On one of those weird upstate NY days in which the weather would go from balmy one minute to frigid the next, the swim was choppy and overcast. Prior to getting into the water I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get in my warm up and receive my timing chip.
Although packet pick up was the day before the race, the timing chip pick up was the day of the race. Unbeknownst to me score-this scans the bottom of your bib to lock in your timing chip; however I usually rip off the tags on the bottom of my bib (my short legs need as much room as they can get!). The first time I went to pick up my chip they told me I needed my bib, the second time I showed up with my bib they told me they needed the bottom part to scan (this was 12 minutes before the start of the race!) The woman saw the look of fear on my face and entered my race # into the computer to authenticate my chip but warned if I lost the chip they wouldn't be able to record my race time; for someone trying to qualify for worlds that might be a problem but for someone just trying to get better and raise awareness I wasn't too concerned.
With just over 10 minutes until the race start I jogged over to the water to get in a short warm up. The water was choppy but warm so freaking out in cold water wouldn't be a challenge. I was anxious to swim open water in something other than a glass smooth body of water though. We were corralled at the swim start where Kim's blogging friend Amanda saw me where we both wished each other luck.
Amanda rocked out the race coming in 2nd place in the female 25-29 age group, knocking my good friend Sarah to 4th place in the age group - kind of cool to know 2 of the better racers in that age group! I also need to apologize to Amanda for rushing by her and Kim prior to the race as I was trying to get my timing chip.
We made our way into the water, and I positioned myself as close to the right buoy as possible. The gun went off, I put my face in the water and swam. I haven't trained huge yardage in the pool yet so I was interested to see how I would handle 1.2 miles.
Amazingly, I kept my stroke the entire time; maintained a good sight line and had an unbelievably solid swim. In fact I continued to swim directly into the boat ramp we were using as the water exit, head first! The volunteer had to tap me on the shoulder to let me know my swim was over (good one Ed) I exited the water in 34 minutes 47 seconds good for 297th overall - by far the best swim I have ever had in a race. Exiting the water rather than having the bewildered look I have on my face of how the heck did I just swim that slowly I'm looking pumped and excited as I strip out of my wetsuit:
Swim Grade: A, I moved from drowning rat category to 3rd grade champion - improvement is the name of the game!
Coach E had told me if I encountered any blood sugar issues to just keep moving forward, waiting in transition wasn't going to help anything. With that in mind I didn't loose my cool (as I did in Mooseman last year) when I tested my bs in T1 to find a blood sugar of 128. I took a clif shot gel, slowly put on my bike gear and left the transition area. My plan was to test again after mile 10 on the bike and take the first mile and a half slowly to let the gel digest. Once I made the turn onto route 96 I could feel my blood sugars rebounding, found my legs and was off. Over the next 8 miles on the bike my pace was in excess of 23 mph while I sang the Hobart fight song (ok I'm a big of a dork). After mile 10 I pulled to the side of the road, tested my blood sugar and was thrilled to see a bs of 140 - race salvaged, I can continue!
For the next 20 miles I had an incredibly strong bike, I finished the first 30 miles of the bike in under an hour and 1/2 - meeting my pre-race plans. Throughout the first 30 miles we passed by some Mennonite families on a horse and buggy ride. Annoyingly one of my fellow competitors thought it would be fun to have a freaking bell on his bike and rung it every time he would pass someone (competitor, spectator, volunteer, metaphysical reality), which was funny the first 10 times but after about 100 - seriously dude!
Around mile 26 I started to feel a strange twinge in my hip, by mile 33 the twinge was a freaking jack hammer attacking my lower back and right hip. I could no longer generate any power out of my right hip and my pace slowed from 23 mph to 16 mph. Every few miles or so I would have to coast to try and loosen up my hip and back. The pain at one point became so bad I was sick to my stomach and had tears in my eyes - if someone were to ask me was I "hurt or injured?" my answer would have been a resounding injured. However, being in Geneva brings out my meathead ways and I refused to DNF on a race in that freaking town.
Up the big hill after the Amish furniture store the shooting pain in my inner thigh that has plagued me struck, so I had to get up that huge hill basically using just my left leg; shortly after that that shooting pain struck my left inner thigh. I basically felt like I was getting the cr*p kicked out of me on my bike, my right hip, lower back to both sides of my groin all felt like they were extras in the movie Hostel. I'm not sure if my body just wasn't prepared to go 56 miles on the bike, if my bike fit is off or if I'm just an old man but I can't recall a time on the bike that I had to dig deeper. With a grimace and a grunt I finished the 56 miles well off my target time but happy that I simply continued to move forward, with an average pace of 18.5 mph - better than Mooseman and Placid. I know that going forward if I can get some of these physiology issues solved my times are going to improve starkly.
Bike Grade: B-, I'm getting extra points for the ability to push through the wall of pain but a 3:03 bike split doesn't put me at the pace I'm capable of.
Once off the bike I was anxious to test my blood sugar and ensure I'd be able to continue. I started feeling pretty sick towards the end of the bike and was worried I had gone low again. With great focus I tested my blood sugar and was relived to see 248, a bit high but better than a low:
Nothing could have prepared me for the emotions I felt on the run, the run course went up the trail we used to walk home from the bars in our drunken stupor. I swear it was way easier to get up the hill after a few too many then on nothing but carbo-pro and EFS! But man, did that hill bring back memories, from almost getting in trouble with the cops on my recruiting trip to Hobart, to having to carry half my friends up it - it was freaking great. The course continued past my old fraternity house, past my first dorm room at Hobart and down through the backside of campus. Once we made the turn onto St. Claire Street it struck me, holly s***** We are going to run on the backside of the football practice fields and Bozwell stadium!
I had totally forgotten the run course went onto St. Claire and had to hold back tears as I ran by the field, knowing that one of my closest teammates and best friends had made his way up to the race to support me made it that much more special. And yes to all those who wondered (mainly the Train This crew) I did give a huge fist pump as I ran by the field -
Raise the Orange & Purple High
Let Us Shout the Colors To the Sky
Hip Hobart! Forever....
I went out slowly on the first part of the run, maintaining a zone 3 pace. Something was seriously up with my stomach and my body was breaking down. I walked each aid station to take in water and cool off with a sponge. My spirit was lifted twice on the course as two female competitors each talked to me about Triabetes as they ran by; pretty cool for people to notice the kit during a race and ask about it - Peter really has set up an amazing team!
At mile 7 I started to feel a bit better and began to up the pace, from mile 8 to 11 I maintained a pace of 8:45 to 9 minute miles, but then at mile 12 I totally broke down. My sweat had soaked through my blood sugar meter so I was no longer able to test, but I could tell something was up, with a mile to go I knew I was either high or low, but I wasn't going to quit.
With a look of determination I just held on to the finish. My goal of breaking 2:10 on the run was within reach until mile 12, but when I blew up I just had to hold on. I had to scrap and claw a 12 and a 1/2 minute final mile to be able to finish my second half-ironman. In Hobart's town I'm not sure I would have had it any other way. My amazing girlfriend Kim, ran me in cheering me on every step of the way, I gave it all I had, about 30 seconds after I crossed the finish line I threw up whatever was left in my stomach and collapsed on a rock. Barely able to stand, barely able to see straight I was proud, I was proud of how far I had come to get to this point, proud of breaking 6 hours, proud of fighting through what easily could have been a DNF, proud of where I'm about to go and proud of all those who have supported and helped along the way.
Run Grade: B+, Fought through alot, threw up at the finish but having a goal is having a goal, just off the pace keeps me from getting the A.
5:57 isn't a time that is going to set the world on fire, it's not a time that will place in an age group and isn't a time that anyone will really take notice of. But for me it signifies improvement, perseverance, grit and determination. Musselman to me highlighted what is possible with a tremendous support network, an amazing family (who will dress the Moose in a Ring the Bolus T-shirt) and a passion to overcome obstacles. No, that time won't get noticed but it lets me know little bit by little bit it is all starting to come together.
Final Race Grade: A-