2) was to offer encouragement to others. And the final mile...well, maybe half-mile, I savored every step. I had a good day and I was going to smile all the way to the finish -- number (3) was to savor the moment.
So, a great end to a great season. My chiropractor recently asked me if I had a coach, and my reply was, “No, I just train with the right people”. Guzek came home not too long after in 6th overall. A big thanks, also, to Glover’s Mom, Debi. She was definitely the #1 fan with individual signs made for each of us.
1.Take the time to dress appropriately when the weather calls for it. The extra minute or two is worth it.
2.Stay away from heavily concentrated Gatorade. Too much puts the stomach in distress. Use diluted Gatorade and water, with electrolyte supplements if needed.
3.Don’t try and eat pretzels mid-way through the marathon without having a cup of water. I almost choked on those suckers.
4.Keep using coke as long as it works.
5.Although it may not feel great starting the run, it may also never really feel terrible either. Minimizing slow-down during the marathon is important.
6.Always lock the latch on the port-o-jon so Steve Giorgis doesn’t bust in on you in the middle of your business :)
7.Thank the volunteers, encourage others, and savor the moment.
*Why do the Irondevil?*
1.Great race direction (Bill Scott with Set-up, Inc)
2.Easy drive from Virginia (4 hours). No planes, no bike packing, no rental cars.
3.Doesn't fill-up in 24 hours
4.Cheaper than (I)ronman races.
5.Benefits cancer research
6.Laid back atmosphere reduces pre-race anxiety.
8.Reduced worry about drafting with smaller number of participants.
9.Saturday race so limited time off from work.
10.Glover owns it...that's fun to watch.
Thanks for reading.