US HALFMAX CHAMPIONSHIPS – FINALE!!

In the two weeks between Toughman and Halfmax, I had the opportunity to start tapering and getting use to the change of seasons. It’s a great time to signal that the end of a long year is coming to a close and that helps in building the excitement and anticipation for a final race effort to culminate the season. This season has been very productive and I am pleased with what I have accomplished. I listed all race results at the end of this journal and with what G and I have done this year adjusting to our move back to NY, the results have been beyond my goals. We need to create a separate shelf now for this year with the hardware gained.

So as the weather got cooler and the clouds thickened with much needed rain, we looked forward to our first trip together this year. The destination was Myrtle Beach for the US National Half Ironman Championships. We also looked at this trip as a pre-honeymoon getaway as we are all set for our marriage ceremony on Oct. 16th.  The morning of our departure had us driving via taxi to the airport in a downpour. Mind you an hour prior it was clear and Gina was hopeful we would get there before the storm. Once it started raining, I know she was a bit nervous about us not only getting to the airport, but our flight getting out on time. It was a nasty storm on the whole east coast – but Myrtle Beach was fine. All we had to do was get there.  It was reassuring that our taxi driver’s name was Charles Christ.

We got to the airport, checked in, and were sipping Dunkin Donuts java within a half hour. Plenty of time and Spirit had us on the plane and heading south just before the heavy stuff came and caused delays for 2+ hours!!! What timing and we were witnessing all these delays and rain in our hotel watching the Weather Channel later that day. Gina was thrilled with having caught that break.

My sister has lived in Myrtle Beach for a few years now and this was the first time we got to visit her. She lives about 20 minutes from the hotel and since she won’t be able to attend the wedding, she did her best to act as driver, tour guide, and treat us to dinner each night. It was great to see some family and it’s been a while since she’s been to a race (actually the race I proposed to Gina in).  We got to see her and Warde’s place and she took us to a nice coffee place for a quick snack. Then as Warde returned from work it was on towards our hotel. It was only 4pm and we were now up and around for 12 hours already.

The Marriot was a host hotel but they also had a resort and spa a mile away. It was swank. Though the weather was overcast and cool, it didn’t stop me from jumping in the indoor pool to get a swim in. Gina and I settled in nicely and the bike had arrived the day before unharmed, thanks to the crew at Minuteman back home.  It all came to an ease as we relaxed as much as we could the rest of the day. We checked in for the race at the host hotel and then went out to dinner.  As a norm travel day, we collapsed comfortably into our bed before 10pm.

Nothing beats getting up on your own time but by 7am, we were sharp and ready. I went for a run, then bike to fine tune and make adjustments. Gina went for a nice walk on the beach. We matched back up and headed to breakfast at the hotel which served a damn good buffet. Knowing us, we did it big and they even gave us a container to take extra!! (we had a fridge).  Off to a good start, we then just tried to hang a bit as we had the day to ourselves before Lisa and Warde were to come and take us to dinner. Gina has an IPad now and when she isn’t playing Angry Birds, we were surfin’ the web staying up to date on all the happenings.

The sun was out and we took the mile walk to the host hotel where we needed to check in the bike.  There was the usual crowd of type-a ‘s with some locals, then the occasional goof-ball.  It seemed like they had it all organized given the access to the roads they were going to use.  It was a well organized event and an ease to get everything done.  Our plan was to walk in the morning since it only took us 20 minutes.  Lisa and Warde were to meet us there and figure things out on their own since it seemed like they wanted to do a little golf and maybe hang a bit at our hotel.  The pre-race meeting did mention that the water was now 70 degrees and wetsuit legal. What is interesting is that even though they had heavy rains here most of the week, the temperature was at 77 just a few weeks ago.

So we got picked up by the crew and stayed at the hotel for dinner.  Just as good as their breakfast and we had plenty of time to walk a bit and settle in again for an early bedtime.  We like getting double beds since we now were alternating each day we were here.  Just as comfortable.  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Up and ready at 5am we were ready to tackle this race.  End of season.  Big goals and I felt great.  No soreness, weather was very windy but still in the low 60’s.  The main goal is to let it rip, maybe PR and qualify for the ITU World Long Distance Championships next year. I needed to place in the top 20 of my age group, which I confidently knew I could achieve.  But on race day, you can only control so much as we would soon find out.

I was putting on my wetsuit when the race director made the announcement – due to water bacteria levels from the heavy rains last week, the swim would have to be cancelled.  The water had been tested all week by the D.E.P. and was ruled too harmful for us to swim in. That made most wondering – “what the????” Honestly, smart move, but still why wasn’t anything mentioned at the pre-race meeting? I didn’t mind one bit (and Gina was relieved too) but I was surprised to learn that they were going to leave it as a bike-run event only. Normally the swim would be replaced with a small run but that was eliminated.  Even more confusing was that instead of starting in our respective age groups, we would all line up and go in 5 second intervals.  This made for almost an hour delayed start and many were waiting “in-line” for another hour before starting – including me. Everyone was in good spirits though and standing next to me happened to be Susan Arhart who was a customer at Charlotte Running Co.  We talked the whole time and that was one of those in the right place-right time encounters. Turns out she was trying to qualify as well (she did). She started in front of me and soon enough, some 75 minutes after I was suppose to start the swim – show time.  Three deep breaths.

Since we had to start bare footed  I quick stepped my way to transition but it was a long way to the racks since I was up front next to the bike exit. It was a much different feeling for sure than when coming out of the water trying to peel off a wetsuit.  Sure was the fastest swim I ever did though.  Hopped on the Black Widow and gave a wave to G and crew.  Off into the wind.

And was it windy. We had access to 2 of the major highways which were closed to traffic. Plenty of folks out there so it wasn’t boring, but there wasn’t much to see. It was going to be a pure mental ride as I tunneled into the noggin and channeled good thoughts, good tunes. It was a headwind for much of the ride, and being 2 loops, twice as hard. We did have a tailwind on the turnaround but it wasn’t much of a break. I just tried to keep my cadence and heart rate in zone and just churn. The Black Widow rode nice and smooth. I had to maneuver some “relief” work twice while riding so I was only consuming a few gels during the entire bike ride. Nice humming, keep it steady. Get it done. I established a good rhythm after the first lap and was looking forward to getting onto the run.

I entered the transition area again and as I got off I heard the announcer say “SLOW DOWN!! OH NO!!!” – which was directed to the guy behind me who came in too fast cause all I heard was a loud crash and thud. Guy must have fallen hard but since I wasn’t touched and didn’t bother to look back. I just racked my bike, and zoomed out looking to rip it and bust the move.  I saw G and knew I was 13 miles from finishing this race and into her arms. The 56 mile bike took me 2 hours and 38 minutes.

Once on the course I was hitting 6 minute miles easy. I was hydrated and comfortable. I just started playing Metallic’s “Judas Kiss” in the mental ipod and picking off people pac-man style. Everyone was on the 2 loop course now and it was into the 70’s getting warmer. No headwinds here. Nice and flat. The first lap was all about checking the course, knowing certain points so once I made my way into the final loop, I let it all out. I went faster each mile and by the time I had 3 miles left, I went 5:55, 5:51, and 5:40. The final 100 meters to the finish was a slight downhill so I went all out and through the finish with an overall time of just under 4 hours! (later with transition was 4:02). I went 1:19 for the run split and was simply elated and exhausted. I sought out G and gave her a big hug and kiss. Done!!!!!!!!!!!!

I knew I placed well enough o qualify so it was just a matter of making it official. I tried to walk around and stay moving since I was feeling pretty woozy. G was true Ironsherpa here since she spent the whole time with the backpack full of gear and the bike pump! She too was exhausted but all we could think about was how happy we were and just hugging each other soaking up the sun! She never cares how sweaty I am and how caked in salt my race clothes are (and the smell!) We caught up with Lisa and Warde and gave recaps of the day. Awesome!!

G and I decided to hang out a bit and I even met Scott Campbell from NC who organized Garret’s Wings and had a sprint tri race we did last year. He did well and we caught up a bit as I got my bike out of transition. He didn’t know we moved to NYC. As I went back to G, I felt really woozy and needed to finally sit down and stretch a bit. I had something to drink and nibble on a little Odwalla bar and started to regain my head.  We took the long walk back to the hotel and simply were enjoying the day. We both did a quick change and headed for the post-race pool dip. Nothing beats a soak in the water after a race. We both chilled out, grabbed some iced java, went back to the room, took showers, and wrapped ourselves in our complementary bathrobes. YO!!!!

Now we were so wired and relaxed we were ready to be dined by Lisa/Warde and went out to a nice dinner.  And soft serve!!!  We walked along the boardwalk as they took us each night to different areas in Myrtle Beach which are tourist-y. The night was just as comfortable but by 9pm we both were out of it. It didn’t take long for us to return to our beds and be lights out before 10. The pillows were lovely!

Sunday morning we got up and went for a nice long walk together. We went through the neighborhood and felt the cool breeze and welcoming chill in the air. I went for a quick ride on the Black Widow to loosen up some more. It was a good time to rehash the trip in my head and think about what lies a-head.  I look forward now to celebrating our marriage in a week and starting a life “officially” together.  It’s been a crazy year and we both planned this wedding ourselves. We will both sit down and do our yearend evaluation after the wedding and see where, what, how we can approach our current situation. We love each other greatly, have “been there, done that” with the racing and training all over the map, racked up awards/memories in the process to fill our bookcase, and are ready to celebrate with family and friends our special day (which happens to fall on The Sweetest Day too).  Together we are a great team, and I feel fortunate to have her in my life for the past 15 years and forever now. We have more goals to accomplish.

G has been on a roll this week getting out there each morning with her walks, stretches, and yoga.  She needed a trip away from the grind and was taking full advantage of it. We had breakfast again at the hotel and enjoyed the buffet once more (yes and another to-go box).  We read the paper, went for an afternoon dip in the pool, and started packing the bike in the case.  We had one final dinner out with Lisa/Warde in which we finally took the tab (well, G almost ripped Warde’s head off for the bill), went for another nice evening walk and finally back to the hotel. It was a great way to end our trip and semi-honeymoon. We both fell asleep curled up and under the sheets once again happily exhausted.

Another quick morning walk and talk before Lisa came by to take us to the airport. One final goodbye and thank you to her before we got through the gates, onto the plane, and back to NYC with no issues. We were greeted once again by rain and a quick taxi ride got us in the door home again before 3pm.  Holmes greeted us and has slept literally on top of our heads each night since making sure we didn’t leave for an extended time again. Thanks to our neighbor Margaret, he was cared for, but he doesn’t get the same luvin’ from us.  I did indeed qualify for the ITU World Long Distance Championships by placing 13th in my age group and 68th overall out of some 800 athletes.  Another great year!!  The list of race results is below. Now it’s time for a month or so of “play”  before Advent comes along and I prepare for 2011. Or at least until G gives me the OK. I will be running this Sunday in FPC’s annual Get to the Point 5K in Greenpoint as part of my Odwalla charity fund raising race and being able to see friends from Brooklyn that I haven’t seen in a few years.  That should be pure fun.

A big thank you to Odwalla, Aquaphor,  BioFreeze, Nuun, and Polar for their support this and every year.  Also to all the crew listed in the links section that in some shape or form have helped me continue to train, race, and represent TeamMC. Stay tuned as Gina and I plan to start doing our Ironsherpa Services at local races!!

2010 RACE RESULTS

Date Race Location Overall Age Group
3/13 Kings Park 15K Smithtown, NY 14 1
3/28 Suffolk County Half-Marathon Suffolk, NY 4 1
4/18 Homes For Heros 5k Rockaway Beach, NY 4 1
5/2 Long Island Half Marathon Eisenhower Park, NY 7 2
5/30 Ironclad Sprint Triathlon Glen Cove, NY 11 1
6/5 Macarthur Airport 5K Islip, NY 1 1
6/27 Katie’s Run 5K New Hyde Park, NY 1 1
7/1 Independence Sprint Triathlon Eisenhower Park, NY 2 1
7/25 Long Beach Warriors 5K Long Beach, NY 2 1
8/14 SBR Sprint Triathlon Lake Sebago, NY 13 3
8/28-29 Hood To Coast Relay –
Big Kahunas Team
Mt. Hood, OR 20 2
9/15 Toughman Half Ironman Tarrytown, NY 29 5
10/2 US Halfmax Half
Ironman Championships
Myrtle Beach, SC 68 13

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