Friday, August 17, 2012

Ironman New York Race Report

Arriving in New York with the fiancĂ© on Tuesday and we had a whirlwind, but relaxing week ahead in prep for Ironman.  Staying downtown, near Times Square was great, being near the host hotel for all the logistics involved.  Family visits upstate on Wednesday.  Touring and a show Thursday, then ferry rides to get everything set up on Friday.  Who knew racing was so much work! 

Seeing family for the first time in years was a treat.  I’ve seen my Grandmother, Nanny, at least once a year, but my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin, not for a long time and I appreciated the opportunity.  My Dad and I went for a nice swim in Copake Lake, Uncle Mike took us out for some tubing on his boat while he tried to do some damage.  Luckily he didn’t put the peer pressure too strong onto me, and I made it out without taking a turn.  Dinner with the family and back to the city.  Whitney and I were exhausted and turned it, but somehow my parents continued their martini streak after we hit the bed.

Thursday was most fun, but also the most emotional.  Visiting the 911 Memorial was an experience, but also a draining one.  Little hard to comprehend what used to be there and strange emotions came back to the surface.  Hopefully the world never sees a tragedy like that again.  Reminds me there are many things more important than triathlon in this world.  Walking to Battery Park for a good view of Lady Liberty seemed a fitting completion too our afternoon.

Yes, they give you sippy cups!
After athlete check in and a short bike ride in Central Park, the fun for the day was the Broadway Show “The Book of Mormon” by the South Park creators.  Whitney, my parents and I all went and thank god, pun intended, my parents have a great sense of humor because it is the most inappropriately funny piece I could have imagined.  Language, adult content and pure blasphemy topped off with drinking in the theater made for a raucous standing room only crowd that didn’t disappoint.  Cruising through Times Square to finish the night and get my last good night sleep.

Friday arrives and race logistics demands start up.  #1 Get transition bags together, #2 recheck transition bags, #3 finishing details for the bike #4 Ride to Ross Dock to check my bike (10 miles), #5 Check bike in, #6 Stage transition bags, #7 check out the Park and the flow of things, #8 Ferry Ride home (Turn to my left and amazingly there is One-Hour-Ironman and fellow M2'er Lindsey), #9 Walk home through downpour.  The rain finally decided to come down on us Friday with some authority.  Once the ferry hit dock, people rushed the taxi stands and One-Hour-Ironman, Bob and I were left to walk the mile back to our hotels soaking wet (I've been following his blog and exploits for the past year after racing IM Texas with him and seeing his great sense of humor on some message boards).  Hot shower then out to dinner to La Masseria where we had a Spike Lee sighting and dinner with one of my oldest friends from Pittsburgh.

Amazingly get to bed around 9pm, for a 2:30 wakeup call.

Race Morning:

2:30 wakeup, coffee brewing, eat my yogurt with granola, take my travel mug, and start the walk to catch our 3 am bus to the ferry terminal and I run into my buddy Bob on the bus again!  3:15 and we are at the terminal and One Hour Bob and I are camped outside the terminal eating and just trying to stay relaxed.  (recommend having someone drop you off or cab it over for an extra 30 minutes sleep next time).  Ferries start loading at 4 and we are on our way to Ross Dock.  Chill boar ride, check on the bike, pump tires, check on transition bags then wait, again.  The spectators start arriving and I get to hang out with my parents and fiancĂ© for a bit which was nice and calming then off to the next ferry line to get to the starting barge.  Four ferries were ready to take us all up river, and while I’m sure many had visions of timing the swim to have the best current, the line was stacking up when I arrived, and I made it on the second ferry.  Cruising up river, the boats paused for us to watch the Men’s start and then the women, each five minutes ahead.  Finally they are letting us off the boat and ready to charge down the Hudson!

This race was one I was prepared for, but at the same time unprepared.  With some setbacks from injuries, along with an incredibly supportive family who want to see me race Kona again this year, excitement, as well as some doubts swirled my head.  There were a lot of "what if's" going on, but I was ready to take on both the physical and mental part of this day.

The Swim!

Much worry from all athletes throughout the week due to the sewage dumping a town north had to do because of an emergency.  Two tide, some good rain, and it all magically dissipated per the Health Department.  We all came to do an Ironman, and and while having no swim wouldn't bother me one bit, it turns out it helped me in the long run.

Usually I give up around 10-15 minutes on the swim in an Ironman to the leaders of my Age Group.  This time, the max 4:30, so there was either a weaker field, or my swimming has improved!  I'm going with the later but I'm sure many will argue the prior.  This was incredible as well since I didn't get a draft off anyone during the entire swim.  Actually swam straight for once, so that was a plus.  The second half of the swim went as expected, FAST!  The current picked up and buoys just flew by you.  Heading into the ramp out of the water, your hand hits mud and you try to stand up, but your foot just sinks into years of god knows what in the riverbed.  Yanking my foot back, I try to swim to the ramp and get yanked out of the water by some big dudes, probably put there on purpose because of the mud.

Sprinting up the ramp, almost running over a cop, and into transition.  Slight twinge in my heel since it wasn't warmed up and gimped to the tent.  Wetsuit off, socks, shoes and helmet on, and up the hill I go!

Swim time: 46:00 PR*! well, not really - 51st AG, 256 Overall (usually around 1000 overall)

The Bike!

Trying to keep under control heading up the hill from the river bed, there is a HUGE climb up to the Palisades Parkway.  People lining the streets cheering, managed to keep watts under 300, but my heart rate was still sky high after getting out of the water.  Onto the rolling hills of the Palisades and I know the race has really started.  Getting on the early boat, and having a good swim, there wasn't any bad traffic on the road, and it was almost time to start grinding away.  Cresting the next hill, HR finally down to a manageable pace, the first long, sustained downhill approaches and I'm more than eager to open it up and see what I can carry along the course.  30, 35, 40 MPH spinning out at 42 and still going up to 45, WAHOOOO!  I thought freeway riding would be a bit boring, but the Palisades has enough gentle turns and elevation changes to keep it interesting.

Miles keep ticking away and there is really no flat portion of this course.  Jordan Rapp has a good review of the route here.  Turns out it was a bit more climbing than advertised, with people reporting between 5,000 and 6,500 feet of climbing.  Roads were in good shape with your usual highway potholes that car tires can eat up, but bike tires, not so much.  Saw a crumpled carbon rim on the back of one of the support vehicles, as well as reports of some major wreaks and ambulance rides.

Nobody around me to pace with or legally draft and by mile 20 I was into the women's Pro field.  Staying on top of my pacing, and fueling, things were perfect.  Sun was hiding, and there were even a few times when I thought the rain would come into play.  Most of the time for an IM bike, it heads out into desolation, but people made the trek out to each of the highway overpasses to cheer the race on which was a boost.  The aid stations were great as well, perfectly handing off bottles without having to slow down.  Coming back to the lap turnaround and the final long climb I blasted down earlier, legs felt great.  Grab my special needs bags and off on lap 2!

Finally had some company ride up at this point, which made me feel good and bad.  Was I off pace or were these just uber bikers putting their mark on the course?  The usual scenario starts to unfold.  They catch me on a hill, more than likely overpowering it, we crest the hill, I pass them on the downhill or in the flat.  This repeated a few times until at the far end of lap 2, I turn and they are far behind.  One guy did decide it was his race though and left me after two hills.  We talked for a few passes on trying to even the pace and legally work together, but he was a lightweight and taking the hills too fast for this to be plausible.  He climbed a short hill quickly and slowly disappeared.  Yes, he won the amateur race, and is a stud Norwegian so I don't feel so bad after, but it did leave me a bit of a dark spot for a few minutes.  Adding to this, the wind was picking up from the South, putting a downer on my hopes for a 5 hour bike split.  Keeping my head, and not hammering the rest of the course out to make up a few minutes I was back to my task at hand.

Cruising off the Palisades with some Pro women and into town, the crowd was just nuts!  Any dark thoughts were gone as I knew I put forth a great effort and felt good for the run.  Hard turn into the park, down hill to T2 and over the loudspeaker I hear Mike Reilly announce "First Age Grouper off the bike!".  I knew I wasn't but it brought a big yell from the crowd and I wasn't going to correct him.

Bike time: 5:02:59 - 1st AG, 4th Amateur Split
Strava Ride Profile - 5,300 feet of climbing

The Run - uh-oh

Entering the race I knew I didn't have my full fitness.  Adding to that, the realization of how hard this course was going to be when we drove it earlier in the week.  The first 16 miles are just brutal ups and downs, with no real time to get into a rhythm and super-cruise the race.  Eerie to be out there with only a few female pro's in sight.  By mile 6 though, things started to change drastically.  Unable to hold their pace on the uphills, my race started going backwards.  This was the first time I've had to deal with this in a race that meant something.  It happened to me in my first 50k trail race , but there were no ramifications there, this race meant something to me.  I just had to get through those first 16 miles and the other side of the bridge would be "Easy".

The hills are much of a blur.  Passed some pro women and a few lead Age Groupers, the second lap I had some company, but added to my fear of who was who and where I was in the race.  Fresh legs passing me, or my competition tracking me down.  KEEP YOUR HEAD AND JUST MOVE FORWARD!  I see Ken Glah who gets me going for a few minutes and says I look great, LIE.  "How you doing Brett?", "I'm Lietoing" I reply (no offense to uberbiker if he ever reads this, I just needed a good laugh to keep me going). The final climb to the bridge is just a madhouse at this point.  The sun is out, its hot, but the scene pulls you up the hill and onto the bridge.

With people watching
I felt good heading onto the bridge, but there must be something about NYC that didn't agree with me because half way across the stomach starts cramping to where I couldn't breath.  Slowed down, still no help, walking, boooo!  First place in my AG comes cruising by, pats on the back and offers some encouragement.  Finally the muscles relax and I can jog for a bit.  It had been lonely out there on the bridge and finally some sights of other racers and cheers from the roads bring me back in.  The gentle downhill from the bridge, all the way to the waterfront Greenway was a good respite, but a rude awakening waited for us running south along the Hudson, a headwind.  ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!  The bike course was nearly made for me, this run was going to be the death of me!  6'5", in the heat, humidity and into a headwind to get home.

Getting my composure back I finally match paces with someone, Michael, from my AG.  We were both in trouble, so sharing the misery was a blessing.  Talking for a bit, he falls back and wishes me luck, I return the thought.  Half a mile later, my calf seizes up, and he passes me.  Knowing I'm on the verge of dehydration its time to walk a few aid stations to get enough fluids and electrolytes, glorious Coke and Perform!  
Don't care how I look,
just get to the finish

Making it to the end of waterfront, and into the maze the WTC ran us through in an obvious attempt to draw out IM on a GPS map and failed, it was good to see the massive crowds in Riverside Park.  For some reason someone else's cheer group decided to adopt me and went nuts every time I ran by (added benefit of the power of Hello Kitty).  Wish I knew who they were to properly thank them and their athlete.  Back and forth seeing my family and friends in the park was great.  Almost done, but still an evil little hill to climb, and back South through the park.  Back down to the riverside and a few turns you can see the blue finisher shoot and Mike Reilly yelling.  Trying to charge home, my legs are giving out much like they did in Texas.  It was a long day out there and going backwards in the field took its tool on my head as well.  Fearful of the Time Trial start, and possible late finishers picking me off I felt like I was sprinting the shoot, only to see this video showing the contrary.

Run time: 3:48:10 20th AG, 65th Overall
Strava Run Profile - 1,700 feet of climbing (nearly all in the first 16 miles)
Finish Time: 9:43:39 7th AG, 22nd Amateur

Best sight all day, the finish!
The volunteers grabbed me and escorted me to the "athlete's lounge" for a seat and some chocolate milk.  I had raced my race and was happy about it.  Whatever place I fell into, be it Kona or not, it was out of my control.  My family and friends find me and let me know I came in 7th AG, well within the estimated 10 spots, and it was the perfect addition to an amazing day.

One race left for this year and I can't thank everyone in my life enough for the support and well wishes I've received.  I race for myself, but also for you.  Many times over this past year it could have been the end of my high hopes to return to Kona.  The people in my life have always kept my spirits high and looking at the positives in my life and the least I can do is race to the best of my abilities and dedicate it to my friends and family everywhere.  I'll take those thoughts to the Big Island now for one last big show.
My support crew, thank you all.

A bit of rest, but then on to Kona Part Deux!
For some completely obvious plugs (I'm not sponsored, but very open to it).  Thanks to Hoka One One for making my shoes which helped keep my heel together throughout the race and not further injuring it.  I'm feeling great the week after the race and confident in heading into training for Kona.  As always my Williams Wheel System 85 set performed perfectly.  Megan at Tri Mobile PT had a big part in getting my achilles back in order, and of course M2 my coach.  Keeping me motivated and focused on my goals.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lazy day before IM US Championship

Bike is checked in and sitting in front of the TV, browsing videos and with the current water conditions, some movie clips just came to mind.  Enjoy and I hope its a little better for me tomorrow.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Ironman New York Goals

Make no mistake, this year has been a great one so far personally.  Getting engaged, and life in general has been amazing, but training for this race was troubling at times.  Dealing with injury and the mental aspect was the biggest task.  Getting better, setbacks, having an able and fit body being held back by a single tendon is just agonizing.  Luckily everything just seems to have fallen into place over the past month and my confidence has come back to push hard for what my goals always are for a race.

Goals can be tricky, and publishing them for the world is a daunting task for many people.  My high school basketball coach, Coach Bell, taught us that if you don't let people know what you intend to do, you really don't believe you can achieve them to begin with.  If you fail in those goals, sure some people may take selfish pride in seeing you fail, but those people shouldn't matter.  Taking a risk and publicly going for lofty goals is what takes a person to the next level in their aspirations.  Stepping foot on the start line for a race, especially and Ironman, you need to know why you are there or when things get tough, the dark thoughts can create doubt as to "why the hell would someone do this to themselves?!"

So here they are:
#1 Finish
#2 Break 10 Hours
#3 Kona Qualification
#4 Podium for my Age Group
#5 Finish Top 20 Overall for Age Groups

If I fail in any of these goals, I will be alright with it as long as I know I put forth my best effort.  Flat tires, strange race conditions, random health issues can all happen in any race, but I know in my own heart that I will have left my race on the course and not look back.

As always, thanks to my family, friends and coaches for their thoughts and encouragement.  I'm looking forward to a great week visiting with family I haven't seen in a long time and showing New York to Whitney for the first time.