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Race Result

Racer: Mike Guzek
Race: Duke Blue Devil
Date: Saturday, October 16, 2004
Location: Durham, NC
Race Type: Triathlon - Ironman
Age Group: Male 25 - 29
Time: 10:47:35
Overall Place: 6
Age Group Place: 1

Race Report:

"I get by with a little help from my friends."
- John Lennon

This is my 8th ironman distance race and my third time racing at the Duke Irondevil. This is my favorite iron distance race for a variety of reasons. Great people race it, great people put it one, it’s very low key and 85% of my entry fee goes right to cancer research instead of right into someone else’s pocket. I don’t mind if someone makes a dime on my entry fee, but there is something comforting about knowing that most everyone out there is there for reason other than making a few bucks.

I traveled down with 2 time winner (and cancer survivor) David Glover and another training partner and friend Brady Dehoust. We made the 4-hour drive from DC to Durham on Thursday just in time to register and get in a lake swim before the pre race pasta dinner. I’m not sure what all the key race week activities should be, but if you were with us three it involved attempting to swim to the bottom of Falls Lake in a wetsuit and trying to learn the “egg beater” from Glover. I learned from Glover that the egg beater is a water polo technique where you raise your body out of the water with an alternating breaststroke kick while pushing up with your hands and then waving them around (as if you were going to block a shot). When Glover first attempted this with no warning I thought he was being attacked by a shark. I suddenly saw him flailing around and raise high out of the water. Of course, the ever-present grin gave it away—he was not being attacked by a shark. As for touching the bottom of the lake….all I can say is that the lake is deep and scary.

At the pasta dinner that night, Glover, as the returning champion gave another great pre-race speech. He encouraged us all to do 3 things: 1) thank the volunteers 2) encourage each other on the race course and 3) enjoy the moment. As a cancer survivor, Glover is like a magnet drawing people in at this race. His speech was genuine and the response from athletes, spectators and volunteers was equally as genuine. I hate to jump ahead in the race-week time line on you, but just to show how iconic Glover has become at this race, several hours on the night of the race after we were all finished racing, a lady came up to table where Glover and I were sitting. She touched Glover on the shoulder and said in a sweet southern accident “ya’ll, I know you’re not supposed to talk to celebrities, but I am gonna do it anyway. I just wanted to tell you you’re awesome…and you’re not awesome because you’re awesome, you’re awesome because of your attitude!” I was like “lady, he’s not a celebrity, he’s just Dave.” It didn’t matter. To certain people at this race, he is more than just Dave, he’s an inspiration, a role model or something more.

The Friday before the race was a busy one as we snuck in one last ride and run and then drove the bike course with Steve Giogis and Matthew Talbot who are friends from Northern Virginia. For dinner, Matthew and his wife, Glover and his mom, and Brady and I went to a nice little Italian restaurant across the hotel that Brady and I had gone to the year before. We were sad to see that the very large Italian man that was singing in a tuxedo last year was not there this year (when the moon hits your eye like a big piece of pie that’s amor’e….when a pack of triathletes eat at your place get more a bread eh?). Brady and I finally turned the lights out a little before 9.

We got up 4:30 and Brady marched right out of the hotel (passed the hotel’s complimentary gourmet coffee) across the highway in 40 degree weather to the BP and back with his coffee only to find Glover enjoying free coffee from downstairs. That drew a chuckle from Glover. I ate some oatmeal, a little bread and Carbo-Pro and protein shake. Things went smoothly and we were out the door by 5:15.

When we arrived at the frozen tundra of Falls Lake, I was reminded of two great reasons to do this race. First, we parked 50 feet from the transition area. Second, the wait time in line for the bathroom totaled 0 seconds. You laugh, but that is a huge destresser. The main issue on the minds of racers in the morning was the weather. Morning temperatures were in the low 40s with a high around 65. The lake temperature was around 70 (perfect!). With proper planning the cooler temperatures would not be a problem, however, misjudging the air temperatures could make you miserably cold for 112 miles or could force you to haul unnecessary gear around the course whilst sweating like a sumo wrestler in a 3 piece suit at a church barbeque.

Slipping into the wetsuit represented the days first moment of discomfort as warm fuzzy clothes were replaced with cool neoprene. Brady and I shared a special moment when we found ourselves cheek to cheek in the back of his truck. We had to squeeze together to fit both our faces into the frame of Brady’s phone camera. We quickly chatted about football and tossed out a couple swear words to re-establish that our testosterone was still flowing as strong as ever. I made my way down to the water and caught up with Julie “the dolphin” Oplinger as well as the rest of the crew. I forced myself to get in there and warm up to try to prevent brain freeze when the gun went off. However, possibly the worst part of my day was when the race announcer asked us all to get out of the water for the singing of the national anthem. I was wet and it was 45 degrees…I was also shivering uncontrollably. It was about this time Mathew leaned over to me and said in his New Zealand accent, “Ya know, I neva got bahdy mahked.” But I wasn’t laughing. You know why?? Cause I never got bahday mahked either! It was too late now! During the swim I repeated the response I’d use if corned by a race official, “sir, I put sun tan lotion on before I got body marked, the numbers must have rubbed off.” (never mind it was 45 degrees).

There was an announcement that we were 15 seconds from racing and we all said our good lucks and our get out of my ways. I adjusted my seal mask and started my watch. When the cannon sounded I dolphin dove myself out near the front of mass of 225 swimmers. I managed to reach the first turn buoy with two other fellows and we were well clear of the rest of the group. I had expected to see Steve, Glover and Julie immediately behind me but either they started poorly or I have improved my dolphin diving. By the time we started the long back stretch to return back to the beach I was starting to feel the pace was a little fast but if I dropped off I’d be in no man’s land. I hung on as best I could, but approaching the final buoy back to shore I was dropped and left to be swept up by the garbage collectors in the next group. I started the second lap in third place, but a couple folks were nipping at my heels. I was glad to have someone to draft off of I and I happily jumped on their feet when they came by. Unfortunately, the draft was short lived when I turned at the wrong buoy. By the time I figured out what I had done, that train was gone and I swam the rest of the lap by myself. I exited the water in just over 57 minutes and as always, Glover showed up in the changing tent not far behind.

T-1 (Time - 00:57)
Steve was in the tent when I got in there and we chatted as we layered on our clothing. The party really started when Glover showed up and one of the volunteers in the tent was like “you guys all know each other!” (Brady, you see all the fun you’re missing by not getting the swim down under an hour?? I wouldn’t be surprised if the cold beer and pizza is gone by the time you get the tent!). I opted to swim without my race jersey so I could put on dry clothes. That turned out to be a good move. Once the jersey was on, I pulled over a long sleeve shirt and slipped on some arm warmers and headed out of the tent. I forgot to drop my skull cap in my bag but that turned out to be a good thing, as it was not needed.

THE BIKE (Time 1:01)
Out on the bike I realized that I was in 5th position directly behind Glover who had passed me in the changing tent….again. A nice thing about a smaller race is that no matter how good or bad you are, you’re over place will be higher than doing a large race. Since there were relays on the course, I wasn’t sure where I was amongst individual competitors, but that this point I didn’t really care. As I worked my way out of the park, I was pretty cold as the 50 degree air blew against my wet skin. I was thinking at that moment that I love ironman distance racing and in particular I love this race. The initial stages of the ironman distance bike are like trying to figure out what a present is. You have this day before you, but you just aren’t sure at this point what is in store. As minutes and hours pass by you learn more and more bits of information about how your day is going to go. In those first few miles when all your goals are still on the table and your mind and legs are fresh, the excitement is at its greatest. As the day wears on, more clues are revealed that tell you what your race present is going to be. The initial temperature discomfort was suppressed by this excitement and I was very interested to see what type of present I would be unwrapping.

As I past the 5-mile mark I noticed that from the knees down my legs felt really tight. I suspected it was from the cold air and it never really went away although it got a little better later in the ride. The wind was very strong which all but eliminated any easy or enjoyable sections of the bike. Over the first loop I passed one fellow and 3 passed me. I rode a pretty conservative pace, but was still a little disappointed to hit the halfway point in 2:52. An even split gave me a 5:44 bike split, well over my 5:30 goal. Hmm, this isn’t looking like a good present at all! Within a few minutes after making the left hand turn to begin the second loop I heard a familiar “HORSE!” from behind. Brady, had caught up to me….already. At this moment a 3-year dream came to be a reality. We train together, but it had been nearly impossible to ever race together since our strengths are so different. Here we had our chance. We chatted for a moment and I told him that I felt pretty good and should be able to ride with him for a while. Our different riding styles (and weight difference--60+ lbs!) usually kept us about 50 yards apart but we were always within eyeshot and swap positions a handful of times. I lifted my pace considerably and felt invigorated to be able to ride in the comfort of friendship. Over the last few miles we came upon a couple other cyclists and felt great as I cruised past them to come in 5th off the bike. My second half split was 2:41 for a total time of 5:33 with an 11 minute negative split. Brady came in a minute or so behind. The mental boost I got from seeing Brady and being able to ride with him nearby (even thought most of the time we were 50 yards or more apart) was directly responsible for such a strong second half ride on my part. Brady also showed me how to urinate on my bike after I made and unsuccessful stab at it and eventually had to pull over. According to Brady, you lift your right leg up while riding and then smash your manhood into the top tube of your bike. It looked painful.

T-2 (Time - 6:33)
As I was leaving the tent Brady came in and offered some words of encouragement. I slipped on my race belt (upside down on my first attempt) and slowly worked my way up the hill and out of transition.

The Run (Time - 6:34)
As I left the changing tent, the race director, Bill Scott, looked me in the eye and extended his hand like a proud father and said “You’re 5th!” I think I said, “great, let’s call the race and now and give me my trophy!” I have never done another race (especially an IM) where the RD will greet you heading out of T-2. That’s the kind of stuff that makes this race great. This a challenging run course that consists of 5 x 5.2 mile loops. Nearly the entire run course is part of a hill with several hills of notable significance. My legs were very stiff over the first few miles and my calves were unusually tired and tight, a continuation of what I had felt on the bike. I had a pretty nasty ankle sprain about two weeks before the race and I feared the non-issue was suddenly going to be an issue. I’m not sure whether all the other pains in my body caused me to forget my calves or if the problem just went away, but after a while it wasn’t an issue any longer. A little short of a mile, Brady made “the pass” which had actually started about 60 miles earlier on the bike. I don’t think either of us anticipated that the pass would actually take that long, but it did. At the time he didn’t appear to moving that fast…but he was picking up speed and the next few times I saw him it was like watching the life of Frank Shorter compressed into 3 hours and 26 minutes. He got faster and faster until I saw him finishing his last quarter mile as I started my final loop. It was an unreal run and gave him second place OVERALL in 10:03.

As I started the 3rd loop, things looked pretty bleak. I was running over 9 minute miles and my legs felt very heavy. Glover lapped me at the first aid station on his way to the overall win. He was a man amongst boys yet again. I struggled my way through the short flat section in the first mile of the loop and started to get a little concerned with how difficult even the flatter sections felt. I didn’t even want to look at my watch as I crossed the midway point, but curiosity (or stupidity) got the best of me and I checked: 2:02. A 2:02 first lap nearly puts my goal of a 4-hour marathon out of the question. I thought back to Lake Placid where I unraveled after a 2-hour first loop to finish the final 13.1 miles in 2:33. These negative thoughts swirled around my head as I caught up to Steve Giorgis. Steve was in the midst of low point and was doing 2 minutes walking and one minute running (or was it 2 minutes running and 1 minute walking?). There were some IT band things going on and a couple other things that had him doing this. We chatted briefly as I scooted by and he decided to run with me for a moment. When he ran, his pace was quicker than mine so I had to dig a little to keep up with him. Next thing I knew, we finished the loop and were halfway into the next one! I helped Steve to get running and he helped me to start running with a bit more purpose. There is no question my mind that if I had not run into him I would have run at least 15 minutes slower on that second loop. Seeing a friend on the course can be such a boost. We managed to pass Julie who was on her second loop and she ran with us for a while. She actually picked up the pace for a bit and put me into a little bit of difficulty : 0 Eventually, I moved beyond her as we approach the “Gauntlet” where the crowds and race announcer made a ruckus every time you ran by.

Along the way we were caught by a guy in my age group, so I tried to lift my pace once again to run with him. Slowly Steve faded behind and I did my best to run with my new friend….competitor…..enemy. We were both pretty beat up and chatted as we ticked away at miles 20, 21, 22…I think we both knew one of us would have to finish first and at mile 23 he made the first indication that it would be him. Ever so slowly he pulled away. It was a step at first and then a few meters. Soon it was 20 meters. I could see him the whole time but despite my cries to the engine room for my power, the only response from legs was “shut your mouth!” I actually felt pretty good over the last few miles and finished picking up the pace rather than fading. I didn’t realize it, but passed 2 other racers in the last quarter mile. My second half run was 2:09 and my overall run time was 4:11. My run was 12 minutes slower than my goal but I took great comfort in only dropping 9 minutes over the second half of the run. As I came down the shoot the announcer noted that I was 6th overall which I was really unaware of with the looped course. My final time was 10:47:35….and I beat my previous best time by a whopping…..(drum roll)…..17 seconds!

The guy who outran me on the last lap was collapsed in the medical tent. I felt pretty good and barked at him (jokingly) that “that’s what you get for messing with me!” After the race I got a message and took a cooooolllllddddd outdoor shower and layered on some clothes to stay warm. The post race food was great and I gnawed on a couple chicken breast and a barbeque sandwich with coleslaw. We managed to stay around until 10:30 and saw Julie, Steve, Matt and another cancer survivor Chris Coby finish. Chris had met Glover last year and when I met him he asked if I was one of Glover’s “crazy friends” (referring to doing GFT 2 weeks after Duke last year). I let him know I was crazy long before triathlons came around. This is Chris’ second triathlon ever with the previous one being the Duke IM race last year. He’s a super nice fellow and really represents what makes this race (and sport) fun.

Perhaps the most amazing feet of the day was watching Glover sit around after the race in a T-shirt and sweat pants rolled up to his knees because he was hot while the rest of us sat freezing while buried under several layers of clothing. I was trying on 95 dollar race jackets cause I was so cold.

When the dust settled Glover won the race, Brady finished second. I nabbed 6th overall and first in the 25-29 AG. It was a bit of a leap of faith to leave the comfort of the Clydesdale division and throw my 222lbs into the age group ranks. Thankfully, it paid off. Steve took first in the 45-49 age group and Matthew Talbot finish his first IM in a respectable 12:32. Friend and fellow Northern Virginian Hope Hall won the woman’s race in 11:07. I just barely missed pretty much all my goals. My 5:30 bike goal was 5:33. My 4-hour marathon was 4:11. I wanted to beat last year’s time of 10:47 and this year I finish in 10:47. However, I am not sure I could happier with the way I missed them. I negative split the bike by 11 minutes on a very windy day. I only slowed by 9 minutes on the second half of the run to actually run my fastest second half IM run to date. I ran a quicker time here last year (4 hours) but my second half was slower. The overall course seemed to be harder with the strong winds. Overall, I was really happy with my race day present.

Racing with some many friends was a great experience and I think everyone had a successful day. I experienced first hand during the weekend and particularly on the race course the power of camaraderie. A special thanks to Glover’s mom for being one woman cheering section. There were no girlfriends or wives there cheering this year and she stepped up and filled the void. She kept saying “go catch David!” I was thinking, “you’re talking to the wrong dude.”