I was registered for the inaugural Carolina Half Ironman back in June through AAA Carolinas, who has sponsored me through their triathlon team last year and this year. I planned to use this race as a test for an ironman I was to do in October, but the Ironman was ruled out after I qualified for the World Championships 70.3. I intended to keep it on the schedule as per sponsorship obligation, but didn’t know how much the WC 70.3 race would take out of me – and was my main goal race for the year. The first week we got back I did easy, recovery type training – basic, monitored heart rate through my Polars and PPT programs, kept my mind at ease, and do all the other year-ending type stuff I do. But the past 2 weeks I went into a nice build block where I put in the hours, kept the intensity in check, and made sure of all things, my body AND mind were ready for another half-ironman. I can’t emphasize enough how cautious I was. I slept more for sure as this whole daylight thing winds down. SAD man. Borderline burnout, fried, no, no way bro. I still got to be the only one to use the complex outdoor pool since it gave me a chance to use the BlueSeventy wetsuit and tolerate colder water for sure! Gina was the ever watchful eyes as well which always helps.

So the week of the race we tried to analyze the race logistics. It was to be in Davidson, which was a short drive up north, but it was to be a point-point race which we aren’t too fond of. Gina thinks having to drive from one transition to another is such a hastle to spectators, and can create a bumble-f in most cases. However, reading the instructions from SetUp Events, it was very detailed. Specific. Kind of made us at ease. They planned to bus both racers AND spectators back and forth. They had all the counties involved in the race on board. We still planned to get up at 3:30am and get there early to handle everything. Considering we did this 3 weeks ago, I think we were more than ready for the stresses. Come Friday, I finished all my training sessions for the year. I stayed relaxed. The weather was suppose to be in the 50′s on Sunday, so I had all my gear laid out in case I had to wear layers on the bike. But on Friday afternoon – it was time to rock. By that I mean my friend Brad Mintz had tickets for us to see Metallica’s movie. Holy Amplifier! What a way to get supercharged. I met him as we went to the Stonecrest center but not before enjoying a SmashBurger. Awesome start. Then for a 7pm show, we got our 3D glasses (oh yes, in IMAX) and settled in almost front row with the other 20 metal heads in the theatre. It was great!!!! I always wondered how it would be to attend a metal concert and this rocked!! Inner-vation man. That’s what I’m talking about. It was over by 9, and we still had our hearing, but for sure, we were ready for race weekend (he was doing a 15K on Sunday.) MASTER! MASTER!

Saturday Gina and I went for our usual walk, then I spent the day at CRC working. She did her chores and then we went to Mass, and tried to make sure everything was set. A hectic pre-race day, but we got to enjoy a meal of our sure bet Chris Hamlett special skirt-steak and fries out on the patio. We went over the game plan and knocked ourselves out with some TurkeyHill Whoopie Pie ice cream. As usual too, I wore my 110% knickers to sleep for extra compression and slept very solid considering it was a race night. Usually I am ansy, excited, going over the race plan in my head, but tonight, solid blank slate.

We got up at 3:30, did our usual pre-race setup, I Aquaphored up, strapped on the Polar, donned the AAA gear, had all the stuff loaded and by 4:10 we were out the door. Fortunately, even though it was in the 50′s, it was overcast and comfortable. Not chilly at all. We arrived around 4:45 to transition 1 where we got my race packet, set up the Black Widow 2, surveyed the scene, got bodymarked, and made our way to T2 which was 7 miles away. Smooth. Instructions easy, we parked right in place, made the short walk to T2, got my timing chip, set up the Sayonara’s and run gear, each of hit an empty port-o-john, and boom were done. The buses back to the start were reved up, so all we had to do was chill out. Awesome instructions to the crew at SETUP. And it helps to have an experienced Ironsherpa by your side, but right on!!! We had time to text a few friends – namely Brad, Jody, and Ashley who were running that 15K and were just getting up – motivating us all. We got on the bus and by 6:15 we were back to the start, doublechecked everything and now just had to wait till the 7:30 start. Everything was brewing nicely for a great day. A little windy and I still had intended to wear gloves and a windbreaker on the bike. Gina loved the fact that Summit Coffee was out there serving free coffee and she got charged up. Always make sure the Ironherpa is ready. She LOVED everything so far. Bus, coffee, easy setup, she made sure to complement everyone in charge of the event. By 7am, we walked to the swim start but first I dropped off some shoes at the race finish – advised since it was more than a 1/4 mile run from the swim exit to the bikes. The water temp was 76, so with a wetsuit, wasn’t going to be an issue. by 7:30, the race was delayed a bit from racers getting to the beach start, so I got lathered up again, put the wetsuit on, and stayed loose. I was in the 4th wave start – each going off in 5 minute sets – so gave me ample time for us to get focused. Now it was time. Now I knew, game on. Get charged up. Dial in. Final race man, let’s do this. As the first few waves went off, I scanned the scene. It was a beach start, everyone jump in the water, and a straight out swim to the bouys. I planned far left start, contact minimal. I gave Gina a big kiss and hug. Now I was ready.

I lined up right in front. My entire 40-44 age group was in this wave. All the Open and younger age groups were off. Chase time. I was on the far left ankles in the warm water. This dude then decides to line up next to me on the left, but his body was angled right as if to be ready to cut in front of me. WTF? Wasn’t going to happen. As the countdown from 30 seconds was announced, I took 3 deep breaths. All in.

The horn sounds and I bust his move. I take 5 step jumps and dive in. No issue, no contact. I churn and as soon as I pass the first bouy, its rhythmic. Kicking solid. Breathing, legit. The line of sight was great since the overcast hid the sun most of the day. I hit the first tun and now I am into it. All is smooth and I am warming up nicely to plan. I soon catch swimmers in the wave ahead of us. Mind was all into Kick-Stroke, Breath, repeat – feel the water. Enjoying it. Whoa, had to watch a few instances of hitting folks, but I had a nice visual as I approached them and easily adjusted around them. I saw swim caps from 2 waves ahead. I knew I was having a good swim. Once I approached shore, I mentally hashed up my transition plan. Got it, get outta here. Up on the dock, I found my shoes right there, and began the jog to the bike. I had the wetsuit coming off and was able to give a shout to Gina. As I jogged with the wetsuit half off, it felt warm. I doubled up on my AAA Carolinas tops from each year so I decided to skip the gloves and jacket. I was outta transition and onto the Black Widow 2 in about 2 minutes. Swim Time for 1.2 miles - 30:39

I had the RC3 GPS set and was off. Spin it out a bit and warm up here. Stay smooth. It was a hilly course, but was ready for it. I got settled in by 5 miles and was even passing a good share of folks. To be honest, I was very happy with my ride. It stayed warm, I was in zones right on, steady state, passed a good bunch of people in the waves ahead (39 and younger dudes) and only had a handful of uber guys pass me. The police and volunteers on the course were great. It was a big loop with multiple turns at intersections and they held the traffic with ease and safely. Big props. The roads were on and off. Meaning some were a little bumby, but a nice mix of smooth areas to crank. It was windy in North directions which was the first half of the bike ride. But I was dialed in. My fuel was usual – big bottle of GU Roctane, one gel, and an EFS flask. Big sips of drink every 5 miles, at mile 20 I had a EFS sip, BUT for some reason at mile 25 I hear the sound of a water bottle drop and it was my EFS flask. Ok, no biggie, I had the gel for mile 30 as backup and I was rolling well and no hunger, faigue issues. I was setting up my ride as planned. In synch, attack hills, keep legs fresh. So at mile 30 I go and reach for the gel and THAT was gone. WTF???? Ok, so now it was rationing time. Though there were aid stations every 15 miles, it was only water. I was confident I could get through the ride with what I had to drink, but didn’t know if it would be enough for running wild after. I monitored my fatigue by how well I kept my mind focused. Ooooo, that’s a nice house. Stuff like that. No negatives. I was catching groups at hilly sections and was now at mile 45 not getting passed. It thinned out pretty good so I just spoke to myself about the year. Ride with it. Feel it. That’s how it goes for me on the bike. I did relieve myself only once in stride so I knew I was hydrated. I had maybe one sip left of my drink when I saw the 55 mile mark on the road. Ok, roll it in. Get the run legs ready. This puppy is in the bag. Let’s roll. I unclip and head to the run gear. 56 mile ride – 2:54

I rack the bike, slip on the run gear and head out all within 90 seconds. I jog pass Gina and give her a kiss. Pac-Man time. I use the first mile to settle in. 6:20. The sun was out but still like not even 70. I made sure to grab a gel at the first aid station. The key was to get chomping on places and make sure I didn’t cramp or blow up due to lack of calories. Tap in. The next few miles dip into the low 6:10ish pace and I am loosened up. It starts to get hilly and by far, it is a tough run course. You take a left into a park/trail area. I give James Haycraft props and a slap as he had his race win in the bag. I start to roll folks and those in my age group in bunches. Once the trail section it, it was climbs, dips, pure XC course type. You’re on this for a good 2.5 miles out, then back. Only water at aid stations. I pass fellow Kahunas Kathy “Ice” Rink while giving her a pat and shout. She was rolling well. I make the turnaround and now know the path back. So now it was time to rock. Yes, cue Metallica, Bullets for My Valentine, etc. I now focus on each and every age marker on the calfs of runners I pass. Another 40-er down. Chomp. And more. The bulk of the pack was in the 20-30 range too. Crank bro. I hit mile 10 with a 5:56 split. (later I found out from the guy who finished second in my AG that it was here I won the AG as he said he tried to run with me). I had no clue, so I kept at it. There was no 11 mile mark. A guy on a bike cheers me by saying “Bro, 5 guys ahead all yours.” Sure enough, chomped. I now hit mile 12 and last 2 miles at 6:04 each. Here it is. All you got man. As I make the turn onto the last straightaway road, I see one more guy. Could he be in my AG? I booked it. No seriously, booked it. I am getting cheered by spectators since I am close to the finish. “Catch him!!” I hear. I try to stay “silent” as I get near. I am sprinting now. With 100 yards to go I PASS the guy and he immediately books it in fear. I try to match but I was at max and on the verge of spasm. I glance at his leg as he jets and he is 31. With that I ease the final 10 steps and fist pump the crowd. I finish the 13.1 mile run in 1:21 – fastest run split in the race.

I cross the line and soak it in. Gina is right there and she is excited at my finish! A huge long hug and kiss right there at the finish. Oh what a relief! Love man. “Dude, you smoked it!!!” Gina says. She shows me the roving results in a tent near the finish. I was 15th overall and won my age group by 3 minutes! Best, I finished in 4:50, more than 17 minutes faster than the WC 70.3 just three weeks ago!!! Awesome way to end the year!!! I immediately walked around, stuffed 2 cans of diet soda in my tights and walked more. Soak it all in. The sun was out, weather couldn’t have been more perfect. For the next 2 hours, Gina and I rehashed the day, did more walking around, cheered on more finishers, spoke to a few fellow racers we knew, just hangin’ man. We met Benji Jones, the meet director, and she again, gave his crew props. She was really impressed with the event. We didn’t know when the award ceremony would occur, so we took the bike, wetsuit, gathered all the gear and packed the Xterra while also hydrating, stretched, had a snack (4000 cals burned on only 500 calories), and made our walk back to the finish. We hung out some more, took pictures, tweeted, emailed, etc. and didn’t realize how late it was getting. Total enjoyment, total smiles on all.  It was now almost 3pm and based on results I moved up to 13th place after all was said and done. An announcement was made that the awards were at 3:45, so we made the decision to bolt home as we were hungry and tired (stinky, salt crusted as well man). The last thing we needed was to get stuck in I-77 traffic. We got home quick and by 4pm we were having iced coffee, donuts, and bananas (Pocketfuel sandwich and Metrx of course – recovery bro). We unpacked, settled back home and it sure didn’t feel like a Sunday. Gina crashed for a half hour and I downloaded my race data, tweeted some more, and emailed brief race reports. I saw JBrad, Jody, and Ashley did awesome at their 15K. Fellow Kahuna Cowgirl redeemed her own half-ironman at Augusta 70.3. Everyone seemed to have fine results.  I was now subsiding on energy fumes. We ordered a few subs from Penn Station and drank a bottle of sanagria on the pation for dinner. We listened to the crickets and smell of citronella candles. What a way to call it a day. We talked and recapped the year. We celebrated US. We toasted US. Just like the song by Halestorm – “Here’s to Us”. Gina and I cherish these moments. We know the time, dedication put into all of our efforts. We smile as we enjoying seeing the smile on the other end when the result is all done. Trust, we seek to find, and together we do. By 9:30pm we were all spent and in for a solid sleep.

Up early on a Monday and now it’s rest time. I still did an hour worth of spin, and will jump in the pool in a few to soothe out the body. Now is the day I feel the soreness. I scheduled a massage by Jessica at The Sports Massage LLC and rightfully so. I have 2 half ironmans in me and she’ll – as she’s done this entire year – really hammer out the kinks. I have to give huge shout outs to AAA Carolinas, specifically Taylor Holy,  for being my primary sponsor this year, and look forward to the awards dinner in Pinehurst next week to meet all involved. The Xterra looks forward to her massive overhaul too!! Also to Polar and the crew of Chris Zoller, Wayne Vartabedian, Matt Rivas, Willie, and Alberto up there in NY. Been bleeding Polar red all this years and always will. Aquaphor for the skin protection, Heather over at Pocketfuel for the alternative to my Biscoff and PB staples, Melissa and crew over at IOS and Zach at Bicycle Sports for their constant help during the year, Thom at MetroFitness, 110% PlayHarder, MetRx, Peyton at ProHealth Distributors for the H2Overdrive, my involvement with Mike at Chariots of Freedom, and TEAMMC of course, all in there individual special traits. I am happy to announce that next year I will also be a sponsored athlete for Team Wheaties. Yes, that Wheaties!! In addition, I am pursuing other ventures outside of my duties at Charlotte Running Co, and will be more involved with those areas come the end of October. Stay tuned to this as it develops. I will post more on that in the next few weeks. Now it’s time to “play”. Amen YO.



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