About a month ago, we planned on trying to spend a weekend back home visiting Gina’s sisters on Long Island and getting to see her Dad. Being able to visit without a bunch of snow on the ground would also be a plus. The crew at Polar sponsor a race series on Long Island during the summer, so in the schedule was an Olympic distance triathlon in Riverhead called Riverhead Rocks!, which is about 40 minutes east of where they live, on a Sunday early morning. Wayne was able to get me into the race as a brand ambassador for Polar, so we planned a 4 day weekend of it. This time we would even fly into Islip airport on LI to make traveling easier on everyone too. Thanks to Melissa and James at IOS, I was able to ship the Black Widow via FedEx a few days before we left. Awesome, seamless arrangements to reduce any stress associated with air travel. an added bonus was the prompt service I received from fellow runner friend Robert Heck, a dentist in uptown at (, who made sure my dead tooth was removed in plenty of time and without incident. Mad props to Jody Dennis for keeping an eye on Holmes for us too while we were away!
I had been training well and we both had heavy workloads this past week, so by Thursday we were so looking forward to the trip. The weather was predicted to be in the low 80′s which would be a welcomed relief from this heat and humidity.

An early flight means an early exit. Despite only a few hours sleep, we awoke around 4am to light rain (what?) but that stopped by the time we left the house. Since we were flying Southwest, we checked our free bags in and whizzed through security like travel pros. Some Coffee and we were good. The only thing wrong still is the fact that yahoos continue to board with big bags and try to lift them in the overhead. Punks, it’s FREE and you still can’t check that stuff? The social phenomenon that is “Have 3 Seats Don’t Choose the Middle One” is proven with Southwest’s random seating. Hilarious. We did manage to sit together but had to sit in different seats on the Baltimore connection. Gina even sat between a MARRIED couple!! For me though, short planes rides of an hour or so do indeed provide the perfect time to unplug and reflect. We did arrive on time by 11am and we picked up by Susie right at the front. We began our relaxing Friday in their company as we ate well, swam, I put the Black Widow together, and we capped the evening with a backyard dinner with plenty of Jimmy’s sangria. Plenty. We were ready for an early bedtime, but we were happy to be safe, home with family.

Saturday we awoke refreshed to a awesome 6am sunrise. I went for the pre-race workout of a run through the hood followed by a quick bike ride. Good pancake breakfast and was solid start to the day. Gina and Susie went to relax with facials as my Polar friend Rivas swung by to not only drop off some papusas but was kind enough to offer me a lift to packet pick up. We got to catch up and talk going there and back and was good to check in with him and see how the company was doing. The whole round trip was faster than I expected, but we seemed to beat all the afternoon beach traffic. I went for a quick swim and settled in until Gina got back with her other sister Christina as they drove into Astoria to take her Dad out to lunch. All was good as they got back in time for her to relax a bit, then we went to Mass with Christina. Reflective indeed, a beautiful church very community oriented too. Dinner was take out Chinese food – yum yum! Haven’t had that in a long time, but knew what was safe to order pre-race anyway. We rested well by lounging a bit in her backyard as the sun set. Good times man. By 9pm, it was time to head back to Susie’s (they attended a friends BBQ which was a previous commitment) and settle in for another early start. The race began at 6:50am so we had to be out the door by 5am.

I was pretty excited to race, so the first few hours of sleep were deep, but by 2am, I seem to be checking the time every hour. We got up at 4, but I felt rested and ready to race! Everything was organized and we all got there in plenty of time. Riverhead Rocks Triathlon is in its 4th year and consists of a 1 mile swim in the warm calm waters of  Peconic Bay, a 26 mile bike ride in a rectangular one loop of the Riverhead region, and a flat 6.2 mile run right in downtown. Certainly spectator friendly and with only 250 athletes participating, makes transition area much easier for everyone. EventPower LI has a series of races throughout Long Island and an great staff of volunteers to make it happen. I was only concerned about how much cooler the weather would be out here, but with little wind and almost 70 degrees, it was ideal weather! I was excited to race and represent Polar, along with having 3 awesome fans by my side. I set up everything, got my gear on, and strapped up in the wetsuit.
It was a time trial start so I seeded myself in the 25-28 minute group. There was a 20-24 minute group, but with everyone going off every 5 seconds, I figured give myself more room in the water. I kissed Gina, Susie, and Chris before making my way along the boardwalk. I focused in on the tasks at hand. As swimmers jumped into the water, I took my 3 deep breaths, and got ready to rock.
Not knowing how warm the water was, as I jumped in on cue, I welcomed a nice and warm entrance. I immediately started swimming and navigating the first bout, as we headed into the direct sunrise. It wasn’t bad and I was happy there was plenty of room to easily find that rhythm, and start passing people. I found a great groove and kicked with ease. Each stroke I got more distance and just reeled people in. The interesting part of the water were the many pockets of cold water within the bay, but just spots of it here and there. That and the one THUD I came across which sounded like I swam over someone but didn’t really know for sure. Otherwise, no big contact. I was moving very well and just stayed with it. I didn’t know exactly where the exit ramp began since we turned the final bout back into the sun, but when the swimmer in front of me popped up, I joined at that same moment, only to realize it was the deck where we hoisted ourselves out of. On two feet, I made my way to transition. 1 mile swim in a nice 24 minutes.

Got the wetsuit off quick and check listed everything on me for the ride. Out to dismount and with cheers from the ladies, clipped in and made my way out for a ride. I got into a nice gear and selected a good cadence to churn away. After a few miles we headed east and with it a slight headwind. I was aero and tuned into the road happy to be picking off a few fish ahead and surprisingly open road. Staying in a nice heart rate zone I used my RC3 to dial in distances and sip my drink from my Clean Bottle on cue. Around 10 miles in, a few groups of riders came by drafting each other from the wind. There was a group of 4 who rode by and clearly blocked cars trying to pass safely as they rode 2-3 abreast. No referee here. I backed off further for safety but no sooner did that group fly by that another group of 3 came on me. They got a bit ahead as I allowed them by rule of course, but it was clear they were taking turns pulling. I got closer to see a few of them in my age group. These were also “bigger” guys weight wise, so I knew I would smoke them on the run, but I also didn’t want them to use this illegal advantage to get way ahead of me. I tested them by passing them legally and getting ahead, only to have them come back and together pass me up. “Some wind out there” one of them said to me. “Suck it up bro, it’s Long Island!” I replied.
So I came up with a plan knowing my current situation. Knowing we would head back west at the 20 mile mark – and with it a nice tailwind – I set my pace up to stay within a few bike lengths and readied for an attack to just smoke them. I took a sip of drink, saw the 20 mile mark go by, and changed gears to make a pass. And with a fury I rode hammer style and just kept it up, no looking back. Want to draft? Try. Focusing on my breathing, cadence, and road in front, I just kept the pressuring. I pass 26 miles and know I am back in town. I prep for the final left turn to transition, and now think run. I dismount as a dude right behind me starts thanking me for “the pull”. I think the Punk was drafting me! So I kindly ssay “You are welcome”.  But this train now won’t let anyone on board for the run. I finish in 1 hour, 12 minutes averaging 20.7 mph. And my legs feel great.

I take less than a minute to get in run mode. I exit and give a point to the ladies. I hear one volunteer say I am #18?. It takes a mile, but now I am at pace. I use the first 3 mile loop to gauge the course and pick people off. Chomp chomp. My pace quickens as I feel the section with a good tailwind. Lap 1 done as I wave again to the ladies. I am in full tilt mode and I pick it up. I dial in the next person ahead. Chomp. I cheer on a fellow Polar athlete wearing his gear. He says “Go Polar!” Making the final turn for the final mile, and with that tailwind, I push. I know I got this. I make the slight left into the finishing chute, giving a salute to the ladies as I cross the line in 2:16! I finish the 6.2 mile run segment in 37:57, a 6:07 pace and fastest run time overall. I give a
Big hug and kiss to each Gina, Susie, and Chris. Water bottle pour overhead customary! Done did and awesome!!! I place 5th overall and win my age group. Let the MORE partying begin!!

Full race results here:

And the 3 ladies help make it happen:

We spend the next 2 hours walking around, stretching, relaxing in the vast sunshine that is this day again. Soak it all up. Story recapping. More hugs and kisses. Good times indeed. A SUN-day giving thanks for sure. It was almost 11:30 by the time I got my awards and we quickly headed home for the drive and pool dip. Gina and I refreshed with such a dip and then I devoured a good LI cinnamon raisin bagel with Nutella and PB. Yum. Refuel. The rest of the afternoon was just enjoying some downtime, trying to take a nap, and packing up the Black Widow for her trip home. Gina’s nephew James made a rum punch which was alternative to sangria and we ate darn well for an early dinner. Weather was so awesome this entire weekend. Soon we called it an early night to make sure we got plenty of sleep, knowing most of the day/evening Monday would be spent traveling home. We slept well that night. With deep smiles in our hearts and faces.

We got up at 6 and took a nice 3 mile walk together, then joined her sisters for another 2 miles along the Sunken Meadow Boardwalk. Dropped the bike off at the local shipping joint, relaxed a bit more making sure we were all packed up, then headed with them for the airport. We gave her sisters big hugs and kisses goodbye. Granted our return flight tested our patience immensely as we were delayed some 3 hours from Baltimore and didn’t get in the door home till almost midnight, but we knew overall though this was one trip we all needed and all needed together. Success all around this weekend. Teamwork. Friends. Family. Amen.

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