DUKE LIVER HALF IRONMAN

After the Lake Norman race, I had three weeks to do an intense, but heavy two week training block, followed by a week taper where I cut volume down by about 50%. I mostly did bike and swim workouts since a hamstring strain limited the amount of running I could do. It was a similar strain I had just before Boston, so I knew what I had to do to strengthen, stretch, and let it heal. What I had as an advantage this time was Molly Almquist.

Molly works at CRC and just completed her coursework in neuromuscular massage. She currently has been treating people, mostly athletes, to gain practice before she gets her license and has plans to work her own business. She offered to help and sure enough the 45 minute treatment was amazing! It felt like a workout in itself as she pinpointed the soreness – which happened to be higher up in the leg – and did her deal. Short in stature but she has some strength to her. I spent the rest of the day stretching and hydrating as instructed. I resumed running two days later (as instructed) and was able to add it my training the last two weeks – which helped me get into a good rhythm for all three sports. I highly recommend her for an evaluation on posture and any treatment.

It also helped that I worked at CRC all last week and that prevented me from straying from the taper. Being on my feet all day and commuting to work by bike made sure I didn’t add any unnecessary extra training. I had lost four pounds too (from 130-126) so Gina made sure I ate. We did our map planning, driving instructions, race prep, and the usual travel plans since it would only be a weekend trip. The weather got cooler and into the 60’s so a chilly morning on race day wasn’t welcome news.

We left early Saturday morning and headed the 2+ hours to Raleigh. We got to share the road with all the Tar Heel, NC State, ECU, and Wake Forest football fans who were heading to their college football games – all of which had home games. Must have been some tailgate parties judging from the speed they were doing. We didn’t make any stops but after a few wrong turns thanks to the Mapquest and hotel instructions, we got there about 11 and checked in to our Holiday Inn. We always seek out HInn since we are Priority Club members and with our travels earn points for free nights. Over the years we’ve racked up a lot and have to admit it’s a great hotel (even in Japan!). A perk this time was the coupon for two free drinks that evening at the hotel restaurant.

We walked to the nearby mall and had brunch, then off to the check-in at Inside Out Sports some 7 miles away. Nice area, mostly shopping, but the only traffic was the main roads leading on/off the highways. We helped one woman find a quicker way to the Lake come race morning since she was driving 90 minutes away!! How? We had our maps with us in our travel folder and hopefully made her weekend easier. From there, we headed for a dry run to Jordan Lake in daylight so we knew where we would be going the next morning. Gina is awesome about this area of scouting since she designates her landmarks on where to turn and how far/long it would actually take to get to the start. That was one disadvantage about the race being 30 minutes away from the hotels. Our experience from races like Timberman made us aware of how to prepare for such logistics.

Jordan Lake was similar to Norman, but larger and with the potential for a strong current. Judging from the area and wind, we would have it against us in the beginning and with cool temps would be wetsuit legal. But the day was now in the upper 70’s and warm so what to exactly wear on the bike was a toss-up. We headed back to the hotel for an hour of relaxing and snacking while watching college football –yes!! But we had the chance to attend the 5pm Mass at St Michael’s and took it. An amazing church and packed Mass made us make more comparisons to our church back in NY and wonder. It was our first Mass “away” in NC and impressive. We collect all the bulletins from our travels.

Back to the hotel and by 7pm and a long day we dined at the hotel restaurant with our free wine. I even had some of Gina’s buffalo burger. It was great way to relax, unwind, and get mentally ready for the race. In bed by 10pm, I wondered why 3 pillows of different “fluffiness” were on the bed. It took a while to determine which one was the best, but I use another for my legs and another for my stomach. Ask Gina.

I was awake by 3, but knew I wasn’t getting up till 4. I was ready. Eager and now amped, I didn’t care too much that it was 55 degrees outside. Heck we’ve been through many of these – Boston, Lake Placid, Timberman, Japan, and so on. The cool mornings and subsequent shivers were expected. As I finalized my packing I look over to see Gina get geared up for her race – watching her pack her stuff, get dressed in her IronSherpa shirt, and loosen up made me crack a smile and start cheering her on. We checked out and headed to the start in darkness and long sleeved shirts and pants. First time I wore this stuff since we moved here 3 months ago. With the dry run in our hands, we easily made our way to the start and found great parking. The humming of light generators welcomed us as the athletes arrived in more clothing than we were. This was freezing to them and based on the comments made, I knew I had somewhat of an edge. But I was shivering a bit myself and after getting “branded”, setting up the bike, and getting Gina coffee, we made our way back to the car to stay warm. Anything Gina mentions now at races I don’t question – she helps me do the right things by shouting off the checklist and pre-race requirements to make sure I’m ready. We couldn’t see anything yet but got great shots of the sky as the sun rose over the horizon.

I got the suits on and headed to the boating dock ramp where the start was. Stay loose, get warm, and focused. Check. Gina re-checked the list with a hug and a kiss. Let’s rock.

No national anthem at this one. The elite wave (see previous journal) was first followed by mine in four minute increments and so on. The water was so warm (78) it was soothing to get in and stay loose. I positioned myself way right and in front so I had a clear sight. Off we go and I churn away. No hits at all. It was a 5 buoy line then turnaround. By the third one, the waves and current were tough to navigate. Man – this was a lake?? But past experience led to high stroke, wider breathing, and smooth sailing. If I was to make a move this was it. Around the bend and take the current home. No one was near me. The sun rose now so it was tough once again to gain sight of the buoys without falling off course. I pass a black cap – elite wave. I go faster. With the end now in sight, I keep churning. Boom, out of the water and a few pebble steps later, it’s up the ramp and into transition. Gina yells “Great swim!” I zip off suit, strap on gear and the guy next to me has his way in the area too. It seems like he needs lots of space to himself. “Have a good day.” he says and head out. I make sure to get his number. As I depart, Gina is there – she ran from spot to spot and with small crowds gets around easily. I hear I’m 20th out – including elites in front.

A 56 mile loop lies ahead of great paved roads and lovely home, farmland, and rolling terrain. The wind was blowing hard and I had a few sways but the chill still stayed with me for 20 miles. I stayed in Zone 3-4 and 80-100 rpms. In my 50 crank all ride long, I paced each 5m maker well and was passed by a few folks on downhills mostly with 53’s.

I had the feeling a swarm of riders would pass me by now that all were out of the water but no such thing. Keep within and ride, follow turns (it was well covered with flag volunteers) and say “thank you” to each. I was comfy now and settled in to a great pace for me Zipping along. Enjoy scenery a bit and I spot 5 houses I wish I could own. I kept one or two riders in sight ahead and passed a few elites. One joked on a downhill – “Eat your cookies and you’ll go down faster!” He said this after I kept passing him on eventual uphills with the comment – “which ones, Oreos or Chips Ahoy?” He followed a relay biker who blasted by but I was able to still keep him in sight about 400 meters up because he couldn’t ride with that guy either.

I did break a record for “relief” events at 3 which sound gross but I wasn’t stopping and had my technique down pack. That was one thing I expected from the shivers of the chilly air. I did pass my friend at 55 miles and he joking said again – “have a good run” which was tongue in cheek. My next door neighbor in transition tossed my stuff liberally and I couldn’t dwell on it now. With Gina yelling “Go get ‘em” it was time to rock the run.

I exited and got into pace. Trails? We ran on rocks, gravel, and a grass course suitable for cross country not triathlon. Oh well, it was hilly so I had to get the arms cranked and stay within on playing pac-man. I passed my biker friend at mile 1 with a blur. He laughed and said in NC drawl “Awe you f*&#er you’re a runner!” I turned gave him a smile and point and went on. “It sucks being a swimmer.” he said. I made a visual map of the first lap of two to plan my speed. Pick the hills, keep passing anyone. It was funny to hear the volunteers yell “Gatorade” when it was actually Cytomax. They were great. I rallied a strong pace on the second lap. I skipped a few water stops on purpose for reason mentioned before so I made sure I was “completely relieved”. By now most were on their first lap and the shared experience of a tri can be seen in everyone’s faces. I couldn’t wait to get off the trails. Tough to get footing, but running with Curtis and Ryan in McAlpine was an easy memory to transfer. The last two miles were mostly downhill and my legs felt fine (thanks again Molly). I sprinted to the finish and chalked up a 4:44. I was elated.

Met Gina and shared the big heavy medal presented with a big hug and kiss. Turns out she had an even busier day – she had met and helped a women named Dorothy (wearing a sweatshirt and 2 shirts) who was cheering her son (he finished under 7 hours), managed to run around the area to catch everything, and savored a breakfast sandwich that was being grilled up by a volunteer church (and 3 cups of coffee). We both shared stories and cheered finishers to the 8 hour cutoff (a 69 yr old woman finished in 7:50!). It was so nice out by now that we didn’t care that we had to wait until 3pm to leave. I got to rise off in the lake, change, and had a MetRx washed down with a Diet Monster.

I finished 17th overall out of 500+, and 2nd in my age group which qualified me for next year’s USA National HalfMax Championships in Missouri. A nice sleeveless vest was the award and we both were so “jacked” we didn’t care about the 2+ hr drive home. We actually got more “jacked” when I was assessed – the first time in 10 years – a 4 minute time penalty for “transition equipment obstruction”. It dropped me unofficially to 3rd in age group but I am appealing big time. Actual splits and times I’ll provide when they become official in a few days. It wasn’t going to ruin our day however as we now had a great end to tri season and an event to look forward to next year. We got home about 6, showered, had breakfast, and were out by 9:30. Sweet.

Age group wise: I finished #2 in the swim, #7 in the bike, and had #1 run split.

I will now take a few days to recover and mentally prepare for being a “runner” for a few months while racing locally. Based on my Polar RS200/CS200 combos I averaged 120 beats on the swim, 131 beats on the bike, and 142 beats on the run. Total calories burned: 3800. Coach G says chill out and I will – priceless!

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