Reston Area Triathletes RATS.net Logo

Race Result

Racer: Mike Guzek
Race: Duke Blue Devil
Date: Saturday, October 11, 2003
Location: Durham, NC
Race Type: Triathlon - Ironman
Age Group: Male 25 - 29
Time: 10:47:52
Overall Place: 12
Age Group Place: 1

Race Report:

In each of my 4 previous attempts at Ironman races, I was satisfied, but still left with a sense of unmet expectations. While some of this could be attributed to overly ambitious goals, the frustrating part was that much of it was due to circumstances largely beyond my control. In my first race, The Great Floridian, my brake came off my bike at mile 80. It just dangled by the brake cable making the bike unrideable. After some time on the side of the road, I wedged it under my seat and rode the remaining miles with only my front brake. I also committed the rookie mistake going to hard and blew up 100 yards into the run and finished with a 5:17 marathon. I was satisfied to finish, but I was way off my time goals. In my second IM the following year at Lake Placid things were better, but it rained for several hours on the bike and I suffered a flat tire. In my third race at Duke last year, my bike had a flat tire before the race while sitting in transition and it rained crazy-like for much of the bike. I also snapped the cable to my rear derailleur and was forced to ride the remaining 35 miles using only 2 gears. This destroyed my legs and made for a pretty hard run. And finally, earlier this year at Lake Placid, Hurricane Ironman USA swept through and created some of the toughest racing conditions you can face with heavy wind and rain. Despite better fitness, my bike time was much slower than the year before (albeit better relative to the field). Throughout all these races, my times improved. I was satisfied with every race I did and I got better compared to the field each time. But time goals kept getting missed and I was getting frustrated. As the Dook race approached and rain was in the forecast, I once again felt the onset of disappointment. I'm not a complainer, don't get me wrong. But a succession of "events" in my IM races that inhibited me from reaching my potential was taking its toll.

This is the second year of the Duke Iron Distance race and I think it's great since all its proceeds go directly to the Duke Cancer Center. The race is small and there is a very intimate feel and it does not have all hype and egos of some IM races. Also, the race is a 4 hour drive away which makes it a great venue for anyone in the Northern VA area.

Brady and I headed down on Thursday for the Saturday race. We drove the course and checked in that evening. On Friday we did a short lake swim, we biked the run course and did a very short run. It rained most of the day and that set a somewhat somber mood around the race area. There was a minor incident with my chain and Brady and I never made it anywhere with at least one wrong turn, but for the most part, everything went as planned. We went to the prerace dinner that night and met up with our buddy and last year's Duke winner David "Everyone on the Duke IM staff thinks he's the greatest" Glover who was the featured speaker. I think if Jesus himself would have showed up at the dinner they still would have had David as the honored guest. He was like royalty down there. In all seriousness, David is a cancer survivor and a great individual so he is a terrific spokesperson for the race…..and everyone on the Duke IM staff thinks he's the greatest. He gave a nice short speech and then gave our table a shout out (we love you D-Money).

After a 10 minute discussion back at the hotel that night on whether we should get up at 4:20 or 4:30 (we settled on 4:20) we turned the lights out around 9:30. I slept well. Later on the way to the race, I learned that Brady had a similar dream as me. The details were fuzzy, but we both dreamt someone was shooting at us with a machine gun. I can't say that that was the most comforting thing to have running through your head on the way to the race…that's certainly not the positive visualization that you are supposed to be doing (you know the drill-I can see myself with good transitions….smooth in the water…diving behind an abandoned car as a masked gunman sprays the air with gun fire, etc).

For breakfast it was a banana, oatmeal, yogurt and ham sammy. About an hour before the race I crushed a box of Extran. Brady and I made it to transition without incident and miraculously the rain had stopped. After finalizing the transition bags I headed down the beach for a warm up swim and caught up with David "They had little children ahead of him on the run scattering rose pedals in his path" Glover. . We lined up side by side and The King and I waited for the start.

The Swim
The water was a chilly 67 degrees and when the cannon fired I found myself swimming alone with a most of the swimmers my speed over to the right about 30 yards. It was a beach start and the beach was at an angle relative to the first buoy. I opted to be close to the buoys, they opted…..I am not sure what they were opting for to be honest. In any case, there were only a couple people near me until the first buoy when we all came together. I drafted pretty much all of the first loop around the elongated rectangle course. As I exited the water and headed down the beach for the second loop I saw my girlfriend Melanie, Brady's wife Deidre and Glover's fiancée Jen all cheering madly for me. I looked over my shoulder and realized that David "They should name this triathlon the Dook IronGlover" Glover was right behind. That sneaky punk was catching a free ride.
On the second loop, I'd periodically look back and see him on my feet. He got on my train and never even bought a ticket! On the back stretch we spent a good deal of time swimming side by side. It was a bit of boost. There was a 10 minute stretch that went something like this as I caught a glimpse of him with each breath-Glover, lake water, Glover, lake water, Glover, lake water……buoy, lake water, Glover, lake water, Glover….. On the last couple hundred yards though, I had to turn on the jets to beat him out the water. The swim seemed just a little bit long, and I was 6th and he was 7th. I don't even think the announcer got my whole name out before he realized Glover was coming out the water behind me and started in with the Rocky theme song and the firing of the cannons. I know he's good but does he really need a police escort into T-1?

The Bike
Glover passed me in T-2. Going into the race I was telling myself to be very conservative on the bike. This is basically a two-loop course (the lollipop kind) and I hoped to even split the two loops, or at least be close. All of my previous IM bikes have had moments of despair on the bike with tired legs and I wanted to avoid that. I wanted to be fresh on the second half of the bike and I wanted to be fresh for the run. With no signs of rain just yet, I was encouraged and road a fairly easy pace. I was also encouraged that only a handful of people had passed me as I made my way though special needs. My priority was to stretch on the bike as often as possible and every 15-30 minutes I would take my feet out of the pedals and shake them out. Patience, patience, patience.

One highlight from loop 1 was at an (unplanned) unmanned aid station. I had to pull up and fish out a Gatorade and water from a kitty pool filled with ice and drinks on my own. While I was doing this, a mildly retarded man (sorry if there is a more PC way to say that) walked up and started patting me on the back saying "I know what you are doing….I know what you are doing…" with an enormous grin on his face. About this time, a cyclist came flying by shouting "WATER!! WATER!!" at the guy who was patting me on the back and who had absolutely nothing to do with the race. The patter just smiled and pointed at the cyclist saying "I know what you are doing! I know what you are doing!" and a brief moment of chaos and frustration occurred as the arriving cyclist slowly realized what I had realized only moments earlier-"this is an unmanned aid station…and there is a mentally disabled person here talking to everyone that stops….and I don't think he has any intention of handing me water….." That was enough of a distraction to carry me through the rest of the first loop. It was rare that I saw another cyclist on the course. I would say that 90% of the time I couldn't see a person ahead or behind me. That took the pressure off, but it also had me asking myself "am I still on the course?"

I call this course a "fair" course. For the most part it's rolling hills where the momentum from the downhill can get you most of the way up the next hill. I wouldn't quite call it fast because there are a ton of turns. The back half of each loop has some great flat stretches that can help give a lift to even the most tired of legs. It was on this stretch that I saw a sight that was one of the most glorious I had seen in quite some time. For the first time ever, I hit the mile 80 mark and felt strong so I had been slowly picking up the pace. I saw a pack of 3 riders, all of whom had passed me earlier in the ride. They didn't look so good. Now, passing riders might not seem like that big a deal, but since I was 6th out the water, there just weren't many people to pass. I got two very early on but to see some at mile 90 gave me a great sense of accomplishment that for the first time at an IM race, I was feeling strong in the late stages of the ride. As I entered the park on the bike I noticed Glover early in his second loop of the run in first place. I had my work cut out if I was going to catch him (I am kidding Glover….or am I?? Muahahahaha). I finished in 5:43 which was just barely slower than last year, but I had much much more energy. I was also relieved to have made it off the bike with no mechanical problems and no weather incidents. For each loop I carried a box of Extran, pretzels and a gel flask. I also carried electrolyte supplements and had a ham sammy at special needs. Along with some Gatorade this proved to be more than enough.

The weather on the run looked like it would be perfect…it was cool and overcast. I was in and out of transition pretty quickly. The run was a 5 loop course contained completely in the park that had the lake we swam in. Almost the entire run was either up or down, making it pretty challenging, but there were so many aid stations and excellent fan support which made the run so much more bearable. Every lap, participants would pass by a grandstand where they would announce your name and fans would go nuts for you. One of two real goals that I had coming in to this race was a 4 hour marathon…this has been my goal for several Ironman races now and I have tasted the rancid flavor of defeat in every one. I was encouraged by a 4:12 marathon earlier this year at Lake Placid. Last year at Dook I had a serious meltdown and moved across the finish line in 4:39. This year I had eyes for a different outcome.

The Run
Picture not here yet! As I made my way around all the little out and back segments of the course I spotted Brady around mile 3. It looked like he was only a few minutes behind me which meant that his bike must have been blistering….and it was. Shortly before completing the first loop, Brady passed me. I think we both benefited a great deal from seeing each other on the course so many times and having the opportunity, albeit briefly, to run together. We met up all through this horrific winter, bundled from head to toe, doing hill repeats and runs all around DC. It was awesome to get the chance many months later to realize together some of the gains we made over those frosty January mornings. He scooted on past running an extremely fast pace. I was running close to 8 minute miles and we didn't run together very long at all. We do battle when we race together. Sometimes I can hold him off. Today, there would be no holding off of the The Run Pummeler.

I made my way through the grandstand at the conclusion of the first loop and all systems checked out. My pace was about 8:20. Mel, Deidre and Jen where there…and I must say…they were the 3 greatest fans there that day. I saw some good fans on that course, but these girls were at a different level. The remaining loops were much of a blur. I saw David "The race will probably shut down the first year that Glover doesn't win it" Glover a couple times on the out and backs and I stopped the bleeding to Brady as he stayed a consistent 8-10 minutes ahead of me the remaining laps. I was well fueled coming off the bike so I drank mainly water early on but later switched to Coke, Gatorade and occasionally pretzels or bananas. I felt great the whole way and I hit the midway point at 1:54. My goal at this point was to run 2 hours for the second half. That was looking good until about mile 22 when I started to lose some time. I still felt good about breaking 4 hours but man…I swear the last 2 mile markers were way off. I had something like 22 minutes to run the last 2 miles and by the time I hit the 25 mile sign it was down to 8. I sprinted the last mile and crossed in 10:47. Just outside of the chute I passed the first place female to keep the macho ego nice and inflated. Although, the curse of finishing the race just in front of the first place female is the same as finishing the swim just in front of David Glover. You are merely a distraction to the race announcer….an annoying athlete who just happens to be slightly ahead of a feel good story bull dozer ready to crush any moment of glory in it's path. My name was hastily announced as I flew through the downhill finish and the attention quickly shifted to "Here she comes!!! Our first place female!!….." My run time ended up being 4:00:19. [sigh] 19 freaking seconds from breaking 4 hours. Close enough though. I crossed the line in 10:47 and the finish was downhill, and as a Clydesdale I was looking for the run away Clydesdale sand ramp. Instead they had a 115 lb female undergrad waiting to catch me. Intelligently showing that she had more brains than muscle, she stepped aside giving me space to bring the big rig under control many football field lengths beyond the finish line.

I felt awesome at the finish. I could talk, I wasn't throwing up. I could even carry my own bags. Before the race, Brady and I had talked about feeling good enough after the race to drink a beer. I got home and had 3! I had been eying the 11 hour mark at every IM race I did, and to finally get it done was incredible. Congratulations to Glover for winning it all for the second year in a row. I joke about him "owning" that race…but that's because his dominance down there the past two years is incredible. Congratulations to Brady for finishing in 10:36 (2nd in his AG) and to Michael Smith and Mark Freeman for finishing their first IM races. Also congratulations to Mike's friend Michael who I managed to see at the exact same spot on each loop of the run…I mean EXACTLY the same. My time was good enough to take the Clydesdale crown and had I entered my AG I could have finished 3rd to Brady who was 10 minutes ahead of me. That was also good enough for 12th overall (behind Brady's 11th). I am eternally grateful to the tri gods for allowing me to have a race where I didn't have to walk away with at least some small part of me feeling unsatisfied because of some race catastrophe. The race wasn't magic and I don't feel like I was necessarily in "the zone." I just felt like I had the chance to do whatever I was capable of and that alone is satisfying enough.

This was my 5th ironman race and I learned a great deal about pacing and patience on the bike. But perhaps the biggest lesson was that-just because someone is standing at an aid station, it doesn't mean they are there to hand you water.