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Sunday
Aug252013

IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant 2013-Race Report

The second year of the IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant (IMMT) was made the North American Championships and consisted of 2 Loops of the IMMT 70.3 bike course and 2 Loops of the 70.3 run course with the swim at the same venue (Lac Tremblant). Mont-Tremblant has quickly gained a reputation as one of the most beautiful IM venues with some of the most dedicated volunteers. If you are looking for a great race on a challenging course in a great setting I highly recommend this race for you!

The following is a race report that I have written for myself and for anyone interested in pursuing an IRONMAN race, especially first-timers. Hopefully you can learn from my experience.

The Race:

The IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant (IMMT) is a WTC sanctioned full distance or IRONMAN distance triathlon consisting of a 2.4 mile (3.8km) swim, a 112 mile (180km) bike and a 26.2 mile (42km) marathon run. It has all the WTC IRONMAN brand idiosyncrasies namely no gear in transition, lots of gear bags, penalty boxes and volunteers who help you with almost all your stuff!

Time & Location:

The race takes place Sunday morning and finishes in the heart of the Tremblant Resort. The race course covers the area of Lac Tremblant, The Montee Ryan road, Highway 117 and Mont-Tremblant with a large portion of the run on the scenic Petit Train du Nord trail. There is ONE TRANSITION AREA and it is centrally located making this race very family/spectator friendly. There is ample lodging at great rates at the many hotels in the area (a huge Ski Resort) including our lodging of choice the most excellent Auberge Le Lupin Bed & Breakfast.

My (first) IRONMAN Race:

This was my first ever full distance IRONMAN triathlon! You will recall if you have read other posts here that I set myself the lofty goal of completing all of the triathlon distances up to full distance within one year. As a ChiRunning Instructor who is fortunate enough to teach many triathletes the benefits of ChiRunning I wanted to experience first hand exactly what it is like to participate in a triathlon. In hindsight this was probably not the best way to decide to take on an IRONMAN but this was the goal I set and I committed to achieving it.

As for IMMT I was very impressed to see the hard work that went into making this event a success. The local town has gone all out to support this event including repaving many of the roads for the bike leg. Unfortunately, (this is my biggest complaint about this race) there was no athlete meeting (or maybe there was a brief one while most people were still in line to get in the tent) or any meeting for first timers and this proved very difficult in the chaos of my first IRONMAN. NYC Triathlon does an optional walk-thru of the transition area for newbies and this is so valuble. For the money I do not see why the WTC could not duplicate this. Not having this was very frustrating for a newbie in terms of gear organization and planning and made it difficult for me to plan ahead. Thankfully, because the transition area is centrally located and easily accessible this was the perfect event for family and friends to watch (my 25 weeks pregnant wife and her Mom and Aunt from Japan were easily able to navigate the viewing plan and provided tremendous support!

SWIM (2.4 Mile)


The swim venue was the same as last years race. This may be my new favorite swimming venue! Maybe I'm just used to swimming in NYC rivers but the clean, pristine nature of this lake was incredible! Located just beside the ski resort the lake (Lac Tremblant) was 65 Degrees Fahrenheit on race morning. Much to my disappointment the start was changed to a rolling start as per IMLP just a few weeks before. I am sure that for many people this was a relief but for me it was a bummer. As a former rugby player I enjoy mixing it up in open water swims with other swimmers!

I wore my awesome De Soto T1 First Wave wet suit which is a two piece construction and makes me feel like a super hero!

Sighting was a breeze and the super clear fresh water was beautiful when the sun rose above the trees and hit the water. There was an opportunity for a warm up swim but I refrained in order to help my family navigate the start chaos. For me this was not a problem as my plan was always to simply finish the race and so I used the first 20 minutes of the race as a warm up (I had done ten minutes of ChiRunning body losseners and some tai chi). The support crew in the water was awesome and super helpful although the water was not too choppy until we got out into the center of the lake. The current if there was one was minimal for someone used to swimiing in the Hudson River. Towards the end of the swim I noticed as is often the case many people stood up very early (which is allowed) instead of swimming in. I always like to swim in until I am pracitcally laying on the bottom so I don't get stuck in the muck. If you have ever done a NYC Triathlon then you do this to avoid the nasty balck mayo in the Hudson rvier bottom...yummmy PCB's. Lac Tremblant not only doesn't suffer from this problem but this area of Cananda contains the most pristine fresh waters in the whole country!!

T1

I had no problem with the run in from the swim even though it was fairly long it was carpeted (nice touch) although somehow in the confusion I missed the celebrated PEELERS!!? I spaced and ran right by them!!

How did I miss the PEELERS!?

I chalk this up to the lack of an athletes meeting....Boo! Again as in IM Poconos 70.3 I noticed most people were changing into dry clothes at the transition. I had worn my tri suit under my wet suit and opted to just towel dry off. A very small point here: the fact that I was wearing arm sleeves meant that my race number was not visible and so the helpers had to ask me for my number as opposed to seeing me coming and having my bag ready. I was a little disheartened to see my bike was one of a few left in the transition area. This was an indicator how slow my swim was but I had used the first 20 mins as a warm-up and did not push the swim in order to reserve energy for the bike leg. IRONMAN races do not allow you to put all your crap on the ground next to your bike (it stays in a bag in the transition tent) so getting your bike is very straightforward.

Bike (112 Miles)


MY DISCLAIMER: I will just begin by repeating my disclaimer that the bike is by far my worst leg. I am actually only very recently even comfortable on the bike. Initially, I was terrified riding the bike, especially training in NYC where the roads are a nightmare and car drivers are mostly either lunatics or idiots. I have very little experience racing on bikes and handling a road bike or TT Bike. In order to counteract this fear and lack of experience I tried to stack the odds in my favor by taking two crucial steps. The first was acquiring a bike I love to ride and one I feel a deep connection with-in this case my Lysnkey Titanium bike which is hand made in my birth place Chattanooga, TN! I love to ride this bike and being on it gives me mountains of confidence. The second thing I did was try to find a great bike fit and system for becoming a better cyclist. I found this in the ZENDURANCE CYCLING system which was developed by Shane Eversfield. I honestly don't know how I could have accomplished half of what I have done in my brief bike riding time without ZENDURANCE (you can read my product review here). It has completely changed my experience on two wheels. While ZENDURANCE is actually meant for all levels and kinds of cyclists it was essential to me (as a beginner) in making me comfortable on the bike and teaching me some crucial sills.

The bike course consisted of two loops of the 70.3 course so the good news is that I knew after one loop that I would know how much I could do on the second loop. Now I had used Tribike Transport to ship my bike up to the race. With a very pregnant wife and two in-laws who spoke no English I didn't want to be lugging my bike around. This was great in that Tribike set up the bike for me and even brought my gear bag. the problem was I FORGOT MY PEDALS!!! DOH! Tribike takes off your pedals before loading the bike on the truck and like a true dumbass I did not put them directly into my gear bag (because I had already zip tied the zippers closed) this was a critical error because in the confusion of packing the next few days I laid my pedals aside and forgot them!!! One of the two dark clouds that hovered over me in the weeks before the race were my disastrous race at IRONMAN Poconos 70.3 (nutrition issues-more on this later) and the experience of one of my mentors who actually forgot his bike shoes at IRONMAN NYC the year before where I was volunteering! He wound up doing the whole bike leg in his running shoes!! I was so fixated on making sure that I packed my bike shoes that I totally flaked out and left my pedals at home!!! If you are taking notes remember that an IRONMAN race demands a lot of prep and a lot planning. Probably more than you are even able to imagine until you have to do it! Checklists are your friend. If you're like me and send your bike and some gear ahead of you make sure you keep track of what you have left to bring!

Flash forward to the day before the race and I had to spring for new Look pedals. Luckily they fit my cleats so I did not have to change out the cleats but unknown to me they were Keo MAX pedals and a little different than what I was used to (I use cheap Nashbar Look knock-off pedals). This would come back to haunt me in a major way on the second loop of the bike leg.

For the first leg I was very comfortable and stayed at 75%-85% of my functional threshold power. The course was very scenic and I had no problems until approaching the last set of hills that included a 12% grade up Mont Tremblant. I was able to take my focus to my COM as I learned in Zendurance and I completed the first leg. I was optimistic that I could shave some time off for the second leg.

I was wrong.

The second leg was going well although I had begun to experience pain in both of my feet. I had hoped to add some cycling socks to my ride for the IRONMAN race but with the chaos of the weeks prior I didn't have a chance to try some and didn't want to try anything new for the race. This meant that I was riding my cycling shoes barefoot which I have always done. However, with the new pedals I began to feel numbness in my toes and a crushing feeling on the balls of my feet. I was able to get them to relax a little using body sensing.

However, when I got out on to Hwy 117 for the second bike loop I was met with a massive headwind. This is not really something I had been able to train for. I was able to do a good deal of hill training but my long training rides, even the longest ones, were relatively sheltered from wind. This wind was coming from head on with sudden shifts to the side. It was ever-present and never let up. Big gusts were coming in and ripping my aero helmet to the side jerking my head around. The wind was so strong in places that my bike was blown into the passing lane or off the median! I tried to make myself as aero as possible but with some extra weight to carry (I have lost 65lbs. since I started exercising but still have more to go) I could only do so much. The strangest thing was I kept telling myself if I could just make the turn around I would have a huge tailwind on the way back. Somehow, this was not the case and the wind on the way back was even stronger and an even more punishing HEADWIND!! How? It was really scary. I was blown out of my lane and into a traffic barrel but some how managed to stay on the bike. When we got off the hwy 117 I was so glad to be away from that wind. I think the headwind caused me to exert a lot more pressure on the pedals than I had intended too. This meant the pain on the ball of my feet from the pedals was now excruciating. I had to stop twice just to stand there and try to wiggle my toes. Heading up the mountain for the second time I as able to stay in the saddle but at 108 miles I had to do everything I could just to put my focus in my COM and work my way up the 12% climb. I was very discouraged by this point and what I thought would be a faster loop had now degraded into the possibility I would not even make the cut-off for the bike.

When I was on top of the mountain the officals told me I had exactly 8 minutes left to get back to the transition (6 miles away) or my day would be over. At this point I had been trying to still reserve someting for the run but I decided that I would give it everything I could and try to make it. I made it back to the transition area with a minute to spare-clocking 45mph decents and destorying my legs n the process. Even though I was the last bike in that day I was happy I would at least have a chance to complete the run. The only problem was I could not even stand up!

 T2

Coming in to T2 I was greeted by a horde of eager volunteers who took my bike and urged me along to the timing chip to confirm my time. Unfortunatley, I forgot to grab my Garmin computer off of my bike so I had to run over to the bike and get it and then go back to transiton. This is the main reason my T2 ran so long. I changed into some DeSoto Compressor socks. My calves were cramping badly and my feet and toes were so painful I could barely stand. There were several volunteers gathereed around me curious to know if I was actually going to attempt a marathon in this condition. I assured them that I was actually looking forward to the run and would be just fine. As I hobbled to the start of the run this is what I thought to myself:

The reason I started this crazy/stupid/insane adventure was because every year I have the privledge and honor of standing in front of Triathletes at Trimania and telling them that they can use ChiRunning to run, as we like to say "without the use of their legs". They can use their legs on the bike and use up eveything they have and then go for the run and with ChiRunning relax and enjoy the run with minimal muscular effort from their legs. At that point we show them how they can do that. So that is exactly what I did coming out of T2. As I was starting the run I simply started from the begining of the class and in my mind I envisioned Vince and I teaching a ChiRunning class from the begining. It turns out this would be instrumental in having one of the best runs of my life!

RUN (26.2 miles)


The run course includes portions of a converted railway path that has been made into a gravel trail called the Petit Train du Nord. It is very scenic and relatively flat. I knew if I could make it to the trail head I would be able to recover control of my legs. Initially, I began walk/running out of T2 using a mix of ChiWalking and ChiRunning. I could not feel my legs or feet at all and experienced the noodle legs phenomenon that was familiar to my because of other Triathlons and from my BRICK workouts. In fact I was feeling better and better as the time passed and eventually able to recover some feeling in my feet. Because this was a loop course I was running with mostly second lap folk and trying to make up some lost time. Steadily I began to feel better and better and as my form improved I realized that I could not only finish the race but maybe enjoy it!

One of the surreal experiences of doing a two loop course is that on the first loop you have to pass right by the finish line. If your day runs long like mine this is quite traumatic as many people were cheering me thinking I had finished when in fact I had another lap to go!? On the last little bit you actually have to run down the finishers shoot and at the last minute they send you to the right and back out into the darkness for another 13.1 miles! This was the darkest time for me. I began to doubt that I could make it back in time. I was proud of myself for completing the longest bike ride of my life but still shaken up by my experience with the wind! I was feeling so great at this point and running so comfortably and yet it looked like I had run out of time. I looked in the crowd for my wife's face. I knew that if I saw her I would have to tell her that I would not make the cut off. So many hours, an entire day of effort, so far to come to fail to finish on time. Luckily I did not see my family though. I think if I would have told them this I would have not been able to finish. Then about two miles into the second lap I met some runners coming the other way who were headed to the finish. One of them looked at me and said "I was exactly where you are right now last year and I finished and became an IRONMAN-You can totally do this!" When I heard that it was all the motivation I needed. I leaned forward and enjoyed one of the best runs of my life. I knew from the beginning that I would be running at night. I knew that even if my day went the best it could possibly go for me at this point in my training I would be running in darkness. I have never ran a marathon in the dark before. I have never risked hitting the wall on some lonely path in the darkness with nothing but doubts and shadow. Luckily at Mont-Tremblant I didn't have to be alone! There were so many volunteers who stayed out to cheer and stayed at the aid stations to volunteer. So many other people said "you can this!" and cheered me on it made it effortless. In fact I would not hit the wall until a few feet before the finish line. By then I knew I would be okay but more importantly I learned what is possible and what we are able to accomplish when we push past our doubts.

Overall (140.6 Miles)

One of the people I look up to the most who is a veteran triahtlete told me once that racing your first full distance IRONMAN (I paraphrase) is like running to an appointment to meet someone that you don't know who you will have never met until you get there. You don't know how you will react to the meeting and you have no idea what the outcome will be. If you have ever run a marathon or participated in a long distance endurance event this might ring true. For me it summarizes the essence of the experience.

I now understand that trying to do all the triathlon distances in a year was a colossally stupid idea. Triathlon is not about being a good swimmer. It has little to do with being a great biker and even less to do with being a good runner. These things help but they are not triathlon and they don't make a good triathlete. I learned how hard it can be at the Oly distance, never mind a Half IRONMAN or IRONMAN distance. A full distance race (should) take years of preparation and takes the kind of sacrifice most people can not make or are unwilling to make. From the beginning I told myself I would try this to be a better teacher and at the end if it was not for me I would sell my gear and go back to running in peace. I have cursed through many triathlon events and even shouted out loud who would do this!? Why would anyone want to do this to themselves? Who would endure this much pain? For what? I fully expected to not like the full distance race and as awful as I was at my first one it would be easy to walk away. Yet somehow I felt a profound sense of peace and gratitude in the experience of my first IRONMAN. I really appreciated the distance in a way that I did not feel about the shorter events. Maybe this means that I have found my distance...God help me.

GOALS:

My goals were simple for this race:

  1. Have a clean race (no drafting penalties, no littering, etc.)
  2. Finish the race before midnight
  3. Enjoy the experience

 I feel that I accomplished these simple goals! Here is what I would like to improve on the most going forward:

  1. Continue to Lose more weight
  2. Continue to improve my bike skills including power and muscular endurance
  3. Learn some improved pacing skills for all legs especially swim and bike!

 If you have enojyed this report or if you would like to comment or send me your thoughts please do not hesitate to contact me through the contact section. Comments are disabled on this blog because I get a lot of spam from people trying to sell me watches! Thanks-David

Saturday
Feb022013

Product Review-Zendurance Cycling

UPDATE! Zendurance Cycling App is now available for the iPhone and iPad!

Multisport Athletes Rejoice! Here is Your Triple Threat...

With the long awaited release of the Zendurance Cycling program Shane Alton Eversfield has completed a trinity that should be sacred to any serious multisport athlete. Here in New York Broadway performers refer to the triple threat as their ability to act, sing and dance. In the multisport world if there is a triple threat to energy waste and injury it is now fully realized with the adition of Zendurance Cycling. What began with Total Immersion (TI) swimming and ChiRunning (CR) is now made whole with the arrival of Zendurance Cycling.

 

For many triathletes, especially those relatively new to the sport it is likely that the arrival of Zendurance Cycling is an answer to their prayers. TI swimming, the veteran of the trinity has become the de facto standard for efficient swimming and getting triathletes to T1 with confidence-dare I say fun!? It is no secret that many triathletes are most nervous about swimming and Total Immersion, created by Terry Laughlin, has been the answer to many desperate prayers. With the introduction of ChiRunning, Danny Dreyer created an easy to learn means for triathletes to run efficiently with minimal energy expenditure and maximum injury prevention. As a practitioner of both (and a Senior ChiRunning Instructor) I consider them essential for multisport athletes.

 

For those faithful practitioners of these happy cousins who have wandered in the cycling wilderness looking for signs from the Velo Gods Zendurance Cycling is no less than Terma-a hidden treasure! I did not come to triathlon through cycling as many do, so for me the arrival of Zendurance Cycling is even more thrilling and I am happy to report, it does not disappoint.

 

Shane Alton Eversfield’s credentials include many years of Multisport and Ultra endurance athletics including many years training and racing in Kona, Hawai’i. I first heard about Shane through his first book Zendurance: A Spiritual Fitness Guide for Endurance Athletes and consider it my personal Triathlon bible (apologies to Joe Friel). In this book Shane addressed a spiritual approach to all three disciplines grounded in the Spirit of Hawai’i and the culture that triathlon calls home. Shane’s background as a trained dancer and long time Tai Chi practitioner combined with his multisport experience give him a solid foundation to build a mindful approach to cycling. Many multisport athletes will also know that Shane is a Master Instructor of Total Immersion and this shows in his approach to Zendurance Cycling. I remember my first TI workshop when I began to experience epiphany after epiphany as I connected what I learned in Total Immersion to what I had been practicing in ChiRunning. These connections are equally powerful in the Zendurance Cycling approach and allow the mindful triathlete to practice moving meditation across all three disciplines. It is indeed a magical time to be triathlete and these tools provide an opportunity to take multisport athletics to a transcendent level.

 

Zendurance Cycling is a mindful approach to cycling and offers benefits for any cyclists. It is important to acknowledge that it is equally effective and applicable for road, time trial, even mountain bike or cyclocross. My experience in cycling is in multisport, although Zendurance Cycling has inspired me to consider road cycling-something I never thought I would ever be able to do (riding in draft leagl groups).

 

Zendurance Cycling comes in the form of an E Book, a series of audio guides and a DVD.  I was able to download the E Book (it is a PDF file) and read it on my iPad in iBook. A fully integrated iBook is in the works which will allow you to have all the content in one document (planned price $79) but it still needs to pass through the infamous Apple approval process. I watched the DVD all the way through once before begining the excerises. You do not have to do this but as cycling is my weak area it was helpful to me. There is a handy overview of the Audio guide at the end of the E Book that helps you understand the contents of the audio files. I downloaded the audio guide to my iPod shuffle in order to listen to them on my bike (stationary trainer only!-never listen to headphones of any kind on your bike outdoors please).

 

This leads me to the first concept of Zendurance Cycling that may shock triathlon newbies (or cycling newbies like me)-get used to your stationary bike trainer. Shane has taken the concept of indoor training using a stationary bike trainer and turned what for many is a chore into a…shrine? Okay, maybe that is taking the spiritual analogy a little too far but Shane makes it clear throughout the text that becoming a more mindful cyclist begins with what he calls our own personal “Velo Studio”. Setting up your own personal Velo studio is essential and investing in a good stationary bike stand is critical (reccomendations of good stationary trainer options are included in the text). I love this perspective shift from something I have to do because it is raining out (hmm, which movie should I watch while put in the miles) to something I am eager to investigate and experiment with in my own personal studio. Why so much emphasis on indoor riding you might ask? Like TI and CR, Zendurance Cycling practice is built on a foundation of form and good technique. Like TI and CR it depends completely on a substantial foundation of good form first. Without this foundation it is simply not possible to reap the benefits of the practice. Like a yoga mat your stationary trainer becomes the tool that allows you to “join with your bike” and mindfully connect what is going on in your core with the machine (a machine you may be spending many hours on in long course events).

 

Zendurance Cycling is based on simple principles heavily influenced by Tai Chi (sound familiar ChiRunners?) and the way we connect with the earth. In the case of cycling, unlike swimming or running this connection is intimately partnered with our bike. Zendurance Cycling encourages us to approach cycling and our connection to our bikes as a beginner with curiosity and patience. Much time is devoted to learning how to stand (that’s right I said stand) in the optimal position for engaging your core and proper alignment. From there you move to the basic position for all cycling (called First Position). Zendurance Cycling gives you the tools to mindfully consider your connection with the bike at the saddle, the handlebars and the pedals. Many exercises are offered to encourage the habit of strengthening these connections and develop the foundation for Velo Nirvana. Subtle shifts in the connection with the saddle form an important basis of determining the approach to your specific cycling plan (hills, wind, long course, short course, etc.).

 

While positioning for road bikes and triathlon bikes (Aero position) are both discussed in full detail ,the Zendurance Cycling approach makes it clear that first position skills are best developed on a road bike geometry-to the extent that triathletes are encouraged to spend a good deal of time (not necessarily a lot of money) on a bike that allows lots of first position practice. Shane suggests that even a relatively inexpensive road bike will serve this purpose well. The benefits learned here can then be carried over to the aero bars and steeper seat tube angle.

 

I was also relieved to read about the importance of hill training in Zendurance Cycling. This may be self-evident to experienced cyclists but I was happy to hear that when I do get outdoors (Shane rides on his trainer even when it is nice outside if that tells you how important working in your Velo Studio is) I am best served by finding some hills. The reason for this is and its many benefits are thoroughly explained in Zendurance Cycling.

 

There are many exercises, lots of warm-ups and a variety of techniques to improve your cycling throughout the E Book and Audio Guides. Zendurance Cycling is truly a gift from the velo gods that will make your cycling better and improve your multisport experience. The complexities involved in including the bike in a mindful approach to riding must have been numerous. I for one often wondered if anyone would be able to tackle cycling from this perspective in a meaningful way-if it could even be done.

 

Zendurance Cycling has proven that it is not only possible to do this but it is possible to do this in a manner worthy of its cousins Total Immersion and ChiRunning. No one person is more qualified to do this than Shane Alton Eversfield and I know many multisport athletes, cyclists and velo faithful will be forever grateful that he had the courage to take this on. If you are a multisport athlete, if you have benefited from Total Immersion and/or ChiRunning then you owe it to yourself to purchase a copy of Zendurance Cycling and put it to practice. Then you can truly be a triple threat against energy waste and injury prevention no matter how long or hard your event.

 

Note: There is a special complete package deal that allows you to purchase the Total Immersion Book, ChiRunning Book and Zendurance Cycling bundle for one special price! This makes a great gift for the multisport athlete in your life. See product link here.

 

Sunday
Sep302012

IRONMAN 70.3 Poconos 2012-Race Report

Poconos IRONMAN 70.3 is a bear of a Half Ironman located in the heart of the Poconos in Stroudsburg, PA.  If you are looking for a great race on a challenging course in a great setting I highly recommend this race for you!

The Race:

The Poconos IRONMAN 70.3 is a USAT sanctioned Half IRONMAN or 70.3 distance triathlon consisting of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike and a Half Marathon run.

Time & Location:

The race takes place Sunday morning and wraps up with an awards ceremony in downtown Stroudsburg, Pa. The race course covers the grounds of the Poconos state Park just east of Stroudsburg, Pa. on I-84. There is ample lodging at great rates at the many hotels in the area including our motel of choice The Flower Field Motel.

My (first) IRONMAN 70.3 Race:

This was my first ever IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon! I was very impressed to see the hard work that went into making this event a success. Unfortunately, (this is my biggest complaint about this race) the transition area for T1 and T2 are in two different physical locations. This was very frustrating for a newbie in terms of gear organization and planning (the pre race materials and organization are very helpful) and made it difficult for my wife to follow me. The swim course, bike course and run course were very far apart. For this reason I would not call this race a very spectator friendly race or a family friendly race unless you want to just dump them downtown to wait for you. My advice-bring a small group of family or friends to help kill the time.

SWIM (1.2 Mile)


The swim venue was new for the 2012 race. I have a lot of experience in open water swimming and this was by far the best swimming venue I have ever swam in. Maybe I am just used to swimming in NYC rivers but the clean, pristine nature of this pond was incredible! Located on an abandoned ski resort the pond is definitely spring fed. An exhilarating 64 Degrees on race morning it was the coldest water I have swam in.

I was very concerned about this but my De Soto T1 First Wave wet suit did me right (as always) and by the time I got in the water I honestly felt that it was warmer than the NYU Pool where I train!

Sighting was a breeze and although there was a low fog on the water it was simply beautiful when the sun rose above the trees and hit the water. There was no opportunity for a warm up swim and I know many of the other triathletes were frustrated by this. For me it was not a problem as I was only looking to finish the race. As it turned out this swim was a PR for me. I may have come out too fast and burned a few more matches than I intended but I will chalk it up to inexperience at this race distance.

T1

I had no problem with the run in from the swim even though it was fairly long and rough old pavement. I had already agreed to just try and finish this race-taking a shamefully long time in the transitions. It took me so long to dry off only to realize most folks were changing into dry clothes to avoid being wet in the cold air. I had my T-Mat set up dialed in by now (my third triathlon) so it made things easier.

Bike (56 Miles)


The bike course was changed for this year owing to the change of swim venue from last year. The feature that most excited the racers this year was an initial four mile drop off the side of the mountain which was definitely the fastest decent I had ever attempted in my short cycling career. If I wasn't so wet and frozen I probably would have been more scared but once again my bike handled flawlessly. In so many situations I have put my life and well being in the hands of my Lynskey T230 bike and it has never let me down. Having a titanium frame gives me the confidence of knowing I can push the limits and always come back form places where aluminum or carbon would never let me tread.

Next was the scenic park road mentioned in the race literature and it is indeed gorgeous. I must say the entire bike course is simply stunning. I am beginning to detect a theme of triathlons set in gorgeous locations to help you forget the pain. I find this curious as a newbie since most people are not really taking the time to soak in their surroundings (hey, it is a race). The out and back was full of nice rolling hills but after that it is just hills and then some big hills to boot! I was not prepared for the amount of hill riding and quickly decided to take some drastic measures and reduce effort at all costs. My personal mantra for this race, which I repeated every time a rider passed me was "You still have to run a Half Marathon". As a side note I threw my chain twice due to hitting some big pot holes while shifting gears. I also had a gel pack explode on me and coat my hands and aero bar in sticky gel. Overall I am very disappointed with with my bike leg but at least I know what I need to do to improve.

T2

This was a completely separate location from T1 and our stuff had to be preset the day before with not opportunity to check in on it race day. I took a massive amount of time in T2. I may have had the longest T2 time of the day but I had agreed pre race to take lots of time to body glide my feet well and make use to the bathroom facilities. Unfortunately I was having some digestive difficulties which I do not blame on my fuel choices as much as my lack of real world testing in training.

RUN (13.1 miles)


The run course includes portions of the celebrated Poconos Marathon course. Supposedly very fast (a Boston Qualifier) I found the out and back course to be very challenging. For starters, and this is very picky but almost the entire run course has was I consider a severe cant which is great for drainage but rough on your legs. The run course heads out of Downtown Stroudsburg and heads up Pocono Mountain Road. It is an out and back course. I wound up run/walking the second half and struggled to stay in the race. I had always only hoped to finish the race but i began to wonder if I would make the cutoff. I did not regret the long times in T1 and T2 because they were part of my original race plan and so was "just finishing" so the fact I was sticking to the plan was enough for me.

Overall (70.3 Miles)

I was a little overwhelmed since this was my first ever IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon. I do want to take the time to be clear that I struggled at the end of this race but I have struggled at the end of every triathlon I have done so far. Struggled in a way that is unique in its pain, perceived effort and mental and physical demands. I have run many running races, half marathons and three full marathons. I have never experienced anything in sports quite as painful and difficult as a triathlon. I say this not to brag for myself but to just reiterate how amazing the accomplishments of others are, including many of my teachers, students, friends and fellow athletes.

Even though this IRONMAN 70.3 race is in my backyard (only 1.5 hours form NYC) I am not sure if I would want to do this race again. Everything about this race points to a must do, yearly race EXCEPT the dual transition areas, which may be a deal breaker for me. The cost of the race is too much to have to put up with the complications caused by the physically separate transitions but with time I may change my mind. If you want an IRONMAN 70.3 race is a beautiful location with great organization and excellent support then you should check out this race. Just make sure you read the pre-race packet closely, get your head around the two transition thing and bring a wet suit!

Saturday
Aug112012

IRONMAN NYC US Championships 2012

I had the privilege of volunteering for the IRONMAN NYC 2012 and these are my observations, for what they are worth.

The inaugural IRONMAN NYC US Championship 2012 was an ambitious endeavor from the get go. The audacity of trying to host an IRONMAN in NYC is breathtaking. I was shocked to hear that it was even being considered let alone happening. If you were fortunate enough to participate in this event I salute you!

The Race:

The IRONMAN NEW YORK US Championships 2012 was a USAT sanctioned IRONMAN (full distance) triathlon consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile full marathon run.

Time & Location:

The race took place Saturday morning and went well into the night (my shift ended at 1am. The race course was mostly in New Jersey (palisades) or the West Side of New York City at Hudson River Park.

My (first) IRONMAN Experience:

This was my first ever IRONMAN event. If you are a newbie to triathlon like me you may not realize IRONMAN is a brand and an organization as well as lending its name to the distance. There are other full distance races but they are not allowed to call themselves IRONMAN and use the logos, etc. It is worth looking into these other races as I hear some of them are very well organized and much less expensive than IM races.

SWIM (2.4 miles)

The swim for the IRONMAN NYC was in the Hudson River north of the George Washington Bridge. The local organizer of the race was Korff enterprises (of NYC Triathlon) and like the NYC Triathlon the swim was timed to coincide with the outgoing tide of the river. This made the swim the fastest swim in IRONMAN history and led to a big controversy in the IM community. In the end, this seems to have been one of the nails in the coffin that sealed the fate fo the NYC IRONMAN which has now been discontinued. There were also logistic issues (ferries to the start line) that made it very difficult for spectators I am told.

T1 & T2

The transition areas were at the park at the base of the NJ side of the GWB. Locals will know there is a monster hill that leads down to this area and out of it. My legs twitch just thinking about it.

Bike (112 miles)

The bike course was almost entirely in the NJ roads north of the transition area. I was told by many athletes that it was very lonely and terrifically boring. If you have read any of my other race reports you are familiar with my fascination for the fact that many races are held in gorgeous scenery that you barely notice while you speed through it-a kind of Faustian bargain-you are going to hurt a lot but here is some great scenery to enjoy in the meantime. This race was (at least on the bike course) apparently an exception to this. I was also told by many that the bike course was extremely difficult for spectators-a shame for a 112 mile ride and this upset many of the athletes who had invested lots of time and money for this day.

RUN (26.2 miles)

The run course was a monster the likes of which I have never seen. I can not imagine a more difficult course would be possible in NYC. The main element that seemed to me to contribute to this were the Palisades T2 and run out and the GWB crossing and the stairs...yes, stairs! If you ran this course after a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike I just want you to know I am in awe.

If you did this run without the benefit of the ChiRunning technique then you sir/ma'am are a masochist.

Overall (140.6 miles)

Joel Matalon at mile 23 in the marathon ran for Team Sharsheret!

Couldn't be more impressed by the athletes that participated in this race, most especially ChiRunning Master Instructor Vince Vaccaro, and Certified ChiRunning Instructor Joel "Ironman" Matalon. Massive effort under supremely difficult circumstances on a course that no one had ever raced before.

To everyone that participated and all of my fellow volunteers a big congratulations on an epic race.

*Special Note

I want to acknowledge that there was a swimming death in this race. If you are not aware there are a number of phenomenon that occur prior to an open water swim (especially at a race start) that can contribute to disastrous medical circumstances or aggravate existing ones. I am not a doctor and I do not know if this had anything to do with this specific incident but I have worked very hard to explore this phenomena. The single best training I can recommend is Total Immersion training. It is not natural for humans to swim. We have a natural instinct to avoid water that you must learn to deal with if you are going to swim in open water. I also recommend getting experience outside of racing with groups such as NYC Swim (they host races but you may swim them for training purposes). I have dedicated myself to this pursuit because of the example of the athletes who lost their lives doing something they love. I didn't feel right reporting on this race without mentioning this. My thoughts are with this athlete and his family.


 

 

Sunday
Jul082012

Aquaphor NYC Triathlon 2012-Race Report

The NYC Triathlon 2012 was back this year with a new sponsor. The NYC Triathlon is a fast, fun race through the West side of New York City!  If you are looking for a once in a lifetime race on a surprisingly scenic course I highly recommend this race for you!

The Race:

The Aquaphor New York City Triathlon is a USAT sanctioned Olympic distance triathlon consisting of a 1500m swim, a 40km bike and a 10km run.

Time & Location:

The race takes place Sunday morning and wraps up with an awards ceremony at the finish line in The Central Park. The race course covers a stretch of the Hudson River (yes, I said swim in the Hudson River-get your learn on if you are still stuck in the 70's), the West side Highway up to the Bronx (out and back) and a brief traverse across 72nd St. into The Central Park for a 10km loop that finishes at the bandshell. Being a local my lodging was at home.

My (first) Olympic Distance Triathlon Race:

This was my first ever Olympic (OLY) distance triathlon! I was a volunteer for the 2011 race so I was already aware of the absolute peak of hard work, organization, and energy that went into making this event a brilliant success. Because the bike course is the West Side Highway, the transition aware is cutoff from the run and the rest of civilization further into Manhattan. Unfortunately, (this is my biggest complaint about this race) this makes it difficult for spectators but not impossible The ease of access inside the park balances this out. If you are hoping for your family or support group to see you, swim bike and run you will want to get some advice from a veteran of the race. For this reason I would not call this race entirely spectator friendly. My advice-make a plan in advance and scout it out ahead of time!

SWIM (1500m)


"You could drop a bag of chips in the river and it would finish the swim in 20 mins."

-NYC Triathlon Saying

The swim for the NYC Triathlon is infamous and legendary. It is timed with the outgoing tide and the result is a very fast current that is with you as you swim to a race PR. I will not go into too much detail in this post but know that the swim is fast and furious. Unfortunately this can be unnerving for swimmers inexperienced in open water or fast moving current. It is essential that you have the right headspace for this swim or you could quickly get yourself into trouble*.

Towards the end of the race I was smacked in the face by a jelly fish or parts of one. It stung my face on my left cheek bone and above my left eye but it was no big deal.

My De Soto T1 First Wave wet suit gave me the confidence I needed (as always) and the two piece construction meant I was out of the suit lickity split and ready for T1.

T1

The run in from the swim to (Yellow) transition is really long! It is paved but felt like a half mile minimum. I had the best T1 I could have hoped for since this was my first time trying to do a transition at full speed. I was really worried about the super steep hill up to the highway but I managed it well without falling over. In all very proud of this T1 and even more psyched that I know I can do better!

Bike


The bike course is almost entirely on the West Side Highway or more accurately the Henry Hudson Parkway 9N. This presents the single greatest obstacle to the bike course (especially for first timers) which is the lack of opportunity to train or scout the actual course. Due to the fact that this is one of the busiest stretches of road in the world there is no opportunity to try a test ride. As this was my A Race for the season I was very prepared for this race and really pushed the bike to the limit. I was forced to hold back in section of the road that I was unsure of but pushed hard on the down hills, turning a big crank and reaching terrifying speeds that I had not experienced before! There were a few nasty crashes and many riders with mechanical issues. The course was really fun with only a handful of rough spots and one or two huge potholes that I had scouted from a car before. Overall I am very pleased with with my bike performance and can't wait to race it again without the limitations of a newbie.

T2

There was a great chute into T2 and I was able to execute a flying dismount (only my second in a race) but sad to see some nasty gravel at the Dismount line. This transition was really fast for me although again, I think I could do better. There was a huge hill back up to the traverse across 72nd but I had scouted it well and used some ChiRunning hill technique to glide right up it.

RUN


The run course was a blast for me and felt very familiar to me as a veteran of The Central Park and many running races there. I had trained and practiced the actual race course many times, including several bricks. Out of good fortune or dumb luck I was fortunate enough to start early. The Sun was only just cresting over the treetops as I crossed 72nd which was relief to me as I knew from experience that I would have minimal exposure on the east side of the park. Many triathletes behind me who started in later waves were not so lucky and I hope they hydrated well. I had a great run and was able to stick to my race plan but came up short with less than 1.5 miles to go. I was really sorry I did not utilize the last gel pack I had (left it at T2) which I did not take in order to minimize possible digestive problems. If I had been more careful (read experienced) with fueling here I think I would have the last match or two I needed to finish strong. At any rate I managed to dig up a strong kick and finish strong thanks to the ChiRunning technique!

Overall


Couldn't be happier about my first OLY distance triathlon and my first and only A Race of the season. A lot of hard work and effort-daily hard work and effort went into the prep for this race and I could not be happier with my performance. If you want a great race experience with awesome support and organization in NYC then do yourself a favor and register for the NYC Triathlon.

*Special Note

I want to acknowledge that there were several deaths in this race in 2012 and have been a few in past races. As a volunteer on the run course in 2011 I heard about a two swimmers dying in the race and I was devastated. When I began my quest to race triathlon I researched these tragic incidents quite a bit. If you are not aware there are a number of phenomenon that occur prior to an open water swim (especially at a race start) that can contribute to disastrous medical circumstances or aggravate existing ones. I am not a doctor but I have worked very hard to explore this phenomena. The single best training I can recommend is Total Immersion training. It is not natural for humans to swim. We have a natural instinct to avoid water that you must learn to deal with if you are going to swim in open water. I also recommend getting experience outside of racing with groups such as NYC Swim (they host races but you may swim them for training purposes). I have dedicated myself to this pursuit because of the example of the athletes who lost their lives doing something they love. I didn't feel right reporting on this race without mentioning them. My thoughts are often with these athletes and their families.