I am going to apologize in advance this is so long, but after 16 months and at least 10 races later I am finally going to do my first race report. I had every intent of doing a race report for Ironman UK last year, but with a broken hand from the swim start it was a little hard to type.
My coach and I sat down at the end of my season last year and decided Placid would work best for my schedule. Since Rachel and I live in Baltimore City we really didn't have the opportunity to get to know anyone so when the time came to find a place to stay everything was booked except the Crowne Plaza so we took one of the last four rooms.
This was my 3rd Ironman and as I said on Facebook, Ironman is so much more than a race it's a journey of self-discovery. I joked with a friend last year about why we do these and he said "Once a year you have to check in and find out what you're made of” For some reason that stuck with me and I think about that often. What I didn't know was the journey to Lake Placid this year would be so much more fulfilling than any other because of the MMTC and TeamFight friends I trained with and got to know this year.
Despite starting my training in January my journey officially began at Alcatraz with Bob, Geoff, Kathi and Amy. Racing with them and visiting wine country in NAPA really got me excited for my year ahead.
Then a long ride car ride to Savage Century with Pat and Kim and a house full of MMTC people we never met. Everyone in the house really welcomed us in. The Savage Century that weekend was the hardest yet funniest thing I had done in a while. We rode with Dan, Deb and Mike Petersen who despite telling me he couldn't ride with me because I liked to joke and moo at cows stayed with us the entire ride.
The following weekend we did the Two Rivers Century with Dan, Deb, Mike, Heather, Heidi and Rachel. We started the ride in the 70's, then 80's then around mile 75 my bike computer said 98 degrees which is when I started singing 90's boy band music in 98 degrees honor. After the ride we had a 30 minute run that I started off way too fast. Dan and Deb asked me what the heck I was doing, I didn't realize I was going that fast and promptly slowed my pace. Turned around at 15 minutes and on the way back, not only hit a wall, but I think I crashed through it. I started to get chills and was so overheated I started walking. Mike Petersen walked with me and when I got back I couldn't enjoy the free ice cream. I was severely dehydrated and probably needed a couple of bags of the Jim Mitchell special (IV).
Week of tapering before the race was tough, thoughts creep in of did I train enough and you start to feel like a slacker. Thankfully, I have a great coach and an even greater training partner that kept me sane.
The time was finally here; we arrived in Lake Placid on Thursday and quickly checked in so we could meet everyone for a short swim in Mirror Lake. We got there a little later than our meeting time, but Jim Mitchell, Rachel and I threw on our wetsuits and headed out for a 1.2 mile swim. We hooked up with several MMTC people after the swim and decided to meet for what became a very entertaining dinner with lots of laughter and stories.
Slept in on Friday checked in for the race and met Mike Petersen for a drive around the bike course. I purchased the Lake Placid bike course from Spinerval’s a couple of years ago and Rachel and I biked it a couple of times so as we drove around we laughed when we remembered sections where Coach Troy would say "stay within yourselves" and resist the urge to hammer it.
Saturday we were invited to 30 Greenwood St (evidently that's where the cool kids stayed) for a MMTC pre-race dinner where we were treated to Loretta's homemade Marinara sauce and Kim's Crab cakes. What a feast and all of laughing really put me at ease for the day ahead.
There had been a lot of discussion in the prior week about the weather and whether it would it rain or not. Evidently it rained 5.47 inches a couple of years back on race day and we were hoping this would not be a repeat. We had been watching the forecast and I was relieved when I woke up to a forecast acceptable for racing. Rach and I walked over to bag drop and saw Kathi, Bryan and Mo whose hugs, smiles and encouragement started my day off with a smile.
Walked over to the MMTC tent joked and laughed with everyone while waiting to start. That tent became like a beacon during the race and just knowing it was there with people cheering for us was recharging enough to get me to the next leg. Walking over to the "special needs" drop I met Jamie Courtney and when I introduced myself had said "so you're the guy who broke his hand", I said yes and hoped I wouldn't be repeating that performance again.
Swim 1:10:55 (145/503)
Well I was more nervous about the swim than anything else; I broke my hand at the Swim start of UK and said if I come out of the washing machine unscathed I was golden.
What I hadn't thought about was stuffing 2600 swimmers into a tight space like Mirror lake (of that 954 were 1st timers at this distance). To avoid the slower swimmers Rachel and I started in the middle so when the gun went off I kissed her and took off. I was constantly surrounded by flailing arms and legs and they never let up. I reached the halfway at 34:22, but the turn around's were so congested I ended up doing more doggy paddle than Freestyle. Finally broke free and was able to move around without being attacked or so I thought, 2nd loop I am making my last turn and several swimmers kept grabbing my legs. Touching my feet is okay, but grabbing my legs is MMA stuff so I kicked as hard as I could either to get them off me or make them Tap Out.
I came it about 5 minutes slower than the year before, but with both hands in tact!!! I knew from that point on it was going to be a great day!!
Wetsuit stripped and ran to bag drop. Getting dressed wet took longer than I hope (8 mins? I could have had breakfast again in that amount of time), but I was ready for a great bike.
Ran down the chute for the bike and they called my number out, but the volunteers couldn't find Darth Vader (my bike) so I grabbed it myself and off I went.
Bike: 6:04:11 (103/503)
Not a rain cloud in the sky and the bike course is so scenic and fast that you really do have to "stay inside yourself" (thanks Coach Troy). I knew the Mitchell's would be at Wilmington so I kept an eye out for them. My first 56 miles were a little too fast, but what I forgot from last year was Team Fight race kits were not ideal for 112 miles in an Aero position. When I came into town I couldn't wait to get to special needs to reapply some D'Nutz chamois cream. I was so excited when they yelled my number out, I could hardly contain it. The volunteer held my bike while I refilled my water bottles, took some Advil and some salt tabs. The volunteer was telling me what a great job I was doing while I was squeezing half the tube of cream into my hand and was digging into every area in my shorts. I mean digging :-) We were both so caught up in the moment that when I was done, I raised my hand to give him a high five with yep you guessed it the hand I was digging with... It was about 2 miles down the road I realized the volunteer had high fived my digging hand and I started laughing my butt off.
The day started to heat up a little bit and I could feel D'Nutz wasn't going to last while at the same time my legs were starting to get angry with me. Passed the Mitchell's in Wilmington and that was what I needed to regain my composure. I hit mile 80 something and was hit with a really bad hamstring cramp, so bad that I actually had to get off the bike and stretch it out. I said to myself quit being a baby and you only have 30 miles to go. (I forgot about the hills) and I climbed back on Darth Vader and off we went.
Stayed inside myself and before I knew I was back at the 3 bears, made my way to Papa Bear and saw Heather, Kim and Loretta and knew I was almost of the woods. (Only bear reference I could come up with). Made my way around the town loop and smiled for the cameras because my shorts and I were happy the bike was over.
I wore my Team Fight Kit and decided the night before to change my socks and my compression sleeves (mainly because they were blue and I wanted to match on the run)
Run: 4:47:49 (110/503)
The weather had heated up to somewhere around low 80's, but I felt awesome!! I ran out of the town and heard those familiar friendly voices yelling at me. I got through my 1st 2 miles at 24 minutes and heard Danny and Deb, saying what the heck are you doing and I slowed down. On my way back in I was looking for our other racers and wondering how they were doing. I was so pumped when I saw Suzy Serpico and counted her somewhere around 4th. On my way back in I saw Chip (who looked awesome) then Rachel and Dean at mile 8 and then Mike Petersen who was all smiles as he ran then Pat McNabb. I was shooting for a 4 hour marathon which would have put me around 11:30 totally doable right? Well as Mike Tyson says "everyone has a plan until you're punched in the face" On the run back in I started getting these little cramps, not a big deal, I took 4 Endurolytes and started to feel better. I saw a guy walking and asked if he was okay, he said he was cramping badly. I handed him 4 Endurolytes and said take these you will feel better. He said thanks and off I went.
I got to the big hill in and some guy with a megaphone said what is TeamFight, I told him we are the fundraising side of Ulman Cancer Fund that raises awareness for and provides Patient Navigation to Young Adults with Cancer (Glad I had my 30 sec elevator pitch). He said awesome and I kept running. Running through the town was so exciting I couldn't believe the energy. Making my way up to the last turn around at mile 12 I got to pass by the MMTC Tent, knowing it was coming had me jacked. Hearing shouts from Tim and Lara, Terry Trumble and Mike Petersen's parents I picked up my pace a little. Stopped at "special needs" and grabbed more Endurolytes and saw the guy I gave them too, he said I was a life saver, but he was still struggling. I handed a volunteer 6 capsules and said there is a guy in red in the porta lieu would you hand these salt tabs to him when he comes out.
Made the turn still feeling okay, but getting a little hot. Passed the tent and made my way back out to my 2nd loop. Cruising down the hills out of town and saw Suzy finishing her last climb and coming in for a 4th place spot. The run out of town is pretty lonely and you could start to see everyone doing the "Ironman Shuffle". At this point I'm really starting to overheat now so I slow my pace even more (not walking.. yet) take more Salt tabs, put ice down my top, water over my head eat some grapes and pretzels. Just keep going it’s almost over.
Around mile 18, I could feel my stomach getting ready to explode, I pushed it back. (After all anyone who has seen the Norman Stadler scene where he threw up in Kona 2006 knows you’re done.) Mile 19 my stomach couldn't take anymore and I stopped on the side of the road and emptied everything I had drank or eaten in the last 7.5 hours. The guy I helped patted me on the back and asked if I was okay. I told him I would be in about 4 minutes and do you know what? I was. I felt completely rejuvenated (well as much as you can in 19 miles). With everything out of my body including the salt, I started cramping again and decided to walk the hills and run everything else. I passed my salt tab friend again and said "told you I would feel better" and headed back into town.
Passing the mile 21 sign was so surreal, Heidi Shoemaker, Rachel and I did a 4:30 am 21 mile run on the BWI loop so I passed that sign I was brought back to that morning, I smiled and knew I was good.. Saw Chip, Dean, Rachel and Mike and told them they looked great and I would see them at the finish line very soon. There is this giant hill heading back into town and I am not going to lie I walked it, but when I got to the top of that hill I thought I had conquered Mt Everest. When I got to the top, Pat saw me and stopped mid decent to give me a hug and tell me she would see me soon. If I remember nothing else about this race I will remember that for the rest of my life she was giving everything to that race and still found some energy to hug me.
Back into town and I decided I was going to walk the last big hill into town. Well just as I stop I hear megaphone guy yell to me "Hey Team Fight"!! Don't even think about walking, you are racing for Young Adults with Cancer get up that hill. I laughed to myself "me and my big mouth". I conquered that hill and then said what are you doing? It's not even 2 miles until the finish line, end this now. Picked up my final pace cruised by the tent gave high fives to those friends (hands were clean by this point) who stayed glued in that spot the entire day.
Passed by the last water station and I hear Susie Montoya screaming my name at the top of her lungs. Just at the right moment, Susie rocks.. I rounded that last timing mat and put into high gear. There was a guy in front of me at the split to either go back out or into the chute, he turned toward the chute and started slowing down. "What are you doing? The destination is here the journey is over", I thought to myself. I punched it with everything I had left in me and hit that chute like there was no tomorrow. Camera's flashing, crowds cheering and to my left Lisa and Jim screaming my name and in a single moment it was over. Bob Bartolo was there to catch me with a grin ear from ear. He walked me around to make sure I was okay, put my medal on me, had my chip taken off and then handed me off to Keely who was just amazing. She stayed with me getting me water, my morning clothes bag and anything else I needed.
As I sat there behind the finish line, I could see all of our MMTC and Team Fight friends waiting for the next finisher. My plan was to head back to my room to shower and freshen up, but how could I, these were my friends. I didn't want to miss a second of the energy. I made my way to the tent to change my clothes and then headed up to the hill. The energy was infectious you didn't want to miss a single minute of this. Everyone finishing their journeys, some better than they hoped and others slower than thought, but it was their journey alone and there would be no shame or disappointment only the right to brag for the rest of their lives.
We all made it in safe and sound well before the cut off, we laughed, we hugged, but more importantly we shared a moment very few in life will ever get to experience... We were called "Ironman". Kim Sheridan and crew took care of the bikes and bags and Lisa Farias walked Rachel and back to our rooms at 12:30. Dinner the next night at 30 Greenwood was one of the most hysterical dinners I have ever had. Lisa, Jim, Michelle Bettis, Jim and Kim Mitchell all took care of us and I am still laughing about our dinner topics.
Ironman is a journey filled with sacrifice, long workouts in the early mornings and sometime’s time away from the one’s you love. The destination is indescribable and I want to thank every one of my MMTC and Team Fight friends for helping me get there with both no broken bones. To those getting ready to make that journey just know we are right here with you..