The Timberman 1/2 Ironman race held in Gilford, NH is one of the best run races in New England. Every detail to the race is taken care of by Keith Jordan and his crew at Endorfun Sports. Well almost every detail, you have to run the race yourself.
Friday night I got up to Gilford early so I could pick up my race packet for Sunday's race. Gunstock ski area was already abuzz with 100's of athletes checking in for the Sprint race on Saturday and the1/2 ironman on Sunday. I was processed quickly and was heading back to my place with in 30 minutes even after I purchased a couple of items from the Official Trinkets and Trash tent. Next thing on the agenda was to change the tires and tubes on my bike. Sounds easy enough for a trained professional but I'm not one of those. I made quick work of the rear tire but for some reason the front tire was trouble some. I went through 3 tubes. Where are my ROAG tire changers when I need them?
Saturday morning I was up at 5:30 to set up the water station for the Sprint run turn around. Every year my wife and I manage this water station with the help of our fellow Condo owners. It's a lot of fun and it really gets a lot of people away from the activities on the lake to the other side of their units to watch the race. It seems that every year the number of people rises who run this race whom live in the condos, which is really nice to see. We made quick work of setting up the water station and were ready in plenty of time for the first runners to come by at 8 AM. By 10:30 the last runner came by and we shut down the water station and cleaned up within 15 minutes.
Next up was cleaning and lubing my bike. This went fairly quickly and I was ready to go. I drove my bike down to the transition and set it up for Sunday's race. Covered it in plastic due to pending rain storms and I headed the 1.5 miles back up to my place on top of Mt Graham North. I had a good dinner and was in bed by 8:30.
The plan was to wake up at 4 AM to get ready for the 7:03 start time. Plans don't always work out!!! At 3:12 AM my cell phone started ringing, I leap out of bed to answer it. Calls after about 11 PM at night are never good news. It seems that my house alarm in Westford had been triggered and the security company had dispatched Westford's finest to my house. 15 minutes later I received a 2nd call to be informed that everything was OK. Well now that I'm up and wired I might as well start pulling things together. A quick shower and a protein shake and I was ready to head down to the beach. I had all my equipment pre-packed and took a leisurely 1.5 stroll in the pitch black of the night. When I arrived it was 4:30 and the parking lots were already almost full. Over the next 2.5 hours I got everything ready in the transition area and must have made 5 trips to the Porta-Potties.
While setting up I saw Bill Morse, one of the founding father Dungeon Rock Racing (A snow shoe racing team). He was very worried about not finishing the swim quickly enough and being pulled from the race. I assured him that Keith would not do this because he wants everyone to walk away with positive experience. But Bill continued to worry. I tried!! At 6:30 I made my way over to the starting area and at 6:45 it was announced that there would be a 20 minute delay to the start due to an accident near the bike course. The accident was out on Rt 93 but I'm sure that due to limited Police staffing in some of these small towns they didn't have enough officers to cover the race and the accident at the same time. At 7:30 the pro's began their swim. I was in the 2nd wave and would start 3 minutes later.
Before we get on with the race I wanted to share my goals for this race.
1. Don't drown. Sounds simple but I suck at swimming and I swim more on race day then I do all year combined
2. Don't bonk on the bike like last year. I had 3 water bottles this year with GU's and Shot Blocks.
3. Finish at all costs. Seeing I dropped out last year, it was a tough pill for me to swallow.
4. Finish in less then 6 hours. Very manageable if I don't bonk.
5. BHAG of finish in under 5 hours and 30 minutes. Everything would have to go right for this to happen.
At 7:33 our wave of 50 and older males started. 3 minutes later women 45 and older started in pink swim caps. Then there was a 9 minute gap for the following wave and 5 minutes in between waves from that point on. Just before the gun was to sound for us I realized that I had to pee. I guess that was going to have to wait at least until I was done swimming. When my wave went off I took my position at the back of the group. No sense of getting kicked and punched by all these guys when I have 100+ females who were going to do the job. As always I struggled with the swim. I can't seem to find a good rhythm. And it doesn't help that this is a clockwise course and I sight on the left side. I tend to swim a very crocked 1.2 miles. At the first turn I was over 16 minutes into the race and realized that I was very warm. The water temperature combined with the sun and my black wet suit were cooking me. I struggled through the next 3rd of the race and took turn two at the 35 minute mark. I had slowed but now I was in the home stretch. This got my spirits up and all of a sudden I started figuring out how to best propel myself through the water. I was even passing some people who passed me earlier. I got out of the water in about 49 minutes, my 2nd fastest swim on this course. YES!!!
In the Transition 1 I took my time and made sure there wasn't all kinds of sand in my biking shoes. No need to get blisters if I could avoid them. I headed out onto the biking course and started out very controlled. Last year I attacked the course and by mile 30 I was dead. This years plan was to ride the first 11 miles through the hills controlled then hammer the next 34 miles on Rt 106 and then a controlled finish through the hills. Now truth be told I've only ridden my bike 291 miles this year so I had no grand expectation on the bike other then to drink often, eat GU before my energy was totally depleted and save my body for the run. My plan was working perfectly. Once I hit Rt 106 I was flying and was feeling no pain. I was a finely tuned machine and I could not be stopped. Until my bladder started reminding me that I still hadn't peed yet. I put this pain out of my head and just keep motoring. At mile 48 where I bonked last year I pedaled right up the hill with complete confidence. It wasn't until mile 49 that my left leg started getting cramps. I backed it down a little bit and was able to shake the cramping feeling and motor past my place where my wife and kids and countless neighbors were out cheering. As I went by I screamed out "BRING IT" and kicked it up into high gear for the next mile and coasted into the transition area. I was happy that the bike portion of the race was done and I was still feeling pretty strong. Best of all I didn't have any mechanicals during the ride.
In the transition I once again took my time and put my running shoes on with a fresh pair of socks. I headed out onto the running course and my legs were not happy. But after 1/2 of a mile my bladder was reminding me that I still had to go. I ducked into the first John I came across and boy-O-boy did I have to go. Back on the course I realized that I was getting dehydrated. Good thing that for this 13.1 mile run there were 17 water stations and I used every single one of them. In addition there were countless people out who live on the course with hoses spraying down runners. I took everything I could get. When I passed by my place my wife had prepared a bottle with coke cut with water and defizzed. I used to use this mixture all the time back when I tried to hammer marathons. It's a good energy boost and isn't too bad of shock to your system. During the first loop I was able to run most of the course but I had to take brakes after every quarter mile. My heart rate kept spiking and the only way to bring it under control was to walk. As I came around to start the 2nd loop I made a comment to the cheering crowds "Hey that was so much fun the first time, I think I'll do it again". I received a big laugh and a huge cheer. Off I went on lap #2. At this point my left leg was going ridged. My hammy and my quad were locked up. Running more then 10 steps at a time was impossible. I had waves of people passing me. At one point I heard my name called and I looked up and it was Sean V, and ex-Westford guy who moved up to Maine for the good life. Good thing he saw me because the only way I would have seen him is if he were laying down on the pavement by my feet. When I reached my place for the last time my 12 year old daughter came up to me and offered to pace me up the final hill. I declined but that didn't stop her from encouraging me all the way up the hill. With 1.5 miles left to go I knew I was going to finish but it wouldn't be pretty. I gave it everything I had left and finished in a slow jog. I was wiped out. But a big smile was soon on my face. Who was about to put the metal around my neck? It was Chrissie Wellington, the women's winner. She had just won a major race and was in the finish area handing out metals to slugs like me!! She has a new fan for life. I hope she doesn't think I stocking her.
How did I do against my goals?
1. Don't drown
2. I didn't bonk on the bike.
3. I finished
4. 6 hour finish didn't happen. I ended up with a 6:31:51
5. Never mind!!
So in summation, I swam OK I biked great and for one reason or another I just couldn't run. My finishing pace on the run was 12:30 per mile. ARGGGG!!!
After the race I jumped, or should I say slithered into the lake to cool down, then I proceeded to eat a huge plate of salty foods with lots of pasta and enjoyed a couple of cold Pepsi's. Next up was making my way home. I gathered my stuff and head back up Mt Graham North one last time on my bike. I was really careful not to let my legs cramp during this final climb. When I got home I cleaned up and got on the scale. After everything I ate and drank at the finish I was still down 11 pounds from where I started that morning. I'm guessing that I was down at least 15 pounds when I finished the run and I might have been down almost 20 pounds when I finished the bike. I continued to eat and drink as much as I could and when I woke up this morning I was still down 10 pounds.
I'm starting to think that the half ironman distance is just to much for me with little to no training. I think I might move down to the sprint next year. But time heals all wounds and I might be back at the half again next year.
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