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Race Result

Racer: Erik Melis
Race: Mooseman
Date: Sunday, June 8, 2008
Location: Newfound Lake, NH
Race Type: Triathlon - Half Ironman
Age Group: Male 50 - 54
Time: 6:33:23
Overall Place: 485 / 723
Age Group Place: 23 / 28
Comment: Moose Tale that's no Bull Moose

Race Report:

Mooseman Half Ironman, Newfound Lake, NH, June 8, 2008

Trip to NH

My wife and I try to turn these longer races that are a distance from home into mini-vacations. For the trip to New Hampshire, we decided to go up on Thursday for the race on Sunday and stay until the Tuesday after. This worked out well since it took us 11-1/2 hours to get there from Northern Virginia thanks to traffic and construction. We stayed in a lovely inn in Meredith, NH which was about 20+ miles from the race venue. This gave us pretty easy access to all the activities but didn't put us so close that we were constantly reminded of the race coming on Sunday. This is particularly important for me since I suffer from an apparently incurable case of pre-race anxiety. The other nice thing about where we stayed is that they have a spa as part of the inn facilities and we called ahead to make couples sports massage appointments for Monday morning after the race. Beat yourself up one day; pamper yourself the next... life is all about balance.

Pre-race activities

It rained quite a bit the couple days before the race so it was hard for us to do the testing out of the course that we had planned. Normally, I wouldn't let a little wet pavement deter me from test riding the bike course but given the conditions of the roads, I didn't want to take a chance on crashing without being able to talk about it as part of the race story. The roads were VERY rough due to the ice heaving that had occurred during the harsh winter up here and the almost constant plowing. We did manage to drive one loop of the bike course so we could mentally map out where the uphills and downhills were and which parts of the roads to watch most carefully. We didn't need to swim the lake to see that it would be a pretty non-eventful swim with buoys or landmarks that could be easily spotted. The only challenge that we saw here was that the rain actually managed to decrease the lake temperature and a day or so before the race it was about 56-58 degrees... Since the run course pretty much followed sections of the bike course, we didn't need to scope out much more of that. The race organizers provided a great (and free for athletes) carbo-loading dinner at a camp near the race venue so after checking in, scoping out the race venue, and attending the mandatory pre-race meeting, you could have your fill of pasta, salad, etc. A local bar also provided free beer and snacks for athletes preparing for the half-iron on Sunday and the international distance finishing up on Saturday. The one other thing that we were a little concerned about was the air temperature forecast for Sunday... they were calling for 93+ with significant humidity. We saw that on the run (the piece most probably negatively affected by the heat) had some shade spots on it so were hoping that would make the difference. God bless all that did or even tried Eagleman...our race was bloody hot and miserable but nothing like that... I guess in this case NH stood for "Not Hell"...

Race morning

Since parking at the race site was very limited and since schlepping your transition gear on your bikes along the roads outside the park was potentially hazardous, we decided that an early start was called for so that we could get there, get parked, and relax and get setup at our leisure. We got up at 3:00, ate some breakfast (Kashi cereal, bananas, coffee) and headed off about 3:40. We arrived at the park which was already open at 4:45 even though they said the earliest the gates would be open was at 5:00. That was a nice surprise because we were able to get in and scoop up a parking spot not too far from the transition area and the swim start that would permit us unrestricted and easy access to our vehicle. We used part of the early arrival time to catch a quick cat nap and then went off to set up transition.

Swim (38.55)

My wife and I experienced something in this race that we seldom get to experience... we got to start in the same swim wave. We were in the third wave which was designated for us oldsters (Men 50+ and Women 45+). The other nice thing was that while most other waves started at 3 minutes intervals, the wave after ours didn't go off for 10 minutes... temporarily, at least, delaying the inevitable overtaking maneuvers by the younger and faster swimmers. Water had warmed some; up to about 60-62 at race start and was very clear. My wife actually said a large non-predatory fish was pacing her under the water. Is that one in USAT rules somewhere? I made sure that I submerged my head and face as soon as I got in the water since the shock of the cold water is usually the first thing that can cause me to hyperventilate and lose my swim rhythm (if I have such a thing). I settled into my stroke after the start and was sighting the buoys without much difficulty. Felt I was reaching, gliding and rolling pretty consistently. When I exited the water and saw my time, I realized that this was a swim PR (8 minutes faster than my previous HIM race) for me and a good way to start the race. The one thing I noticed here that I also noticed when I did Columbia and when we did the Jim McDonald Swim Clinic at Lake Audubon, all of which were cold water swims, is that I seem to get out of the water very disoriented and weak in the legs. At Columbia I actually almost fell down I was so woozy. I've heard that very cold water in the ears can cause this and have thought about getting some earplugs. Any thoughts from you more experienced swimmers? All in all, I was pleased with the swim and feel I lived up to my self-ascribed swimming nickname, "The Erikuda" (I needed something to motivate me and encourage me in my swimming so I figured since "The Thorpedo" worked for Ian Thorpe, I'd try one for my myself. Hey, whatever works right?)

T1 (5:47)

Nice perk for this race... wetsuit strippers. Just get out of the water and get top of wetsuit off then flop onto Astroturf and eager volunteers rip the wetsuit right off your legs. If it wasn't for the cold-water wooziness this might have made my T1 significantly faster. As it was, I still enjoyed not having to mess with it. I just had to take my time with this transition until I felt balanced and clear-headed enough to mount my trusty steed.

Bike (3:12:56)

As I mentioned earlier, the roads for this course were a challenge. You know when someone from the race crew says the course is "a minefield" you better be ready for anything. The first 5-miles were particularly chewed up and challenging. Going into aero for some parts of this course were definitely taking your life into your hands situations. Not only did you have to be wary of the line you chose to avoid the bike eating ruts, you also had to watch the lines that those around you were choosing, lines that they often changed frequently and unexpectedly. Additionally, since the course was not closed to traffic, you had to be wary of where and when your chosen line took you into the path of vehicles. The police monitoring the intersections and the volunteers staffing the turns and the aid stations were great. There were some small chain ring climbs that at least didn't last too long and a few shallower climbs that seemed to go on forever. There were a few nice descents that gave you a break from the rollers and the rough asphalt. I hadn't had as much time to ride over the past few weeks before the race due to travel related to work and I definitely felt that on the bike. Maybe I pushed the first loop a little harder than I should have but I definitely felt tired at the end of the second loop, more so than I guess I expected. Maybe it was just being beat up by the road conditions or maybe it was the start of the warmer part of the day. All I know is that I've got many more long rides and hills to do before Placid in a few weeks.

T2 (5:40)

Don't know why this transition was so slow for me except that I had to take a potty break due to all the liquids I was consuming on the bike to try to stay hydrated. Maybe I already knew how hot the run was going to be and was hedging about going out there.

Run (2:30:07)

It didn't take me long to realize that I wasn't going to be able to do the run in the heat that was already there without walking portions of it. I tried to set up a good sequence of run/walk intervals to try to minimize exhausting my legs too early but that didn't even last long. I could tell pretty early on, I just wasn't acclimated to running in this type of heat. So, the goal changed to just doing whatever needed to be done to finish and if I could finish in under 7 hours (total time) that would be a plus. I grabbed cold, wet sponges at every aid station and stuffed them in my tri suit and under my hat. Made sure to drink a good mix of Gatorade and water to get some sodium replenishment. Tried some endurolytes but they just didn't sit well in my stomach. I'll have to try to see if I can get used to using those more regularly in the future. One big mistake I made was to give in to the temptation to let the wonderful hose-wielding spectators hose me down from head to toe to help cool me. The problem was with my shoes. Once my shoes got soaked and my orthotics got wet and slippery, my feet were not happy and were slopping around and sliding badly within my shoes. I noticed that I was starting to alter my foot strike just because of the way that this was affecting the way my feet felt. As I was headed for the 3 mile point, I passed my wife who was heading for mile 4... We high fived, blew each other kisses, and knew we'd see each other again. When I crossed the timing mats for the first loop midpoint turnaround, I heard the mats beep, threw up my hands in victory, and asked the folks there if this meant I won. They said 'no', I said 'crap' and started off on the remainder of the loop with a little chuckle from all. The longer the run leg went on, especially on the uphill portions, the more I noticed I was walking but I was okay with that because I was listening to my body and I was going to finish no matter what. I was trying my best to just be in the moment, having learned a valuable lesson while watching the new movie, "Kung Fu Panda", Friday night. As the master in the movie said about living in the now, "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today (or now) is a gift and that's why they call it a present." As each moment went by, the mile markers thankfully kept passing. I saw some young ladies sitting on the side of the road blowing horns that sounded like moose so I put my hands up to the sides of my head and made the international sign of the moose. They yelled at me, "You're awesome" and that helped push me toward the next mile marker. Then I started high fiving runners go in the other direction and every high five helped me get that much further. I did see some folks that were having heat related medical distress and who were being tended to by emergency personnel. There were even a bunch of folks wearing Ironman finisher gear who were struggling so I considered myself in good company and didn't feel so badly about how I was doing. I stuck with my plan to push as hard as I could without getting myself into trouble. Finally I made the turn re-entering the park and headed for the finish line. I heard the announcer call my name and that's all I needed to pick up the pace the last few feet and cross the line with a smile and while making the sign of the moose.

Summary and lessons learned

This race was a PR for me. I chopped about 40 minutes off my SC HIM time from 2006 (granted I had two flats on the bike in SC but I'm sure those didn't add 40 min to the time there). I feel that this race was a validation of my training and my progress overcoming my hernia surgery in
February and my melanoma surgery in April and my back problems prior to Columbia in May. I've still got a lot of work to do to get ready for IMLP in July but feel now that I "can" and "will" finish the race even if it takes me 16:59:59...

Lessons learned:

- New Hampshire 'flat' in describing a bike or run course doesn't necessarily mean what Virginia 'flat' might mean.
- The New Hampshire state bird is probably the mosquito and is a very hungry critter indeed.
- Granny gears aren't just for grannies... old grandpas like me can use them too.