Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Oh, so THAT'S why I'm tired!

So I was looking at Training Peaks ( today to check out options for recording food intake (yes folks, I'm serious about getting back down to "racing weight") and just for fun I went to the dashboard and checked out my year-to-date training totals.

These are likely a slight underestimate as not absolutely every workout gets reported and this does not include walking, gym work and other "cross-training".

Bike: 2,340 miles

Run: 644 miles

Swim: 146,611 yards (or 83.3 miles)

No wonder I keep falling asleep in the chair like a sad old middle-aged man! Oh...... wait.......

It's kind of cool when you look at it like this, but I need more "TITS" (time in the saddle) next year if I'm going to improve that bike speed!

Disclaimer:  This is not actually me - Compass, Snort and Flipper will attest to the fact that I have more hair....  
otherwise it's pretty close!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

I was very happy yesterday when my new Brooks Racer 5 ST running shoes arrived in the mail.

These have been my favorite make/model running shoes for a while and every time I get 350-400 miles on my previous pair I'm relieved that they are still making them.

When I started this crazy triathlon thing I tried several different makes of shoe, but none of them really worked for me. Nikes seemed to wear really quickly on the outside; others didn't have a wide enough toe box for my flipper feet (why on earth don't I swim faster?).

A couple of years back the guys at Bull City Running fitted me for these and I haven't looked back. They are nice an light and super comfortable - this is my fourth pair. As you can see, they have been made in a range of colors over the past couple of years!

Try as I might I can't get this picture to post the right way up - just imagine that you're in Australia!  The middle pair (my most recent) are usually white in the toe, but a few muddy runs recently have taken their toll!

A couple of weeks back, while I was marshaling at the Outer Banks Marathon, I visited the race expo. and the very nice Newton's rep tried to persuade me to switch. I have thought about trying them for a while, but they felt a little uncomfortable when I tried them on..... why change? I love these Racer 5 STs and "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"!

Thanks Brooks - I guess you can count this as a favorable product review!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Singing The Off Season Blues!

Oh yeah, I got the off-season blues!

Beach 2 Battleship was almost a month ago and I seem to be becoming a big fat slob! I'm sure my  weight has probably pushed back up somewhere towards 200 lbs, but thankfully I haven't been stupid enough to look!   Via a combination of circumstances which include "budget time" at work; work travel; out-of-town visitors; general family stuff and pure laziness I have managed to do very little in the way of workouts over the past few weeks and now I'm struggling a little to get motivated.....

On the plus side, it has given me the chance to rest my knee for a while and I've enjoyed a little more red wine in the evenings! But now it's time to get real again, and this week I have at least managed to keep-up with the light workout schedule that The Coachman has prescribed (albeit not in the order he gave me - probably another demerit for me!).

Another positive to come out of this is that I've had the chance to slow down a little and think about my objectives for the off-season and next years racing calendar.

Along with the other "Mad Birds", Compass, Snort and Flipper, I have been thinking a lot about whether I want to do a full Ironman distance 140.6 mile race.  After a lot of thought and discussion (including, of course, with SWMBO and The Coachman) I have come to the conclusion that, yes, I would like to do a full Ironman, but that 2014 is not the best year.  We struggled to find a race that fits with our already crazy calendar and how I would fit in not only the race itself, but all of the training required.

A secondary consideration was a non-binding pact that was made with the Mad Birds to race a 140.6 together.  This appeals not only because they are a fun and crazy bunch, but because we could train together sometimes (riding 100+ miles up to Virginia and back on your own gets old quickly!).  Compass, of course, is preggers at the moment, so obviously nothing for her next year (it's cute that she still has absolutely no idea what she has coming to her!  :-)  ) but she's determined to do one in 2015.   Trying to get Snort to commit to anything (except food and alcohol) is like trying to nail jello to a wall, but we all know that she'll do one.  Flipper has taken a different approach and signed-up for Ironman Coeur d'Alene next year.  She states that it will probably be the only one she ever does, but we know that that's BS as well!

So....    if the longer term objective is a 140.6 in 2015 with an emotional new mother, an angry soccer mom and a broken distance athlete, what will next season hold?   :-)

I'm already signed-up for Ironman Raleigh 70.6 in June, so that will become my "A" race.   Beyond that, I currently have no commitments, so I have started to think about what my limiters are and what I can do in 2014 to prepare for the possibility of "going long" in 2015.  Here, in a nut shell, is what I came up with:
  1. I can generally do the longer distances and have a good mind set for endurance, but I'm slooooow.   I need to work on speed before I start to pick-up endurance work again
  2. My technique could be much better in all three disciplines.  Especially swim and run, but also on the bike.  I need to improve my technique.
  3. Core strength and flexibility are definitely limiters for this Old Fart.   I can improve these.
  4. I weigh too much.  If I'm serious, I should lose around 15 lbs or so.   
So, after chatting with The Coachman, we have an off-season plan that will include more drills, speedwork and core/strength training.  I also intend to do The OSB Power Stroke clinic in the spring and, hopefully, do some individual video swim sessions with The Coachman.   I would also like to see if there's somewhere I can get video gait analysis for my run.

On top of that, if I'm lucky enough to get a bonus this year, I may invest in a power meter for the bike - just one more thing for the geek in me to analyse and obsess over! 
As for losing 15 lbs, obviously once I start burning more calories again that will help, but I also intend to get serious about diet and "calories in".   I'm realistic though, and will try to be sensible over the holiday period without beating myself up before getting more focused in the New Year.  I'm so lucky that SWMBO is a truly fantastic cook and that we already use healthy indredients and eat very healthy food, but I can still cut down on snacking, make some substitutions, use "portion control" and go easy on the red wine! 

From the race point-of-view, it seems to me that Olympic distance races are perfectly suited to my objectives - I can keep distance/endurance in the swim and suffer like hell in the bike and run legs!  :-)   So I will be targeting Olympic distance and no doubt throw in a few sprints, road races and probably the Cary Duathlon at the start of the season.   I'll keep you posted as the race calendar develops.

Now I just need everyone to keep reminding me of these goals and to help me get there - thanks! 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Beach 2 Battleship Race Report

Back on Saturday October 26th I took part in the Beach 2 Battleship 70.3 mile "half iron" distance triathlon in Wilmington, NC..... I guess this race report is long overdue. I'll try to keep it short!

This race is gaining a very good reputation and (somewhat surprisingly, I have to say) is rated by Triathlon Magazine readers as one of the top five triathlons in the world.... It's a great race, but how can this be when there are so many great races and venues?


I'll spare you all of the usual preamble; suffice to say that I made the two hour drive down to Wilmington on a beautiful, crisp Friday morning and arrived at the Convention Center on time. The check-in line was pretty long....

...but apart from that, everythiing was very well organized. After taking a look around the expo. and buying a natty new bike jersey, I attended a long, but entertaining compulsory athlete briefing (where I sat with fellow OSB athlete and fellow Brit Anne McDonald and her family) before dropping my "T2" gear bag off and heading out to Wrightsville Beach to drop off The Slut and set-up my "T1" transition area
Anne - pretending to be nervous before the race, when really she knows that she's going to absolutely crush the run and smash her personal best tomorrow!

The transition area was on the grounds of the Wrightsville Beach Municiple Complex. Thankfully there was plenty of parking and I soon had The Slut in position before heading over to take a look at the swim finish.

How T1 would have looked before color photography was invented....

....and in 2013

It was nice that my number matched the year of my birth!

The ubiquitous shot of The Slut in position

The swim for this race is in the intercoastal waterway. The start is on Wrightsville Beach island and once in the water you basically turn right and swim about 3/4 of a mile to a single turn buoy before turning left and cutting diagonally past a small island to the swim exit at Seapath Marina.


The swim finish showing the path around the island and diagonal swim to Seapath Marina

There were numerous athletes from the Outer Banks Tri Group competing and it was nice to run into Jim Snyder and Samantha after checking out the swim finish. The following day Jim would run the entire 26.1 mile marathon (he was doing the "full iron" distance) in a gas mask to raise awareness for wounded warriors - awesome!

Now that I was set-up and had the lay-of-the-land, there wasn't much to do but head back to the hotal and wait for SWMBO and the Junior Sassoons to arrive! Once they were safely checked-in we enjoyed dinner at the local Olive Garden and headed back for an early night!

This race starts at 07:30 for the 140.6 distance and 08:00 for the 70.3 mile distance so it made a nice change not to have to set the alarm for 04:00! On top of this, there was a wave start for the 70.3 and my advanced age meant that I was in the second to last group to start and wouldn't be entering the water until around 09:20. The previous evening I had arranged a taxi to take me from the hotel to Wrightsville Beach and it arrived only a few minutes late at around 06:45 (phew!). The first thing that I noticed as I stepped out into the fresh air.... it was freakin' cold! The O/N low was close to a record for the date in Wilmington and it was around 34 F and breezy as we left.

Once I had double-checked my T1 area and spent some time chatting to Anne and her husband Dave and also to OSB Athlete Audrey Shipprack (who wasn't racing, but was supporting her friend Diane) I headed to the shuttle bus that would take me to the swim start.

Despite my late wave start, all athletes had to be over the bridge and onto the island early, so unfortunately I was in for a long wait in the freezing conditions. I had my wetsuit on and was layered-up with a long-sleeve T, a ratty old sweathsirt, socks, old sneakers and Dollar Store gloves (all of which would be left at the start and donated to the Salvation Army) but it was still COOOLD! Things improved slightly as the sun got a little higher, but I was very pleased when it was finally my turn to get into the water, which was still close to 70F.

Swim: 1.2 miles. 00:39:43

Beach 2 Battleship has a reputation for fast swim legs because there is often a "tidal push" that helps propel you to the finish. Unfortunately this year.... not so much! The tide was basically slack, so there was little, if any, push as shown by my time, which was slightly slower than I swam at Raleigh Ironman 70.3.

After getting "that constricted feeling" for a short time while wearing my wet suit at Lake Royale Sprint, I decided to stay out of the fray and waited for the faster guys in my age group (white caps) to get going before I started. I pretty soon got out to the middle of the channel and found good water and a nice steady stroke. There were a few guys who were a little erratic and crossed my line, but in general I had no difficulty sighting off the large orange turn buoy that was 3/4 of a mile ahead. No problem with the turn and then think that I took a good line cutting closer to the jetty on the right, followed by the grassy island on the left as I headed to the finish. Overall I was satisfied with this.

The swim exit was up steps onto a dock and there were "wet suit strippers" to help you remove your rubbery warmth.... brrrrr! It was chilly when that came off! There was a long run (about a quarter of a mile) over rough pavement to T1, but on the plus side, there was a walk-through tent with warm showers running to help flush away some salt water.

Coming out of the water with wetsuit under my arm and sporting my new OSB Racing Team shorts!

T1 was uneventful. 00:06:23 - sounds slow, but that includes the long run and putting on arm warmers, gloves and a wind jacket for the bike - it was still COLD!

Bike. 56 miles. 03:11:06.

Definitely slower that I was targeting (and slower than Raleigh Ironman 70.3, but this was a common story because of the wind). The way the course is set-up you basically ride ~35 miles north out of Wrightsville Beach and then ~20 miles south back into downtown Wilmington. Unfortulately there was a pretty good wind from the north, so the first 35 miles plus felt like a lot of hard work! I kept in aero position and maintained a good cadence, but it was always destined to be a slow ride. I didn't have any issues on the two "metal grid" bridges that everyone had talked so much about last year. Another plus was that I managed to judge my clothing well and stayed warm without over-heating. My major observation is that the bike course is bor-ing! Lots of flat highway and not much of interest until close to Wilmington. Because I was in a late wave start, I wasn't overtaken by many people and overtook loads, so that at least made it a little more fun!

Wrapped-up warmly somewhere on the bike course!

T2 was pretty uneventful.  Somewhat unusual in that you hand your bike off to a volunteer who racks it inside the Convention Center before running to a changing area where you pick-up your gear bag and change into running shoes.  Unusually I stopped to pee!    00:04:33

Run.  13.1 miles.   02:21:17.

Ugh!   This is where I fell apart a little because my right knee started hurting so badly!   The run started well and I felt good when I first spotted Compass and Flipper cheering me on and making sarcastic comments about my hair!   :-)   They had come to support me, Rabbit and others that they know - awesome!  Shortly after that, as I passed the finishing chute on my way out, it was even more awesome to see SWMBO and the Junior Sassons, who were making posters as I passed.   The course went south along the river walk and out of Wilmington Center before a long out-and-back section through a park around a lake.  Apparently at one point there was a juvenile alligator lying on the course, but I didn't see it!  

About three or four miles in I became acutely aware that my right knee was hurting and, before long, I was down to not much more than a jog.   I'm pleased with myself for "toughing it out" and running the whole thing (apart from a couple of aid stations where I walked so that I could drink) but the time is obviously pretty dismal!   It was nice to see Compass and Flipper again as they rode their bikes next to me and chatted a while before disappearing (presumably to some bar or house of ill-repute!). Great also to see speedy Anne and crazy Aussie Eleanor Richardson as the passed me on their return legs as I was still running out. Somewhere out there Angie McDonald, who I had seen at the swim start, was also rocking it. There was a great OSB cheering section in downtown Wilmington, but I have no idea who they were! All I know is that I want some of what they were drinking! :-)

Overall:   06:23:01    Much slower that I was targeting, but I'm not beating myself up - many others were in the same boat because of the conditions and my knee problem didn't help!

After ice cream with the Junior Sassoons we picked-up my bike and gear bags before heading back to the hotel for a shower and short rest. The wonderful Thai food that evening was well earned!

The run before my knee started hurting!
On Sunday we enjoyed a really nice day looking around historic downtown Wilmington and touring the Bellamy Mansion before heading home.

Another one in the books!

The Sassoons on Sunday morning with the USS North Carolina in the background.   Thanks so much for coming out to support me - I love you!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lake Royale Sprint Triathlon Race Report

When my plans to race the Outer Banks Olympic Tri fell through because of a scheduling conflict I got a little "itchy" because I have raced fewer times than usual this year and I wanted to get in at least one more "practice race" before Beach-to-Battleship 70.3 at the end of the month. While the Lake Royale Sprint is obviously nowhere near the same distance, it is relatively local and well-timed at three weeks before B-2-B so, after checking with the Coachman, I signed-up.

In 2010 this was the second triathlon I ever did so I thought that it would be fun to compare performances. The race takes place in the Lake Royale development (resort community?) just outside Louisburg, NC - a nice 40 minute or so drive from home. It's organized by FS Series and I remembered it being a nice, friendly event.

The logistics of the race mean that you have to drop your bike and gear at the transition area before driving a couple of miles to the parking area and taking a shuttle beack to the start, so I knew that I wanted to get there early. I woke before my alarm (as usual) and took my time over coffee and a bagel. I had packed my gear into the car and loaded The Slut the night before, so it was then just a case of jump in and drive.

The dark drive along Route 98 through Wake Forest was pretty cool - it certainly had a good "Halloween Vibe" as the car head lights illuminated the fog banks.

Pretty soon I arrived at Lake Royale, took the long drive down to the lake and off-loaded my gear and bike. I was pleased to see that my race number (90) put me right at the bike exit from transition and I was early enough to get the first slot on the rack. After parking and waiting quite a while for the shuttle back to the start the sun finally emerged from behind the trees and the transition area started to fill....
The ubiquitous shot of The Slut wearing her Zipp 808 race wheels (and my "yard sale" of gear and clothing!)

Frantic preparations.

After collecting my timing chip and getting "body marked" I had plenty of time for warm-ups and so took The Slut for a four mile spin before slipping on my running shoes and running for a while on the first part of the run course. I was pleased I did this as it quickly reminded me of how hilly the run course and the first part of the bike course are - I made sure that The Slut was left in a low gear when I re-racked her! Finally it was time to go for a warm-up swim and get ready for the start.

Sun emerging over the swim start.

While listening to the race briefing I ran into fellow One Step Beyond Athlete Erin Cutrell who had signed-up for the race at the last minute and after a fist pump I was called down to the men's start....

Swim: 500 M.
The water in the lake was pleasantly warm, but still cool enough for the race to be declared "wet suit legal". I decided that, given that I hadn't swum in a wetsuit for months and that a wet suit is compulsory for Beach-to-Battleship, I would wear mine. Only a short swim, but I figured that the time lost taking it off in transition would probably be balanced out by the added buoyancy that a wetsuit provides during the swim. For this race there were two mass starts - first all men and then all women three minutes later. The course was roughly an clockwise elongated triangle. I lined-up on the right as it seemed a better angle towards the turn buoy, but it ultimately turned out to be somewhat of a mistake.... This was definitely one of the rougher swims that I have been in - there was a LOT of contact and I took several good blows from arms and legs (and, I think, delivered a few too!). Never-the-less, I felt pretty good on the first leg - until, that is, I approached the turn buoy. Holy crap - what a scrum! As I positioned myself to round the buoy, dozens of swimmers who had started further left started to squeeze over. I was pretty much pressed right up against the buoy and had to switch to breaststroke and basically fight my way around. As I came out the other side into the second (longest) swim leg, I felt unsettled and that all-too-familiar panicky constricted feeling - why, oh why, did I wear that darned wetsuit? I told myself to slow down and breathe, did a little side stroke and managed to find some open water by deliberately swimming a little to the right. Thankfully I was soon back to freestyle and finished reasonably well. Ultimately it was a good lesson for Beach-to-Battleship (I don't do well in scrums!) and on reflection I can be pleased with the way I handled it and recovered.

Time: 09:31. 1:54 per 100M. My target was "sub 9" but the scrum incident obviously messed that up! [My 2010 time was 11:19]. Somewhat surprised to be 29th male out of the water!

T1: The first transition was uneventful. I had sprayed PAM on the ankles of my wetsuit before the race and it worked like a charm as my ankles slipped out of the legs without me having to look as if I was fighting a sea lion! 01:14

Bike: 15 miles.
The out-and-back course features two very distinct sections. The section leaving and returning through the Lake Royale community is extremely technical, with hills and a lot of very tight turns. Once out onto public roads the course is (relatively) flat through farm land, but the road surface is a little rough in places.

During the race there were at least two crashes. Thankfully these two were not too seriously hurt and managed to smile about it afterwards. The young lady broke the forks on her bike and got nasty road rash, but still managed to go on to finish the run - Bad Ass! :-)

My ride was pretty uneventful apart from at the tight turnaround point where I went in a little fast and skidded the back wheel. Thankfully my cat like agility (yeah right!) saved me and I just managed to keep things upright! Erin cruised past me a few miles in and was obviously going very well as first lady on the course. I feel that I kept things going pretty well - maintained aero position and kept a good cadence. Geared well on the hills and cornered well too.

Time: 48:15. 19.1 mph average. I was targeting 20 mph, but must admit that I had completely forgotten how hilly and twisty the Lake Royale community section was - I'll take it! [2010: 54:13]

T2: Uneventful. 00:36

Run: 5k (3.1 miles). My run was really a tale of two halves. Off the bike I really struggled to get my legs moving. This wasn't helped by the hill straight out of transition, but it wasn't the usual "rubbery legs" syndrome - I just couldn't seem to get any stride length and felt as if I was shuffling along. I focused on keeping my run cadence up but it took the first mile before I really started to feel as if I was running, but when I finally got things going I felt great! (even with all of the hills - this must be one of the hilliest 5k courses around). Despite being slow out of transition this has me feeling strangely confident about B2B.

Time: 28:26 9:10/mile (I didn't wear my Garmin, but I would estimate 11 min/mile to start and 7:##/mile at the finish. I definitely did a very significant reverse split!). [2010: 31:51]

Overall: 01:28:05. 4th in Age Group; 44th male and 52nd overall.

There were some smokin' fast people out there on a difficult course. The guy who won overall took 01:05:12 and the winner of my age group came home in 01:13:24 (7th overall). Best of all Erin was first place overall lady in 01:16:42 (12th overall). Rockin!

A happy Erin after the race.

Very pleased that I decided to do this one. A good little warm-up for B2B and a few good reminders. I think that ultimately my two "problem areas" during the race turned into the biggest positive takeaways: I overcame the minor "panic" during the swim and finished it well and once I finally got my legs under me in the run I felt very strong.

Beach-to-Battleship here I come!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Updated Race Calendar

Because someone asked.....

No, unfortunately, I didn't race the Outer Banks Olympic event in the end. There was an unanticipated calendar clash and I couldn't get down to the coast. Usually I would be pissed-off at losing my registration fee, but in this case I know that all money made by Outer Banks Sporting Events goes to local food banks and educational charities so I'm happy to have contributed (and the race was sold out, so I also let them know that they could sell my spot to someone else and make even more for good causes).

So.... what does the rest of my season look like?

The "big one" is the Beach to Battleship 70.3 mile race on October 26th in Wilmington, NC. Looking forward to that one, especially as SWMBO and the Junior Sassoons will be joining me, along with some good friends. Rumor has it also that Compass may be coming down to cheer wearing her "Baby on Board" shirt!

Tomorrow I will be racing the Lake Royale Sprint Triathon in Louisburg, NC. I signed-up on a whim because I have missed racing this year! This was the second triathlon I ever did back in 2010, so it will be interesting to compare performances.

Picked-up the race packet from Inside Out Sports Raleigh yesterday.  My race number accurately describes the age that my legs feel at the moment!


So yesterday I went for an early morning 8 mile run and I ran like Spiderman! :-)

No, not like this guy:

Or even like this guy:

Much more like this guy:

It was a beautiful crisp Fall morning so I headed to Barton's Creek to start my run by running the trails that criss-cross the neighborhood. I was clearly the first person on the trails because within a few seconds of turning off the road and onto the trail I was running through a continuous line of spider webs that were strung across the path! Now it's not unusual to run through the occasional web, but this was different - for some reason there seemed to be a huge number of them and pretty soon I was starting to feel a bit like a human cocoon! I plowed on, looking like a mad man wiping imaginary flies away from my face as I ran and after about a mile saw a figure running towards me in the opposite direction doing the same routine. I'm not sure who she was, but I'm sure that the mystery Spiderwoman was as pleased that I had cleared the way for her as I was that she had cleared my path!

Please don't tell SWMBO about this post - she's absolutely petrified of spiders and if she knows that I was covered in webs she will very likely not come near me for a month!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Triangle Open Water Championships - Race Report

A few weeks back I was eagerly reviewing what workouts The Coachman had scheduled for me on when I noticed:

Saturday September 14th
"1.2 mile open water swim. Triangle Champ Swim would be good."

A quick online search told me that FS Series would be hosting the final event of the Triangle Open Water Swim Series - the championships - at Vista Point on Jordan Lake that day. Now that all sounded a bit intimidating, but when the Coachman told me that entry was free if I volunteered, the cheap bastard in me took over and I signed up!

Saturday morning came and I woke to an early alarm and headed out to Vista Point (which was also the site of the swim portion of the Raleigh Ironman 70.3 event) in plenty of time to get there for 06:30 when I was needed to help with set-up and the registration table.

It was chilly! The wind was whipping and I was pleased that I decided to wear an extra layer over my T shirt! Brrrr..... It was pretty dark when I arrived, but I knew that the water conditions wouldn't be pretty!

We soon had the registration tables set-up and registration lists, T shirts, timing chips and swim caps laid out and waiting for the first arrivals.

The early crew......

Pretty soon the first competitors turned-up and the whining about the cold started! Now it certainly felt chilly after a long Carolina summer, but it wasn't that bad! The water temperature was still around 80 F, so the race would not be wetsuit legal.

The big concern in my eyes was not the temperature, but the wind! The flag on the FS Series trailer was whipping around and, sure enough, once the sun came up we could see white caps on Jordan lake and waves coming ashore. Not exactly ideal conditions!

Another major concern (for The Otter at least - she worked very hard not to stand next to me!) was that I was still coughing and sneezing as a result of a nasty late summer cold that I had picked-up. Breathing was a bit of a struggle - not exactly ideal for swimming!

After checking-in 120 or so hardy souls, it was time to head down to the start area on the beach and get ready to swim! There were 2.4 mile and 1.2 mile races and I was thankful that I had signed-up for the shorter distance!

The course was an elongated rectangle - out on the left side; right around a buoy; a shorter leg to the second turn buoy and back to the beach (2 laps for the folks doing 2.4 miles).

As expected based on the wind, conditions were tough (but at least the water was warmer than the air temperature!). The wind was blowing on-shore and slighlty from the swimmer's right, so the first long leg was a relentless "face wash" as you swam into the wind. I like to breathe every third stroke, but I soon figured that breathing to my right just resulted in a refreshing drink of muddy Jordan Lake water, so I switched to breathing every second stroke on my left hand side.

The outward journey felt like hard work, so I was happy to reach the first turn buoy. I made a reasonable turn and tried to sight to the second turn buoy, only to find that I had gone blind! The glare of the sun off the water was intense and, coupled with the chop, it was pretty much impossible to see. For a while I just followed the swimmer in front of me and hoped that they had either super eyesight or a better sense of direction that some people I know (Compass!). Eventually I made visual contact with the buoy and was relieved to realise that I was at least swimming roughly in the right direction! I made a slight course correction and switched to breast stroke now and again on the second leg to make sure that I was staying on track.

Finally I was on the final leg. The swimming finally got easier was there was a nice surfing effect from the waves. The only issue was that they were coming from over my left shoulder so, if I wasn't careful I would find myself being pushed to the right and off-course.

I finally made it ashore in the horribly slow time of around 45 minutes, but am certainly not beating myself up given the conditions, the fact that it was a training outing and, in particular, because I was having trouble breathing on land, let alone in the water! For reference, I swam the same distance in 39 minutes at the Ironman Raleigh race.

All-in-all, I was pleased that I did it. If I can do that in tough conditions and without a wetsuit, the swim at Beach-to-Battleship 70.3 at the end of the month will be a breeze!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Highs and Lows

Wow! Where did summer go? As I type this post (which I notice is my 200th!) it's almost September; the Junior Sassoons are back at school and I haven't made any entries to this blog for well over a month. Fear not, however, dear reader, I'm alive and well and still training hard! (Yeah, like you really care that much - if you're reading this drivel I'm assuming that you're suffering some sort of terminal insomnia or are mind crushingly bored!) :-)

I haven't raced since Ironman 70.3 Raleigh back in early June, but I have been keeping-up with The Coachman's instructions (more-or-less!) and I'm preparing for the Outer Banks Olympic Distance race on September 21st and the Beach-to-Battleship 70.3 miler in late October. Looking forward to both races immensely!

To get me back into the swing of things, here are a few highs and lows from the last couple of months of training:

High: Spending a good deal of time in Nags Head and being able to run on the beach! There's nothing quite like a barefoot run as the sun is coming up!

Low: A double flat ride that ended before it had really started.

High: Biking! I've had a bike focus over the summer and feel as if it's starting to pay off.

Low: Not having much opportunity to ride with Compass, Snort and Flipper. How I miss their bitchy banter, frequent pee stops and completely inappropriate potty humor!

High: Some really nice, steady open water swims in the ocean.

Low: Sore knees! Nothing too bad, but just a little concerning.

High: Riding with a group of experienced "roadies" and being able to keep-up!

Low: Another ride where I flatted 4+ miles from home. Changed the tire but found out that my CO2 cylinder was empty. Walked home in cleats....

High: Best workout of the year(or, maybe, ever) was when I had run about three miles up the beach early one moring and came across a huge pod of dolphin feeding in the waves very close to shore and putting on an amazing ariel display. Absolutely awe inspiring! I gave up my workout and walked/jogged as I followed them back down the beach for a couple of miles before they headed off-shore.

Now if only I could work out how to swim like they do......

Oh and one more final High: Finally getting to drop Compass on a few hills! [Sorry Compass, couldn't resist that one!] :-)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

What Are The Odds?

Ugh.  Another disasterous ride down here on the Outer Banks this morning.....

We have guests this weekend, so I was determined to get in my long ride early today.   I was quiet as can be as I made coffee so as not to wake the passed-out masses and soon headed out on a beautiful sunny morning with just a mild breeze from the west.

As it was so early I decided that I would be safe riding over the bridge to Manteo and then on through town and over the old bridge to Mashoes and beyond.   Well, it wasn't to be....

I crossed the bridge and was a lttle over five miles into the ride on the causeway between Pirate's Cove and Manteo when I ran over something metallic (I heard the clinking sound) and felt that unmistakable feeling as my back tire deflated.   Damn!   Not to worry - a quick change and I would be on my way.  I found a pretty good gash in my brand new tire (see previous post) but no obvious cause of the flat.  I cleaned things carefully and put the new tube on the rim.  The tire was a little more difficult than usual to get back on the rim as it was new, but after just a little wrestling that too was in-place.   Now just pump it up and I would be on my way.  I got out my CO2 cylinder, placed it over the valve, pressed the button and......  pfffffttttttt......   just a pathetic little puff of gas and the thing was empty.   WTF?   It has never been used, but apparently must have been happily and slowly leaking gas without me knowing.   No spare canister and no pump with me.   Now what?

It was still too early to call SWMBO, who enjoys her bed on Sunday mornings, so I decided not to disturb her unless absolutely necessary.  There are usually plenty of riders here, so I figured that I would just start walking slowly and I would be sure to run into some friendly soul with a pump.   Ummmm... not so much!   One very nice lady on a beach cruiser stopped, but her tires had different valve to mine, so her pump was of little use.  I kept walking and was soon at the bridge.   This left me in a quandry: walk over or try to catch a ride?   I tried to look suitably pathetic on the side of the road for a while, but what little traffic there was just kept speeding past.   What the heck, I'll walk....   now the quandry became do I walk into oncoming traffic for safety reasons, or do I walk with traffic to increase the chances of someone giving me a ride?   I chose the former and walked over this baby:

OK, OK, I know it's upside down.....    Can't manage to rotate this one!   :-)
A little later I saw a biker coming towards me - finally!    Unfortunately, it was a guy on a roadie who completely and utterly ignored me, despite me yelling to see if he had a pump as he passed.   Who rides past someone walking their bike in the middle of nowhere?   What a D-Bag!   Oh well, keep walking....

Soon enough I was walking back up the beach road.  Surely now someone would stop to help?   I was within less than a mile from home when finally a friendly voice called out from a driveway.  Two very nice couples from Virginia were just heading out for their ride and had a pump - phew!   After pumping-up and having a nice chat I was able to ride the last few minutes home.  Six miles of riding and walking four plus miles in bike cleats counts as a workout, right?

Now I'm off to OBX Cycles to buy another new tube; a couple of CO2 cylinders and a small hand pump.  Damn you Bike Gods!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sometimes it's just not meant to be.....

After a tough work week featuring long days, cancelled flights and all manner of general hassles, I finally made it down to Nags Head to join SWMBO and the Junior Sassoons on Friday evening.

I was looking forward to my scheduled two hour ride on Saturday, but I guess it just wasn't to be.

Things didn't start well when I got my bike out....  flat rear tire.  Ugh.   I changed that one and started north on the beach road having used my only spare inner tube.  Bad idea.....    about six miles in I felt a judder in my rear wheel and, sure enough, another flat.....    Damn, damn, damn!    I was lucky that the spot where I flatted was only about half a mile south of Outer Banks Cycles, so I was able to walk m bike there.  I new tire and three spare tubes later I was on my way again, but by this time the off-shore cross winds were getting crazy and I was working hard to avoid getting blown into traffic.  Once the thunder and lightning started I knew that the ride was over and turned for home. 

Just a little over 18 miles - not at all what I had in mind, but at least I lived to fight another day!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Guest Blog Post - "The Bell Tolls for Thee"

Something new!    Writing this blog can sometimes get a bit old, so to change things up thi week we have a guest post!   Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Compass!    This was written after our ride together last Sunday.....

She cleans-up pretty well!

The Bell Tolls for Thee
I have never been one for waking up early.  In fact, after 36 years of life on this planet, I can proclaim with certainty that almost nothing good ever happens before noon.  Triathlon has become a pastime that I absolutely adore, yet still, when race day comes – I find that the hour of my alarm clock is nearly as daunting as the race itself!  So when my faithful cycling comrade (whom I refer to as “Vidal”) emailed me last week to say that he would like Saturday’s ride to start at 7 a.m., I nearly slammed my head against the keyboard.  I knew this might be the last time I would be able to ride with Vidal for weeks to come, but 7 A.M.???  Frantically, I emailed back – “7 a.m. riding or 7 a.m. ‘hair & makeup’?”  This is what Vidal has nicknamed the (admittedly) inordinate amount of time I spend messing with my bike shoes, my helmet and my 8 layers of clothing on every ride.  Thankfully, he conceded to my plea.  “7 a.m. hair & makeup”.  Phew! 
Saturday morning came, and I rolled into Vidal’s driveway at 7 a.m. on the dot.  I noticed immediately that The Slut was not parked outside as usual, and the garage door was closed.  There was no smell of coffee - no chirpy British voice harrying me to shake off the morning and stop scowling.  What could be going on here?
I pulled up Vidal’s facebook page and immediately got my answer.  Apparently, “One Direction” happened.  That’s right.  Zayn, Liam, Harry, Louis and (everyone’s favorite -) Niall.  The pictures told me all I needed to know.  In spite of the fact that Vidal wasn’t smiling in any of these concert photos, it was clear that he, SWMBO, and the little Sassoons had had one heck of an exciting Friday night.
After one text message and one unanswered phone call later, I could only assume that he had likely gone deaf from adolescent, female screaming.  A slight smirk appeared on my face.  In the few minutes that had passed, I had already come up with several good punch lines at Vidal’s expense.  Finally – after being the butt of so many (usually accurate) jokes, I would have my vengeance.
Just then, Vidal burst from the house and onto the footpath.  Well, “burst” may be a bit of an exaggeration.  He swung open the door wobbled through it, looking discombobulated.  He muttered something that sounded vaguely like, “I’ll be freddie in a few thin-mints.  I stared in confusion at the once again closed door and wondered if he’d ever be coming back.  He returned shortly thereafter carrying coffee and looking pitiful.  I couldn’t even bring myself to use any of my well-formed punch lines.  Instead, I sat patiently beside my readied bike, residing myself to the hope that this would possibly buy me some future credit.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, Vidal would have some credit owed to SWMBO as well.  Turns out that my earlier call had awoken him so abruptly that he leapt out of bed shouting “Get the phone! Get the phone!”  SWMBO responded sleepily to inform him that their bedroom phone was not ringing, which only escalated his frazzled ranting.  When she finally awakened to his satisfaction and held out the receiver (featuring only a dial tone), he acknowledged that it must be his cell . . . which was downstairs . . . oops.
Anyway, once the coffee (and the pillow lines on Vidal’s face) had dwindled, we finally did head out for our moderate 35-miler.  Having not ridden in any serious fashion since the Raleigh 70.3 three weeks earlier, I expected the hills to be a little rough. Turns out they felt brutal!  Clearly my legs must have sustained some sort of atrophy from sitting in Vidal’s driveway for so long.  This ride also included an impromptu pedal-for-our-lives interval, courtesy of a dog that looked like Lassie but did a fair impersonation of Kujo.  And the coups de gras of the morning occurred when traveling 32 mph downhill and having some newbie jogger step directly in front of my wheel.  Managed to avoid injury to either one of us, though I thought about pulling over and leaving him (and any of his potential offspring) with something to think about.
Having said all of that, I did enjoy this ride.  It was a great workout with great weather - and it is always nice to spend time with the Sassoons (especially after biking, when we can all exchange punch lines together!).  I look forward to my next weekend cycling adventure with Vidal – though I suspect it will not be at 7 a.m.

Note from me.....    I'm in a band!!    Awesome!    And I have by far the best hair!

Friday, June 14, 2013

So What's Next?

Almost two weeks have passed since Ironman 70.3 Raleigh; my legs feel back to normal and I have enjoyed some lighter workouts and (like George Washington, I cannot tell a lie) some junk food and a few extra glasses of wine.

But now it's time to get busy again.

So what's next?

As the Raleigh race was approaching I did think about taking a couple of months off over the summer to enjoy spending a bit of time at the coast and generally "de-tox" without feeling the need to keep to a rigorous and regular workout schedule.   Several things made me change my mind however:
  • I know myself and "taking it a little easier" could quite easily become "laze around and drink too much beer"....    that's NOT what I want!
  • SWMBO has been incredibly supportive and has encouraged me to keep training as long as it doesn't interfere significantly with family life.  (Thanks dear!)
  • After Ironman 70.3 Raleigh, I really want to do another 70.3 this year!
Before rushing to any decisions I wanted to talk things over with the Coachman, so after the One Step Beyond Coaching group swim session at Triangle Aquatic Center on Tuesday morning we met for breakfast to go over what the rest of the season might look like and beyond.

First decision was that Beach-to-Battleship 70.3 in Wilmington, NC on October 26th (Set-Up Events) would be a good target race.  Objective (weather allowing) is to use the tide assisted swim and flat course to crush the 6 hour barrier. 

We had a good discussion about how training would look for the next couple of months, especially as I'm hoping to spend quite a bit of time at the coast.  I have also had some concerns about my knees having been a bit sore for the past month or so.  I was pleased with our decision to move to a bike and core focus for a while (with maintenance swim and run workouts) before moving back into a full build for the race.

I also decided that I am not going to do any other races between now and Beach-to-Battleship except, perhaps, Outer Banks Olympic for primarily social reasons.

Now this is where it gets a bit scary..........

I can't believe that I'm saying this, but I....   ummmm.....   sort of.......   broached the subject of possibly...... doing a full 140.6 mile Ironman event next fall....    there.....   yep.....    I said it!

Now I'm still a long way from being fully committed to this yet, but The Coachman saw no reason why I shouldn't do it.   My biggest concern is to get family buy in for the amount of training it will entail.  I was somewhat ecouraged by The Coachman saying that much of the training would be broadly similar to what I'm doing now, with the main difference being longer "long" bike and run workouts as the chosen event gets closer. 

Maybe it's time to start looking for a "destination" race to take SWMBO and the Junior Sassoons to?  Next years late season options seem to be:

Lake Tahoe (Sept.)
Kona (Oct.)    World Championships - OK, so maybe not!!
Florida (Nov.)
Arizona (Nov.)
Cozumel (Dec.)

Decisions, decisions.   Florida is a popular "first timers" race, but it sells out extremely quickly (as does Arizona).  I quite like the sound of Lake Tahoe, but there's plenty of time to worry about where!

Another thing that I would like to do if (and it's still a big IF!) I decide to do this, is to try to raise some money for charity.   I need to work on this.  There are several good causes that are close to our hearts and it will be nice to feel that I'm doing something for others as I indulge in this incredibly self-centered sport!

So there, I've said it in public.  I guess time will tell whether it comes to fruition or not!

And for those who may be wondering:  No, I will most certainly not be getting one of these if I happen to sign-up and actually finish....

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ironman 70.3 Raleigh Race Report

Phew!   That was a hot one!  [Health warning"  this is possibly the longest blog post ever!]

On Sunday June 2nd I completed my second "half" distance triathlon - the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Raleigh event - along with about 2,400 of my closest friends.   Well, maybe not, but as it was a local event I did know several dozen fellow lunatics who signed-up for this before they realised that they would be running in Dante's Inferno!

To cut to the chase, it was an incredibly well organized event; the support along the course was awesome (both at the aid stations and from people who lined the course to watch); it was brutally hot, but I ended up with a new personal best time for the 70.3 mile total distance by about fifteen minutes.  The City of Raleigh did us proud!   Here's how things played out......

Because the race course was "point-to-point" the logistics of the event were pretty complicated.  The 1.2 mile swim took place at Vista Point State Recreation Area on Jordan Lake; the bike course was 56 miles through rural Chatham and Wake counties from Vista Point to downtown Raleigh and then the run was an out-and-back course from the city center, past the NC State Univesity Campus, through Meredith College and then turn back after two loops of a very hilly section on the greenway through the North Carolina Museum of Art grounds.   Very scenic, but as we will see, also very tough!

I picked Compass up on Friday afternoon and we drove to the Raleigh Convention Center where we were to register and pick-up all of our race gear.  The registration process was smooth and efficient.  After signing our lives away on the numerous legal disclaimer forms and proving that our USAT memberships were up-to-date, we had our participant wrist bands firmly attached and then picked-up race numbers, timing chips, race shirts etc. before taking a look around "Ironman Village" and the various vendor displays.  Race number 345...   nice and easy to remember!  Ran into Jon Anderson, Julie Paddison, Rachael Houp, The Coachman, The Otter and others before finally finding "the dynamic duo" of Snort and Flipper Ass.   Chatted for a while before heading home to get my race numbers attached to The Slut, bike helmet etc. and finally starting to think about laying out all of my race gear.

On Saturday bikes had to be dropped at Vista Point between 10 am and 6 pm.   SWMBO and the Junior Sassoons agreed to take the 45 minute ride from home with me and to drive the bike course afterwards with a promise of a trip to the Farmer's Market and lunch!  

The Slut in position.

Clearly we were relatively early arrivals!   It would look very different the next morning!
Bike drop-off was very well organised and it just took a few minutes before we wondered over to take a look at the swim course - the buoys were still being put into position, but the triangular course was clearly visible.  I guess it comes with a little more experience of longer open water swims, but I had absolutely no jitters or nerves when thinking about the swim, in fact.....    I was positively looking forward to it!!  This is a pretty remarkable transition from where I was just a couple of short years ago, struggling to pull together even a few laps of freestyle in the pool without having to stop to gasp for breath!   I was positively looking forward to the swim even though, based on information provided by the race organisers, the water temperature was likely to be too warm for wet suits, so no added buoyancy was going to be available.   No problem - Compass and I had swum a liesurely 1.2 miles in Falls Lake the previous Thursday "sans wetsuit" and it felt good.  Wetsuit?  We don't need no stinkin' wetsuit!

Vista Point:  Swim start - the calm before the storm.   You can see the first yellow sighting buoys being put in place.  

The Junior Sassoons and SWMBO survey the swim exit.
 We were soon driving the course and following a guy with Pennsylvania plates who was clearly doing the same thing.  I think SWMBO (who named him "Big Daddy" for some obscure reason) freaked him out a little with her stalking and tail gating, as he eventually swerved violently into a strip mall, much to the amusement of the Junior Sassoons.  I already knew the course pretty well and had ridden much of it, but I have to say that it seemed like an awfully long way!

I tried to "rest up" for the rest of the day and watched the NHL playoff game before turning in relatively early.  Surprisingly, I didn't lie awake thinking about the next day's race like I usually do and I was out like a light!  This was just as well because......

       .....the freakin' alarm was set for 03:10 am!!   This was all Compass' fault.  She's apparently paranoid about getting to races "in plenty of time" and insisted that I pick her up at 04:00 am to make sure that we had sufficient time to leave our run gear bags in "T1" outside the Progress Energy Center for the Perfoming Arts in downtown Raleigh and to board a shuttle bus for the swim start.   It could have been worse I guess - on Friday she was suggesting that I pick her up at 03:30 am!   She is certifiably nuts! 

As usual I woke up a few minutes before the alarm was due to go off (how does this always seem to happen?) and was soon drinking coffee and eating a Breugger's bagel (onion with honey walnut cream cheese - yum!); banannas; and a bottle of Ensure - my standard race day breakfast.  I also took a Lava Salt capsule (as I had also done the evening before) because I knew it was going to be a hot one. 

After double checking that my three color coded gearbags were in the car [green for street clothes; blue for bike gear (and to receive wet swim gear) and red for run gear] and getting my three nutrition bottles out of the fridge (each with one scoop EFS; two scoops CarboPro and the contents of one Lava Salt capsule) I headed off to pick-up Compass.  I was surprised that her hubby Gerry was up at such an un-Godly hour to see her off and wish us luck - another good "Iron Spouse"!

It took us no time to find a parking spot and drop our run gear in the T1 transition area before heading over to where the shuttle busses were lined-up.   Well, what a surprise!  We seemed to be on the first of about fifty that were waiting to leave.  I could probably have had at least another 30 minutes (probably an hour?) in bed....  thanks Compass!  She clearly doesn't realise how much I need my beauty sleep.  Actually, now that I think about it - beauty sleep?  I need a coma!

On the bus.   Me snoozing.  Compass apparently delerious (or drunk again?)
 Once we arrived at Vista Point I got "body marked" with my race number and age and quickly got tires pumped and set out my bike gear - helmet, shades, shoes (not allowed to be clipped to the pedals for this event), socks and Garmin set on bike.  I did have my wetsuit packed in the blue bag just-in-case, but after the announcements of the previous day I was 99.9% sure that the water temperature would be greater than 76.1 F and that it would stay in the bag until I picked it up later in the day.  I was far from the only person who was surprised then, when the PA announcer informed us that the water temperature was 76.0 F and that the race would be wetsuit legal!   This prompted giddy excitement from many who had been dreading the swim and groans of despair from those who left their wet suits at home.  One of these was Snort, whose husband had driven her to the race start, but had left again with the wet suit because the aforementioned Snort was too lazy to carry it!   A few frantic calls later and "Awesome Iron Spouse III" returned and delivered Snort's rubbery saviour.

T1 was just a little bit busier than it was on Saturday morning!   Organized chaos!
 Because of my advancing years...   oops, I mean vast experience, I was due to start in the fourth swim wave (men 50-54 orange caps) at 07:10 behind only the male and female professionals and the men 55 and older groups.  Never-the-less, because of Compass' paranoia I now still had a couple of hours to wander around and chat with some friends and fellow athletes.   I ran into The Coachman and asked him whether he thought that I should wear my wet suit and we agreed that it made sense if only to save my legs some for the bike and run to follow.   Pretty soon I head a yell of "nice hair Vidal" and knew that the dynamic duo of Snort and Flipper Ass were some where among the 2,400+ lycra clad maniacs....
Flipper Ass smiling as usual.  She wore that sh#t eating grin even through the pain of the run from hell!

Snort - apparently applying sun block with a carrot....
 It was nice to also run into Casey Bombien, who would be successfully finishing her first 70.3 that day and Chris Roberts, who is one of the guys from the Outer Banks Tri Club who I had swapped messages with but never had the pleasure of meeting before.  Good as always to also see Rabbit and to chat with some of the One Step Beyond athletes like Angie McDonald.

Chris Roberts - photo blatantly stolen from his wife Kelly's facebook page - thanks Kelly!
 I even brushed fame at one point when I was interviewed by a local news crew.   It seems that they didn't understand the Queen's English, but Compass was obviously more eloquent/coherent because part of her interview made it to the local news!

Yours truly and the WRAL reporter guy, who is clearly trying to work out what the hell I am babbling on about!
 OK, so 07:00 - race start - was now starting to click closer.   Time to get serious!   At about 06:55 I pulled my wetsuit on half way and took my place alongside the other orange caps in my age group.  At this point the skies were overcast and the temperature pleasant...   how that would change later in the day!  Once the lady pros went off at 07:03 I pulled the wetsuit on the whole way and was soon waist deep in water waiting for my wave start at 07:10 and enjoying the usual good natured nervous banter that always seems to precede the starting gun.  It was nice to chat for a while to Mike McConeghy who was in the same wave.

Male pros lined-up for the start

The start of my "orange cap" wave....   I'm in there somewhere!

...and they are off!  
 [Photo credits for the above three pictures:  Jack Tarr.  WRAL News]

OK - enough of this preamble nonsense....   time to get on to the real race report!

Swim.  1.2 miles:  

00:39:46  (02:03 per 100M)
Division rank 55/179
Overall (male & female):  503/~2,400

Overall I was very pleased with this.   Clockwise triangular course with the second leg being the longest.  Being out of the water in around 40 minutes if the swim was wetsuit legal was my target and I managed things well.    I waited a few seconds for the "scrum" to subside at the start and pretty quickly found myself some clean water.  I took it easy on the first leg and just focused on "long and steady".  A few bumps along the way as usual, but I'm well used to this now and managed to take them all is stride (or should that be "in stroke"?).   Found feet to draft on a couple of times, but in both cases I seemed to be faster and so went around them.   Soon found myself catching some "red caps" from the previous wave, which is always a good confidence booster.  On the second (longest) leg the wind was in our face and it was significantly choppier, but again no issues.   I sighted well and passed adjacent to every buoy.   On the final leg there was a slight "surfing" effect from the wind driven chop.   Was happy to see the timing clock at the end and knew that I had managed a respectable swim (for me at least!)

Exiting the swim

Swim exit....  where's that damned zip?
Transition One:  03:00

My first experience with "wetsuit strippers".   As you exit the water there are a group of volunteers who yell at you to lie on the ground and then basically rip your wetsuit off you - awesome!   :-)

Smooth transition with no issues.  Steady mount on the bike.

Coming out of T1 and looking awkward running in bike cleats....

Bike.  56 Miles.  Rolling course.  Official elevation gain:  1,230 ft.  My Garmin elevation gain (corrected on Training Peaks): 1,933 ft.

02:58:51  (18.79 mph average)
Division Rank at end of bike:  51/179
Overall (male & female):  582/~2,400
I was again pleased with this - anything around three hours was my target.  Would definitely have taken a sub three hour bike at the start of the day.  Nice course - very scenic.  Long drag uphill out of transition and then "rolling" throughout.  As usual I had a pretty consistent flow of speedsters from later (and younger!) waves passing me throughout (including The Coachman, who flew by me very early in the bike and yelled that something was rubbing on my bike - luckily it was just a "click" that only manifested it self when I was in the small ring and the highest gear!).  I did manage to chase down and pass quite a few people myself though.  Kept aero and steady throughout and feel that I kept a good cadence and pace.   Drank/fueled regularly.  Had a little wind assistance in places, which helped.  The support through rural Chatham county and into Holly Springs was fantastic!   All sorts of banners, yelling and waving.  I did think that the giant cut outs of dog's heads was a bit weird....   I guess they meant something to someone!

On the by-pass in Holly Springs (I think...  maybe it's Route 64?).  Note that it was still overcast at this point.
Transition Two: 02:45

No issues.  Ate a gel and took some fluids before heading off on the run.  By this time the sun was blaring down and it was getting noticeably hotter!

Run.  13.1 miles.   "The Run From Hell"!   Official elevation gain:  226 ft (yeah right!).  My Garmin elevation gain (corrected on Training Peaks):  421 ft.  Some people measured as much as 800 ft.   Whatever it was, Ironman lied to us!!   :-)

Heat index:  98 F

02:23:07  (Slow as heck!  10:55/mile average)

Holy crap this was a tough one!   Coming off the bike I thought that I had a pretty good chance of smashing the six hour barrier, but it didn't take long to realise that this wasn't going to happen!

The course started downtown and the went out on Hillsborough Street (a steady incline) past the NCSU campus, into Meredith College and then onto the Raleigh Greenway for two laps around the gounds of the NC Museum of Art before returning along the same route to an awesome finish past the State Capital and down Fayetteville Street.  Very pretty in parts, but also MUCH hillier than advertised!   Coupled with the heat this made the run extremely difficult!   I pretty soon found myself having to walk up the steeper inclines and though every aid station to put ice down my shirt; take iced sponges; drink everything in sight (including some puky orange sports drink that didn't agree with my stomach - a mistake) and take on fuel.  The volunteers at these aid stations were nothing short of awesome!  So much help and encouragement.   I wasn't happy to be moving so slowly, but took some comfort in the fact that virtually everyone else seemed to be having to walk too.  After the race it was interesting to see even the pros talking about how tough the run course was (see the very end of this post).

Picture shamelessly stolen from Rabbit's facebook page showing the forced death march up one of the hills coming back out of the NCMA and into Meredith College.   There are some seriously fit people walking up that hill and that was far from beeing the longest/steepest!

Thanks (I think!) to Jen Bauldree for this picture of me in an hour of need.
Who thought it was a good idea to do a double loop featuring one of the steeper hills?   And why was the official elevation given by the organizers so far off?  Oh well, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger I guess!

Things got a little easier once I escaped from NCMA and Meredith College.  It was still hotter than hell, but at least it was mostly slightly downhill.  I still walked through the aid stations, but otherwise managed to keep up a plodding run to the finish.

The closing half mile down Fayetteville Street was absolutely fantastic!   Talk about a good boost to finish.  The sidewalks were packed with cheering supporters and the finishing chute was a zoo!   Great setting too, with the State Capital behind you and the Performing Arts Center ahead.  Raleigh turned out in force and put on a great show!

One of the pros heading down Fayetteville Street to the finish

Some annoyingly super fast guy in the finishing chute.
SWMBO and the Junior Sassons were cheering me on at the finish.  I looked for them but almost missed them.   Thankfully something made me turn my head and I caught sight of them out of the corner of my eye.   I added a few yard to my run as I turned around for kisses all round, but it was 15 or 20 seconds added to my race time that was very well spent!

Final stretch.
The exact moment that I realised that I had run past SWMBO and the Junior Sassoons

Oh there you are....   give me a kiss!
Last few yards!

Done!   Started 10 mins after the pros, so chip time was 06:07:29
What a relief to cross that finish line - definitely one of the most brutal runs I have ever done.  I'm guessing that there are a couple of thousand others out there who agree with me!   I'm obviously not going to beat myself up over it - difficult, difficult, difficult!


Well what do you know?  Despite the Run from Hell I managed a personal best!   Overall I finished in 06:07:29 - a full 15 minutes faster than I did Rev.3 South Carolina last year.   Final placement was 55/179 in my division and 777/~2,400 (men & women) overall.  In the top third - I'll take it!  Very happy with this and what an absolutely fabulous race!   I will be back for more punishment next year.

Pleased to be done!

Hanging with the Junior Sassoons!
Got. To. Sit. Down!
I need to close this waaay too long post with a few thank yous.

Firstly, and most importantly, a huge thank you to SWMBO and the Junior Sassoons who were there to cheer me on and put up with my long hours of training and obsessive tracking of stats!  I love you all!

I LOVE the optimistic "you run like a lightning bolt"!   :-)
I seem to be doing back stroke!
Awesome M-Dot blueberry & vanilla pie that I was served fro dinner.  I'm a lucky guy!
Next shout out goes to the City of Raleigh and the absolutely phenomenal supporters and volunteers, police and emergency services throughout the course.  Words are not enough.  Proud of the city and great to see so many out-of-towners raving about what a great event it was.

Finally, thanks to The Coachman for his guidance and wisdom and to all of my training buddies and fellow members of the OSB team for their support and encouragement!

Here are a few more pictures "just because".....
A well deserved beer with super speedy OSB athlete Audrey Schipprack 

Bike collected and heading home
The Otter sporting her OSB kit and concentrating on the race to come... [Photo: WRAL]
As a kind of post script I though that I would add some quotes from Melanie McQuaid, who is a lady professional and finished third in the event.  Pleased to see that even the pros suffer sometimes!

"My race on Sunday was pretty darn good.  First off,  lets discuss how hard Ironman is for a second.  It was horribly humid and you need to keep moving for hours and hours.  I recognize it could have been hotter and the bike portion of the race was somewhat cool due to cloud cover but by the time we got to that bear of a run it was stinkin hot."     
"Out onto the run I was expecting something resembling the course profile.  Notsomuch.  Here are some of my thoughts:  Where the heck did all these mountains over by the art gallery come from?  Who turned up the heat?  Why is the whole way on the way out totally uphill when the profile says it is flat?  The run was really really hard.  When most of the pro men are in the 1:20s range you know it is hard.   I was spending the entire run trying not to do my classic southeastern chicken dance instead of finishing.  I walked aid stations, took 4 cups of ice cubes and generally went into meltdown protection mode." 

"I saw none of the beauty on the run course since I was blind with suffering but the bike was incredibly awesome.  So green, best roads in the world, most fans on the side of the road ever, best aid stations ever, most interesting point to point journey, you name it this race is awesome.  I loved it. Want to come back."