Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Timberman 70.3 - part 2

My trip to my homeland started with a visit to Kennebunkport, Maine to see my Dad and Stepmom. They treated me to a great dinner, complete with fantastic wine (I came by my love of wine naturally). I can't even describe how relaxing it was to sit on the back deck, looking out on the saltmarshes to the Atlantic Ocean. We were entertained by hummingbirds, Goldfinches and Baltimore Orioles (as in the bird - not the ball players). Of course, I was thinking, "Why do I really need to do another race? I could just stay here."

I headed back to New Hampshire on Thursday. After all, it was my brother Matt's birthday. Matt, by the way, had a great race at Timberman. He finished in 5:30, which was topped off with a super-strong run (1:47). It must've been all those good birthday vibes that contributed to his speedy day.

It was during the birthday dinner that Matt mentioned how much fun it would've been to see each other on the run. This casual comment got my little wheels turning....maybe I could just walk the run...or run half of it...or something.

On Friday, Coach Blake arrived, along with one of my other brothers (and his three awesome sons). Ask Blake to tell you what it's like to go on a Boston Red Sox-themed cornfield maze adventure with me, my mom, and my three nephews. Never a dull moment in the Leahy household!

We enjoyed a laidback pizza dinner on Friday. By this time, two of my sisters-in-law had joined the party. In fact, it really felt like a party! Remember: beer does contain carbs.

On Saturday, Matt, Blake and I headed up to the Timberman registration. Alas, I discovered, despite an email plea, I was still registered as an aquabiker. I tentatively asked the lady in charge (Clare)if I "could-possibly-even-though-I-know-I'm-a-pain-and-it's-okay-if-you-say-no" switch back to the full 70.3 race. She smiled and said, "Yes."

I was in. Gulp.

I completely scored with my transition spot. I was right on the end with lots of space. I also happened to be right next to the wetsuit stripping area AND the start of the run. The only negative was I was fairly far away from the bike start & finish. While I racked my bike, I couldn't help to notice the fairly large waves that the wind kicked up on the lake. This ain't no White Lake, people.

After a 2:30 a.m. wake-up call (you read that right), we - after a quick stop for coffee - headed to the race. We arrived on site close to 4:00 a.m. We were able to park about three rows away from the transition area. I tucked myself in for another hour of rest. Believe it or not, I was able to fall asleep until close to 5:00 a.m. From there, it was the usual pre-race routine (and futile efforts to keep the nerves at bay).

The Swim:
First, the lake is absolutely gorgeous. It was very well-marked (a big relief after IM Brazil). We had plenty of fanfare before the start with the singing of the National Anthem (and the Canadian National Anthem) while crazy guys parachuted in. Yup - kinda like the start of the Super Bowl!
My big goal was to stay calm for once. I started off - and worked to get into a comfortable stroke as soon as possible. No panic attacks! I even managed to hang with my red cap wave for most of the time. However, after the final turn, I (along with everyone else) was slapped in the face constantly by chop. I swallowed a big gulp of water - and had to stop while I coughed and sputtered (and panicked a bit). I quickly realized that it was easier to swim when my head was IN the water, so off I went.
I am not used to being in such an early wave, so it was tricky and somewhat unnerving for me (just as Kate O mentioned in her blog) to stake out my spot in the water. At one point, I literally used some dude behind me as a swim wall. As he was trying to swim over me, I kicked off of him (both legs, mind you). He backed off. Don't mess with a trigirl!
Next time, I need to become more comfortable swimming more and sighting less. I think my habit of sighting so much definitely slows me down. Luckily, IM Lake Placid looks as well-marked as Timberman.

The Bike:
When you are surrounded by male swim waves (as we were), you will most likely be passed on the bike...a lot (unless your name is Chrissie Wellington, of course). It seemed that everyone was passing me. But, really now, a 35-year old guy should be a little stronger than me, so I decided to just ride my own race. Like a dummy, I forgot to reset my bike computer, so it really wasn't of much use to me. I decided to just ride like Molly W. Molly rode a perfectly-paced bike split at White Lake. She had a great negative split and was smiling (as she left me in the dust). I kept repeating, "Just ride like Molly." Before I knew it, I was near the turn-around. I (being very sentimental) got teary thinking about seeing my mom. There she was - waiting with a big smile on her face. I turned around to wave at her one more time - and nearly crashed. Yikes. Along the way, I saw Kate O, Shawnie, Lynn and Sarah. My brother Matt passed me in the last 8 miles. By the way, riding the Blue Ridge in preparation for Timberman was a very good idea.

The Run:
In my other half-ironman races, my half-marathon times have all been within a minute or two. However, with this race, I had to focus simply on just doing the run. I didn't worry about my time. I just thought about getting from one water stop to another. The run course was not flat, but it did have spectacular views of the lake. I saw everyone out there - my brother, Blake, Karen, Kate O, Shawn, Lynn, Fave, Melissa, Sharon, Bethany & Bart, Mary, Patti and Sarah. The crowd support, especially at the finish line, was outstanding. They even played music and announced all the finishers - just like a full Ironman.
Matt waited for me at the finish line. We grabbed our freeze pops,towels, medals, and water bottles - and headed to the lake. Blake joined us for a post-race cool down. It felt great to sit in that lake!

Because my time with my family was limited, my brother and I headed out of there fairly quickly. I'm sorry I didn't get to hang out post-race with my fellow trigirls - but I knew Mom was at home waiting - with a hug and a beer. I'd say she's a keeper!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Timberman 70.3 (Part I)

It seems that I didn't quite do what said I was going to do in my last post.

At the very last minute, I switched back to the full 70.3 Timberman adventure.


Because for the very first time, I was racing with my brother. We talked a little about what it would be like to see each other out there on the course....and I got teary. Maybe, just maybe, I could do the whole thing. I promised myself (and Coach Blake) that I would take it very, very easy on the run.

And for the very first time, my mom would be a spectator - along with my sister-in-law and two of my adorable nephews.

And so...the good people of Timberman very kindly let me switch back to doing the full race.

I nearly cried when they let me back into the full race (or perhaps those were tears of panic?)

I did get choked up when I saw my mom out there - cheering and waving. I looked back to wave at her one more time on the bike course - and nearly crashed into another competitor. Oops - not a good move.

More about the actual race experience later...

But, I will state that Timberman is my very favorite half-ironman race (so far) - as well as the hardest one I've completed yet.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Racing from a different perspective

On August 17th, I'll take part in my first-ever Aquabike race at Timberman. This will be quite an interesting experience for me. As many of you know, my favorite part of a triathlon (for some sick reason) is the run. In my defense, I have some good company here including: my brother Matt, Grandison and Rick. (No wonder I love those three!)

I am happy to report that I have been cleared to run again - but I'm not up to 13.1 miles (yet). I figure I'll get my mileage up somewhat in the fall, although I'm still sticking with shorter races (nothing beyond a half-marathon for the rest of 2008).

While I'm excited to take part in Timberman, it feels different and not completely satisfying to miss the run. On the other hand, there have been some bonuses to taking some time of from running, which include:

1. Learning to really "dig" my bike - while I haven't taken part in any of the super-long rides that the IM folks are doing (hey - I already did that earlier in the year!), I have been riding consistently about 3 times/week (teaching schedule permitting). I can honestly write that I've fallen in love with my sweet bike. She and I have been through some great adventures together (a couple of Ironman races, three half-IM races, cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway, and being chased by those darn dogs on route 14). I must admit that my head was turned by the gorgeous Quintana Roo Dolce - but I'm sticking with sweet baby gray. I think she'll love taking on the Lake Placid course.

2. More pool time - I'm not sure if this will make any difference in open water, but swimming has been a great filler while my foot was healing. I'm pretty certain that swimming has helped keep my cardiovascular system working hard while I was off from running.

3. I missed the simple act of stepping outside my door and deciding which gorgeous route to run. Monument Ave? Grove Ave to U of R? Windsor Farms? Today, I chose the Grove Ave to U of R (and up that monster hill) and back route.

It felt great.