Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Timberman 70.3

WARNING:  This blog post contains some graphic descriptions of some bodily functions that some people might find a little gross.  Be forewarned.

I have been up to Timberman 4 out of the 6 years I have been racing triathlon.  This would be the first year I would race the 70.3 distance race.  Having raced 3 other 70.3 races, I knew I could do the distance, but from all who have completed this race, all I heard about were the HILLS, especially on the bike.

I've had a great season racing a total of 5 other triathlons (3 sprint and 2 Olympic distance), which included a PR in both distances.  My body felt the best it has in the last couple of years.  Through all of my races I've dealt with little pain in my back and legs.  All would be perfect, right?

I had connected with 3 friends through Baystate Triathlon/QT2 and was able to stay with them up in Gilford.  So happy that Susan, Shannon, and Tina and a place for me to stay.  We also had some great food while there as well.  More about that later.

Training went well leading up to the race thanks to Brian Hammond from WORKLIVETRI, our coaches for Achilles NYC.  Taper was going well and I was excited and then it happened, Owen got sick during the night on Tuesday before the race.  Of course, all I thought about as I was cleaning up the mess he made in his room, was, "PLEASE!! Not the Boston Marathon again!".  When I awoke in the morning I started to feel under the weather as well, so both Owen and I decided to stay home and rest.  We both SLEPT a ton during the day and I was hoping that was all I needed.  I got up Thursday morning and Owen was still not well.  I was feeling better so I went to do my SAT tutoring job and Sue stayed home to be with Owen.  All went well during the day, but then in the evening, I took a turn for the worse.  It started with the worst head-ache I have ever had and then the diarrhea came (remember, there was a WARNING at the start).  All the hydration I had built up was quickly leaving my body.  How would I be ready to race for 8+ hours in 3 short days?

On Friday Owen mentioned that his ears were hurting and so we went to the clinic and he was diagnosed with a double ear infection.  I was hoping that his vomiting earlier was possibly due to extreme post-nasal drip, which has happened to him before.  Maybe my upset  gut was just nerves?  Oh ya, I forgot, I also had a temp of about 101 on Thursday night, so no such luck there.

It was at this point that I seriously considered not racing on Sunday.  There was certainly no sense making myself REALLY ill.  As Friday progressed I was feeling better so I packed up with the intention of getting up at 4AM on Saturday in order to head to Gilford, NH to watch a few good friends race in the Sprint triathlon.  Well, I was up 10 minutes prior to the alarm and all seemed well (I am sure the IMODIUM helped).

With AMAZING friend Robert Head
The drive up there was fine and I headed right to the house where I would be staying.  I arrived a little after 6AM and Shannon was up to great me.  Susan was up soon as well.  I unloaded my gear and made my way to Ellacoya State Park to watch the sprint race.  I got there in time to meet up with one of my REALLY great friends Robert Head.  He has been working as a massage therapist at Timberman since my first year racing there back in 2009.  I got a HUGE HUG from him and started to watch the race.  I kept my eyes out for Colleen Alexander, Tammy Stapleton, and Serenity Coyne and was able to cheer all 3 of them on at different points of the race.  Both Colleen and Tammy would be racing on Sunday in relays as well.

Colleen, Amber, and Sean.
When I had seen my friends a couple of times on the course, I decided to head back to the house where I would be staying.  When I arrived everyone was up along with some other visitors. Rob Cannata was another Bay State triathlete staying at the house as well.  They had a nice breakfast waiting for me.  The pancakes with fresh homemade blueberry syrup were amazing.

I unpacked some of my gear and then decided to head over to Gunstock to pick up my race packet.  As a para-triathlete I had my stuff with all the Pros. Check-in went smooth and I got to see Erin again.  She is the contact person with WTC that I've dealt with and she has been amazing all spring, answering all my silly questions.

With Kona Ironman, Minda Dentler
I hung around the Expo for a while and decided not to get any gear in order to make sure I didn't jinx myself.  I headed back to the house in order to go for a 35 minute ride.  I simply went out and completed the run course and also the big hill out of transition.  I got back and loaded up my bike and got some swim gear together in order to go for a little swim at the race venue.  Check in with my bike was no problem at all and it was at the time that I realized I wasn't going to the only paratriathlete.  I ran into my dear friend, and KONA Ironman finisher, Minda Dentler.  It was real neat realizing we would be heading out in the swim wave with the pro women at 7:05AM.

As I headed down into the water, I ran into my friend Travis Hawkins.  He is also one of our coaches with Worklivetri and a pro as well.  He would be racing tomorrow and we decided to go over and swim a bit at the swim start in order to see what the area would be like race morning.  We swan a bit and talked a lot.  A lot of info I certainly needed.  Travis was aware I was under the weather and gave me some tips should my insides start to rebel tomorrow.  I learned two good piece of info.  First, if I was sick, resist the urge to replace the calories right away.  More than likely, they'll come right back as well.  He said it was important to give your body a chance to settle down.  Secondly he said, if sick, drink COKE.  We swam some more then I decided to head back to the house and Travis headed back to his place.  As I walked out to get changed, this would be the first time since arriving in NH, that I would start to feel a little ill again.  I don't know if it was the breeze and the lack of sun, but I started to shiver quite a bit. I ran into Colleen and we had a quick chat about the big day tomorrow.  She was concerned I did not look well.   Of course, I lied and said I was fine.

When I got back to the house, I arrived just in time for some dinner.  Maybe that's what I needed.  There was a nice pasta dish made with chicken and broccoli.  Well, it seemed to work.  With a full meal in my belly, all seemed OK.  We talked about logistics for the morning and I headed downstairs to repack my gear and head to bed.  

Once I was ready, sleep came pretty easily.  I set my alarm for 4AM and then, as is the usual case, I awoke at 3:58AM, right  before the alarm.  When I got up and headed upstairs, most others were already awake, ready for what was going to be an AMAZING day.  I felt good, no chills, and for the most part, my belly felt OK.  I had my usual breakfast with some toast (cinnamon, raisin toast in fact, that Susan had brought, MY FAV) with some PB, a banana, some coffee and some apple sauce.  Dan and Donna showed up, so we loaded up my car and the 3 of us headed down to transition.  The first person I saw as I went in was my friend Scott Graham, who is charge of the transition area, and has been for years.  He is a local guy who has been involved in the Timberman race long before WTC took over.

I managed to get into the main parking lot again with a spot, not too far from the entrance to transition.  Donna took some gear and would be setting up the "Baystate Triathlon Team" tent.  Dan and I headed in to be body marked and set up our transition area.

One benefit of racing as a PC athlete at a WTC race, is we are racked with the pros.  So as I was getting ready it was neat to chat with Andy Potts, Amanda Stevens, Kate Anelauskas (think we did at least 3 of the same races this year), and Dede Griesbauer.  We even had our own porta-pottie to share with them.  Of course being able to connect with Coach Travis again was the biggest bonus of all.  I also had a pep-talk from good friend and Wattie Ink athlete Jon Miles.  The weather was not looking great at this point with some menacing clouds in the area.  Again, worry about what you can control.  So I left my shoes in plastic bags and hoped for the best.  I headed down to swim start with Travis and got in the water to get ready.  As we walked down, it started to rain, but alas, those would be the only few drops we would see.

Taken by Robert Head
The race started promptly with the pro men leaving at 7AM, followed by Minda and me with the pro women at 7:02AM.  One really nice thing about WTC races is that they don't skimp on the swim buoys.  There was no question where we had to go.  It is a rectangular course involving right turns.  The turn buoys are gigantic compared to the smaller guide buoys, so it is pretty much impossible to get lost.  Of course, all I had to do was follow the other swimmers as they caught up to me wave after wave.  The highlight for me during the swim was when Diane Jackson (mother of pro Heather Jackson) swam by and patted me on the back and stopped to say HELLO.  It's nice to know you're swimming with friends.  I did a good job at the turns and was pretty happy with my swim coming in at 59:21.  My time in T1 went pretty well as I got out on the bike in 3:47.  I would chalk down a lot of that to the run from the beach into T1.

Out on the bike.  Taken by Meghan Cole
The start of the bike course involves a long hill out of the park, but knowing about this hill, it really was no big deal, just a slow way to start your race.  The course goes along matching much of the sprint bike route for a while.  All of my friends who've done the 70.3 course said, MILE 10, when I asked about the bike course.  And I'll tell you, it did not disappoint.  This was by far, the longest and steepest incline I've ever had in a race.  As I got up a little more than a 1/3 of the way, I noticed people up ahead getting off their bikes to walk them up the hill.  If you know me by now, you are aware, I've had a streak going in that I have never walked my bike up a hill.  Well, I was able to keep my streak alive.  It was SLOW going, but I keep going.  A number of people exclaimed how amazed they were that I was able to keep my bike with 20' wheels going.  The deceptive part of the this hill is that inclines to the left, so it takes a long time until the crest is view.  Good thing, but once I could see it, I feel I was only about 1/2 way up with a LONG way to go.  Another trick I learned is not keep looking at the top.  Look just about 6 feet in front of the bike and occasional glance up.  It truly works, as I was able to beat this hill in little chunks.  What followed that hill was a very nice FAST decline.  I got into aero position and enjoyed the rest and recovery going down. I was starting to feel some tightness in my left glute and was hoping it was not going to bother me on the run.   There were three bottle drops on the bike and even a gu stop, so keeping hydrated was not a problem.  I was also able to keep taking one gu every hour.

Much of the middle of the bike route is a LONG gradual downhill until the turn-around point.  We ride past the NH Motor Speedway just before the turn around and then head back.  There was a point heading back where we were passing a long line of traffic going in the other direction.  I thought it might be nice to yell out, "Thanks for your patience" to the drivers.  Most waved and said "No problem", but of course one guy had to yell at me to "Go F*** yourself."  Can't please everyone.

Now as I headed back in I started to recall another person telling me there were some hills around mile 48 of the bike.  I was thankful for the warning as this was another tough hill.  A little shorter than the hill at mile 10, but it seemed a little steeper.  The problem with this one is that every time you got the crest, you realized there was another hill.  This happened 3 or 4 times.  Now the downhill that followed this hill was AMAZING.  I would later check my data and realize I would travel down this hill at 42 mph.  Again, I got into aero position and enjoyed the ride.  I was hoping to finish the bike under 4 hours, but alas, it was starting to sink in that maybe my pre-race illness was going to be a factor.  I got off the bike in 4:21:55.

Run out.  Taken by Scott Graham
T2 went well, including a quick hug and some good wishes from Colleen Alexander.  My time getting out was 3:45.  At least I was consistent.  This 13.1 run would be a real test.  There were lots of people around to cheer me on, including a quick visit from WATTIE INK team member, Roger Thrall.  He ran with me for a bit as I headed up the road.  The run course is a double loop, consisting of a 3.3 mile run out and then a turnaround, that you complete twice.  This is where I started to get concern, as my legs and back felt fine and it was just my gut that was bothering me.  I tried to start our slowly, running 1 minute and then walking for a 1 minute.  My hope was to do that for a bit and then simply increase the length of the running segments to a max of about 4 minutes, followed by 1 minute walk breaks.

Looking pretty happy!!  Taken by Shawn Hawkins
Well things didn't really change for the most part.  I ran 1 minute and walked 1 minute.  The only sustained running I was managing was during some of the downhill portions.  Things did not not  go well.  I was passed by lots of friends like Diane Jackson again and Tina Green.  When I got up to the turn around a little past mile 3, things started taking a real turn for the worse.  Just before that though, right near a marina where there was a small crowd a I heard a young girl yell out, "There's THE midget."  In no mood to educate, I quickly yelled at her, "NO I'M NOT!!!".  What made me think is why did she use the word THE.  Had word passed around about me racing or had she seen me earlier in the day.  Anyway, when I came back that way, she was gone.  But the problem with me now, is that I started to get dizzy.  I had been drinking at each water stop so I'm not sure what the cause was.  But I had to find a spot to sit or I was going to fall.  I found a spot and sat for a bit taking some real deep breaths.  One guy walked by and yelled at me to get going, that I could not quit.  To be honest, had I seen a medical tent, I might have stopped.

Anyway I got going again, and the dizziness seemed to disappear.  My running was really not getting any faster, as I was still pretty much doing the 1 min. run to 1 min. walk.  I was so happy to run into my dear friend Alett Mekler on the run as she was finishing up her 2nd lap.  I talked about my dizziness and she suggested I might need some salt.  I looked at my hands and I noticed my fingers seemed to be fatter than usual.  I remembered that was a sign in the past that indicated I might need some salts.  Even though I had been taking in a lot of PERFORM, Alett offered me her last 2 salt pills.  THANKS SO MUCH Alett!!!

As I got close to transition and entered the park to turn around, the race official told me I had plenty of time to finish my second lap.  I pretty much walked the entire turn-around and managed to remember seeing Shannon and Robert, but I'm pretty sure my face was showing a lot of the discomfort I was feeling.  The dizziness had gone and been replaced with some real pain in my gut.  It didn't feel like I was going to puke, but I definitely needed a stop at a porta-pottie.  The first one back out of transition was busy or there was no TP.  I resolved to keep running and make it to the next stop about a mile down the road.  The crowds were thinning out as were the other runners.  And then all of sudden, my left leg went numb and started to tingle.  Most other LPs know the feeling I am talking about.  It rarely ever happens to me when I run, so things were not looking good.  This is the first time during the day, that something about my short-stature was affecting me.  I knew what I had to do.  As many know I carry a couple of tokens from LPs to help me along.  Ones who have had a much together time and me and my family.  So I called out to Katie, Vivian and Addie (she just had decompression surgery) asked them to help the pain go away.  And as is always the case, it was quickly gone.

Before I knew it I saw the porta-potties.  I went on in and was able to relieve ALL of the pressure I was feeling.  I got out and promised that I would start to run some more to finish the race.  The number of runners were quickly dwindling and as I neared the turn-around and I knew I would not see a lot of runners behind me as I headed back in.  I counted them, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.  And then I wondered, how many would catch me?  WHO CARES I yelled to myself and as my friend Verity once said, 'Don't look back, you're not going that way."

Well, only one of them caught me and I managed to run a lot of the last 3 miles.  Just as I neared the park, I saw my coach Travis, coming out to check on me.  He said he was worried, but was real happy to see me still going. It was then that he told me, he had finished 5th OVERALL.  I was so proud of him!!!

I managed to run down the chute and was so pleased to see Robert there waiting for me and even see and hear Andy Potts lean over to congratulate me on my finish.  I figure my 13.1 run was well over 4 hours, but was happy to find out the final time was 3:35:58, giving me an overall time of 9:25:46.

My goal was to finish 8:15 or faster, so of course, I did not reach that goal.  But I did finish, and given the state I was in just a few days before the race, I am proud of what I accomplished that day.  And I know, I will return to Timberman 70.3 again to finish stronger and faster someday.

With Wattie Ink stat Maggie Freeman

First place (and only) male paratriathlete.
With coach and 5th place pro, Travis Hawkins.

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