Friday, August 30, 2013

Timberman 2013

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear." Mark Twain 

What an amazing summer I've had.  In total, I've completed 5 triathlons, with one big one left to go, and that's the Pumpkinman 1/2 Iron race on September 8th.  None of my races have been personal best times, but I've been dealing with a back injury and have been just so happy that I've been able to race.

The weekend at Timberman was looking to be a great time with my Achilles team mates.  The plan was to meet up there on Friday night, a group of us would race on Saturday in the sprint, and then another group would race in the 70.3, while the rest of us cheered them on.

All of the other Achilles members were coming from NYC and so I had a much shorter drive on the Friday morning.  The drive was supposed to be less than 2 hours, but with traffic and a lunch stop, it ended up being close to a 4 hour trip.  I arrived on site around 2:30pm and immediately went to register.  The process was pretty seamless, except I had to make a change in my registration.  I had to register as an age-grouper and then switch over to the PC division.  Kat Batemen (the Achilles NYC chapter director) told me to talk with Erin and to my surprise, she was happy to switch me over with no problems at all.  I spent the next little while running into some friends like Roger Thrall and his family and a lot of other members of TEAM WATTIE INK, that I have got to know over this season.  Heather Jackson, a pro is a member of the team (winner of a number Alcatraz, Wildflower and Oceanside this season) a long with MANY other excellent athletes and some just awesome people.  Besides Heather's parents, Diane and Chris, and Jon, there are too many others to name.

I then decided to check in with the group coming from NYC as it was now about 3pm and to my surprise they were stuck in some awful traffic coming from Manhattan, it looked like they would not make the 8pm cut-off to check in with the race.  After some chats with Erin and a couple of phone calls from Kat, they agreed to allow the Achilles athletes who were racing the sprint to check in at 5AM prior to the race.  I was so thankful that Kat, Eliza with guide Megan, Cathy with guide Tessa, and Soo Lee with guides Ariel and Greg would be able to race along with me in the morning.

I checked in with Melissa, who had made the reservations for the homes we would use, and she suggested I get the keys and at least get my stuff into where we were staying.  The homes were just over the town line in Meredith.  I picked up the keys and made my way to the house I would be using along with about 1/2 of the athletes, guides and handlers.  I dropped off a few things and then checked in with the convoy from NYC.  Still a long way away.  I decided to get some dinner (SUBWAY) and then make my way back to the packet pick-up area.  Met up with a few other friends and once I realized the group was definitely not making it by the 8pm cut-off time, I headed back to the house.  I also picked up some beer for after the race on Saturday!!

To my surprise, I pulled up to the house to find a big boat and truck in the driveway.  A large man walked over and asked who I was.  I told him I was a member of Achilles and we were here for the weekend to race in the triathlon.  I was simply waiting for members to arrive.  It seems he was the owner and was coming up for a weekend with his girlfriend.  He went into the home and found some of my stuff there and knew nothing of the rental.  He understood the broker who made the arrangement had not told him so he graciously went on his way and I was left alone to wait for my team mates.  WOW!!  What if I had not dropped off my stuff or even got the keys.  The other team mates did not show up for hours, some as late as midnight.  What would have happened?????

Anyway, I brought in my gear, ate my dinner, arranged my things for race morning.  I probably should have tried to sleep, but instead I watched some TV and waited for the rest of the team.  Melissa and Ben arrived first with the cargo van of bikes.  Ben is a PC athlete and Melissa works as a guide for Achilles but was doing the 70.3 on Sunday as an age grouper.  A car load of athletes showed up next and then the big passenger van arrived around midnight.  All in all, some of them had been on the road for 14 hours!!!  Some of them were very happy I bought the beer!!!

This was not a great pre-race plan.  To bed well after midnight with a 4AM wake-up call.  I got some sleep and managed to get up before the alarm.  Now remember, we were to be using 2 houses, so a group of people had left AFTER MIDNIGHT to find the other house.  When I got downstairs, I realized, ALL of the group were staying in the one house.  It seems they had problems opening to door in the dark and had to come back.  There were people on the sofa and FLOOR.

Anyway, those of us who needed to race and guide got out the door and headed to Ellacoya State Park for the Timberman Sprint Triathlon.  I drove my own car and the others followed in the vans.

We were down to the race quickly and parked with no problem right near transition.  I got set-up pretty quickly while the other Achilles members got their race packets.  We were racked right near BIKE IN and OUT, which is awesome because it really reduces the amount of running done with the bike.

With Kat getting ready to RACE!!!!
I noticed a lot of NON-RACERS in transition taking pics etc and wondered what was going on.  All races I've done restrict transition to racers only.  I made a point to one of the race officials and they told me something about relaxed rules during the sprint race, which is actually a bunch of baloney.  I've done this race twice before and transition was always restricted.  I would later write a letter to WTC to complain about the issue and was told it would be corrected.

Once I was all set up and ready, I walked to race start.  It's a good walk along the beach with a chance to get used to the water.  The temps were stated to be in the high 60's and so it was actually quite nice.  The swim is a short swim out, a right turn, a swim parallel to the shore (in pretty shallow water) and then another right turn to then swim to the exit.  All the challenged athletes were scheduled to leave in the first wave.

Prior to the swim start with Tessa.
The race started on time after the anthem.  I started in the back, but quickly realized there were plenty of tentative swimmers and so I quickly started to move my way up.  All went well in the swim and I finished the 0.3 mile swim in 14:01 and was pretty quick to my bike after a long run around transition to get in to T1.  I could have been faster with a T1 time of 4:01, mostly due to the run from the beach.

The bike ride is a bit longer than most sprints (usually 12 miles) at 15 miles.  It's pretty much an uphill ride to the turn-around and then a downhill ride back to T2.  The ride went well and there were fans in the usually spots along the course.  I managed to see lots of friendly faces, including Heather Mackesy-Boyle from Team Comp.  I was sure she would catch me sometime on the run, as she was heading to the bike turnaround when I was already heading back.
On the bike!!!!
I finished the bike in 1:07:34, a few minutes off of my best bike there in 2010.  Again, a little too long in transition at 4:02.  The 3 mile run, like the bike, is a slight uphill out and then downhill back to the finish.  They have one water stop just before the turnround and so you actually pass it twice.  My run turned out to be faster than expected at 41:09.  My final time was 2:10:52, which was actually a little more than a minute off of my best time.  Had I been more aware of that, I might have pushed it a bit more on the run.  Overall, I finished as the fastest (and only) male PC athlete, but 2nd overall with 4 PC athletes.  With so few in the category, WTC put all of us in one category.

One of the highlights for me as seeing my friend Robert Head, and his mother.  They are both massage therapists and I met them back in 2009 when I first raced Timberman.  He gave me his usual amazing post-race treatment and I felt so much better for it.

Awards ceremony getting 2nd overall in the PC division.
Post race food was excellent and after the awards ceremony I drove back to our place and was able to take a nice shower and relax for a bit.  I then decided to head back with the athletes who were racing in the 1/2 in Sunday and help them with the bikes.  We first went to package pick-up and then headed over to Ellacoya to drop off the bikes.  While at package pick-up I got to meet Chrisann Dalton, a friend I met through social media.  She raced in the 70.3 and will be racing in Kona as a member of Team Refuel.

There were two athletes using tandem bikes each with a guide.  One of them is named Charlie Plaskon, a visually impaired athlete who has an amazing story and has completed numerous Ironman races including KONA.  There is a lot of work required to set up the bikes so I was happy to help out.  We then returned to the house for dinner.  I had promised to help cook the chicken and thought I may have missed the chance, but was happy to see it waiting on the counter to be cooked on the grill.  I grabbed my stool and a beer and started cooking.

Megan, the master chef!!!
Megan and her crew had done an excellent job preparing an awesome meal for all of us.  I was happy to be able to contribute a bit with the meal.  Another athlete joined us for dinner and her name Colleen Kelly Alexander.  Her husband and guide came to dinner as well.  She has an amazing story returning to racing after nearly being killed while riding her bike.  I did not know I would be able to help her a little the next day on her journey to complete Timberman 70.3.

This night would be a much earlier night with most getting to bed at a very reasonable hour.  I was up again soon after 4AM and was so happy not to have to worry about getting my bike ready.  I did pack all of my gear not expecting to return to the house prior to returning home.  I decided to park about 3/4 of a mile from the race at the scenic outlook and then walk to the race.  This way I would be able to walk to my car and leave when I wanted.

Allan, Ben, Diego, Melissa, and Ariel
I had managed to get handler wristbands for myself and most of the other Achilles spectators.  I was hoping to be able to help out in transition with some of the athletes.  Racing today for Achilles were Ben Simmons, Ricardo Corral,  Charlie and his amazing guide Greg Cho, Allan Tyson and his guide Diego Suarez, Melissa Cortale, Ariel Krieger and Colleen Alexander.  Melissa Young and Rodrigo Fernandes were working as handlers as well.

Chris and Colleen
I simply spent my time prior to the start helping whoever needed assistance spending most of the time helping Charlie with whatever he needed.  Colleen was racked nearby and asked me for some help simply to be used as someone to literally lean on while she was getting ready.  I was unaware she was recovering from such a horrific accident and found myself getting choked up later while reading her story.  When the athletes came in from the swim, again, I simply found myself being extra hands for Charlie and then helping Ben a bit as well.  Once they were all out on the bike I knew I would have a couple of hours.  Melissa and Rodrigo chose to leave for a while but I wanted to stick around and watch the race.

Roger heading out on the run.

I had lots of other friends racing and I enjoyed cheering them on, especially WATTIE INK star, Roger Thrall.  It was also fun watching the pros race as well and I had a front row seat being able to stay in transition.  I had a great time talking to Claire Cloutier.  She was the race director at the first race I did back in 2009.  It was a sprint aquabike up in Lowell called the Mill City Triathlon.  I did that race thinking I would never want to run.  And now look what I am doing.

Charlie and Greg heading out on the run.
Both the tandem bikes came in first and again I found myself mostly helping Charlie but simply being a "gopher" for whoever needed it.  I started to get nervous as Ben was due back and Melissa had been working as his handler and I didn't see her around.  I would later find out all of the Achilles spectators and Melissa went for breakfast and got stuck in traffic trying to get back to the race venue.  When Ben came in I did what I could to help him and he seemed to head off for the run with no incidents.  Melissa and Rodrigo both were back to help Ricardo when he came in on his hand-cycle.  He had a major mechanical problem on the bike as his gears had messed up on the first hill and he was forced to use his low gears the whole way.

Ricardo with Melissa doing a great job as handler.
Once Ricardo was out in his pushrim chair for the run, I was to start making my way to my car for the ride home.  I saw the Achilles fans to say good bye and then planned to walk along the run route to my car.  Tessa (who worked as a guide on Saturday) asked if I could drive her back to the house to get the cargo van.  Not a problem at all.  We had a nice time chatting as we cheered on other runners and even some of the Achilles athletes, including Charlie, Greg, and Ben!

After I dropped Tessa off, I headed back to Salem.  No traffic problems heading back.  I have made the decision to put Timberman 70.3 on my calendar next season.  It will surely by my most difficult 1/2 Ironman race as I know all too well from friends that the hills on the bike are some of them most difficult around.  I am confident I will do that race in 2014 with the hopes of doing my first 140.6 in 2015.  Thinking about either IM Louisville or Chattanooga.

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