Monday, August 24, 2009

What Happened to my legs...Timberman 1/2 Ironman

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.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Age Before Youth

Last Saturday I went over to the 1st Annual New Durham Parks & Rec 5k. I figured that it would be a small race because it appeared on CoolRunning just a couple of weeks ago. I was right, only 82 people had entered. Now the question was which of the local kids were going to take the race. I knew the course because 10 years ago they held a race on this same course. As I recall back then I had just turned 40 and on that day I was beaten by a 14 year old girl in the final kick. My wife said I was impossible to talk for a couple of hours after the race. Since then I've learned to accept the challenges from the youth and make sure it doesn't come down to a sprint, no matter what the gender is.

For such a small race I was surprised to see that Dave Camire from Yankee Timing was there working the race. So I knew the times and finishing spots would be accurate.

The race started right on time and like a flash a couple of young kids took it out fast. The lead group also included a guy with a NH State Police shirt who I've seen before and in other races I've always reeled him back in after a mile. Lastly there was a guy with a "Blazing Turtles" shirt t-shirt in the lead group.

I just let the group go for the first 1/2 mile then I would start picking off people as they slowed. First came the guy in the NH State Police shirt at the mile mark. Next came two of the young kids before we hit the 1.5 mile mark. Next I caught the last kid at about the 2 mile mark. I noticed that I was starting to run down Mr "Blazing Turtle" but he had over a 200 yards on me and I was running out of road. At 2.5 miles I realized that I was not going to catch him and I peeked over my shoulder and noticed I had over 100 yard lead on the next guy. I pushed with all I had left but wasn't panicking. I ended up 2nd over all and 1st in to 50 - 59 age category.

I spent a few minutes talking to the winner who was a really nice guy from New Durham. He was 41 years old and he had his whole family running the race. I love seeing that kind of family activity. Anyway, at the awards ceremony they announced the winners in each age category and gave them a certificate. When they got to me they made a big deal that I was 50 years old and finished 2nd. I received the standard certificate and because I finished 2nd they gave me a gift card to a local hardware store. They announced that I was #2 to which I replied "I've been called worst"!! The crowd and announcer had a good chuckle.

My time was slow by my standards. I really running tight lately. I'm going to have to start stretching more at night to get more flexible. Next up is the last race in the Westford Academy Summer Series. I'm running this as a fun run because on Sunday is the Timberman 1/2 Ironman that I know I'll be in way over my head with.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Last race of the series

Ran the final scoring race for the Westford Academy Summer Series Thursday nigh. Ended up 5th over all and ran 1 second slower then last week. Richard Blake won the race. The weather was perfect and I should have been able to run faster. I have no excuses.

I was the first person to finish in the 50 - 59 year old age category and locked up the series championship. I won my age category in all 9 races. For fun I took all the races and scored my races as if I was in the 40 - 49 age category and I would have won that title. In fact I would have won every age category. The only reason for this is in a series it's about consistency and I was able to run every race. The closes challenge I had was in the 40 - 49 age category. After 8 races I was tied with Allen Hall in points but I had 12 second advantage over him. Unfortunately Allen was not able to make tonight's race, which gave me the W. Sometimes half the battle is just showing up.

Speaking about showing up, tonight the legendary Bob Bradford showed up for the race with 2 of his kids. Years ago Bob held the course record on this course. Bob is a great guy and it was good to catch up with him and talk about the old days. He ran well and his kids ran very well. I'll be seeing Bob a couple of times over the XC season because our daughters are the same age and will be battling head to head over the course of the season. It will be fun to watch.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fast vs Slow Alton Bay Old Home Days 5K

There are some things that are fast.

And there are some things that are slow!!

On Saturday I headed over to Alton Bay, NH to run the Alton Bay Old Home Days 5K. I arrived early and was able to secure a parking spot right next to the sign up area which was in the boat launch parking lot. I quickly signed up and did a quick review of the course map. We were to start across from the public rest rooms and run towards the high school right over the starting line of the Big Lake Half Marathon. Then we would climb a small steep hill at the half way point. Lastly we would be heading down hill and over a couple little rollers to finish back in the parking lot.

I noticed that Jim Johnson's car in the lot so I went over and we decided to do a warm up on the course. Jim had just set the course record on the Loudon DARE 5K course on Wednesday and set the course record at the Laconia 5K XC race on Saturday. In other words this boy was on fire. We talked about his chances of breaking 16 minutes and decided that the course might not be conducive to this type of time. Time will tell.

Soon the commands to start the race would be given and we were off. Jim of course took off like a shot. Close on his heels was a 14 year Tuttle who is going into 8th grade. This young Tuttle would soon loose his steam and drop back. Jim was running like a mad man. After about a half mile he had a 200 yard lead. This was a race for 2nd place. I was running in 13th place and felt pretty good. The roads were fairly well shaded so I decided to just run comfortably and save something for the short steep hill. I hit the hill and tried to keep my form but ultimately started to drop my head and struggle up the hill. At the 2 mile mark I was at 12:48, slower the usual.

All of a sudden I herd foot steeps behind me. It was the first woman and she went past me like I was standing still. I tucked in behind her and hoped that if I conserved some energy I'd be able to get back the place in the final stretch. I was wrong, but did pass one person and ended up 13th over all with a 19:53, SLOW!! I think I'm running to many races at this point.

JJ on the other hand not only won the race but set another course record with a 15:46. WOW!! Boy oh boy is JJ on fire.

JJ and I did a cool down with two of the local HS studs and got another 22 minutes of running in. So I figure I got almost 9 miles in for the day.

One thing that I though was very interesting was the quality of the 50 - 59 year old runners in the race. The top 5 50 - 59 year old runners were in the top 14 runners. I did a fun exercise and scored the race based on XC rules and guess what? The 50 - 59 year old runners would have beaten all the other age categories.

So what did I learn on Saturday, JJ is FAST, I'm slow, but the 50 - 59 year old runners are faster then any others as a group. I'll declare that 50 is the new 20.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Hot is SLOOOW!!!

OK, last week I reported that Hot was FAST! It's funny how things change in one week.

Thursday was week #8 of the Westford Academy Summer Series. It was 84 degrees when I showed up at 5:55 at the school. I was worried that I won't make the 6:30 start because for no reason what so ever, Rte 495 South from Rte 93 was moving at a crawl. I checked in and started seeing the usual cast of runners. Allen Hall, Rick Porter, and the rumor was out that David Katz would be showing up. David has been running really well over the last couple of weeks and if he showed up he'd be the favorite to win. Allen came over to me and stated that he saw David running over from a couple miles away. I guess I'm running for 2nd place. In addition I noticed that there was a high school kid there from last week who ran with the leaders for most of the race. So the race would be between David and this kid. I'm now thinking about 3rd place. Then Allen points out another guy who ran 2:50 at Boston this year. OK 4th place and that my final offer!!

Paul, lined us up and got us going with a "Very QUICK" gun. It shocked most of us. The guy who ran the 2:50 at Boston took the lead right away and ran away. David Katz took up 2nd and Allen and I were running in 3rd and 4th place respectively. The high school kid tucked in behind us and just drafted. Allen and I started yelling out to David to go catch the guy up front. "He's slowing down", "You can do it", "come on old man". David just replied "NO WAY"!!! We went through the mile in 6 flat. Fast but not as fast as last week. I pushed the pace trying to break Allen but every time I surged he matched me. The tuna salad I had for lunch was starting to bubble up in my stomach. Then around 1.5 miles my left Achilles felt like someone drove a knife into it. I immediately backed it down and let Allen and the kid go ahead of me. I limped for a couple of strides but was able to get back under control after about a quarter mile. By the 2 mile mark Allen was 100 yards up on me and the kid had 50. As we climbed the hill I was able to pull myself within 20 yards of the kid and by the time we hit the dirt road I was even with him. I knew that if it came down to a sprint to the finish I was toast. So for the next 1/2 mile I pushed as hard as I could coming down the hill. It didn't work. He matched me stride for stride. As we turned into the school we had 300 yards to go and I was in trouble. The kid turned on the jets and I was left sucking his fumes. I checked my watch and noticed that I wasn't going to set a PR on the course (for this year), but had a chance of breaking 23 minutes. I pushed as hard as I could and just barely made it with a 22:57.

What happened? It was hot but, not muggy. Allen struggles with the muggy but not the heat and he ran a 22:32, which is his fastest run of the year. Way to go Allen. David, got 2nd over all and P/R'd with a 21: 38. Again, congrad's David. I will never eat tuna salad for lunch before a race again. In addition I did a 9.3 mile run on Wednesday which I think beat me up pretty bad. I have to learn to take it easier the day before a race.

So I guess I have to qualify Hot and Muggy is fast, not just Hot.

Next up is Alton Bay 5K on Saturday.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

MUD, Wonderful MUD!!!

On Saturday I ran the Laconia High School Cross Country 5K. As I was signing up the student who was signing me in was apologizing about the condition of the course. "It's very muddy" she said. I blurted out "Gee, then it should be a lot of fun" The girl gave me a strange look.

I decided to take a run of the course to see what this fine young lady was talking about and determine which shoes I should wear during the race. I was pointed over to the corner of the soccer field where I signed in and off I went. After 200 yards the course crossed the road onto a farmers field. Right away I started to understand what this girl was talking about. The ground was squishing under my feet and I was in the middle of an open field. What were the woods going to be like? The answer came quickly. MUD!!! Mud and water!! Footing was going to be a problem. The trail rose and fell often and made many turns through the mud. This was going to be fun I thought to my self.

I headed back to the starting area and met up with Scott Clark and John Tuttle. I gave the guys my take on the course and I told them that I was wearing my cross country spikes with the 1/2 spikes. The looked at me like I was crazy but my mind was set. Flat bottom shoes would not work on this course.

Soon all kinds of people were showing up and I noticed Jim Johnson's car, it's very tough to miss. Jim came jogging over after his warm up run and he decided on the Inov-8 212's. These are neat trail shoes with long rubber spikes covering the bottom. They were a good choice for this race.

Andrew, Laconia's x-country coach called all the runners to the starting line and set us off. I could see that Jim and Scott took to the lead right away. I started quick but controlled. Right after we crossed the road John Tuttle pulled in front of me. I decided to just hang on his tail and see if I could find his weakness. The field was wet but my spikes were holding really well. When we entered the woods and headed down hill I could see John slipping all over the place. I was running like a cat up a tree and was reeling in John. Then the trail headed up and it was dry. John shifted gears and took off. He broke my sprite and I would never get any closer to him. For the next mile and a half I was running in no mans land. The next runner behind me was more then 200 yards back, so I just kept pushing as much as I could and sloshed through the mud.

There was one little twist in the course that I think hurt all the runners. As we approached the point were we crossed the road from the start they turned us back onto the swampy field for one more fun filled lap of about 1/4 mile. I finished to lots of hoots from runners who had already finished. After finishing I joined in with the other runners and called in the people still out on the course.

JJ, Scott and I went out and did a nice cool down run. JJ won the race with Scott finishing 3rd. I on the other hand finished 15th in a time of 22:20. JJ set the course record at 16:45...way to go big guy!!

It wasn't until after the cool down that I noticed how mud covered I was. Mud was all over my back sided from me kicking it up. Seeing I wasn't running near anyone for most of the race, my front was clean, except for the drool from my effort.

This race was so much fun that I might run more of these during the fall season.