As most of you know, I was forced to take some down time after Eagleman 70.3 thanks to a very stressful health issue. In the 2 months leading up to the beginning of my competitive season, I began passing blood, especially after hard training efforts. I did my best to put the issue out of my mind so that I could fully concentrate on gearing myself up both physically and mentally for a fast day at Eagleman on June 10th. I was, in fact, able to hold things together and pulled off a new PR for the 70.3 distance (3:57:53) while placing 8th overall, and taking the overall age group champion title in the process. It was a huge performance break though, but by event’s end, I was pretty spent emotionally thanks to the stress that I had been dealing with for so long. I suspended training, pulled out of my next scheduled race and proceeded to seek medical attention.
A colonoscopy discovered 2 inflammatory polyps that were the source of the bleeding. Luckily, both turned out to be completely benign, but the combination of 3 weeks of very little training and the stress involved with the entire situation really took its toll. I began training seriously again in mid July, but was worried that I might have lost too much of my hard fought fitness to make an impact at Timberman 1 month later.
Thankfully, things went very, very well yesterday.
I was unusually relaxed once Michelle and I arrived in Gilford, NH on Saturday afternoon. We pulled up to the lake house owned by the family of our friends, Eric and Jessi Burgess, and made ourselves at home. The Burgesses were away for the weekend and were kind enough to allow us to stay in their lakeside get-away. The home is located roughly 2 miles from the Timberman finish line, and right on the run course, so logistically speaking, getting to and from the race site couldn’t be easier!
After unpacking and eating a quick lunch, it was off to packet pick-up and bike racking. The legs were feeling pretty good as I spun out on the bike and worked my way through the gears. The day before a long course race, I usually feel completely underpowered and tight. After racking the bike and heading out for a quick 10 min. run, I actually started feeling a little worried by just how loose I was feeling. My legs floated along effortlessly as I ran along the road that runs parallel to Lake Winnipesauke. This was quite a contrast to the way I typically feel the day before an event!
Later that evening, my brother Corey and his girlfriend Cameran arrived and we all headed over to the town of Merideth for some very expensive Pizza. The meal turned out to be a memorable one. The restaurant that we attended, I believe that it was called “Giuseppe’s,” did in fact serve up good Pizza, but their lounge singer performed the most awful renditions of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” and Elvis Presley’s “Fools Rush In” that I have ever heard. None of us could figure out if this guy was for real or not, because his performances seemed more like a comedy skit than anything else. The girls grabbed some Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream after dinner and then it was back to Gilford and time to hit the sack.
Race day featured cool temperatures and dry skies. The wind continued to pick up speed as the 7 o’clock start time neared, and I was expecting a fairly windy day. The Pro wave would leave 2 minutes before my wave. I watched as Simon Lessing, Bjorn Andersson, Spencer Smith and co. departed shore. I was feeling completely calm as I waited for our wave, the “Elite Amateur” division, to depart on our journey.
The swim was rather uneventful. I was able to stay out of trouble and remain comfortable throughout. I linked up with the main pack at about the halfway point and enjoyed a nice, leisurely ride to shore. The swim turned out to be a little long, about 2k vs. 1.9k, but it was all-good as everyone was in the same boat.
As I left T1, I reminded myself to stick to the plan: Stay relaxed through the first 12 miles of the course where the hills hit hard and then open the engine up once I hit the gently rolling section of highway. What surprised me most was the fact that shortly after leaving T1 I began catching, and passing, both Pro female and male athletes. I did not allow myself to get overly aggressive however, and stuck to my pacing plan, avoiding the big anaerobic efforts during the early sections of this challenging bike course.
Once out on the high way, I opened the engine up, and quickly finished off the last of the remaining Pro women. I must note however that I was pretty impressed with the velocity that Desiree Ficker was maintaining as I rolled by. I could immediately tell that she was on her way to a big performance (she ended up winning in 4:24 or 4:25). If she continues to maintain the form that she displayed yesterday, people better look out at Hawaii…
The trip out towards the turnaround featured an annoying headwind that made the going tough. As I continued to pass men from the Pro division and approached the bike turn around, I was really looking forward to the tail wind that I’d be able to ride all the way to T2. Once we made the turn however, I was immediately greeted by more headwind! Judging by the flags that lined the course, I figured that we were actually dealing with a cross wind that would make things all the more fun as we traversed the next 28 miles of open road.
After passing a few more Pros, I received a placing/time check by a friendly bystander at about mile 45: I was in 11th or 12th place overall and 14 minutes back from super-cyclist Andersson. Subtracting the 2 minute differential, and factoring in Andersson’s inability to run (I knew that I could put close to 10 min. on him in the half marathon) I knew that I was "on." The fact that I could see 3 more riders directly in front of me underscored this fact.
I quickly caught, and passed, the next 3 athletes and rolled into T2 in 8th or 9th place. The only guys left in front of me were all Pros and it was time to see how much of the gap I could close down. My legs were moving quickly, but I was concerned with 2 issues:
1. Both of my vastus medialis muscles were seizing up (racing an Olympic distance event the weekend before opened the system back up but had left me a bit stiff and sore on race day)
2. My feet were on fire!
I knew that I was in for a tough day out on the run course, so I played it safe during the early miles and allowed my quads to un-seize. Doing so cost me time, but I knew that I was on my way to nailing yet another solid outing and didn’t want to take any chances.
The rest of the run was simply routine; I kept the Gatorade flowing and just focused upon maintaining my rhythm. My feet continued to fall apart with each passing mile, and as the picture above will attest, every step became excruciatingly painful. Pain or no pain however, I was going to cap this damn race, and cap it I did. I’m going to make sure that I have the shoe issue straightened out before the Nutmeg State Half on 9/23 however because it cost me a good 2+ minutes on the run yesterday. Aerobically the effort was a cakewalk, but I had to run in pain, once again, for well over an hour. Very annoying.
So there you have it. I’ve decided to stay amateur for the rest of the ‘07 season. I figure that I’ll go down to Clearwater for the 70.3 World Championship and see if I can go sub 3:55 and take the overall amateur title. In addition, I still have some work to do on my swim, so John Ogden, if you’re reading this; I need your help this fall and winter! Hopefully, by the beginning of ‘08, I’ll have my swim where it needs to be so that I can be right up there with the action from the gun. My objective for next year is to win these events outright, or at least land myself on the podium as often as possible.
In closing, I’d like to thank my girlfriend Michelle for her constant support and unbeatable race day management skills (I don’t know what I’d do without her!). Also, thanks to my brother Corey, his girlfriend Cameran, and our friends Andy and Pilar Prinz for showing up! To my family for supporting me – thank you!
To Michael Ferrante: Thank you SO much for lending me your Zipp 404s. Coming within 2 minutes of Simon Lessing’s bike split was something I’ll never forget and your wheels made all the difference.
Lastly, to my boys at Fit Werx 2 in Peabody, Ma. : You guys rock! If you haven’t checked out Fit Werx yet, you’re crazy: http://www.fitwerx.com/
First off, there is NO need to go anywhere else; When it comes to bike fit, equipment choice, aerodynamics and the latest cycling related technology, Dean Phillips and Marty Miserandino can’t be beat. Dean, a Pro Triathlete and INCREDIBLY fast cyclist (he recently broke Tyler Hamilton’s old mark on the ECV TT course!!!) shared with me his data on the rolling resistance of various tire and tube combinations. He pointed out the wattage, and resulting time, that I was losing by using a set of particular tubular tires. By Dean’s estimation, I lost close to 2 minutes on the Eagleman bike course by riding the wrong tires! 2 Minutes! So, although I was hesitant to run clinchers at first on Sunday, I fully believe that doing so gave me a noticeable advantage. Believe it or not, in the world of cycling things like, millimeters, rolling resistance, psi and bike fit, especially bike fit, make a HUGE difference. If you’re looking for “free time” during your next race, give Dean and Marty a call. I’m glad that I did.
Okay, that’s a wrap! Time for to crank out a few schedules.
Timberman Results: http://www.lin-mark.com/restm07.htm