Going out with a bang

Hi everyone,

It’s now 3 weeks after Lake Placid and I thought it would be fitting to finish my blog with an entry after the Luray tri, as it was with that race that the blog began a year ago.

It can be a long process recovering from an ironman, but it seems to be going pretty well for me. I had trouble walking for about three days, but from then on the recovery has been pretty fast. I resumed training slowly a week after the race and the last few days I’ve felt the best I’ve ever felt. However, feeling incredible and actually performing well are two things, so I was interested to see how my performance went in Luray.

luray

Getting ready for the race start with Ben

Being a sprint triathlon I went out really hard as I began the one loop swim of Lake Arrowhead. About 100 yards in I could see there were not many people in front of me, which is something I’m not really used to in open water swims. I found someone to draft off and settled in for the next couple of hundred metres, but then I could feel them fade so I surged out on my own. When I reached the beach I was shocked to see nobody ahead of me!

I was in fact in third position – the first two guys were so far ahead of me I couldn’t even see them, but I had just completed the swim of my life! At Luray last year I was very much a middle of the pack swimmer and it felt great to know all those hours in the pool have paid off. I was gasping for breath a little, but maintained my form as I made a quick transition and got onto the bike course.

Once on the bike I quickly caught sight of second place and looked to take some time off them on the first hill. I powered up, but right as I neared the top my bike ruined the serenity of the Blue Ridge foot hills with a deafening pop. I had burst my rear inner tube! With less than a mile of the bike course completed I retired from the race.

I was frustrated to say the least, but that’s triathlon and I have found you simply cannot beat Murphy’s Law sometimes. I’ve managed to post finishing times for only 50% of the triathlons I’ve entered this year! However, I feel incredibly lucky as on inspection of my tube it would appear it was simply a burst seam, probably caused by age. This could have happened at any time and yet I managed to get in all 112 miles of the Lake Placid course before it did. Less than a mile of outdoor cycling later and there it goes – maybe on this occasion I did get the better of Murphy!

So now I guess it’s a question of what’s next for me. I still have no desire to do anything as crazy as an ironman again anytime soon. Right now I’m leaning towards focusing on running again and focusing on middle distance. While I love triathlon, it involves a lot of preparation for each race, very early mornings and the added risk factor of your bike letting you down. With running races you just rock up 30 minutes before the race, collect your race packet and off you go for a few minutes. Anything that involves more sleep seems like a much better option when you’ve got a little guy to take care of!

Nevertheless, I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to compete at Lake Placid and complete an ironman. It was a lot of hard work to train for, but it was an incredibly satisfying experience I’ll always be able to look back on fondly.

I was also glad to do my bit, however small, for hyperemesis gravidarum research. I’d like to thank everyone who donated for their generosity. Altogether we raised $1540, which goes an incredibly long way with the HER Foundation. The HER Foundation has very few overheads (e.g. it does not have a paid staff) and really makes every donation go a long way, so if you are ever looking to give to charity in the future I’d strongly encourage you to keep them in mind.

Of course, raising money was only part of the cause and I really wanted to help get the word out about HG and its effect on families. Please take the next opportunity you get to educate someone you know on HG (with the recent royal birth you have an excellent ice breaker!) So many expectant mothers are suffering from this debilitating illness and have no idea what it is – let’ do them all a big favour and help spread the word so they can get the treatment they need.

I’ve had fun writing the blog, so thanks for reading along and for your words of encouragement along the way!

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You are an ironman!

Hi everyone,

Well I did it! After a long day at Lake Placid I’m proud to be able to call myself an ironman. Overall I was really happy with my race and wound up crossing the line in 11 hours 15 minutes, which put me into 315th position overall and 23rd in my division.

The morning started early on the shores of mirror lake. As I left the hotel I saw a flash of lightning in the distance and my heart skipped a beat, but fortunately that was the last I saw of it and the race began on time. Just before 6:30 the cannon was fired and the pro males began their long day on the job.

I started about 5 minutes behind them and went out at a very solid pace on the first loop of the two lap swim, covering those 1.2 miles in just over 31 minutes. At the end of that loop we had to get out onto the beach and run a short distance before commencing the second lap, which made for a rather nauseous feeling that soon past. I went a little wide at times on the second lap and got tangled up a few times with some of the slower swimmers still on their first lap so it was a couple of minutes slower but I was still happy with the effort. Overall my swim ended up being my best leg of the day – it’s the first time I’ve ever swum better than I’ve run so I guess those countless laps of the pool paid off.

It could have ended up a bit differently though. One of the keys to a good swim in open water is finding good swimmers to draft off. If you can find someone who is roughly your ability or a little bit better you can tuck in behind them and follow their slip stream, which results in you expending up to 18% less effort. Anyway, on the first lap I got behind a girl who was swimming at the exact pace I wanted to hit so I sat in behind her for about 5 minutes. I thought I was keeping a pretty considerate distance, but I guess she could sense me and didn’t like me getting free speed. She stopped swimming, turned to me and started thrashing her arms wildly at me, so I just put the hammer down and swam like crazy to get away from her!

Once I was out of the water I ran into the bike transition area and my heart skipped a beat for the second time that day. I got to my bike rack only to find my bike was missing! There were several thousand bikes there and I had only seen one that was worth less than mine, so I wondered why would anybody steal my rigid aluminium beast with heavy alloy wheels. I ran over to the nearest volunteer to report the theft, only to find he was holding it ready for me to grab as I ran through the transition. I’m not used to that kind of service at a triathlon! I thanked him and quickly got started on the bike course.

Hammering along the big course... before I killed my legs!

Hammering along the big course… before I killed my legs!

After a couple of steep uphill miles the huge descents into the town of Keene approached, which made me a little anxious. It was raining at that stage and I knew from driving the course that the roads were in pretty bad shape on this section, so I intended on taking it pretty easy. As I freewheeled down the hill at about 60km/h I had a few athletes pass me like I was standing still. They must have been doing close to 90km/h which doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for error so I was happy for them to leave me in their wake.

I felt really good on the first lap of the bike and towards the end I started to get into race mode where I was looking at the athletes ahead of me and picking them off. Big mistake! Shortly after the start of the second loop I knew I had gone out too hard and had to conserve some energy if I was going to get through the run. On the second lap I passed two athletes and was overtaken by at least 100 others (though it felt more like 1,000,000!), which was very demoralizing and made the pain in my legs hurt twice as bad. Still I hung in there and was elated when I past the 100 mile mark. At that point I knew my bike could fail catastrophically and I would still be able to carry it into town and finish the race.

After climbing the final hill (Papa Bear) I found myself rushing through transition and onto the run leg. My transition went very smoothly and I actually completed it faster than Andy Potts, who won the pro division (I would have preferred to beat him on the bike leg, but I take what I can get). I grabbed some sunscreen on the way out and started attacking right away on the steep downhills out of town. I was a little scared to be honest, as I knew these downhills would become uphills on my way back into town!

The first 7 miles of the marathon felt pretty good, but then I started to feel a nauseous and mentally I knew I couldn’t convince myself to just run another 19 miles so I needed a new tack. I decided I would run to the next aid station a mile away and then I would walk through it and grab as many fluids and nutrients as I could. Then I would repeat this every mile until I felt better. Running a mile doesn’t seem that bad, so the strategy worked pretty well and didn’t slow me down too much and so as I came back into town around the halfway point I started to feel magical again. I started passing people left, right and centre, but it only lasted three miles before I had to slow the pace back down and return to my one mile at a time strategy.

The second half of the marathon was a real mental struggle and if it were a training run I would have thrown in the towel. But with so much preparation for this moment I wasn’t going to quit that easily. With about three miles to go I decided to suck it up, increase the pace and finish in style, but just as I convinced myself my body rebelled with an epic cramp in my left hamstring. I stopped to stretch it out, but it just kept on grabbing. However, a little massage and three stretches later (as I watched all the people I had overtaken cruise past me) I was able to get back into my rhythm. I past a lot of people coming into town as I ran up the hill, seeing as most people weren’t crazy enough to run up a steep hill after 11 hours of racing. Then as I rounded the last mile I embraced the pain and pushed myself hard towards to finish. Rounding the corner onto the speed skating track and completing the half lap of the track before the finish line was a truly electric experience (some may say Steven Bradbury-esque)

Crossing the line... what a feeling!

Crossing the line… what a feeling!

Crossing the line I felt pretty spent, but not too bad. I didn’t require any medical attention like I did on my first marathon a couple of years ago, so my fitness and racing strategies have certainly improved since then. I grabbed some sustenance and sat down for about 10 minutes before I found Brynn and got reunited with her and Benjamin. The truth is that behind every ironman there is an ironmate, who makes it all happen with their incredible support and encouragement. Brynn made a lot of sacrifices over the last few months to enable me to get in the training I needed to get to the finish line and I am very grateful for her support. She can wear my medal any time she likes!

Now it will be a big adjustment as I get used to life outside of ironman once again, but I look forward to the change of pace and the opportunity to spend more time doing things I simply haven’t had the time for. Triathlon will still be on the cards though as I have the Luray triathlon on my schedule in three weeks. I figured with all that training under my belt, I might as well get in another race!

With the end of ironman I’ll be bringing my blog to a close soon, but it’s still not too late to donate if you are able to! We’ve had a number of last minute donations come through that have been really appreciated and will go a long one to helping the fight against HG!

Sehenandoah’s Pride

Brynn, Benjamin and I are now in Lake Placid and less than 24 hours from the start of the ironman! It was a long trip up but worth it just to see the town, which is one of the nicest towns I’ve seen in America. The mountain air is very refreshing and it’s just picture perfect.

To say I’m a little nervous wouldn’t be inaccurate, but I’m confident the training I have under my belt will put me in good stead to reach the finish line. My cycling has traditionally been my triathlon weakness and with the cycle leg at Lake Placid being notoriously hard I knew I had to do something to get some extra power and endurance in my legs. I found that little something on the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park.

The Skyline Drive was built during the Great Depression as part of the New Deal, which was an initiative to help America’s unemployment problems with big infrastructure projects. It travels for 100 miles through some of Virginia’s steepest mountains, providing some of the most spectacular views you’re ever likely to see on the east coast of America – and exhausting many an avid cyclists legs.

On the first of my three rides along the Skyline I was hooked within about five minutes. The road has 71 roadside lookouts and traffic is never heavy. Furthermore, the people driving through the park are there to enjoy it and are generally unaggressive towards bikes – a rarity in this part of the world. My only complaint was I didn’t see any of the black bears that the park is famous for on my ride.

On the second ride, however, I more than made up for it with three bear sightings. The first one I head a russle in the trees by the road and turned my head to see the top of a bears head, which wasn’t much but enough to get me excited. The second two made it seem pretty lame though as I got to see a mother and its cub walking off down a fire trial beside the road. When I first saw the mother I thought it must have been a baby, but then when I saw the baby I realized just how small black bears actually are. I have to admit I was a little scared of seeing one up until that point, but the truth is they are almost completely harmless.

Don’t get me wrong – black bears are wild animals and are both fast and strong. However, they are also very timid and the ones in Shenandoah are very used to seeing people. Provided you don’t do anything silly like chase them around or steal their babies chances are they will ignore you (there hasn’t been a bear attack in Shenandoah in 30 years).

That final ride ended as a 100 mile 7 hour epic that involved over 3000 metres of climbing (that’s higher than Australia’s tallest mountain and about a third the height of Everest). If I can get through that I know I can beat the mountains in the Adirondacks by Lake Placid.

On my third ride I was also lucky to see another three bears. One of them was a younger one that crossed the road about 30 metres in front of me and paused briefly to check me out. It was a really magical experience and more than made up for any fatigue I felt at the end of the day.

With the big day almost here I’d encourage you all to dig deep for the HER Foundation, who are really benefitting from the generous donations that have been made so far. If you’d like to make things interesting why not pledge a donation based on my performance in Lake Placid? You might consider donating a certain amount for every mile I complete or for every minute under 17 hours (the cut off time) in which I complete the course. Whether it’s a lot or a little, every donation makes a big difference and is truly appreciated.

Murphy’s Law

Hi everyone,

My apologies for dropping off the radar. The past two months have been incredibly busy and full of hurdles trying to keep me away from my goal of finishing Ironman Lake Placid, but I have been doing my best to keep my mileage up to a level that will get me through the race. It has really tested my resilience, but with just two weeks to go I am feeling confident that I will be able to complete the distance (but no guarantees on how fast!)

The 50 hour work week has become the norm for me and Benjamin recently broke his first tooth, which resulted in a number of sleepless nights. However, these things are just small change compared to the week from hell Brynn and I experienced in Philadelphia.

I had planned just one big city triathlon this year and Philadelphia was going to be it. It’s a very popular Olympic distance course that has resulted in many athletes posting personal records. It seemed like the perfect tune up race in the weeks leading up to Lake Placid.

The trip did not begin well with the typically sub 3 hour trip taking well over 5 hours. We had planned on collecting my race packet and visiting a children’s museum on the Friday, but with the epic delays we cancelled all plans for the first day and were happy to just arrive at our hotel.

The next morning we headed down to West Fairmont Park to collect my race packet from the expo and visit the Please Touch Museum. We parked the car and had a very enjoyable visit in the museum, which I can highly recommend to anyone with kids under 10 years old. Benjamin had a blast just looking at all the colours and being able to push little carts around, but there is so much more there he will appreciate in a couple of years that I’d like to go back (if I ever feel up to a voluntary trip to Philadelphia again).

Touching stuff at the Please Touch Museum

Touching stuff at the Please Touch Museum

However, the weekend went terribly wrong as soon as we left the museum and got back to the car. Some $^%*head had smashed in two of the windows to steal Benjamin’s diaper bag (which contained… diapers!) and Brynn’s purse that had been concealed under a blanked in the trunk.

We walked away from the area immediately and Brynn called 911, who told her they would call back in a few minutes. When we didn’t hear anything for a while Brynn called back and was told that they had no reason to call her back and that there was nothing they could do so we should just deal with it. Thanks 911!

We then found a policeman in the park working as a guard for the triathlon who called in our problem after a bit of persuasion. His colleague was then able to inspect the car and write a police report. My initial plan from there was to get a taxi for Brynn and Benjamin and drive the car back myself back to the hotel. Brynn then called the taxi company, but they refused to come out because we could provide a cross street, but no building number (being a park there are no building numbers!) So I had to clean up some of the broken glass with my bare hands (which was a little painful) so we could all get in and drive back to the hotel.

Once back at the hotel I called my insurer and got the most stupid person I’ve ever spoke to in my life. When I got off the phone Brynn thought it must have been an overseas call center because of the way I had to speak really slow and spell many words (including b-a-g), but alas it was just someone who must never have seen the inside of a school. After I told the operator that the car had been broken into and the windows smashed, she asked me if there had been any vandalism.

Benjamin didn't let the events of the weekend get him down... maybe I could learn something

Benjamin didn’t let the events of the weekend get him down… maybe I could learn something

From there I called up every “emergency” auto glass shop in Philadelphia to discover none of them are actually open on the weekend. Apparently “emergency” means they can fix things within a week, which wasn’t a whole lot of use to us.

I wasn’t keen on driving all the way back to Virginia with a baby in the car and two broken windows, but after exhausting all other options we made the decision at about 10pm that night that that was exactly what we were going to do. I had held out hope of competing in the triathlon until about that point, but we were all so exhausted it really seemed like the only viable option.

philly3

Brynn’s creativity made the trip home a little less serious

Benjamin’s teething was at an all time high that night, but somehow I managed to sleep through the majority of it. Brynn took one for the team and got up every time so I’d be fresh for the big drive and didn’t manage to get one wink of sleep. At the first break of light we were up and packing and soon we were back on the road to greener pastures. Other than a major storm that ripped the cardboard off one of the windows, the drive home was pretty uneventful.

Sometimes everything that can go wrong does go wrong.

I really don’t ever want to see Philadelphia again in my life, but ironically I am on an Amtrak train heading there right now as I type. This time it will be for business rather than “pleasure”, as I’ll be attending a work related conference there.

My First Century

Hi everyone,

Lake Placid is fast approaching with just over 2 months left on the training calender. As I’ll need to start tapering my training about 3 weeks out from the race that leaves me with six weeks of solid training.

I think preparations so far have been going well considering I have to balance training with work and a seven month old. My swimming has improved out of sight in the last few months and my running has come to a new level. However, while my cycling is improving it is the one area of my training that has been somewhat neglected, mostly because it just takes too much time to get good at it. Given the bike leg at Lake Placid is 112 miles I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit worried.

So it is with my remaining weeks of training that I am focused on improving my cycling endurance by getting some long rides in on the weekends. Last weekend I was planning on going out to Shenandoah National Park to take in some long hills, but with the weather forecast looking so negative I decided to stay closer to home and focus on my first century – 100 miles on the bike.

I decided to ride out to Mount Vernon – the estate of the first US President George Washington – and back again, which would get me close to my target mileage. Then I would tack on a few extra miles at the end.

Usually the eastern section W&OD trail that I took is worth avoiding on the weekends, but because of the lousy weather it wasn’t too crowded. That took me into Alexandria, where I then found myself on the Mt Vernon trail. As I got closer the Mount Vernon the trail got hillier and slipperier, so I eased off the pace a bit and found myself at the entrance to Mount Vernon in one piece.

On the way back I was not as fortunate. About a mile or two on the return I turned my bike through a steep downhill corner only for the back wheel to lose traction and take my iron horse (or is it wire donkey?) sideways. The bike slid out in front of me and I skidded along the trail for what seemed like an eternity. Fortunately I was wearing two pairs of tights because of the weather so I was able to minimize the damage, but I still wound up with a very nasty road rash on my hip about 3 inches long and 1.5 inches wide as well as a few other cuts and bruises. Still, it’s the first time I’ve come off my bike in over a year and the damage could have been a lot worse, so I can’t complain.

Aside from my intimate encounter with the asphalt the ride was a success and gave me some confidence in my endurance. However, I was incredibly hungry by the end of it despite consuming energy snacks like a gluttonous king throughout the ride. It highlighted once again the importance of nutrition in an ironman event.

Because of my road rash I had to change my training plan for the week and take some time off swimming. I made up for it with some extra bike miles on the Expresso bike at the gym. However, I hit the pool again yesterday so as to not lose my feel for the water as I have a two mile open water swimming race this weekend. Then it’s just a few weeks until Philadelphia – my last triathlon before Placid.

May 15: HG Awareness Day

As you may be aware, today is Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day. It is only the second year that HG has had an official awareness day and not surprisingly awareness of the disease is still not great. HG continues to be one of the most misdiagnosed pregnancy complications affecting the health of both mothers and babies.

hg-world-day-2013-2

The purpose of HG Awareness Day is to encourage people to find out more about HG and help educate others on the disease. Almost 20% of HG pregnancies are lost to therapeutic abortions. These are wanted pregnancies that mother’s are forced to terminate because of a lack of adequate care.

As a way to help increase awareness, I’ve put together a quiz titled “How HG Aware are you?“. Each question is True or False and you’ll find the answers posted in the comments of this post below.

  1. Women who suffer HG in one pregnancy are 70% likely to suffer it in additional pregnancies.
  2. Women in the 35-44 year age group are the most likely to be affected by HG in their pregnancies.
  3. Babies born of mothers with HG are more likely to be born underweight
  4. HG is highly contagious
  5. HG is typically accompanied by significant weight loss (usually more than 10%)
  6. US law protects women suffering from HG from losing their jobs
  7. Intravenous hydration is commonly used in treating HG
  8. HG symtoms rarely continue past the first trimester of pregnancy
  9. One symptom of HG can be an acutely increased sense of smell
  10. HG is curable with a healthy diet and proper rest
  11. Women with HG are 60% more likely to give birth to a girl than women without HG
  12. HG is a strong indication that the mother is pregnant with twins or other multiples

Of course research is continuing into HG and hopefully we will have more answers to what causes HG and how to best treat it. I’d encourage you to contribute to the HER Foundation (it’s tax deductible and the management of the charity are not paid a salary). If you do please post a comment on my donate page (it can be anonymous) so I can keep track of the fundraising campaign. Currently we’re just shy of $1000 and a few small donations will get us over the milestone. Your help is greatly appreciated!

HER 5k

Hi everyone,

Mother’s Day ended up being a very memorable experience for our family and not only because Benjamin decided to start crawling (covering about 4 feet so he could attack his alphabet caterpillar with his ferocious gums). The day began with the HER 5k, a race very close to Brynn’s and my heart given our experience with HG last year.

The day could only be better than last year’s Mother’s Day, given Brynn was in hospital fighting off an infection caused by the PICC line she had been given for intravenous feeding. That particular visit lasted five days. It was a huge contrast to see Brynn happy and full of energy this year, back to her usual self.

This Mom IS one tough chick

This Mom IS one tough chick!

The race was full of other mothers who had survived HG and it was a great opportunity for them to share their stories with each other. Given how little known HG still is I think it must be huge for these women to be able to speak to so many other people that truly understand what they have been through. While I saw Brynn suffer for the longest nine months of our lives I can only start to imagine the physical pain she went through, so it was fantastic that she was able to connect with so many strong mothers who had survived similar ordeals.

Of course, in addition to the social opportunity there was a race to be run and I was intent on having a good go at it. Once the gun went off I was all business and surged out at a steady pace. Coming around the first corner I was in the lead and settled into a firm but comfortable tempo I felt I could hold for the next 5k. The course was predominantly flat, but presented a little bit of a challenge in that a quarter of it was on crushed sea shells – not a surface I would typically run on! At the half way turn around I had about a minute’s lead on the competition. I held my pace and surged towards the finish line only to realise I actually had to run past the finish about 300 metres and then turn around before crossing the line. Fortunately I still had enough left in the reserve tank to complete the final section and finish the race in 17 minutes 49 seconds – a full minute better than the last 5k I ran over a year ago and enough to secure a win.

Passing the fan club en route to the finish

Passing the fan club en route to the finish

Once I was done I gave myself a quick breather before jogging off to find Brynn, who was walking the course with Benjamin and her parents. I found them and was able to complete the course a second time… this time at a much more leisurely pace thankfully. Benjamin seemed to be quite excited at the start of the race, but by the time I caught up to him he was fast asleep.

Benjamin gave the medal the old fashioned bite test - it wasn't 24 carat gold

Benjamin gave the medal the old fashioned bite test – it wasn’t 24 carat gold

All in all the HER 5k was a huge success and looks set to continue for many more years to come. I think we have a new annual tradition for Mother’s Day.

Half the Distance

Hi everyone,

This past weekend was my first real test of endurance on the scale of Lake Placid. And by scale I mean 1:2, as it was exactly half the distance (and theoretically half as painful). Anyway, I’m please to say it was a huge success and while it did highlight a few things I’ll need to work on for Lake Placid, it also showed that I’m on track to achieving my goal.

The race took place at Lake Monticello, just outside of Charlottesville and was aptly named “Monticelloman”. It began with a 1.2 mi lake swim followed by a hilly 56 mi bike ride and a 13.1 mi run  (1.9km/90km/21.1km).

I have to admit that the waters of the lake were a bit brisk at 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 Celcius), but it gave me all the more reason to go out hard and put the many hours I’ve spent working on my swim technique to practice. I was wearing a new pair of swim goggles I just bought that were designed for open water and they made a huge difference. I was able to see really clearly in the water which helped me to draft off the other swimmers. The result – over 4 minutes of my previous best and my first time under 30 minutes for the distance.

Coming out of the lake into transition

Coming out of the lake into transition

It was a weird feeling to get on the bike among the leaders and as such I was bracing myself for the onslaught of strong cyclists. Slowly but surely they came and over the next couple of hours I was past by several, while only passing two myself. On the second lap of the course I was passed by someone in my own age group who was flying. I was also passed by the leading female, so I made a mental note to look out for them on the half marathon course and try to run them down.

Coming into the run my quads were aching from the hills, so I started a little slower than usual and increased my speed over time. After a few miles I was able to see the leading female so I let my speed out on some of the downhill sections to make up ground. At the half way turnaround I made my move and cruised past her and could see guy from age group ahead. All was going to plan.

But that’s when the plans changed. A few minutes later I realised the girl I had passed was still only a few steps behind me. I pushed the speed up every now and then, but I just couldn’t shake her. For the next 3 miles we were neck and neck, which was great as it kept me pushing the pace, but we still didn’t seem to be making a lot of ground on the guy from my age group. However, as we entered the final 3 miles he seemed to slow down slightly as our pace continued to increase. With about a half mile to go we were still neck and neck and now only about 40 metres behind my target.  At that point he turned his head and spotted us coming and took off like a scalded cat.

I figured he wouldn’t maintain that pace, but didn’t like my chances of closing the gap now. Nevertheless I kept composed and just held the pace. Then moments later something happened that was about 1 part strategy and 10,000 parts pure luck – the guy cramped up and had to stop for a moment. I felt like Stephen Bradbury as I cruised past him. At that point it occurred to me that the women had started five minutes after the men, so when the leading girl cranked up the pace again I let her go – I was in pain and she technically had a five minute lead on me so she could go for the glory run. I just kept my legs moving over the last couple of hills and sprinted the final downhill. I ended up winning the age group by 12 seconds – a very narrow margin after racing for close to five hours.

Benjamin was extra excited to see me when he realised I had a medal around my neck

Benjamin was extra excited to see me when he realised I had a medal around my neck

Looking back at the race I don’t see many areas where I could have done much better – I really did just have a fantastic race that pushed me to my current limits. However, on crossing the line I felt spent and the thought that I’d only be half way done if I was at Lake Placid was more than a little scary. So learning from the race I know that I need to be more conservative on the bike in Lake Placid, especially on the hills and I need to take in both more water and more calories. While I relied solely on sports drink and energy gels for this race I think I’ll need to eat something a little more substantial when I get to Placid.

Benjamin enjoyed sharing the limelight on the podium

Benjamin enjoyed sharing the limelight on the podium

Now I’m going to take the best part of a week off training, which will be a welcome change of pace after all the hard sessions I’ve put in over the past few months. However, I’ll have to be back on my game for next weekend as the HER 5k will be taking place at the National Harbor in Maryland. If anyone is looking for an excellent race next weekend entries are still open!

The Highs and Lows of Triathlon

It’s been a while since I’ve posted owing partly to a lack of time and partly to a lack of motivation for all things triathlon related. After a long winter of indoor training it was only natural that my motivation would lapse at some point. In fact, I was a little surprised that it lasted as long as it did.

My lapse in motivation was triggered by my first outdoor race of the season – a really short local triathlon in reverse order. It sounded like a fun way to mix things up by having the run at the start and the swim at the finish. Also, given how cold it was in early March it would have been difficult to go outside on a bike after getting out of the pool.

Anyway, the race was an epic disaster for me. Each of the three legs felt quite good, but my transitions in between them were frightfully slow – partly because I wore gloves which made me fumble every piece of equipment I had to touch. Also, the course was really poorly marked, which made it difficult to navigate. I ended up crossing the line in second place, just a few seconds behind the winner.

When I caught this guy I thought I had caught the leader at first, but he was only racing the aquathlon

When I caught this guy I thought I had  the leader at first, but he was from a different race on the same course

However, unbeknownst to me until the award ceremony was about to be held, I had been disqualified for cutting the course. It turns out I had taken a wrong turn on the bike course, which cut out close to half a mile of the course. I was in fourth place at the time of the incident and I was simply following 2nd and 3rd, who were just ahead of me.

It wasn’t a very serious race, but I was certainly taking it seriously, so I felt very dejected about the whole experience. For the following few weeks I trained more out of habit than desire and really struggled to find enjoyment in any of my training sessions. It made me re-evaluate what I was doing and had it not been for Lake Placid and some of the other races I had already entered I may well have just walked away from the sport and gone back to just running.

My next triathlon was part of the Virginia Triathlon Series and scheduled to take place in Lynchburg, Virginia this past weekend. After a few weeks of loathing training I approached the race with a very different attitude. It was a much bigger race but I simply didn’t care about it anymore, so I decided that I would go into it with the sole purpose of enjoying myself. If I floundered like a dead fish in the pool, rode my bike like a circus clown and failed to finish the run that was fine, I just had to feel like I was having fun.

The approach ended up having a huge benefit – I had the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had before a triathlon (I only woke up once and that was because Benjamin was crying!) As I lined up for the start of the race I felt relaxed and in good spirits.

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My No. 1 supporter was in high spirits

After completing the swim in a decent time I had a great transition onto the bike and cycled through and out of the downtown area of Lynchburg (it’s a great city to hold a triathlon because it’s completely dead on a Sunday and they can basically close the whole place down). It was a scenic and hilly course and my hours on the indoor expresso bike came in handy as I was able to cycle down the majority of people who started in front of me.

Another good transition saw me on the run course, which went out of town and onto the Blackwater cycle trail. I past one athlete early and worked slowly on another who I caught at the bottom of a ridiculously steep hill coming back into the city. I managed to pass him, but couldn’t hold him off after burning all my candles on the hill. It didn’t matter anyway, as he had started the race more than five minutes before me.

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Falling apart as the finish line approaches

I ended up finishing second place overall and given the size of the race it was by far the best result I have achieved to date. Best of all I am looking forward to getting back into training tomorrow!

For News Coverage of the Triathlon Click Here

My next event won’t be until May and will be a half iron distance race, which will be a real test. This last race has shown me that I have improved my speed and power in the off-season, but whether my endurance has improved won’t be seen until this next event. It will be a good indication of how my preparation is going for Lake Placid and how much pain I am likely to go through in July.

Boston Disaster

I’m sure most of you would have heard about the terrible events in Boston today. If I had have run a qualifying time last year I would most likely have been there, so the news strikes very close to home for me. I knew a couple of people that were up there, but they were not in the vicinity of the explosion when it happened. My sincerest sympathies go to the families that have been affected.