For the last couple of weeks in April I had the pleasure of residing in what could best be described as “Pleasantville”. Taking the chance to visit my friend Brendan who is in the Navy, I flew out to San Diego for a couple weeks. What better way to get through the remaining cold and nasty days of Upstate NY then by flying the coop and getting the heck out of dodge. Brendan lives in Coronado, a peninsula of sorts just across the bay from Downtown SD, accessible only by a long bridge…or a very long trip through Chula Vista. So, really Coronado is basically a private island of sorts for the wealth and affluent, as well as all those military types who are stationed at one of the many bases located on the island.
I had a great time in San Diego as the weather was perfect every single day. Sunny and in the 70’s; like clockwork. I was able to put in a solid two week training block without having to utilize the trainer once. It was a good trip that allowed me to focus on my training as well as connect with a long time friend and meet his new friends. I was able to take in a Padres game, see an ITU event in person and catch up with my buddy Eric Lagerstrom who is doing big things in short course triathlon as he works towards RIO 2016.
San Diego training was legit. As evidenced by my face here:
but it was also paradise as evidenced by the 50m pool just 1 mile from my friends house:
…or the coast line up by Encinitas
Bidding San Diego farewell I left the perfect weather and went back to NY where I thought I would be facing the depressing rainy Spring season. I was delighted to come back to an Upstate NY that was in full bloom and felt like summer was already in full swing. I am extremely thankful as I would not have been in great spirits if the weather had been awful. Being able to get outside and ride and run very comfortably was a great way to knock out the last few training sessions before heading down to New Jersey for the Bassman Half-Iron.
Bassman Half-Iron Recap:
I headed down to New Jersey on Saturday after stuffing myself with pancakes, blueberry and sweet potato…an amazing combo. The carb loading continued as I made the 6 hour drive to Bass River State Park which is located near Atlantic City (you know the place with the casinos..and where Boardwalk Empire takes place). As a side note, if you do not own an “EZ-PASS” be prepared to shell out some serious coin as tolls run rampant down in that area. I have never gone through so many toll stops in my life!
I registered Saturday afternoon and headed to my hotel which was about 30 minutes away. It was a good bargain at $90 bucks and was really the only one within an hour that had rooms available. I was just staying one night so I needed everything ready to go at 5am when I was planning on heading to transition. By this time it was getting towards 7 and I wanted to be in bed by 7:30 since I had not been sleeping well in the days leading up to the race. No real reason..just restless. Well I got my stuff together and even sat in my Normatec boots for 30 minutes and was sleeping by 7:30…I was on pace for a GREAT nights sleep when disaster struck. At 2:15 the fire alarm went off. In my foggy state I wandered aimlessly around my room wondering why I was awake, trying to figure out what the noise was and searching for the bathroom since I had to pee. Well I eventually figured out what was going on and relieved myself. Let’s face it my room wasn’t on fire…so I took the chance to use the bathroom and put on some warm clothes. After some talking with the neighbors we heard sirens and decided that this alarm might actually have some merit. We headed outside and there we stood for the better part of an hour as the fire department made sure everything was safe. There are few things in this world that make me truly unhappy and those are not letting me sleep the amount of time I was told I would have to sleep and being hungry. Both make for a very grumpy Me. It was 3:30 when I finally crawled back into my bed. I closed my eyes and tried to get some rest. Soon enough it was 4:15 and I figured I should get moving as the earlier wake up call had messed my body up and my normal routine. I figured since I was still pretty much up at this point that I should just man up and get rolling.
I’ll conclude this section of the recap by telling you that I found out what happened and it was not cool! My buddy Gibbons informed me that right around 2:15 am he and his roommate heard young people screwing around in the hallway, most likely they were stumbling back in after a night out in Atlantic City, remember that the hotel was just a few miles from there. Gibbons could hear them being idiots and sure thing, the fire alarm goes off seconds later…weird…I hope they found out who it was and made them pay!
The race itself can probably be best summarized by two words Cold and Grind. New Jersey for some reason was not getting the heat wave that upstate NY was in the midst of. This made for a chilly start to the day. The water being around 60, as it was a small lake made for comfortable swimming, but this was nullified by the fact that once on the bike the 50 degree temps and chilling headwinds made for a tough day.
The swim was a 2 loop course which had 7 turns in total. My wave consisted of all males under 39, which was great because it meant that all the contenders to win would be in the same wave. I lined up next to Jesse Kropelnicki, QT2’s founding father and swam on his feet through about the 3rd turn. Being able to get that initial draft was great and help set me up for a good swim. After the 3rd turn I went in front of Jesse and returned the drafting favor for the remainder of the race. It looks like the swim course was a tad short as I exited the water right around 27 minutes. By my estimation the swim was around 2 minutes slower than normal..but hey I’ll take it.
The transition area was pretty small and allowed me to find my bike without the usual 2 minute escapade of running around looking for my bike in a fanatic fury. Once out on the bike course (a three loop circuit) I got cold. The sun was NOT out and the wind was UP. Even though it was a relatively pancake flat course the road surface, head winds and cross winds along with 50 degree temps made it an absolute grind. I was definitely feeling it in my legs and both my cadence and HR were lower than expected. However, it appeared that everyone was having the same issues as the multi loop course allowed for many points in the race where I was able to check on my competitors. As it turned out the #1 challenger was a fellow QT2 Teammate (and QT2 Coach) Vinny Johnson who was completely at home in the cold weather. He had put a couple minutes into me in the swim and I was not getting any of it back on the bike. After the first two loops I was still counting Vinny as being about 2:30 up on me. I tried to up my effort on the third loop in order to give myself a shot at running him down. It looks like I made up between 20 and 30 seconds on that last loop. Not a lot, but every second counts.
After dealing with the cold wind that never seemed to be a tailwind the run was a welcome challenge. After flying over my handle bars and making an amazing save while dismounting my bike (don’t ask..) I changed into my run shoes and got to work on tracking Vinny down. At this point it was myself and Vinny who were at the front of the race. The first few miles were a little rough for me as I had to make a couple visits to the woods. It’s not a pretty part of the sport but sometimes nature calls and you must answer. Luckily the run was completely in a forest, which made cover easy to find. After that was behind me I felt better and was able to resume my chase. The cold tough grind of a ride left my legs pretty smashed and I wasn’t exactly running fresh. This coupled with the HR being low, most likely due to the cold temps made really running fast a challenge. I liken running to shoveling coal into the furnace of a big old steam engine. You need to really get that thing burning bright to get the real speed and when your HR isn’t being stimulated its just hard to get the body moving at top end speed. It really took me quite a long time to load the coal into the engine on Sunday. Luckily I was able to manage well on the run and slowly built into it. Not the plan I had envisioned, which was to start off around a 6 min/mi pace and keep the pedal down the whole time. Instead my splits were as such:
So the run played out like this. Around mile 7 to 8 I began seeing the back of Vinny who had been in front of me all day. I was beginning to make up some decent time on him and around the 9 mile mark the gap was somewhere around 30 seconds. I thought I was going to make up that ground within a mile but Vinny was really making me work to bridge the gap. I kept trying to push the pace but my legs just weren’t going as fast at I wanted them to. Finally over the last 3 miles I just told myself that I need to put in a really good push because I was so close to 1st place. Its not everyday you get a chance to race for the win and I didn’t want to let the opportunity to slip away. It can be easy to just settle for second place, and your mind can trick you into thinking that its a perfectly good thing to do. So the tricky part is overriding your brains circuits and telling it to not settle, to go for it and try to be first. You’d think it would be an easy thing to do, but after 4 hours of racing trying to coax your body into its biggest effort is pretty hard, it would much rather go in cruise control and enjoy the last 10 minutes. In my case I was able to push myself just a little bit harder over the final 3 miles I finally gapped up to Vinny with literally a quarter mile to go. There was a slight incline where I caught him and then a sight descent (this is NJ so it was basically flat…but still a little downhill). I made the pass and put some space in between us. After a few seconds I looked back and saw that Vinny didn’t appear to be putting in a huge sprint. Whether he was being gracious or tired (I hope more tired because of the effort he put in to keep me off during the run) he didn’t come back to me and I was able to run across the line first. I’ve won a few races before, local sprint races but this was the first Half Iron distance win and it feels pretty good. It was a small field and the race was not a big WTC event but it was a damn good race. Having Vinny ahead of me all day was absolutely awesome. Racing WTC events you just don’t get this experience unless your in the PRO wave due to the masses of people that crowd the course. You can never really race head to head because a lot times the biggest competition started either before you or after. So in this regards this race really was great. If Vinny had not been in the race to challenge me or vice versa it would have been a much more lonely race for us. However, having someone to duel it out with really helped me get the most out of myself. I hope Vinny feels the same way. I had an absolute blast trying to track him down all day. This time I came away the winner but I am sure (and hope) we get to battle again. Overall, chasing Vinny down led to a swim PR (with an * due to course length), a bike that saw some one of my highest avg power days and a 70.3 run split PR. All these things weren’t exactly pretty and a lot of the times I didn’t feel awesome, but that’s why I deemed this race a COLD GRIND. It really made each competitor work for a finishing time….and truthfully that’s how every race should be. Each race should have aspects of it that test both the physical and mental fitness of the athletes.
Race Splits were (full listing below):
Swim – 27:05, Bike – 2:19 (Included transition I believe) and Run – 1:21 for a total time of 4:10.
Once the race was wrapped up I took off on the next leg of my East Coast journey and headed towards Boston to see my Red Sox take on the Twins Monday night. The drive to Boston for Bass River State Park, NJ was a story in of itself as the trip took about 7.5 hours due to distance and the amount of traffic within the NYC limits. I had never had the chance to experience NYC traffic and it did not disappoint. I was in huge traffic jams, I felt like I was in a nascar race at times and I also paid a $13 toll to cross the George Washington Bridge. Yeah, that was not a typo. It COST THIRTEEN DOLLARS! I am someone who understands that in this day in age things cost a good deal of money, but even Matt Curbeau draws the line at $13 per car to cross a bridge at 1mph…on the brightside I suppose I got my moneys worth since.
Anyways, I got into the city late Sunday night and had a pretty restless sleep. Between being a little fried from the race and wired from the drive, I was just out of sorts. Luckily I just hung out all day on Monday. Visited Whole Foods (AMAZING), found a shop to get a fresh apple, beet, carrot, lemon and ginger juice, and then rested up in preparation for the Sox Game. My buddy CJ, who I went to school with in London was able to drop by the stadium before the game and we had a couple adult beverages at the Bleacher Bar. (My post race celebration)
Where I got my juice!
The game itself was amazing. Baseball games often have the bad rep of being boring and anticlimactic at time, however this was not one of those games. Personally I would enjoy any game I was at, but the fact that this game went 11 innings, saw many lead changes, a Dustin Pedrioa BOMB! (he’s my favorite player, I mean just look at him…a short white second basement, he’s my idol) and a game winning hit just made it all the better. Fenway never disappoints. I can’t wait to get back to another one.
And the story does not end here. The epic adventure continued on Tuesday when I packed up my stuff and headed for home. I was about 20 miles into the drive home, just having merged onto the Mass Pike when my check engine light came on and my engine started making some pretty weird noises when I was accelerating. These noises were ones I had not heard before and they sounded serious. I pulled over, called AAA and shortly after a super nice tow truck driver showed up. We took the car to a Firestone shop and a couple hours later my car was diagnosed with a broken TurboCharger. I guess my epic weekend was just to much for my Subaru. The end result was that a new replacement part would need to be ordered and would be taking 1-2 days to arrive, plus the time required for installation (currently Wednesday afternoon and no word yet). Luckily, a huge mall with every cool store known to man was right across the street so that helped eat up about 4 hours of my afternoon. Then there was this blog which filled in the rest. All in all it was a jam packed afternoon and really could have been a whole lot worse. Imagine if my car broke down as I was going through the traffic jams of NYC or in the middle of my drive today where I would essentially not be close to anyone or anything. Thankfully, I have a place to stay here in Boston while my car is on the mend and I also have the amenities necessary to keep training uninterrupted and lets face it, I get to spend more time in Boston which is awesome! The only bummer that could arise is if I don’t make it back in time for my debut cycling road race at the Bristol Mountain Cycing Race this Saturday morning. Time will tell.
For now I will keep smiling and enjoy the adventure…and the extra days in the awesome city of Boston! Everything happens for a reason right?
Update: It’s now Wednesday afternoon, still no word on the car. On the bright side I got to have an amazing dinner at a REALLY COOL restaurant. For those of you who have been to Breathe Yoga Studio in Pittsford you will know exactly what kind of place. All freshly made healthy foods, I mean the place just smelled of fresh juices and healthiness. It was awesome, If I lived here I might eat dinner there every night. I had a hearty bowl of greens, lentils, tofu, sprouted legumes and brown rice. Topped off with a carrot, apple, ginger, cucumber and kale juice. Delightful right?!
Here’s a couple pictures from last night:
A most badass juicer back there….