Most birthdays are marked by gift giving and celebration. Yesterday, Sunday, June 7th was not so different for me except I chose this year to compete in a 70.3 Half Ironman distance triathlon in Middlebury CT (this area is advertised as “The Alp’s of Connecticut”) the event is a 1.2 mile swim. 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run. There is no mistaken this is one hilly course both for the run and the bike legs. This is my warm-up race in preparation for Lake Placid Ironman in July so as a practice race the intent is to correct past mistakes and to practice some changes to my overall game day strategy to work out the bugs…meaning stupid things I do that my coach advises me not to do because I’ll pay for it in pain later, kind of thing.. I need to stay in the box, keep to the plan and be ready to chase away the demons when they show up…which they eventually do when I get physically drained. Saturday Pre-Race Day – I woke up at 5 AM to begin getting ready for my trip to CT. The morning started with all the stresses of getting together all the crap on a 3 event race day checklist. Then re-checking them to be sure you haven’t forgotten anything while adding and subtracting items critical vs nice to have. The plan was to lay out everything on the floor before working in a quick bike spin 30 minutes and a 10 minute run before packing. When it happened.. It was as if a grey cloud formed over my head bringing with it slight Quassy meltdown. While on the bike spin, I noticed the Stages Power Meter was not working…back to the house for a mechanical discussion with the dealer. This was not what I needed right now… the purpose of Quassy and the meter was to capture info on the power effort through the hills so that I can plan for LPIM. Crap!! This is the 2nd time in 2 days this power meter had stopped working… After an hour on the phone of “try this” and “do that”, there is a know issue with that Garmin device etc.. I figured out the unit was not going into sleep mode which was draining the battery prematurely. Plan B: I will swap out the battery on race day morning and hope for the best… Power meter or no power meter this was not a show stopper. I scrapped the 10 minute run…in this mood it was not advisable. Packed up and ready to go now its time to hit the highway for my 3 hr. journey. This was going to be a fun race because my wife Abby and youngest daughter Izzy were coming to Quassy to see me race. Abby had not been feeling 100% over the previous 2 days and spent the 3 hr. trip coughing and hacking with me thinking to myself I’m going to get sick, I’m going to get sick… this is not how I envisioned it.. To make matters worse Izzy was working off a punishment penalty for a kid stuff infraction was not able to use any electronics for the duration of the trip down to CT. to keep herself occupied.. So the trip was like sitting in on an cold war détente summit… great! just what I need right now… then the cherry on top of the ice cream came bouncing up the highway… a rock from a construction vehicle pings my windshield and … yes cracked it… OK Don ..hold it together… let it pass… grrrrrrrrah We check into a hot, dark, hotel and the stress has gotten the best of me… I’m drained..We have family in CT so as this is my birthday weekend a small family get together was planned with grilled burgers and chicken over cousin Amy’s house (Thanks again Amy). I am not looking forward to socializing at all because I knew that before a race I get twisted in knots, but I’m glad I went. The food and company were great and it gave me a chance to calm the hell down and refocus. My sister in law Barb made a delicious cheese cake (Izzy thinks it is the worlds best) and we had a good time. I went back to the hotel early to re-do the checklist tango and get in the rack early… good choice… Race Day Morning: 04:00 AM It’s my Birthday!! Yea! and it is race day Yea! Yea! … quick breakfast of hard boiled eggs, yogurt and granola, and Hammer Nutrition Prepeteum drink for energy. The plan is for Abby to drive me to the race and the goal is to be in T1 by 5:30…It’s a cold morning start. Everything works out perfectly and it is so great to have Abby here with me.. she encourages me, gives me strength and calms my nerves…she looks much healthier to day even considering waking at 4:30AM on a Sunday. Thank you Abby you are the best… I setup and re-check things 10 times at least… And I tell myself to be more social at these races… say hello to people, chit chat, get loose and get out of your head. Did I mention that it was a cold morning start, and in about an hour I’ll be plunging into the lake??… let me get on my wetsuit to help keep warm and get to the beach for a pre-swim… I work my way past the sea waist high peeing triathlete’s and the sea of foam they are creating.. (Yes I know what you all were doing, the only thing missing is the flushes)!
I take my practice swim and everything is great.. I feel great the water is a great temp except of course near the Pee Platoon… and I am anxious to get started…I know the jitters will go away once I start the swim and find a lane. The only bad part about being 61 today is my group wave is typically the last to go which is about 50 minutes after the first wave group starts. So lots of standing by and waiting .. The gun goes off and I’m on my way.. It’s crowded out here because this wave is 55 and above and the Clydesdales. I found a lane and got into a rhythm, slowed my breathing and settled down for the duration. I know it is going to be a long day 6+ hours I figure.. so the faster I get the flow the better the day will go. As I towards the 1st yellow buoy the swim is now straight into the sun and no matter how much I sight I can’t see more than 10 yards ahead and this makes it is easy to get off course, which means swimming more yards. Birthday Gifts: In any race there are gifts for the taking… not the wrapped type (like a new electric toothbrush) but a more special kind of gift. The 1st of the day was the calm lake and the second was warm 55 degree water .. But the best gift of the swim was from guy swimming next to me. While trying to find a lane I noticed the swimmer to my left was swimming so smooth and clean through the water. He had a long smooth stroke that seemed to move him effortlessly along side me. I thought to myself, if I can mirror his motion it would get me into the flow I’m looking for.. and it did…I was presented a gift and I took it happily.. it would be rude to do otherwise.. no? In 40 minutes I’m crawling out of the water and on my way to T1… nice work I’m thinking and not too bad of a start… T1: IT takes me a while to strip out of my wetsuit. I feel a cramp in my calf so I remind myself to use some Endurolytes anti-cramp formula once I get rolling. The air is chilly now and the sun is really not up yet… so I take extra time to put on my Biking jersey…I could be overdressed but I’d rather be warm than freeze which just makes me want to pee a lot (must be a geezer thing). Transition time 4:34 minutes and I’m off and rolling on the bike… Legs feel good and I’m happy to be moving… The game plan is nutrition and hydration every 20 minutes… and if other riders pass it’s OK do not chase… stay in your own game plan …no burning up the hills, spin easy and use high cadence up the inclines, watch my power (watts) output and do not cook the legs before the run.. After what seemed like an endless succession of up and down hill segments I remember thinking I do not want to run… I DO NOT WANT TO RUN A HALF MARATHON RIGHT NOW!!! and the demons begin their attack… That dam Marty at the bike shop, why didn’t he just replace the dam power meter… this power meter is a piece of crap… what did I pay for that??? Stupid techno garbage.. Then another gift was delivered.. My coach specifically scripted a demon killing game plan.. “This is where the self talk will be critical– trigger words– cadence, light feet, smooth should come to the forefront when you start facing challenges– let the challenges flow, focus on the trigger words to quiet any other noise.” So I focused on the next phase and thought through what I should do to get rolling on the run.. and what to remember…nutrition/hydration/run game… T2 – out in 2:44 minutes much better transition… I debate if I’m going to follow the eat and drink every two miles game plan for the run…seems like a lot to digest.. thinking that it make me sick to my stomach. I almost opted to leave the belt with my 9oz bottle and gels in T2 so I would be lighter but the Sue coach voice said get it on and get going… Glad I did… Old dogs can learn new tricks. The 1st 2 miles the legs are tight but I keep my pace length short and quick…choppy… Mile 2 comes up and I reluctantly consume my 1st gel and sip some water.. how ridiculous… Mile three I have to pee like a race horse… the aid station has one Porta Jon and it is occupied. I waited what seemed like an eternity and then I get to go which seemed like another eternity.. 4 minutes later I’m back on the road, empty bladder (gift), ice in my hat (gift) and rolling along.. The next series of hills seemed to help open my legs up, The sun is out now (gift) and the sky is deep blue (gift). and I’m starting top feel pretty good….(gift) The hills seems to be tough but they don’t seem to be sapping me… others are walking them like in the zombie apocalypse…I decide to keep running through all the hills just slow and steady. I keep to the nutrition/hydration plan at 4,6,8,10,12 and I think it is working… I’m really running smooth, clean and fast considering I have been at it for 5+ hours. I feel good as I finish (another gift) and am happy with the day.. This was a tough race in general but a 6:07:33 is not too bad birthday gift at 61. This will be one of those gifts I will take any day no matter what age I am… They write your age on your right calf in a Triathlon to show your category. I got plenty of encouragement along the way from other athletes. Thank you all. If you got discouraged when I passed you, I’m sorry for that, if you were inspired that’s awesome, keep accepting the gifts within the challenge.