Want to win The Musselman Half-Iron? Well, all it takes is 5 years and a whole lot of swimming, biking and running. At least that was the case for me. (I suppose there were some other things along the way that made it possible too)
For those that don’t know my full history of competition in the sport, I can prove to you that 5 years ago I did in fact compete in my first Half-Iron distance race (Musselman 2009) as shown in the results page below. Take a look down there, on page 6 of the results in 209th place, little old me. Coming in at 5:27 with a bike split just under 3 and a sub 2 hour run split by the skin of my teeth. I remember crossing that finish line and being completely and utterly annihilated. I don’t think I could walk right for days, let alone get my butt off the ground to get back to my car and get home.
Finger Lakes Times Article from July 14, 2014 (Musselman Recap)
It’s fun to think back to that time. I was a newbie, so green it’s not even funny; but I had some great people around me. I had yet to meet Mary Eggers, who would help get me started on this triathlon training journey. Back then she was another person higher up on the results sheet than me, kicking my butt. However, it would be but one week after this race that I decided a half just wasn’t satisfying my craving and that I needed to sign up for IMLP 2010 PRONTO! and after that…. well everything changed really. But most of you know all about that. I want to look back to a time when my friends Joe Crispino and Josh Gonsenhauser took me out to the Bristol hills where I began to learn how to suffer on a bike, dragging me up hills with names like Bopple and Egypt. It was with these guys that I met characters like Lawrence and Eric and a gritty bunch of veterans who would kick my butt on a daily basis. It was awesome, I loved the drive from Rochester to Bristol Mtn on Sunday morning. It was like my version of Church. I’d wake up super early, pack up my car, grab a coffee and then go into some sort of meditation trance as I made my way from the City to the Countryside. Such a great time in my life. This was where I found my true passions in life…where I found out who I was and what I wanted to do with the years ahead of me.
There are countless other great stories from that first year. Joe and I going up to LP in August of 2009 and getting in 2 loops of the course in prep for 2010 (I think I almost died on the second loop), falling in front of masses of people as I rode my bike to transition at the Skinnyman – this was before the race even started, riding 6 hours with Mike Corona on a Saturday and then turning around and riding 7+ hours with Eric Grimm the following day. I don’t think I was right for MONTHS after that epic weekend. Then there was the Masters swimming group I joined up with in the Fall of 2009. I started in the slowest lane but just kept coming back for more. And I can’t forget Don Ehinger who not only trained with me on countless occasions but who also was the first to open his basement to me when I needed a place to crash because between the training and the 1 hour commute each way from home to work was just to much. He also finished ahead of me in 200th place that July day in 2009 – see the link above for proof! There are really many many other people and stories that are worth sharing but would just fill to many pages…maybe a book is necessary, ha!
It’s really been a great ride so far and it truly all got rolling at The Musselman in 2009. Since then I am happy to say I have been at the Musselman weekend every year since. The only time I did not race was last year when I was getting ready for IMLP 2013. However, I still made it out and watched my friends take on the day. One of them, Doug Maclean a fellow QT2 Coach and Athlete, won the whole thing. So it’s nice to “keep it in the family” as he mentioned the other day. Coming to this race each year is special. No matter where I am living, whether it’s as close as Rochester or as far as Portland, Oregon, its a great excuse to get home and be with my family on Keuka Lake. It’s where my real love of the sport began, was developed and now where its beginning to show off some of the hard work I have put in over the last 5 years. It’s a race that is successful because the community supports it. The community really gets behind the whole thing and when that happens things really shine. As an athlete right now, who is living out of the area, I think that in some way by coming back as many times as I can to race I am part of that community support. I want to make this hometown race the best it can be and right now where I am at, I try to do that by racing my absolute hardest.
In particular this year’s race was made exceptionally special by the fact that I was able to introduce my girlfriend to the Finger Lakes and have her race along side me. We both had pretty good days and were the overall winners of our respective races. It’s pretty cool when you think about it and how many things really do have to go right to pull that off. But it happened and its awesome and I am glad that her first experience here in the Finger Lakes, at The Musselman was one that will have her back for more in the years to come.
In addition to having Kaitlin race beside me (literally she started in the same wave and we dolphin dived together for the first 400 yards of the swim) my Sister and her family came down from Syracuse with my brother-in-law and two nephews to watch me race. This was the first time that they had all seen me race, live and in-person. It meant a tremendous amount to me that they came and were able to see what it is I actually do on Race Day. They’ve been around me on holidays and trips when I am always getting on my bike or running outside in the cold and snowy weather. They’ve seen all the times that I am running around doing this stuff, but they might ask “What for?” Well I hope, and I think, they now know what I do it all for. I really can’t say how thrilling it is to come off the bike and see your little nephews there cheering for you and then running by them and seeing their faces smile back at you as you begin a 13.1 mile run…and then of course their cheers as you approach the final stretch across the finish-line. It was just great, so glad they could be there.