Friday, August 28, 2009

My first race report.

On August 23rd I completed my third (one aquabike and two tris) multi-sport race of the summer when I raced in the Timberman Sprint Triathlon up in Gilford, NH. I have since been invited to be a member of Team Comprehensive which is a cycling and triathlon team based out of Salem, MA. I have been told by teammates that one completes a race report after each race.

Well, here is my first attempt.

We had planned a family vacation to NYC from August 17th until August 21st. We were kind of "up in the air" about whether or not my wife Sue and son Owen would be coming up for the race. We eventually decided a 90 minute ride up to NH was too much for Owen after just driving more than 4 hours home from NYC the day before. We would be staying overnight and I would be getting up prior to 4AM in order to get to the race to set-up for a 7AM race start.

I packed up the car and headed out. I registered late for the race and was struggling to find a place to stay. After contacting a Pingree family who I knew had a summer home up there to find out info about a place to stay, I really lucked out when they offered me their summer home in Meredith, NH. They were taking their son down to Richmond, VA to start his freshman year in college. Boy, did I luck out.

I got to the their place around 3pm. Unpacked my gear and then headed off to drive the bike course. I had heard from many about how tough this course was with a number of very long hills. After driving the 7.5 out and back course I started to feel a little more confident. The riding I had been doing around the Topsfield hills (thanks Jonesy and Powers) was going to pay off in the end. These hills, though long, were going to be very do-able. I then drove to the Gunstock Resort to pick up my race packet, go to the expo, and then meet up with Team Hoyt.

It was really starting to rain at this point. I went in to get my race packet and then searched out Team Hoyt. The weather was getting real ugly at this point. Dick, Rick, and Kathy were struggling to keep all of their merchandise dry as well as themselves. I had a few minutes to take a couple of pics and then thank both Rick and Dick for the inspiration I received from the two of them to start out and attempt a triathlon. "YES YOU CAN" is definitely a motto I have strived to live by, and completing my first multi sport race six weeks previously sure helped my realize you can do whatever it is you put your mind to.

I hung around for the carbo-load pasta dinner. I was all alone and went ahead and ask if a seat was available where six others were already sitting. Wouldn't you know it that 4 out of the 6 were Canadians!! A couple from Montreal and another couple from Toronto. The other couple was from Florida. After the dinner there were a number of speeches given by some of the pros who were going to be competing in the 70.3 on Sunday. They included both Chrissie Wellington and Andy Potts.

After dinner I headed back to the Stephens's house to try and get some rest before the early wake-up Saturday morning. I was quite nervous upon returning but finally got to sleep. I set my alarm for 3:20AM, but was awake at about 3:10AM. I had my breakfast (bagel with PB, banana, yogurt, and V8) and then proceeded to get my gear together. I had most of it inside but had left my bike locked in the car. I got my keys and then proceeded to take my gear outside. I went out with the first load and then went to go back in to get more and the unthinkable had happened. I LOCKED MYSELF OUT OF THE HOUSE!! The key to the door was inside along with most of my gear. For some reason I did have my phone and car keys but all I was wearing were my tri-shorts. No shoes or shirt. Here it was, about 3:50AM and I had no idea what to do. Needless to say the tears came quickly along with a number of whispered F-Bombs!! Do I go over in pitch-black darkness and ask the neighbors for help? Was someone even there and would they know who I was? Do I phone my host and wake her up to ask where she might have hidden a key? OMG, what was I to do. Then I remembered that a window in the living room as open slightly when I arrived. I searched around in the dark and found the window. I was going to need something to stand on to reach. I found an empty clay pot and used it as a stool. I took my car keys and ripped the screen and then proceeded to slide the screen up. I then tried to slide the window up. Picture me (all 4'4" of me) standing on my tip-toes trying to push up a window. It would not move. Was there a piece of wood on the inside of the window being used to stop the window from going up any further? I tried two or three times to budge it and nothing helped. Finally, I took a deep breath PUSHED and it moved slightly. Then a bit more, then again a bit more. I moved it up and then scaled the wall. Again, no shoes and no shirt and up I went onto the window ledge and in through the window. PHEW!!!!! I took a moment to give thanks and then quickly loaded up the rest of my stuff. I left a note with some money to fix the screen.

Needless to say I was about 1/2 an hour behind schedule and left the house at about 4:40AM for the 25 minute drive to Ellacoya. I put in my classic rock CD and blasted some Ozzy and THE WHO to try and get pumped. After all the rain yesterday, the skies were actually clear. Were we going to have good weather? As I approached the park the line in was not that bad. I got a spot in the first over-flow lot to the left of the main lot. I parked, got my gear together and then made my way over to find my spot in transition.

The park was buzzing with competitors and volunteers. I got body marked and then found my spot and started to get ready. The race was due to start at 7AM and at this point it was about 5:30AM. Lots of time to get ready, right?

Well the whole ordeal with getting locked out certainly through me off. I almost forgot to put my chip on. I didn't remember until the pre-race announcements came on reminding people to hand them in when they cross the finish line.

I had been contacted by both Kurt and Nan about the possibility of wearing a TEAM COMP jersey for the race. I was told someone would try and get me one prior to the race. After seeing Nan (thanks for the pre-race HUG!!) she had told me keep my eye out for Dave (whoever he was) because he had a jersey for me. With about 2 minutes to go before the anthems Dave found me (now I know what he looks like). He handed me his own jersey and said that the team hoped I would wear it. What an honor!! The XL large jersey actually fit quite well. Now I was ready and part of a team. GO TEAM COMP!! I have to say, growing up I was always the last one picked for a team. Being asked to join a team means SO MUCH to me and I certainly hope this is the start of a long relationship.

Well, one last trip to the porta-potties and I was off for the walk to the swim start. I believe there were 7 or 9 waves of swimmers. Even though was not my first tri, I asked to be put in the last wave, expecting to be the last swimmer out of the water, I wanted to avoid people swimming over top of me from later waves of swimmers. They decided to decrease the time between waves (from 6min to 3min) with the impending rain. Though it was starting to cloud over, a rainbow had actually formed.

I chatted with a few other athletes and waited for my wave. As we prepared to leave I stood over on the right side near the back. Other swimmers kept moving behind me and I didn't know what was going on. Was I not the slowest swimmer? And off we went. My first TIMBERMAN was underway. The first group took off (mostly the relay swimmers) and then I started. The water was so shallow. I had to fight the temptation to walk since swimming is so much faster. I started to swim and was amazed in the fact that a group of swimmers was all around me. Hey, I said to myself, swim and you might not be last. So I did. Before I knew it I was putting some space between me and a few others. I got out of the water and over the pad at 17:57. That is about the same time I was getting in the pool to complete 600 yards (0.34 mile). When I exited the water, I turned around and saw swimmers in the water. I was elated. I walked quickly to my bike and got passed by a guy who patted me on the back and said, "Way to go buddy." He stopped to get help with his wetsuit and I proceeded on. He passed me again getting his bike and was off before me.

The rain was starting to come down now. Not pouring, but making everything wet. I got to my bike and proceeded to transition. I removed the sign Owen and Sue has made me for ("Best Daddy in the World") and got my shoes, helmet, gloves, and camelbak on. I jogged my bike out and mounted it. I was on it for about 3o seconds when I realized two errors I had made. I had forgot to put on my bike computer (would have no idea on how far I had gone before the turn-around) and I was also still wearing my wetsuit shorts. I exited the park for the long initial ride up. I looked ahead of me and what did I see? The guy who passed me twice in transition was WALKING HIS BIKE up the hill. What a power boost that was!!! Here I was with my modified youth bike and here he was with his average sized body and 26 inch tires, walking his bike up the hill. I went by him and was tempted to say something, but remembered all I liked about triathlon. I never saw him again. I ended up passing at least 10 or so other riders and was never passed. That included 3 others walking their bikes up hills. I was determined not to let my feet hit the ground until T2.

I got another BIG BOOST at the 3 mile mark. As I approached the first big left turn, I heard a guy yell, "GO COMP, GO JOHN." Nan told me I would be getting shouts from people, but someone I did not know already knew my name. I was to later find out it was Rich. I have not met him personally yet to tell him what that did for me. To top it off, he was still there on the way back encouraging me that it was all down hill and there were only 3 miles left to go. I am sure that's what helped me pass on last rider just before the "no pass" zone prior to the park.

I got into T2 not too happy about my time (1:16:15), but forgetting that I had just done the 15 miles in the rain. When I later checked the posted times I realized I finished the bike portion faster than 46 other competitors. That was a real highlight of the day for me!!!

I changed for the run. When I got going, I realized another error. This is why I need some sort of fuel belt. With my dwarfism, I have a severe stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column) in the lower part of the back. Running aggravates this condition and as such I need to be pre-emptive and take some TYLENOL prior to running. I had already taken some ADVIL prior to the race starting. The pain started pretty quickly. I walked a lot and then started to let my mind wander. I thought about walking around the streets of NYC earlier in the week with Sue and Owen. My back was fine then and I wasn't taking anything. I even put Owen on my shoulders and walked with him. I started to visualize Sue and Owen at the top of each hill. The pain started to disappear. I got a little faster and a little looser. That first mile was tough, but the last two seemed easier. Even John L. from FL gave me a shout out as he rode by preparing for the 70.3.

I joked with the people at the aid station by the turn around. Some woman passed me to let me know I was the last runner and that all those people behind me had dropped out. I was bummed for a minute thinking I was going to be last, AGAIN. But then I thought again about what triathlon is about. It is not about others, it is about YOU!!! Was I doing Timberman? Yes I was. Those others were not finishers, they were DNFers. I was doing it. I got stronger and a bit faster. I passed the 2 mile mark and was feeling good. There were still people on the roads cheering people on and I did my best to thank them. I came up on the park and I could here the PA announcer. There were others who struggled after the bike and considered not finishing, but a few of them did ultimately complete the run and I give them all the credit for not giving up. In fact, as I was turning into the park one of them was just heading out and for the first time in my brief career I was asked, "Is it very far from here?"

As I rounded the corner and got on the grass, I could see the finish. I ran it in and made it. My time for the run was 52:05 giving me a total time of 2:36:25. I was so happy to see Dave and Dawnie at the finish. There were other TEAM COMP members, but I don't know all the names of everyone on the team, but thanks to all for sticking around to see me finish. In the end I was not the last to cross the finish line, and I give so much credit to those that did and even those that tried but did not finish.

I had some food and a beer, stuck around to see Nan get her watch and maple syrup and then drove back to Meredith, NH for a shower and nap before heading back home.

This is probably a lot longer than most reports, thanks so much if you made it through the whole thing.


  1. Awesome job Mighty John and great race report !!! Keep on tri - ing :-)

  2. Awesome job! And as I like to say, and I have been there myself, DFL is so much better than DNF!


  3. John-

    Congratulations on finishing the triathlon - Timberman is tough and you did a great job-
    It was nice to finally meet you at the expo -
    See you at the Douglas Tri-
    Team Hoyt

  4. I just love race reports! Just found you via IronMakeover. What a great story!

  5. John, I saw your comment on Whitfield's Blog and thought I'd add my two cents. One important workout you can do at any time in your season is the bike-run brick. Many of the schedules have you doing one a couple weeks before the event and that's it. I had much better results doing them all year, once a week. For example, in the base aerobic phase of your training do easy aerobic bricks 45 to 75 min bike followed by 15 to 30 min run, in the threshold phase, do threshold bricks...speed, do speed bricks. Tri is all about running when you're tired, so run tired once a week...not during race week though where the race serves as your BRICK. Best Wishes, Greg