Monthly Archives: July 2013

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.


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.