Well its been a less than ideal end to my 2015 season. After completing the first 10 Ironmans I entered, I had my first 2 DNF’s at the end of this season. Since I didn’t complete either race, I’m going to roll them up into a combined race report.
I put on a camp with some clients, NEMSers and friends 3 weekends before the race. The camp went very well and we all got some great training in on the course. It was great to get down there and check out the course. I definitely was able to confirm it is super flat and it was great prep to get to spend some time on a flat course as its hard to simulate that flat of terrain in NH. Here is some brief video from our time in Cambridge.
Ironman Maryland was my A race for this year and was the only Ironman I had planned for the season. I wanted to race some half Ironmans and pass on Kona for a year to save some money and spend some more time with the family. My season had been going extremely well up to this race and since there was no professional field, my goal was to win the race. As the race approached, there was a storm heading Maryland’s way. There were rumors that it could cause issues, but I didn’t think much of it. So the Wednesday before the race, my wife, Calvin, Eli, and I packed up and started the drive to Maryland. We stopped in CT for a night to try to break the trip for the boys and that worked out pretty well. However, when we were a little less than an hour from Cambridge on Thursday, we got word the race had been at last postponed, and maybe cancelled. This was a real let down. We immediately turned around and drove all the way. It ended up being over 12 hours of driving that day and it was a mental suck for sure. However, we heard the race should only be postponed for 2 weeks. This definitely is not ideal from a training perspective as I had been tapering the last 3 weeks, but what are you gonna do? The good news is I was able to get the time off from work and I would be able to compete. I felt really bad for the folks that came from other parts of the world and would not be able to make it back in 2 weeks.
Exactly 2 weeks later, the family and I attempted the trek to MD again. This time we stopped in Jersey for a night, but we successfully made it to Cambridge and the race was still on. We stayed at a nice little bed and breakfast and the gal who owned it was very nice and we enjoyed our time there. It was about 2 miles from the transition area so Kristen would be able to walk there on race day. A little bit far, but some people were much further away. I was feeling good heading into the race despite the additional taper. However, I will admit the training the 2 weeks leading up to the race we challenging. Nonetheless, I was excited and was ready to go out there and try to win this Ironman. Here is a pic of some clients and NEMS members at our prerace dinner:
Stacy and Randy picked me up the morning of the race (thanks guys!) and spent most of the lead up to the race with Jim, Craig, and Larry. As the start got closer, we got word that they were postponing it 30-45 minutes and shortening the swim to 1.2 miles due to the current. However, they then changed it again to a 3000 meter swim. Given the swim is my weakest leg, I didn’t really have a problem with it., but just wanted to get going.
When the race started, I was side by side with who I thought would be my biggest competition, Christopher Thomas. I raced Chris a couple times this year. He smoked me in Syracuse, but I was able to barely beat him at Timberman. He’s a nice guy, a family man, played hockey growing up so we have a lot in common and we chatted leading up to the start. He is a better swimmer than me so I was just hoping to not lose too much group during the swim. The swim was 2 loops. The first loop went well and I was feeling good. I was sighting well and felt like I was staying right in the mix. The 2nd lap was a bit more challenging due to having to pass tons of people that were on their first lap. However, when I got out of the water, I saw Chris just up ahead of me. I couldn’t believe it and was very happy as I headed into T1.
As I headed out on the bike, Chris was just out in front of me. However, within 5 miles or so, I had moved up ahead of him. As we headed out onto the 2 loop section of the course, I was feeling great and my power was right where I wanted it to me. Here is the explanation of my day that I posted on my Facebook page the day of the race:
“Well, not my day today. Was feeling great and was ahead of a guy I thought was my biggest competition and whom I didn’t expect to pass until the run. At around mile 30, my rear tire flatted. I tried using my pitstop and it took air, but slowly leaked out again. At that point I ended riding over 20 miles on my flat and still managed 20+ mph begging each volunteer and police offer to send tech support. I stop at one IM vehicle and asked him to call and he assured me he would get them to me. I tried to keep a positive attitude and figured the win was probably out of the question, but if I ran my ass off, maybe I could pull off a come from behind Kona slot. Eventually I saw an Enterprise van with its hazards on so I waved like crazy but they blew past me. I figured they must not have been support. Finally at the end of the first loop, I saw another IM truck so I stopped and asked him for help. He told me I would have to stay in one place if I wanted to get help. So I pulled over and he called support me again. After waiting 35+ minutes, they finally came (it was the enterprise truck) and told me they didn’t have anymore wheels and said sorry. They had one spear wheel and they gave it to another guy while they out “trying to find me.”
So a very disappointing day to say the least. I realize each participant should be able to support themselves, but I would lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t extremely disappointed in the tech support supplied. I believe I was up to 8th place when I flatted and I’m a bit perplexed by the lack of support to the leaders. However, I’m ok and I’ll live to race another day. Getting some lunch now, will shower up, and then head down to support our other clients/members. :)”
Let’s just say I can now really relate to Norman Stadler and his disappointment in Kona in a similar situation during his hay day:
After I got my stuff from transition, I went back to the B&B, showered, and then decided to head back to the race with the family. We got back there just in time to hear them announcing the overall winner coming across the line for the win. That was really tough and I honestly wanted to cry when that was happening. However, I was happy to be at the race and to have the opportunity to route on some clients and friends. It was a lot of fun doing so and I was pumped that one of my clients and a friend of mine both got Kona slots. Congrats Jim and Randy!!!
On the way home, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to try to get into another Ironman this season or just call it a year. Cozumel was still open and my buddy Elliot was doing Arizona so I was very tempted. I was also feeling very fit and really wanted to get my 2016 Kona slot this season. However, I also took a new job at Extra Hop Networks on 8/31 so my plan was to enjoy the off season and spend some extra time trying to ramp. This is another technology company so its in the same space as my former employer, but it is a MUCH different technology and I knew I had a lot of work to do in ordered to get up to speed. I am pretty much always walking a very fine line juggling family, work, coaching, and training. I had to make a decision quickly, but did give it some thought first.
My competitiveness and desire to qualify for Kona this year won the battle and I managed to score a Ironman Arizona entry through the SmileTrain Foundation. I had to raise $5000 in a short period of time, but thanks to the amazing support of my family and friends, I was able to raise the money. Training for IMAZ was challenging as well. I was getting everything in, but I was traveling a lot for work, it was getting cold out, and there were some mental battles for sure heading into the race.
We decided to leave Calvin with Nanna, my wife’s mother, for our trip to Arizona. Eli did pretty well on the plane, but it is definitely tough traveling with small children. I did have a cough and a bit of a cold for just about a week leading up to the race. However, I didn’t really think much of it and was pretty excited to be racing. It was also going to be another opportunity for me to hang out and race against Elliot. Elliot is a good friend and I really enjoy hanging out with him when I can. We spent a lot of time hanging out together and we enjoyed the couple days leading up to the race. I also had some friends from NH and my coach out there which was great.
The first ride I did once I got to AZ, I got another flat. I was livid! I really couldn’t believe it as this was now the 2nd flat I had gotten since IM Maryland (4th in about 2 months). I had never had issues like this with my tubulars and was completely baffled by my issues. Just a run of bad luck? Perhaps, but immediately decided that I was not going to race on my tubulars that weekend. I ended up going to Tribe Multisport and they hooked my up with a similar setup to what I had been running all year, a Zipp 808 front and Zipp disc rear. However, these were clinchers. I rode those a few times prior to the race and didn’t have any issues so I felt more confident with them than if I went with my tubulars. Once I got that squared away, the rest of the lead up to the race was nice.
I will admit I did wake up race morning feeling a bit tired, which was a first. I don’t recall that ever being the case before an Ironman. Normally I am too excited to notice any fatigue. Nonetheless, I felt alright and was ready to get out there and race.
The swim was ok for me, but not great. It was a time trial start and you couldn’t get in the water prior to the start. There was a bit big bottleneck getting into the water, but once I got settled in and got used to the water temperature, I felt pretty good. However, the buoys were laid out a bit different than I expected. I thought the swim was a rectangle, but the buoys seemed to weave in and out a bit. As a result, I didn’t feel like I was swimming a direct route by staying along the buoys. I did have some contact during the start of the swim and throughout the swim, but overall it wasn’t bad. I felt fine during the swim, but was a bit disappointed to come out of the water and see 1:02. I didn’t let it affect me much, but I was expecting and water to be under an hour.
Transition 1 went fine and I got out on the bike ready to crank. I had a little trouble keeping my power down to start the ride, but felt quite good on the first loop of the bike. I was passing quite a few people and I think only got passed by one person on the first loop. As I was finishing the first loop, I passed Amber Ferreira who looked like she was doing well, as always, and it was nice to see a familiar face. The second loop was more of the same. I was feeling pretty good and my power was right where I wanted to be. I hadn’t seen Elliot all day, but I ended up catching up to him right around at the turnaround. I actually thought he had been behind me, but I was happy to see he was going well. He ended up hanging with me for a while (legally and outside of the draft zone) and that ended up being the case for the rest of the 2nd lap. On the 3rd lap is when the wheels started to fall off. The winds shifted their direction, it started to rain, and my power + heart started to drop. I was surprised that my HR was dropping. My legs didn’t really feel tired, but I felt the rain just sucked the life out of me. My head started to feel a bit funkie and I felt a bit out of it. At that point, I really wanted to get off the bike. I just did my best to keep going and ended up being about 5 minutes slower on my 3rd lap than the first 2 laps, but I had a 4:50 bike split. There have been many times in training and racing that I have felt horrible coming off the bike and then all of the sudden felt great once I got running.
This was not going to be the case today. I struggled a bit in transition and as soon as I headed out on the run, I knew something was wrong. I was wheezing and despite my low HR, I couldn’t catch my breath. My coach was out near the start of the run and I told him I didn’t feel great. He told me I was doing fine and to keep going. By the time I got to the first aid station, I just felt totally off and despite my HR continuing to drop, I could not get my breathing under control. I continued to try and when I got back to my coach (its just a short out and back to start the run), I stopped at him and told him something was wrong. I kept coughing like crazy and just stood there for probably a minute or so. He kept telling me I needed to try and to give it a go so I continued on. I continued like this and was passed my Elliot and Amber not long after. As Elliot went by, he asked me if I was ok and I immediately said no. I slugged along until just past mile 5. During that time, my pace had dropped to around 9 minute miles and there hadn’t been any improvement with my breathing/wheezing. As a result, I stopped at the aid station and asked for some help. They got someone from medical and they chatted with me and asked me about what was going on. Despite stopping, I didn’t get any closer to catching my breath and I know my day was done. They put me in an ambulance and I headed to the hospital. I had never had asthma before, but it kind like what people with asthma had described to me. However, I still had no idea what was wrong.
After about an hour at the hospital and probably 90 minutes or so after I stopped racing I was still coughing a lot, but my breath was at least getting under control. Finally after about 3 hours at the hospital, they told me that I had pneumonia. I was a bit surprised by this, but given my cough and cold the week leading up to the race, it kinda made sense. I was obviously not thrilled to hear I had pneumonia, but it was nice to at least have an idea what happened. They prescribed me some antibiotics and said I would be fine if I took it easy and got plenty of rest. I had the pleasure of putting my soiled tri suit back on to take an Uber back to the hotel in the rain.
It was a tough day out there for me and for most of my friends as well. My buddy Andrew Fast DNF’ed, Amber had her first IM DNF, John Rymes DNF’ed, and Elliot toughed it out and PR’ed, but ended up 4th in our age group resulting. There were only 3 slots in our age group so he didn’t get his slot. There was some rough conversation as the breakfast table the next morning when we got together.
So within a month’s time, I went from a 10x Ironman finisher with no DNF’s to still being a 10x finisher with 2 DNF’s and still no Kona slot for 2016. What that the game plan? Heck no! It is a bit frustrating to be put in all that work, sacrifice time away from my family, and only a couple Ironman backpacks to show for it. However, after some time to reflect, I am ok with this outcome. I trained hard this year, I am ranked #1 in the world by Ironman for the 70.3 distance, and I learned a lot from a coaching perspective. I do have one 70.3 DNF under my belt that happened in Syracuse at the inaugural Syracuse 70.3 back in 2012 when I broke a spent and bent my wheel, but besides that, I have been very fortunate and I have been able to finish all my races. This recent disappointment had just made me appreciate how fortunate I have been in the past and how lucky I am to have the success I have had thus far in this sport. From a coaching perspective, this should also help me relate better to any of my clients that have to battle through these types of disappoints. I certainly hope not to have to use this experience with my clients often, but I do see a lot of value there.
So what’s up next? Some much needed rest! By the time I publish this, I’ll have laid quite low for almost a month. I spent two weeks doing no training, but then did run the Mill Cities Relay for the Gate City Striders. That went quite well and despite only doing 3-4 runs between IMAZ and the race, I still managed to run a 5:53/mile pace for the 9.5 mile leg I ran. I didn’t have any breathing issues and I am confident that I have kicked the pneumonia. I’m not going to just right back into normal loads of training, but I am going get back to it.
I’ve been trying to spend some extra time with the family. With my new job, I am traveling a lot and I am still trying to get up to speed with a lot to learn, but I am really enjoying the new gig and I’m learning a lot. The reality is all the travel could cause my training to take a hit, but this helping me become a better coach as I am learning more on how to help my athletes train and be more efficient when they’re on the road. I am also doing my best to complete a year’s worth of household items within a couple week timeframe. The “warm” weather has been much appreciated as the stuff outside has been much more comfortable.
My family is doing quite well. My amazing wife continues to do a great job taking care of the kids, keeping with the house, and looking so beautiful while doing it. I would not be where I am today and as happy as I am if it weren’t for her and her commitment to our family. Calvin just turned 3, started preschool, and is still quite a rascal. His speech is a bit behind where is should be so he’s getting some extra help through the preschool, but we’re having a lot of fun together. El is now 10 months old, is still a complete angel, and would watch Winnie the Pooh 24×7 if we let him. We recently adopted an American Terrier dog and she is a great addition to the family. I would also like to announce that we are expecting our 3rd child in early July. This will certainly add an additional challenge to life, but we’re very excited for our new addition.
So what’s next for me? Here is a look at my tentative 2016 race schedule:
Florida 70.3- probable
Patriot Half Iron
Baby #3 being born
Ironman World Championships
I still have aspirations of going to Kona in 2016. Ironman Texas will be my last shot to get there. With our 3rd child being due in July, its going to add an interesting dynamic to my training and racing. I am hopefully for a nice mild winter so we can get outdoors early this year for riding, but we shall see. Peak Tri Coaching and I will also be hosting some training camps in Lake Placid, Mont Tremblant, and Maryland along the way. Let me know if you’re interested in joining us at any of these camps. They are a ton of fun and we get some awesome training in!
Wow, that was a long one, but thank you for reading. I am going to try to post a bit more regularly here. I hope everyone has an excellent holiday season and is excited to have an amazing 2016!!! J