Monday, September 13, 2010

I am officially a Triathlete...

Sunday 12 September 2010

CajunMan Triathlon- 1/2 mile swim, 20 mile bike, 3.1 mile run

0510... I have been watching the clock for nearly every 45 mins since turning the light off last night at 2200... am I nervous or is it the combination of beans, Tabasco, and pepperoni pizza making my stomach churn? I just cannot take the anticipation anymore and decide to get up... I head to the shower... and yes... I am probably the only guy to shower and shave the morning of the race but this routine has gotten me this far... so why change that... I have plenty of others things I am going to change later...

0530... I make some coffee in a feeble attempt to force a reduction in my race day weight... Brad has a bagel with peanut butter and some water... I have a Erin Baker Oatmeal Raisin breakfast cookie and water... we nervously unpack and repack our backpacks again just in case... we pull the water bottles full of Cytomax from the mini fridge... laugh about our race numbers on our bikes... check the pressure in the tires of our bikes... fill the cooler with ice and bottles of chocolate milk... put GU packets in our cycling jersey pockets... make sure we have our swim caps... goggles.... pack and repack our backpacks again... laugh at our race numbers and how crappy the hotel room is... we are cool!

0615... head out the door to walk our bikes over to the transition area to set up our area... we are #97 and #98 respectively... prior to entering the transition area we get body marked with our number on each tricep and our age on the left calf muscle... upon entering the grassy transition area on airfield grounds we find our rack to be the second to last in the first row of the area... we nervously look around at all of the competitors... each setting up their area with precise attention to detail... some in uniforms from clubs they belong to or for whom they are sponsored... some in shorts, t-shirts and flip flops... we see bikes worth nearly as much as our trucks... focused... every last one of them... Triathlons are an individual sport...

0640... having put our stuff in the transition area we decide to walk around and check things out... go check out the water again... hit the Porta potty... pick up our timing chip which we are told to put on the left ankle... the air is filled with the smell of jambalaya and Cajun food... and the sound of blues music... the sun is just starting to make an appearance over the trees on the east side of the lake... there is an excitement in the air... you can feel it.. you can hear it... you can sense it.. we chat with some of the competitors... trade stories about why we are there... we check out the swim area...  a clockwise swim around 3 buoys... we watch the fish eat the bugs off the surface and marvel at just how big they appear... realizing that in less than an hour we will be out there churning it up with them... some guy tells us a ridiculous story about swimming in a pond invested with water moccasins... dork... time to set up the transition.

***** Now there are lots of techniques for this portion of the event and arguably an area where you can save some significant time if properly planned... Brad and I had done our reading online in the various forums and put together what we thought would work for us... laid out our stuff in a very specific pattern... in reverse order of how we would put the gear on (ie, HRM then shirt then helmet)... all in all I was very happy with my plan but realize I can save some time next time around.

0715.. time to make our way to the start area for the swim.. now I have to point out at this point that once you exit the water you have to climb some steps and then run uphill on asphalt and down a road into the grassy transition area (.15 mile run)... we decide to preposition our flip flops at the base of the hill so that when we exit the water we can run with them on and that turned out to be a brilliant plan as both of us passed folks that were barefoot...

0720... "Orange and Blue caps in the water".... Orange caps were wave #1 and consisted of Male 50+ and Relay teams... Blue caps were wave #2 for Males 40-49... then Green for Males 30-39 and so on... we get into the water and make our way over to the bank to wait our turn as this was a "deep water start"... meaning we had to swim out in the deep water and tread about 4 mins until our start time... INTERESTING way to begin and I distinctly remember thinking to myself... "wouldn't this suck if you were to go out during the treading part?".... "Blue wave 1 min".... "10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1... GO!"....

0734... my first triathlon begins... HOLY CRAP... I am doing this... all of those months of training had led up to this moment... start swimming... don't go out too fast... breathe... smooth strokes... don't over kick.... WHAM ... I take a heel to the chin... so hard in fact that I am convinced that I have lost a tooth... I immediately start treading water, run my tongue over my teeth... they are all there... but my head is cloudy... so I breast stroke for about 50 yards and get my bearings... feeling better I go back to freestyle and just start concentrating on all of the things I had been doing in the pool... after about 30 strokes I look up to take a bearing on the first buoy... looking good... back to swimming... I start to relax in the water and string together smooth strokes... as I reach the first buoy I see two things... my Brother rounding the buoy and a guy hanging onto the line of the buoy catching his breath... I make the turn doing breast strokes and head off for buoy #2.

Now it is worth pointing out that one thing I learned in my swim sessions in the pool is that I got comfortable breathing to only my left side and subsequently I tend to drift to the left and hug the left lane marker... and en route to the second buoy I have to keep making course corrections back to the right... but I approach buoy #2 and again breast stroke my way around it and then head to buoy #3..... 2 distinct memories at this point... I keep running into a guy to my right who I seem to pass and then get passed... easily a half dozen times during this leg that happens but most memorable was when I turned to the left to take a breath only to see a Green Swim Cap... HOLY CRAP... what a moment... that guy started 4 mins after me and just passed me... very humbling and more interestingly... very motivating... so I go back to trying to relax... long smooth strokes when suddenly I am right up on the buoy... I breast stroke around it and head for the barge... I am 100 yards from completing the swim... the part I feared the most... and the funny part is this... I was not a fan of the one open water swim I did in training and yet today I never even thought about what was under me or that there were fish or that I could not see the black line on the bottom... I was completely consumed by the race and focused on competing... very cool... next thing I know I am out of the water and running up the stairs... fans are clapping, cheering, snapping photos... I JUST SURVIVED THE SWIM... 18 minutes and 10 seconds... slower than I wanted but this is awesome!

I run in my flip flops passing people who were barefoot through a crowd of people cheering and clapping... very surreal moment... I round the corner and onto the grassy area to the back where my bike is located.. I see Brad getting dressed... I immediately start putting all of my stuff on... HRM, cycling jersey, GPS watch, RoadID bracelet, cycling gloves, socks, cycling shoes, sunglasses, and helmet... take a quick drink of water and we are off... exit out of T1 (5 min 10 seconds) and head to mount line... get on my bike and start my watch... we are off... so having exited the airfield and gotten out onto HWY 90 I look down at my bike computer only to realize that I forgot to reset the trip odometer... I fart around with it for about 30 seconds and then abandon the idea knowing I can use my GPS watch and just use the computer for speed and cadence... for the first 2 miles I cannot seem to get my cadence more than 80 rpm... 90 was my plan... at about the 3 mile point I reach in the left back pocket of my cycling jersey and pull out the Jet Blackberry GU packet... with 2X caffeine... I suck that down and wash it down with some water... the next time I look at my bike computer I am spinning 93 rpm and 20+ mph... WOW... this stuff really works. I can see Brad about 300 yards ahead of me for the first 8 miles... I finally catch up with him and we ride side by side as we pass the half way point... he gives me one of his chewy energy blocks which was really tasty... 10 miles into the ride and things are going great... I am passing people and getting passed... I distinctly recall the guy who won it going by me... 25+ mph in full aero, tech'd out gear... he was flat hauling the mail... I slip back from Brad and am able to keep him in sight as we continue... mile 13 and I break out Chocolate Outrage GU from the center pocket of my cycling jersey... now I have to tell you that this stuff is so good I could just about eat it anytime... it is spectacular... I wash it down with some water... one tip I got from my Ironman buddy John Lafreniere is to drink every 10 mins even if you don't want to... GREAT ADVICE... I was alternating Cytomax Natural Performance Cool Citrus in one bottle and water in the other... and the plan was to finish the bike with both bottles empty... as we say in aviation.. runway behind you does you absolutely no good... things are tracking nicely.

*** Mile marker 14 on the bike... a break through moment for me personally as this was the first time during the race that I acknowledged to myself that finishing was a physical possibility... I knew my training had put me in a position to finish but so many things can happen along the way that can prevent you from finishing and for some reason it was at this point that I knew I was physically able to finish the race.

I continued to keep Brad in sight as we exited the back country and made our way back out onto HWY 90... into a stiff head wind... I watched my speed drop 5 mph at the same cadence due to the wind... it was brutal... we entered back onto the airfield and headed to the dismount line and onto T2... 1 hour 2 mins 57 seconds (19.1 mph average)... my best time yet on the bike!

I met up with him at transition and being behind I chose to run in my cycling jersey and simply discarded the helmet for a hat and a quick change of shoes... a sip of water and we were off and running... (1 minute 58 seconds in T2)

Now the run was an out and back 5K (3.1 miles)... on one of the service roads that runs around the perimeter of the runways... it started out flat and we were running a fast 8:02 pace... I told Brad that my legs were too heavy and the pace was too fast for me to start... one thing I had learned in my training was that it takes me 3/4 of a mile to get my wind... but once I get it I am good to go... so we slow down... at about the 1/2 mile mark I pull the last of my GU packets out... Tri-Berry... my least favorite as it turns out.. more Chocolate Outrage next time... and I also learn that this stuff is hard to get down while you are running with dry mouth with a lack of water... fortunately I swirl it around in my mouth and we come up on the first water station... I take two cups... wash down the GU with one and pour the other on my head... we had just come down a hill and I mentioned to Brad that the hill was a killer... there were people walking up it on their way back... we needed to focus on beating "the beast" as I called it... but now I have my wind and we begin to pick the speed back up... as we hit 2 more water stations heading out I take 2 cups of water at each one... drink a mouthful and pour the rest on my head and neck... IT IS FLIPPIN' HOT as there is not a lick of shade and since we are now below the surface of the runways there is absolutely zero wind... we hit the halfway point... Brad high 5's the volunteer as we make the turn... we are headed to the barn... we hit the 2 water stations again going back and again I drink a mouthful and pour the rest on my head and neck... we come around the last turn and I say to Brad... "beast in sight"... as we get to the climb we are passing people walking... together we keep pushing the pace despite overheating knowing that once we crest the hill it will be less than 1/2 mile to the finish... we continue to pass people and pushing the pace... now we have to run past the finish line on the inside of the fence surrounding the airfield and then exit the airfield making a 180 degree turn and back towards the finish... as we enter the chute... the sides are lined with people shouting out words of encouragement... what a surreal moment... we are about to complete this... I say to Brad... "Can you see the clock?" because I don't have my contacts in... he says... "It just flipped over 2 hours"... as we enter the final 50 yards the announcer says... "WELL well... here comes number 97 and number 98.... not sure who is going to finish first!"... Brad and I know the answer.... we knuckle bump each other and then raise each others arm in victory as we cross the finish line together... 28 mins 17 seconds (9:07 pace)... we did it... we are officially triathletes... we hug each other... look to heavens and tell Dad... "that was for you"... 1 hour 56 minutes and 35 seconds of pure enjoyment... I could not be any more proud of what we were able to accomplish... having trained separately and executed together! We finished tied for 25th out of 45 in our Age Group 40-44... not bad for a first attempt!

Following our finish... we handed in our timing chip... picked up our t-shirt... headed to the water cooler and shade... then got in line for a quick 5 min massage which I honestly think was part of the reason that I am not sore today... we then grabbed some freshly cut watermelon and checked the results... I will never forget Brad looking at his watch and saying... "What time is it? Is it really only 9:40 am?"... our goal was to finish in under 2 hours and 30 minutes... when we headed into the finish I said that it would have been cool to finish in less than 2 hours and it looked like we had just missed that mark...but then it dawned on me that we started 4 mins behind Wave #1 and clock was based on the start of Wave #1... the result is that we shattered our expectations by 34 minutes... I won't lie.. that feels pretty good! Chocolate milk never tasted so good...

Our lives have forever been altered by this event... what started as simply a challenge has led to a passion for the sport... we are both now addicted to triathlons and the side effects of better health fueled by competition... not against each other but against yourself... that competition will make us both better people in so many ways... fear the training not the race... challenge yourself... challenge others... sign up and see what you can accomplish!

*** A special shoutout goes to our buddy and Ironman mentor... Scott "Jonser" Jones for all of his counsel and encouragement along the way... he is an inspiration to both of us and forever a contributor to our success.

Attitude trumps pain!


  1. Congrats, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to train like you two did. My hats off to you Commander, you guys are AWESOME!!!!!!!

  2. Brad & Scott, Great job!!! As I read that blog I almost felt like I was beside you swimming, biking and running. I understand the feeling of accomplishment and its something nobody can ever take away from you both or experience it the way you both did. When I ran Boston I actually cried when my body broke down after starting off to fast and climbing heartbreak hill.

    You understand the physical aspect of what is about to take place but you totally underestimate the emotional aspect of the race. I have been thinking about trying a triathlon but my fear is that I will love it as you both do.

    Congrats to the both of you and I'm glad you took my advice and held hands at the finish line!!


    Peter Femino