Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Lobsterman Triathlon, a bucket list race crossed off to never do again.

Ya, this race recap is a few weeks late but to be honest its taken me this long to purge all the hatred from my soul over it. If you live in New England there are races you "have to do" and the Lobsterman Olympic in Freeport ME is one of them. For the first time I had a group of friends all wanting to do it so even though there was camping involved, yes camping and we'll get to that eventually, but the chance to hang out and race with a group of fellow triathletes was too good to pass up.

So off we went to Maine to pick up registration packets, get to the camping area (which at least was right at the starting area for the race) and set up camp. Unfortunately, mother nature did not feel like cooperating...and it poured most of the day. So much so that we ended up holed up in a local restaurant waiting for a break in the weather. The storm didn't let up until it got dark which meant looking for the camping area to pitch a tent and pitching said tent was done under flashlight/headlights. Now I have to admit that I HATE "camping". I spent 10 years "camping" in the Army and the day I took off my uniform was the day I swore to myself that I'd never sleep outdoors, in a tent, or go without a shower again. But...this was gonna be a different, fun experience right...right?! Ugh. Tent set up and in bed by 9:30 to try and get as much sleep as possible before the sounds of people coming into the race wakes you up.

There was a benefit in being literally 100m meters from the transition area and having the ability to wake up, then walk over for set up. Because of the rain the days prior, the transition area was already a little "mucky" as we set up and all I could think was how terrible it was gonna get as the day dragged on. I never cease to be amazed at the divergence of people's transition areas. So guys were so spread out so much that as athletes walked up they had to ask people to please use less space. This ain't your living room people!

Swim: .93 miles, 44:34
Everything setup, time to get on a wetsuit and head to the water. Oh ya...the was frigid! So cold I wished I had a full wetsuit but I decided to at least do the double swim cap trick to help with holding onto some heat. As we entered the water, I actually missed being a fat kid beecaue the blubber would've insulated me! One of my fellow racers noted that the folks behind us would have a hell of a time navigating in the water because our caps are the same color as the buoys. Prophetic words indeed. I've never been so happy to hear the start command becuase I wanted to generate some heat and get to swimming. It seemed like it took forever to get to the first buoy. We were swimming perpendicular to the current and I felt like I was swiimimng as much left to right as I was straight. Ugh. Ok, first buoy down now swim into the current to the next buoy. The comment about the swim caps being the same color as the buoys was spot on. Every time I thought I was sighting on a buoy I realized it was a swim cap from my wave. The cold of the water was quickly replaced with the anger of realizing this swim seems to be taking forever. I figured the best thing to do was stay with the "pack" of swimmers to use as my guides to get me through the course. I finally made it to the last buoy and made the turn toward the finish thinking this should go quickly with the current to my back. With no intermediate buoys for guidance the only thing to do was stay with the pack hoping we'll get to the end. We turned into gopher swimmers. Every 25 meters or so we'd all stop and pop up our heads to try and sight the swim exit...and ask each other where its at. It was only after a few minutes more that I realized that we were easily 300 or more meters off course to the right of the swim exit...which was black and in the shade...making it almost invisible. Sonuva! I was getting tired and just wanted to get out of the water by now. Ok, dig in and finish this damn thing already! I finally got to the swim exit, got out of the water and glanced down to see my watch read 44 minutes. 44 minutes?! Are you kidding me?! Ya, the water was rough but last weekend I swam an Olympic in 26 minutes...what the hell?! Well, nothing to do but get to the bike and see what time i can make up.

T1: 2:34 (my worst ever)
I have to admit, I was gassed coming out of the water. All of T1 seemed to be in slow motion and the time certainly shows it. I couldn't feel my hands or feet and they did not want to function to get me out of my wetsuit and into my cycling gear.

Ride: 24.7 miles, 1:16:44 - 19.3mph
The ride out of transition was on a sandy course and I was so fearful that the sand would accumulate and get stuck in the narrow space between my Cervelo P2's frame and rear wheel (its happened before) and lock me up but luckily I got out and onto pavement with no issue. Really?! Even on a dry day, putting expensive tri bikes on sand is acceptable? I don't think so. The bike course was uneventful but not flat. We really need to define what "rolling hills" are. That course was "hilly" to me. For some reason my GPS didn't pick up so I had no idea of speed or pace so I spent most of the course passing people and leapfrogging with another triathlete from a college team. It was a pleasant diversion too because I felt gassed out on the ride. I just wanted to get off the bike and get to the run.

T2: 1:15
Hitting the dismount point I see that its absolutely muddy slop getting into transition. I sank into ankle deep in mud with both feet trying to get to racks. Are you kidding me?! Ya, I know it rained but this is supposedly a "premiere event" and nobody thought to plan for this or better yet to fix it? Ugh! Just get the bike racked, get out on the run and get this over with.

Run: 6.2 miles, 49:03 - 7:54 pace
Within a few 100 meters on the run, my right hip started to bother me again. I've been dealing with this weird hip pain the last few weeks. I don't know if its from overuse, some change in my gait or a leftover thing from my Timberman crash but it hurts as if it needs to "pop" and can't. So...I knew this run was gonna suck and the time showed it. My GPS still hadn't picked up so it was all about passing people and making it to the turn to head back in to the finish. The last mile was over rolling hills and my hip was killing me. I wanted nothing more than to just get to the finish and that picture shows it. I crossed the finish in 2:54:58...over 40 minutes slower than the weekend before. Then, imagine my surprise when in passing I talk to one of the race staff about how crappy the course was to find out that the swim was closer to 1.2 miles than .9 miles. Are you f'ing kidding me?! That was not the way I wanted to end my season. Yes, I know "things happen" at races but Lobsterman isn't some first year mom and pop race. I expected a well put together, Ironman-like professional event and was sorely disappointed. Yes, it was a "bucket list" race to do but having done it, I wasn't impressed nor have any desire to do it again next year.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Every day...every motherfucking day!

You are better than you think, you are tougher than you think, you are stronger than you think. The only thing that separates an "athlete" from a "normal" person is the drive to get their ass up off the couch and turn themselves inside out to be better. Pain isn't a bad thing, pain reminds you that you're alive. Injury pain is one thing, soreness pain is another. The problem is most people are so accustomed to just sitting on their asses everyday, they have idea how to tell the difference. Quit listening to the voices in your head that tell you that you "can't" do it and instead scream back that you "can"! You don't have to circumnavigate the world, traverse the continents, discover a new civilization, conquer a're greatest accomplishment will come from conquering yourself....being the master of your own body. Its not a quick fix, its not something to be done with pills or surgery or radical diets..its a journey that you take one step toward every day...every motherfucking day!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Me a model? What?!

Contrary to poplar belief I do not like pictures of myself and I hate taking them even worse. I see every thing out of place and every flaw. I rarely buy race photos because more often than not I look like a bag of smashed buttholes. I know most people hate their race photos too. But, I'm talking about the photos where other people think I look great but I think I look fat or my race gear is unacceptably askew (did I just use the word "askew"? How fancy!). I scrutinize EVERY photo taken of me at any time and drive the people taking photographs nuts. I went from being the skinny, bean pole kid to the fit Airborne Ranger (of course because of the job there were no pictures taken of me then) to the fat, eat everything in sight adult. So I've always had hang ups about how I look. Of course...then I would get into a triathlon...a sport filled with people who are physically fit and shredded whether they're competitive or not.

Imagine my level of agida when I found out that as part of my being selected as a lululemon ambassador again this year I was going to get a triathlon themed photo shoot. It coming on the heels of Timberman and my being laid up for a week and not being able to train and race properly kinda derailed my plans for being "shoot worthy". Honestly I was considering last minute lipo surgery the day prior. I was so stressed out from the camera "adding 10 pounds" more to my fluffy frame. Now I did a photoshoot last year as an ambassador. Only one image was used last year...and the photographer had trouble shooting me because I was carrying weight around my waist that was showing up on camera. Let me say that I'm not upset about the photographer telling me that. It was the truth...but it was all I could think about going into this year's shoot. The location for the shoot was "Walden Pond" (and yes it is a real place not something Thoreau imagined for a poem) and it was a gorgeous day. Imagine my surprise when the photographer walks up and is blown away by how "awesome and fit" I look and I "don't even look like the same guy he shot last year". Talk about putting my mind at ease and in the right mindset for a photoshoot! Oh, let me talk about the photographer for sec. Kadri Kurgen is this chilled, mellow cat who takes PHENOMENAL images. You can see some of his work here on his website and I suggest you like him on Facebook too. Kadri had just returned from this photoshoot of naked yogis in the desert and the images are breathtakingly beautiful. Talk about setting the bar! This was a "triathlon themed" photoshoot. We started with cycling and instead of trying to shoot me in motion I suggested we find a good spot for light and put me on a trainer. The imagery that Kadri shot was amazing, including a shot of the light coming through my aero bars/hands!
A quick change of clothes and we were on to running...right along the water of Walden Pond...awesome. Running consisted of my essentially doing 100m sprints by Kadri as he snapped images. He also would stop between shots to tell passers by that he was shooting a "famous up and coming triathlete"...oh, the looks I got. I didn't have an appreciation for what we were doing until Kadri showed me some of the images on his camera and I was awestruck. I look like a lean, muscular "Kenyon-like" runner. I dream of being that guy...but to see it in a photograph left me speechless.
Lastly was the swim. I had never dipped a toe into the water at Walden and now I know why folks love swimming there. The water was comfortable and calm (Thoroeau was spot on). This picture is the one that Kadri put on his Facebook page (told you to go like him). I actually look like a pro triathlete or a model in a print ad. Kadri is an amazing photographer and if he can me ME look like a's a true testament to his skills. I can't wait to see the rest of the photos when they get released and there will be a "3 shot" from the session made into a giant poster and put up in the Natick lululemon store for the next year (gulp). It's been one of my greatest experiences a validation of the athlete I am and want to be and fuels me for the coming year!

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Cape Cod Hero Olympic Triathlon...a pleasant surprise

After the crash at Timberman 70.3 I knew the best thing to do was try to rest, lower the intensity of my workouts and not race for two or three weekends. Honestly it killed me. I was the cheering section at an Olympic Tri in Old Orchard Beach and a Swim race in Lowell. I absolutely hated to miss the swim race! My times have been coming down and I so wanted to swim (wait, did I really just say that?!) but my ribs weren't 100% and I wanted them to heal (or heal more). But, I was lucky enough to get entry to the Cape Cod Hero Olympic Triathlon out in Mashpee and I didn't want to miss it. Not only because I was able to get in but because I LOVE Streamline Events' races. The race director is a great guy and his races have the best staff and support. So with 3 weeks rest, I headed out the Mashpee to race.

The race venue was kind of off the beaten path and included a 2 mile bike ride to the transition area/start with all your gear from a parking lot...a little bit of a pain but the ride was worth it...the race area was gorgeous. Now I had picked up my race packet the day prior only to realize that I was #6. To those of you that don't know, those numbers don't just go to who registers first. Those are seeded numbers. Usually the first 20 or so numbers at any given local triathlon go to Elites (one step under pro's) or teams or local "VIP" athletes (none of which by the way way are me). So when I got my numbers I felt a little pressure. That was reinforced when I got to transition and was in the first rack with the Elites and two Para-athletes. Okay...just gonna be a normal race...gulp. Imagine my surprise as I walk out of transition and run into Bill, the race director, who stops what he's doing to ask me how my recovery has been going and thanks me for coming to his race! I was blown away. Its so obvious that he loves his races and sincerely appreciates the folks that come out to do them! Just one more reason I support and race his events. A quick double check of my layout and I was done.

Swim: .09 miles, 26:58-1:39/100yds
Well, now nothing to do but get a little warm up in the water and get ready for the swim start. The water was...brisk. Phew, welcome to Fall temps in MA (note to self, start racing down south after August...brrr)! We waded into the water for the start...a few "don't drown" thoughts to myself and the gun goes off. There was a bit of a current going out so I knew I needed to the turn and get it to my back ASAP. I kept focusing on form (that damned dropped arm/shoulder when breathing is my nemesis) and being fast. I was trying my damnedest to get into a smooth rhythm but I was breathing every other stroke. Ok, well I guess I'm pushing harder than I thought so just keep this up and keep moving. I hit the final turn buoy headed home, thinking I'm having a great swim when as I look left I see my swimmer friend Kim blow by me...ok, try top hop on her luck. Then I look right to see J blow by me! NO way I'm getting on her feet! Both women started a wave or two behind me by the way...ugh. Damnit! Ok, ok...just focus on my race and get to the finish, nothing I can do about it now. I dig in and push to the shore, get out of the water, glance down to see what I think is a pretty good time (for me anyway) and then focus on getting to the bike.

T1: 1:15

Bike: 22 miles, 1:03:10-21mph

The bike course went out to a double loop on the quiet, clear of cars, well maintained roads of Otis Air Force Base. That means a fast course and one that went right by the aircraft parking area which set up for some great pictures! As I peddled I started thinking "...there's no need to push it, I'm only a few weeks out from a bad crash, its not like I'm gonna I win this thing anyway. I didn't even feel like racing this last night. I should just relax". Ya, that's the BS you tell yourself when you're gonna quit. I felt good, had a decent swim and was wearing #6 after screw that and lets start chasing folks down! I looked down to see my speed was holding at 24mph. Good, I can work with this...keep this speed, get to the next person, pass...repeat. I had no idea where I was in the overall but I kept looking for people in my age group to ride by and kept pushing. I caught both Kim and a few minutes later J, was feeling pretty good and just hammered as hard as I could the rest of the way. I didn't know why but my stomach was killing me. I couldn't tell if it was becuase I swallowed too much air (or water) during the swim or if I was bloated or had to pee or what but I was uncomfortable. All I could think was get to back to transition as fast as I could so I could hit a portapotty and figure out was going on.

T2: 1:32

Run: 6 miles, 44:26-7:22min pace

I rode into transition with people really excited and cheering my arrival. Huh? That NEVER happens. People kept yelling that I was doing great and that I was not that far behind the leaders. For real? I glanced around transition as I went to rack my bike and saw there were only a few bikes were racked. Holy crap! Maybe I am having a good race! Ok, rack my bike and get out of transition as fast as I can. Of course, NOW I would have trouble racking my bike! Ugh. After 3 tries I got it situated, got on run shoes, grabbed my number, visor and headed out of transition. Just as I crossed the timing mat to hear the beep I put my visor on...only to realize I couldn't strap it on, HELMET! DOH! In my haste to get out of transition, I forgot to take off my helmet. So here I am looking like an idiot, trying to hand my helmet off to a volunteer yelling at me to "just throw it" with a #6's all over me. I was angry, and even worse, embarrassed. Talk about a rookie move. In all my years of racing I've never left my helmet on. Hell, I've been the guy in transition yelling "take off your helmet" to other folks for years! I quickly got my helmet off and took off like a shot for the run.There were a few people in front of me and I tried to run them down quickly and get settled into a good pace. That was easier said than done. The next 6 miles were spent with me debating in my head about whether I should run into the woods quickly (remember I was gonna use that portapotty in transition off the bike?) or keep pushing. But I kept catching people...and felt like I could catch more people...and I didn't want to lose the time from running in the woods (yes, these are indeed the thoughts that go through a triathlete's head). So I made the decision to just bear down and get to the finish as fast as possible or blow up on the course.

The run course was rolling and again all I focused on was picking someone to catch, passing them and then picking someone else. I even ran down and passed people running on a relay team...and I LOVE passing relay people since they come into their "leg" fresh because they're only doing one event. Its always so deflating to think your pushing hard to then have someone blow by you like you're standing still on the bike or run. Those "catches" just kept adding fuel to the fire and with 2 miles left I turned myself inside out to catch anyone left out on the course and get to the finish. I ran negative splits with the last mile on a 7:01 pace. Not too bad. As I crossed the finish line, about to throw up from exertion, I felt great. I didn't listen to the little voices telling me to lay off and other then the helmet issue I put together a pretty darn good race. I was 59th overall/13th in my age group out of the water, 17th overall/4th overall on the bike and 15th overall/1st in my age group on the run. Like I said, the course was hilly and I guess it hit a lot of other racers too. That all resulted in 17th overall and 3rd in my age group on the day. I'm happy with the numbers and even happier with the result and like I said, I felt like a put together a pretty good race. Now one more triathlon left in the season and then the focus shifts to the fall/winter road race training/racing plans...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Clear your mind of can't...

I really appreciate all the "I can't believe you finished, great job!" kudos I've been getting since 70.3 Timberman (I got similar kudos after the 70.3 Syracuse debacle)...but to be honest, there was no other option. I don't say that to be flippant. I really believe it.

As I said in my Timberman race recap, "I'm not the fastest triathlete, nor a shredded with a 14 pack one either but what I am is the kind that can put his head down, focus on a goal and drag myself to it". That can only happen if you decide that words like "quit" and "can't" are NOT an option. Its not some magic skill I possess. I decided long ago that not doing well or coming in dead last is acceptable...quitting or giving up is not. I've always said there are only two ways to finish a race...crossing the finish line or being taken off in a stretcher. We're taught to deal with whatever life throws us at work, or with our family and friends. We can't just check out when things get tough. Why should a hard training session or race be any different? Or better yet vice versa?! If you can drag yourself through a tough workout or get to the finish in spite of a terrible day...why can't you also handle anything that gets thrown at you in day to day life?! I have always lived by Nietzsche's "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger". Just remember that you're not dying today...BE STRONG!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I am blown away...

Rarely am I at a loss for words...but this is one of those times.

I was approached by Cervelo not too long ago because they were interested in "my story" and because I'm an outspoken Cervelo enthusiast. I made the change to Cervelo bikes a while ago (you can read about it here) and have never looked back. It started with my P1 and now I own a P2 and an S5 (and I may or not be looking at adding another Cervelo bike or two to the stable). I follow and comment on all their social media stuff too. Well, It seems they were impressed with my Timberman 70.3 experience (aka crashageddon) and not only put it on their website ( but made me a featured rider and put me on their homepage! Um...AWESOME!!! To be on their site, alongside their pro's and sponsored teams means the world to me. I feel like a real athlete...