Tag Archives: running

Tri The Parks Blalock Lakes Sprint – race report

This past weekend marked the first race of my 2014 season. I figured that’s worth at least a brief race report.

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The Tri The Parks triathlon series is a well-known, long-standing set of races in Georgia. TriBlueSky does a GREAT job with the races and the May 31 Blalock Lakes sprint, the 2nd race in the series, was no exception. The course is very fair, but still challenging for all levels of racers.  The 15-mile bike is mostly rolling hills, allowing you to go fast on flat sections and descents and keep a steady pace on the uphills.

The 600M swim takes place in a small lake in the middle of a neighborhood. The water temp was 80F on race day (no wetsuit).

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The bike course does one loop on the open roads surrounding the area. There were a few turns, but everything was well-marked and the volunteers (thank you!) did a great job of making sure you knew when a turn was approaching. (I may or may not have a history of making wrong  turns in races).

The run course is an out-and-back over the rolling hills of the neighborhood. The best way to describe the course is “honest”. It makes you work for it. If you are willing to dig deep and do the work, you can make up ground on your competitors. If you slack off and let the hills get to you, you’ll quickly be caught or passed by others.

I was fortunate to be able to do this race with some great friends and teammates on the All3Sports Race Team. This is a top-notch group of athletes supported by one of the industry’s top triathlon shops. All3Sports also sponsors the race series and is on site to support ALL athletes, not just those who race as part of the team, during the Tri The Parks races.

Now for the actual race. Quick background… I’ve done an Ironman-distance triathlon before, qualified for the Boston Marathon and completed numerous half ironman-distance races before, but I had never done a sprint-distance tri. As somebody who likes to race, not just “finish”, I knew the translation of the term “sprint” was “PAIN!” How much pain was I willing to endure?

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(Photo: Beau Bearden)

Looking around, I knew there were some fast dudes in my age group (40-44). I would have to be ready to go right from the gun if I had any chance of a podium spot. My swim has improved, but I haven’t done an open-water swim in a LONG time. It showed. I went HARD for the first 100M of the swim and then had hoped to be able to settle into a rhythm. No such luck. I hung near the front of the pack for a bit, but eventually began to drop off. Every time I looked up, there seemed to be more green swim caps in front of me. I felt like I needed to cough up something stuck in my throat and kept drifting slightly off-line. By the time I reached the 2nd buoy and made the turn to head for home, I was FINALLY able to start feeling good and began passing some people.

SWIM TIME: 12:11 (7/32 in AG)

With a less-than-stellar swim, transition times were going to be critical. I wore a TYR Torque Elite swim skin over my tri suit. I reached back and yanked on the zipper as I exited the water, stripped it off, put my helmet on, grabbed the bike and ran out of T1. My shoes were already clipped in with a rubber band keeping them in position for a quick mount. (Maybe I could have saved a few seconds without the swim skin, but it felt fast in the water. Plus, I bought it so I was going to use it!)

SWIM-TO-BIKE TRANSITION: 00:43.5 (7/32 in AG)

The bike was a bit uneventful. With a big week of training still in my legs heading into the race, the legs felt a bit sluggish at times. I was hoping to average 23mph, but lost some momentum on some small climbs and finished with a 22.4 mph/avg. One other unexpected issue was my rear derailleur. I couldn’t get it to shift down into the smallest ring in the back, costing me some speed on the fastest sections of the course. (Note to self: take bike to All3Sports before every race for a quick tune-up.)

BIKE TIME: 00:39:22.5 (6/32 in AG)

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(Photo: Beau Bearden)

Looking to make up some more time in T2, I slipped my feet out of my shoes as I approached the bike finish, threw my right leg over the saddle and cruised to the dismount line on top of my shoes with both legs on the left side of the bike. (I see pros do it this way so I know I must have looked super-cool and awesome.) As long as I didn’t do a face-plant when dismounting, all would be good. I approached the line and jumped off… I stayed upright. Bonus.

Ran into transition, racked the bike, slipped on my shoes (Yankz/Lock Laces are the key to fast bike-to-run transitions). Also, don’t bother with socks. It’s just 3.1 miles. Deal with it.

BIKE-TO-RUN TRANSITION: 00:23.4 (2/32 in AG) Only super-speedy Dan Arnett – pictured below – was faster.

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On to the run… this is where the pain comes in. I’d been doing a lot of speed work in run training lately with my coach, Chance Regina of AVC Endurance.

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He has pushed me to do some runs that I didn’t think I was capable of. It was time to see if it would pay off. Before the race, we had both agreed that a “good day” meant that I would be able to average 6:30/mile or better. A “bad day” would have been 6:45/mile or worse. (Over the previous three weeks, we had done a series of 90-minute runs together with 6×1-mile repeats @6:20/mile in the middle of the run. On the most recent one, we averaged 6:14/mile over the 6 repeats. None of those runs were off of the bike on a hilly course though… the jury was still out.)

Never having run the course before, all I knew was that it had some rolling hills. I was prepared for this and knew that if I kept it steady up the hills, crested them with a few hard strides and then let the legs roll out as I went down the hills, I’d be fine. That was the plan.

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10376166_10204205905252625_9156283342038990588_n(Photos: Beau Bearden)

This is where I discovered the good and bad part about a sprint tri. The good: it’s ONLY 3.1 miles. The bad: it’s a HARD 3.1 miles. If it doesn’t hurt when you run a 5k, you’re doing it wrong. I just kept telling myself “it will be over in 20 minutes. Push hard!”

The run starts out going up a few small uphill sections. Ouch. After the first mile, the legs came around and I was able to settle into a decent pace. On the way out, I saw several familiar faces heading back to the finish, but I wasn’t sure what place I was in. I knew I’d be close to the podium. Once I hit the turnaround, it was good to know that there was only about 1.5 miles to go. Time to push. I began passing people, including one guy in my AG. I knew once he saw the “43” on my calf as I passed, he would be coming after me. I kept waiting to hear his footsteps fade into the distance. As long as I could still hear them, I knew I had to bury myself. (sure enough, after the finish… he told me he was trying hard to chase me down.) I was pleased I was able to hold him off.

I dug deep and pushed hard over the closing 1/2 mile for a 19:49 run. (6:22 avg). This was by far the best part of the day. I had put in a lot of work on my run and it paid off. Like I said, it’s an honest course. If you put in an honest effort, you’ll be rewarded.

RUN TIME: 19:49.5 (2/32 in AG) — A 5k PR – I haven’t run many 5ks either.)

Now the bad news. Thanks to my awful swim, I was 4th in the 40-44 AG by :19. No podium for me. Lesson learned.

FINISH TIME: 1:12:30.6 (18/344 overall 4/32 AG)

After the race, I got to hang out with friends and others on the All3 team. A good time was had by all. Next up: Tri The Parks Blalock Lakes – Olympic distance on June 21.

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Mountain Madness Half Iron Race Report

The Mountain Madness Half Iron Triathlon is a Zone5Events production. The name of the race company is all you need to know. They push things to the extreme. One of the race directors told me this via Twitter before the event —  “if we could find a way to put a hill in the swim, we would.

With the race-day temperature in the low 50s and a driving rain storm soaking the Atlanta area (and most of the Southeast U.S.) for several days leading up to the race, this was destined to be an epic event. Unfortunately, the rain stopped briefly before the race, producing a think fog on the lake. In the true spirit of the event, one of the race directors actually said — “it might seem weird saying this, but it would be better if it started to rain again.”

This was the lake the night before… peaceful.
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The 7 am start time came and went. After two 30-minute delays it was clear that the fog wasn’t going to go anywhere and the swim was canceled for safety reasons. This was the correct call as the first buoy, less than 100 yards from shore, wasn’t visible.

In addition, due to the amount of rain in the area, the 56-mile bike leg had to be shortened to 48 miles, eliminating the 6-mile Fort Mountain “King of the Mountain” climb that attracts many athletes to the event. Again, this was the correct call for safety reasons. While most competitors who had done the race in the past said the descent wasn’t very technical, a lot of others were expressing concerns.

Instead of the swim, the race began with a time-trail bike start. I had never been involved with a time-trial start before. It was pretty cool. I felt like Lance Armstrong or Alberto Contador or Frank Schleck… oh wait, forget that part. Looking at the picture of me in my helmet, I look more like Marvin the Martian from Bugs Bunny.
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Riders took turns going off in five-second intervals. A volunteer held you up by the back of your seat and the starter counted down… 5,4,3,2,1 GO!

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PHOTO CREDIT: davemphotography.com

Without the 6-mile climb up Ft. Mountain, I wasn’t expecting the bike leg to be too difficult.

Here’s a video of the climb and descent up Fort Mountain, complete with some mighty fine banjo pickin’.

Mother Nature and my bike had different ideas though. Soon after I pedaled away from North Georgia’s version of a Tour de France time-trial starting chute, the rain began to come down… it never stopped. Then I hit Mile 22 and my rear derailleur shifter decided to break. Awesome. Oh, and I was stuck in the smallest cog. Sweet! Oh, and there’s a 3-mile climb near the finish. Super-fantastic!

I pulled over several times and tried to get it to move up just one precious little gear. No such luck. It kept slipping back down. I’m not a bike mechanic, so fixing this was not really an option. I had to gut it out. As others cruised by, spinning a fast cadence in an easy gear, I was out of the saddle slowly churning my way up the hills. Eventually, as the hills got steeper, I had to dismount and push the bike on several occasions.

HONESTY ALERT: If  a race official had approached me at this point — as I was walking my broken bike up a mountain during a cold, driving rain storm while dreading the half marathon that still awaited me — and asked if I wanted a lift, I would have jumped at it and called it a day. I’m happy to say, that never happened.

At one point, an older competitor passed me — as I was walking my broken bike up a mountain during a cold, driving rain storm while dreading the half marathon that still awaited me.  (Oh, had I already mention that whiny part of the story?)  Moments later, the slope decreased ever-so-slightly and I was able to mount up again. About 1/2 mile later I passed the guy who had cruised past me. I quietly celebrated this small victory with a smile only I knew existed.  

Slowly, I made my way back to T2.

MMT2PHOTO CREDIT: davemphotography.com

As soon as I saw the lead runner –#SuperGeorge Darden — run past me in the other direction, it hit me: “Oh crap, I have to run now!” And just for more fun, the first 1/4 mile of the run goes straight up a really steep hill. In fact, there’s hardly a single flat section over the entire 13.1 miles of the run course.   

As you can see, it was a lot of “fun” running up the hill at the start. (Note the rarely seen and hard-to-duplicate uphill “floater” pic.)
MMuphillPHOTO CREDIT: davemphotography.com

Thanks to my 2:29 bike/walk split, I was out of contention in the overall standings and figured my only saving grace would be to dig deep and have a decent run. Maybe, just maybe, I could claw my way back to a respectable finish. I somehow managed the trudge my way up and down the hills for a 1:36 run, putting me atop the 40-44 Old Guy podium. (It was a small field.)

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This race was my first-ever Zone5Events race. And although it wasn’t pretty, the race directors made some tough decisions with difficult course conditions and managed to stage a pretty good day of racing. Kudos to Beau Bearden and his crew for a job well done! I will be back next year.

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Healing Seems to be the Hardest Word

“Stop racing stupid!” were the words I needed to hear.

I didn’t like hearing them, but somebody needed to say it.

Here are the details of my ugly race season so far:
 
* Left calf injury impacts training for Boston Marathon
* Develop what I think is a shin splint in left leg one week before Boston
* Decide to run marathon anyways (It’s BOSTON!)
* Shin splint turns out to be a nasty infection (Cellulitis bacteria
* Take antibiotics for 2 weeks to clear infection
* Decide to race first Olympic tri of the season on half-healed leg
* Gimp my way through race in pain
* Go for 11-mile run 5 days later and strain right calf
* Decide to race second Olympic tri of the season 9 days later
* Gimp my way through race in more pain
* End up in emergency room day after race with vertigo! 

Does this guy look like he’s having fun?

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After all of this, I was still thinking it would be fine for me to race my third tri of the season on June 2. (Note to self: send father monthly check to repay him for my college education. Clearly, it didn’t pay off)

A few days later, a conversation with friend/coach reveals just how stupid I’m being. As a way to keep me from hurting myself more, he instructs me not to swim, bike or run until June 1. So far, I am 8 days into my hiatus. I have 5 more days to go. I’m losing my mind. But when you don’t have much of a brain to work with, that’s not too hard. Hopefully I’m just losing the dumb parts.

Begrudgingly, I crossed my next two races off of my list and have re-focused myself on the big prize — Rev3 half in Maine on Aug. 26. I have plenty of time to rest, recover and rebuild my base. The goal is to have a great race and have fun doing it… PAIN-FREE. What a novel concept.
 

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Which way to the finish line!?

Saturday’s Tri For The Kids Olympic Triathlon in Rome, Ga. was a race I had signed up for last year. However, tornadoes devastated much of the Southern U.S. shortly before the race was to be held. Organizers made the right decision and canceled the 2011 race and deferred entries to this year.

Flash forward 12 months and I made the 90-minute drive to Rome excited to race in my first tri since Ironman Florida in November. Yes, it had been exactly SIX months since my last tri. In between, I had run several road races, including the Boston Marathon, but not a single tri.

First, I had to remember what to pack. Once I got everything organized, I was ready to get down to business.

This race was definitely “small town” with fewer than 100 competitors registered. This was a HUGE change of pace from the 2,600 people who lined up on the beach at Ironman Florida. The volunteers at packet pickup were very friendly and helpful. Turns out, some of those volunteers would also be racing.

SWIM:
The swim down the Etowah River (aka Etowah “rapids”) was fast… I mean, REALLY fast. A couple days before the race, the Army Corps of Engineers had released water from nearby Lake Allatoona producing a strong current. As soon as you hit the water, you were headed downstream. It was actually hard to make sure you didn’t drift off course. There were plenty of kayakers and canoes to keep you going in the right direction and make sure you were safe. However, a couple large trees in the river created some issues. One racer I know of slammed face-first into a tree and another guy was briefly caught up in some branches of a tree. Dangerous stuff. (After the race, I suggested to the race director that next year they should make sure to have a kayaker positioned by the large trees, if possible in future races.)

“After the third bridge, get to the right,” were the last words I heard as I entered the water. With the current so strong, if you missed the swim exit area, you would have to try to swim upstream to get out. That would be bad, to say the least.

While I have been swimming with some really fast people at Dynamo Multisport, I’m by no means a fast swimmer… except on this day. 13:38 for 1,500 meters is ridiculous. I had the 8th fastest swim time of the day, which is also ridiculous in its own right. (Truth is, I felt very comfortable on the swim and settled into a very nice, steady rhythm after the first 250 yards or so.)

SWIM EXIT:
Coming in to this race, I had battled two separate issues with my left leg. First, I had a nagging calf strain that just wouldn’t go away. Finally, a couple weeks ago it went away. Second, I had somehow developed a lower leg infection right before Boston. With the help of some serious antibiotics, that  finally went away, too. I was pumped to be racing without an injury for the first time in a long time.

Wrong.

As I reached the dock to exit the swim, the two male volunteers were obviously used to lifting much heavier guys out of the water. They yanked my 150-pound body up so hard that I SLAMMED my left thigh into the dock. HOLY CRAP that hurt. One of the other racers suffered a big cut on his knee when he was yanked out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for all of the volunteers, but I will make a mental note on my next “dock exit” to lift myself out.

My bruised thigh bothered me for the rest of the race. Two days later, it’s black and blue and still hurting. (Wow, what a sissy boy I am.)

T1:
After limping my way up the hill to get to bike transition, I have a bit of a hard time getting my wetsuit off, as usual.  Helmet on, sunglasses on, threw my Garmin 305 watch in the back pocket of my top (I planned to wear it for the run and wanted to save time in T2. I strapped it on my wrist as I rode.) My shoes were clipped in, with the left shoe latched to the rear wheel’s skewer with a rubber band. This kept my shoes from flopping around as I saddled up with a death-defying “flying mount.” It’s always a crowd-pleaser. T1 time: 1:45… blah.

BIKE:
My plan coming into the race (not knowing how my calf injury would hold up) was to hammer the bike and try to hold on for the run. This might not have been the smartest strategy, but that’s what I was going with.

The course was a good mixture of rolling hills with some harder-than-expected climbs. I had hoped to average about 23-24 mph, but there were more hills than I expected. (According to my Garmin, there was 543 feet of elevation gained over the 25 miles). In the end, I clocked a 22.5 mph average for a 1:06:40 bike split. Reached a high speed of 39.37 mph on Lap 4 (My Garmin 500 intervals are set for 5 miles each, so this was miles 15-20). My last lap (miles 20-25) was my fastest with a 23.5 mph average pace.  Other than the winning relay team, I had the fastest individual bike split of the day. That’s a first for me! Psyched.

For this race, I removed the water bottle holder on the Blue Triad SL frame and taped the Vittoria Pit Stop tubular tire sealant canister under my seat. I only carried one water bottle, mounted between the aero bars. My goal was to be as aero as possible. Next on my shopping list… my very own aero helmet. All the cool kids seem to have one.

While on the course, I scared several little children on the side of the road with my WOOOOOHOOOOOO! screams as I rode past, I made sure to “lick the lens” by sticking my tongue out (Gene Simmons-style) at the on-course photographer and gave a shout out to a few Army guys I saw out on a run.

At the half way turnaround, I counted the bikes that passed me in the other direction. There was the lead guy (he was FLYIN!) from a relay team, then there was an Asian guy I saw earlier in the morning in the Transition area and next up was a guy named Brett from The Sport Factory, a tri club near my house. I met Brett for the first time before the race. He was a nice guy, but like me, he was 41. Looking around, I knew he would be my only AG competition and we would both likely be in the running for the overall podium, too.

Holy crap, I was in 3rd overall! (Yes, it was a small race, but 3rd is still 3rd)

After turning around, I started riding back towards the pack. I saw Brian (an All3Sports teammate) hot on my wheels. Uh oh, this is going to be a run to the finish… and my running form was in VERY bad shape.

The best part of the bike course was the last mile. When you turn on to Shorter Ave., they had the entire right lane coned off for the race… Knowing I was nearing the finish, I decided to drop the hammer and race the cars down the final stretch. A couple of little kids in car seats in the back of thair parents’ car were staring at me as I screamed “WOOOOOHOOOOO!” at them. If you can’t have fun, why race? Right?

The bike finish came up so fast, I almost forgot to unstrap from my shoes. Crossed the line, raced to my rack, hooked the bike on, slapped on the socks, running shoes and visor… and like a prom dress, I was off!  (This is the moment when something else hits me. This was going to be my very first run off the bike since IM Florida six months ago. Doh! Training is overrated…sort of)

T2: 36 seconds (Tied for 4th fastest. Much better than T1.)

RUN:
OUCH! Oh no, this is going to suck!

My dock-slammed quad was screaming at me every time my left foot hit the ground. Time to adjust the game plan. This was going to be a survival run. I was just happy to be racing again (yeah, sure… keep telling yourself that.)

“I wanna go FAAAAAST,” Brian yells Ricky Bobby-style as he passes me within the first mile of the run course.

I try to tell him about my dock mishap to let him know why I was moving at a snails pace. He pretended to listen (I think), but kept running away from me. I expected other people to pass me soon. When nobody else did, I realized that Brian was now in third. That was MY third place spot and I wanted it back! (Mile 1 was 7:34)

Screw this noise… pain is a state of mind.

I never let Brian out of my sight and slowly begin to reel him back. 7:30, 7:17, 6:58… When I caught up to him, I decided to mess with him a little and just run right behind him to see if he would ever turn around. Finally he did. This was a fun race, so I decided to run alongside Brian for awhile rather than drop him (I also didn’t want to make him feel bad for getting caught by an old guy like me. I’m a team player… remember that part for later)

In the distance, we both can see Brett. He’s coming back to us quicker than I had expected. A short distance later, Brett starts walking…

Screw you Brian, I’m taking off…

I catch Brett and quickly realize why he’s walking. WE’RE ALL LOST! There were no signs and no volunteers to point us in the right direction. (There was a mix up earlier in the run and we got pointed in the wrong direction by a volunteer.) Brett thinks we should go to the right through a parking lot and back to the trail along the river. Just then, a volunteer pulls up in a van and tells us to go straight. I wait with Brett as Brian takes off… Son of a %&*@$#!

We reach a MAJOR intersection with about 8 lanes of traffic. Crazy. Brian makes it across but Brett and I have to wait for the light to change. I actually had to hit the “push button to cross street” button. It was kind of funny… but not really.

“Wait for me,” I yell to Brian. (I never thought he would stop, but it was worth a try. He slows for a  brief second and then continues on.)

Damn, I knew I should have passed him when I had a chance.  That’s the last time I play Mr. Nice Guy. Haha.

After Brett and I cross the street, I try to chase Brian (my former friend) down, but he’s too far gone. The finish area is a nice long downhill road so I let it all hang out. When I cross the line, the only person I see is Brian. He’s first!

What the heck happened to the other guy? I’m second? Huh?

Brett crosses in third, then another guy comes across in 4th, then the original race leader comes flying around a corner on the OTHER SIDE of the finish line, crosses the line and slams a water bottle to the ground. He was MAD.

“I got lost!” (Yeah, welcome to the club buddy.)

“I’m never coming back here! I need to speak to the race director!”

He was fuming. I wasn’t sure how this was going to play out, but I knew he deserved to be first. I also knew that sometimes these things happen and that’s just the way it is.

In the end, we all got together and spoke with the race directors and told them how the order should be. The other guy got first (rightfully so), Brian second and I was third.

(Premature photo shoot below. BTW, nice cell phone clipped to the waist Brian. Not very aero.)

RUN TIME: 45:39 (7:19/mile) 5th fastest run time overall

This run hurt, mostly because of my sore quad, but I’m pretty happy with it considering it had been 6 months since my last brick run and I had some serious leg issues to deal with between Ironman and now.

The winners all walked away with cool a hand-painted plate (pitured above at the the top.) A very nice touch.

While there were some issues with this race, I plan to return again next year. After all, I need a matching dish so my wife and I can dine together!

Race #1 of 2012 is in the books.

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Sprint For Pat – A Family Affair

It’s not everyday that I get to spend a morning running a race with my kids. To be clear, I have a  hard time running races for “fun.” I’m too competitive and want to “race” all the time.

After winning the 35-39 age group in the 2011 Sprint for Cancer 10k, an injured leg held me back this year. Looking back, I couldn’t be happier that it did. It made my decision to run with my kids that much easier. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids. But race day is race day and I usually prefer to go as fast as I can. One day, I hope they feel the same way and go out and beat their old man in a race. Competition builds self-confidence, I believe.

But this day was all about family fun.

The Sprint for Cancer 5k/10k holds special meaning in our community. In 2008, father/husband/runner/triathlete Pat Kane died during the swim portion of the Gulf Coast Triathlon. Here is the last picture ever taken of Pat on the beach with his two boys moments before the start of the event.

(Photo courtesy of: Kristin Kane Holland)

One of the last races he did before the Gulf Coast Tri was the 2008 Sprint for Cancer. The photo below was taken during that race and was used to create the design for the current Sprint for Pat race shirts.

(Photo courtesy of: Kristin Kane Holland)

The “two thumbs up” pose has become my go-to race photo.

(Photo credit: Ernie Janelle)

In 2009, some close friends of Pat’s and his wife, Kristin, began running the Sprint for Cancer race in his memory. Thus, the Sprint for Pat was born. While the name of the actual (Sprint for Cancer) race hasn’t been officially changed, when you look at all of the Sprint for Pat shirts on the course, you’d swear it had been.

(Photo courtesy of: Kristin Kane Holland)

Heck, as you may have noticed, his shirts can be seen all over the event’s official website.

Many of Pat’s friends and/or family members around the country wear their Sprint for Pat shirts in other races in other cities, such as Sacramento, California. (below)

Here is his oldest son, Colin, running this year’s race.

(Photo credit: Alex Hinerfeld)

This year, my son decided to run the race with many of his school friends, while I hung back with my daughter and ran/walked at her pace.

(Photo credit: Alex Hinerfeld)

My son, after reluctantly being dragged out of bed, surprised me a bit with his effort and ran an entire 5k without stopping for the first time! He finished 7th in the 11-14 age group. I was so proud. (he got edged out at the line for 6th by his hard-charging friend, Max. Lesson learned: Never let up at the line.)  As you can see, Max is diggin’ deep and coming after him!

(Photo credit: Alex Hinerfeld)

Many of the race’s age group winners were kids/adults who knew Pat or are still friends with his boys. I can only imagine how this would make him feel.

After having so much fun running the race alongside my daughter and seeing the effort my son gave out on the course, I look forward to running the race again next year. In fact, I think this will be my annual “fun” run. After all, memories — not the finishing time — is the real reason behind this “race.”

(photo credit: ChalkTales.com)

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Somebody get me a wooby!

A few months ago, a calf strain stole my mojo.

I vowed to get it back and did.  I rested my leg for about 3 full weeks and “recovered” from the injury, or so I thought.

Over the past couple of months, my mojo and I were very happy.  We slowly got back into training for my first Boston Marathon (April 16) and  set a new 10k PR in the only race we did together. Things were looking up.

Then yesterday came. I felt a minor twinge in the same left calf muscle. I brushed it off. Then I went to see my physical therapist, Dr. Missy Holas at C.O.R.E. Elite in ATL. She said she could feel/see the issue and treated it with some Graston Technique massage. Neither of us seemed to think it was a big deal.

Wrong. Just one mile into my SLOW morning run today, it became a big deal. The calf completely tightened up on me. I stopped immediately, walked home, got a bag full of ice and sat with my calf elevated on it for about 30 minutes. I squeezed into my CEP Compression socks and continued on with my day.

I’m currently looking into scheduling ART massage and hope to get back on the road to Boston soon.  To say I’m frustrated is an understatement. However, I’m going to keep a positive attitude and make sure I’m ready to go when I reach Hopkinton.  I might end up being a bit undertrained when I get there, but I don’t like to make excuses.

Injury or not, Boston is going to be a good day.

Until then, I’m feeling a bit like Kenny from Mr. Mom when his “wooby” was taken away from him by Michael Keaton.  “Can I have a moment to myself, please?”

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Ironman Florida Race Report – The Bike

Part II of a four-part series…


After getting my words of wisdom from Coach Chance, I made my way to the “Bike Out” area. As I crossed the mount line, there were plenty of people stopped and throwing their legs over the bike while standing still. What’s up with that? As I’ve learned in my short period of time in triathlon, the “flying mount” is how the cool kids do it.

So, I took a few quick steps, grabbed hold of the handlebars and launched into the air like a flying squirrel in a phone booth. Yet another successful flying mount! The day will come when I completely screw this up and fall flat on my face in front of the gathered masses outside of transition. Today was not that day.

I rocked it!  Just like this kid…

Pedaling out of town I quickly realize how cold it is. Damn, I KNEW I should have grabbed that vest. What a sissy I am. Too late now. I pedal onward. The Ironman Florida bike course is one giant loop that heads out of town in a northeast direction before looping back to town mostly in a southwest direction. On this day the wind was out of the northeast, meaning we rode into a headwind almost the entire way until the turnaround.

My initial goal was to average just over 21 mph for the ride. If I was able to do that, it would put me at about 5:15. I didn’t feel that pace was unreasonable, nor did I think it was too hard to hurt me on the run. I don’t ride with watts (I don’t have a power meter), so I usually end up riding by “feel.” I have a pretty good ability to tell when I’m pushing too hard and know how to use my gears to my advantage.

Into the headwind, I rode a LOT in the small ring with a high cadence to keep the pace up with as little strain on the legs as possible. I make up the difference on any decline by getting as aero as possible and quickly shifting into the big ring and using the terrain of the course to increase my speed. I’m amazed by how many people I see sitting up on the “downhill” sections to stretch, shift in the saddle, etc. That’s what the “uphills” are for! Sure, this course is almost totally flat for 112 miles, but there are a few times when you have to get out of the saddle for a short climb.

I do my best to follow Coach Chance’s orders from our many training rides. I believe it went something like this; “Never get out of aero position unless a tree falls on you!” There aren’t many big trees along the course, so I knew I had little choice but to stay aero for the entire ride.

I had mapped out a pretty simple nutrition plan. I had a 40 oz. Standard Speedfil on the bike half-filled with water. (I grabbed water on the course as I went by aid stations to fill it, as needed.) In my aero bar-mounted 16 oz. bottle I had 350 calories of Carbo-Pro with one tablet of Strawberry Lemonade NUUN.  I had another 16 oz. bottle (with same contents) mounted under the back of my seat. I packed 5 GU Roctane Cherry Lime packets with me and took one every hour. I also took a salt tab every hour. I stashed two extra bottles (with 350 calories Carbo-Pro and a NUUN tablet) in my special needs bag along with a banana and a Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif Bar.

The first 2 hours of the bike went pretty smoothly. I had a small pain on the inside of my left thigh, but I tried to ignore it as best as possible. It felt a little bit like a pulled groin muscle. I hoped it wouldn’t bother me when I got to the run.

Fighting the headwind out of town made it hard to keep my 20 mph goal but I didn’t get too worried about it. I was mostly concerned with saving my legs for the run. As they say, when it comes to having a good Ironman, “it’s ALL about the run!” And that’s good news for me. I love the run! Bring it on.

Because the temperature remained in the 50s for most of the first half of the ride, I wasn’t sweating much and had to make sure I drank my bottles even if I wasn’t thirsty. Most of my calories were in liquid form, so I HAD to get them down. This created a new dilemma for me. As I rode along, I quickly began to realize I was going to “off-load” those same liquid calories. I always wondered if I would be able to pee while on the bike.

Attempt #1

Looked behind me. Coast was clear. I rise out of the saddle and keep pedaling along. I try to think about a babbling brook, the sound of water being poured into a bucket, a strong-flowing waterfall. Nothing … Darn it!

Attempt #2

I stop pedaling and give it another shot. Still nothing… finally, the faucet begins to flow at a slow trickle. At this rate, I figure I should just forget it and stop at a port-a-potty. Nah… I’m not giving up THAT easy.

Attempt # 3

I get to a small downhill section, stand up and coast. Suddenly, I’m having one of those moments you have in college when you’ve had too much to drink. You’re asleep in bed, dreaming that you’re relieving yourself in the bathroom, only to wake up when you realize you’re peeing yourself in bed. (Please tell me I’m not the ONLY one who did that in college!)

That’s what peeing on your bike feels like. It’s mostly a mental game. Your mind is telling you that you’re not supposed to be doing this. Once you win that mind battle, it’s pretty easy. So easy, that I do it three more times. By the fourth time, I’ve become a so good at it, I’m expecting to be awarded Le Short Jaune when I get to T2!

NOTE: After each potty break, I grab a water bottle as I ride through an aid station and spray myself down a little to “clean” up. If I had stopped each time I had to go, it would have cost me about 5 minutes, at the very least. I also would have found it much harder to beat my 10:30 time goal.  (yes, I realize this hardly makes sense to the average person who is still puzzled by the fact that I peed myself… four times. But I wasn’t alone!)

Other than my plethora o’ pee, most of the ride was pretty uneventful.

While I was busy wetting myself, my wife was busy enjoying some much-deserved  margaritas (in a bag.) Classy, I know.

The wife and a puzzled-looking Coach Chance plotting strategy.

One of the highlights on the road was seeing members of the Dynamo Multisport team out on the course. It was easy to spot Team GREEN.  It was also easy to hear them. It’s amazing how much noise a couple of people can make with some vuvuzelas! Thanks for the GREEN love!

After reaching the turnaround, I slowed for a quick stop at the special needs area and swapped out my two empty water bottles for new ones and grabbed the banana and Clif bar out of my bag. I eat the banana and stash the Clif bar for later.

The most annoying part of the ride was seeing several large groups flying by in the other direction when I approached the last turnaround section at Mile 95 on Steelfield Rd. (Note: Steelfield Rd. is awful.  It’s nothing but bumpy and chewed up asphalt for the entire section.) However, this is the only part of the ride with rough road, so I can’t complain too much.

I had been pre-warned about the large packs of riders but still shook my head in disbelief every time I saw a group. What’s the point? I’m sure you rode sub-5 hours and perhaps you snagged that elusive Kona slot. But do you feel good about drafting for half of the race? Personally, I know I wouldn’t feel good about it. At one point early in the ride, I found myself behind a large pack. There was nowhere to go. I had to hang back and wait for a small opening to appear on the left side. When I finally got some space, I had to crank hard to zip past them and get out front. Half of the group was chatting and socializing. Annoying! If you’re going to draft or ride in a pack, go fast enough that other riders don’t have to worry about crossing the double yellow line to get around you while you ride sitting up in your saddle. (End of rant.)

Without question, the absolute worst part of the ride was the final 5 miles into town. With the condos, hotels, tattoo shops and Waffle Houses lining the sides of Front Beach Rd., the wind was whipping extra hard in all directions. Mostly, it was directly into our face. At one point, it turned into a mini-sandstorm. I’m not going to lie, it truly sucked.

By the time I made the final left hand turn and headed towards transition, I was ready to ditch the bike. I’d had enough.

Just at the moment I started to think “holy crap, I still have to run a MARATHON,” I spotted my wife on the side of the road exactly where I told her to be. She was jumping up and down yelling “GO! GO! GO! HONEY! RIDE LIKE THE WIND!” Little did she know…  I was DONE riding like the wind. I officially had had enough of that bike. Get me off of this thing!

I finally reached transition and handed my bike off to a volunteer. (With this being my first IM, I totally forgot somebody was going to take my bike from me.) What a great feeling it was to finally hand her off.

Bike Splits:

BIKE SPLIT 1: 55 mi 55 mi (2:45:15) 19.97 mi/h
BIKE SPLIT 2: 95 mi 40 mi (1:46:02) 22.63 mi/h
BIKE SPLIT 3: 112 mi 17 mi (51:42) 19.73 mi/h
TOTAL BIKE 112 mi (5:22:59) 20.81 mi/h

My time ranked 308th overall and 57th among 40-44 AGers. Not too bad, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.

I attempt to “run” to grab my T2 bag, but I was hurting. It was sort of a shuffle/walk/jog/sashay thing I had going on. I’m a TERRIBLE sashayer. I get my bag and head inside the changing area and plop my sore backside down on a chair. There’s a nice volunteer helping me. What a treat.

I can’t find my CEP socks! (Mini-freak-out.) “Are these them in your shoes?” he says calmly. I was so out of it, I forgot that I had put them in my shoes to make things faster. Gee, that kind of backfired on me. I struggled a little to get the socks on, but I knew I wanted them for the run.

I stand up, put on my Fuel Belt, visor and sunglasses and run out.

My T2 time was 5:42. That’s pretty awful, but I was mentally out of it for a minute or two. That’s my excuse so zip it!

Once I start running out of the Transition area, I find myself quickly getting excited about the fact that I ONLY have a marathon left to run. I’m sure that’s a common feeling for Ironman veterans, but for me, it was very odd. For a split second, I think about what a daunting task it was when I ran my first marathon in 2009. I finished that NYC Marathon in 3:46, blowing up at Mile 20 with nasty hamstring cramps.

Now, almost two years later to the day, here I was starting my first Ironman marathon. My legs felt good. My nutrition was solid. I was ready to get after it. My run goal: beat that NYC marathon time! On top of that, I wanted to cross the finish line in under 10:30.

As I stride under the “Run Out” banner with renewed focus and determination, I look down at my right hand with the initials of my wife and kids written on it. I then look at my left hand and the words “Eat That Pain!” I was ready.

I make the turn East on South Thomas Drive and let out a quiet, barely audible “Let’s get it ON!”

Photo Credit: NL4S.com

To be continued…

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