Team USA qualifier: sprint triathlon

IMG_1946The USA Triathlon World Championship Draft Legal Qualifier race was in New Orleans. I thought, it’s ben a while since I did a triathlon… why not?

 

Well, despite forgetting to switch my cleats on my bike shoes and doing the whole race in my Nikes (even on my Speed Play pedals in the bike segment), it still ended up okay:

3rd place Age Group

3rd spot on Team USA

and now, a Team USA Triathlete!IMG_1930IMG_1950IMG_1924IMG_1938

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GRANT PARK TURKEY TROT RACE REPORT 2015

This was my second go at the Grant Park Turkey Trot on the weekend after Thanksgiving. Last year’s race was great, and the location is right outside of the in-laws’ place, so this year we got the whole family involved.

We had a busy afternoon the day before. We got our race bibs and great hoodies from the running shop, a Christmas tree from Home Depot, a bunch of groceries for our night party from Whole Foods, dropped off my wife’s mom at work, and then put up the tree. After that, it was off to dinner. We had a night out at Kiki’s Bistro (same as last year) where I again ate a pizza. Last year’s pizza incident was remembered (it sat in my stomach like a rock) so I only ate ¾ instead of the whole thing. Haha!

We left the restaurant early and went to a bar to see a friend, and returned to the house around 10:30. We were sleeping around 12 or 1 am.

Race MorningIMG_7408

We got up around 8 am. The crew was myself and my wife, her mom, and her two cousins. After getting dressed and pinning on our race bibs, we set off to Grant Park, just under a mile from the door. The wind was blowing, making it a little cold to begin. On the way over, I told my wife I was going to just have fun today. My last serious running was the Chicago Marathon, and I had done just a few fun runs since then. Nothing serious, very little speed work, and definitely no 5k race pace miles. I let myself off the hook on the PR – I felt I was not in a position for a PR, and acknowledging this was a good way let myself have fun.

The Start

We walked to the start and arrived about 10-15 minutes before the start; just long enough to not freeze, but with just enough time to use the bathroom one last time. I ran back toward the start, said goodbye to my wife, and went to line up near the front. The corals were full, but I made my way to about 3 rows back from the line. In front of me: a family wearing jeans. I politely pushed past them in the last minute and ended up starting with maybe the first 20 folks.

The Race

The race starts with a slight downhill and turn under a bridge, and then a very short, somewhat steep hill. It levels out for a mile out on the sidewalk and a mile back along the lake, then back under the bridge. The last miles is the perimeter of a chunk of park. Last year, I made the mistake of kicking when I saw the finish line … about a quarter mile too early. This year, knowing the course, I settled in at a strong but not exhaustive pace and let it rock. I didn’t push too hard. After the first mile, I got passed by the number two woman, but no one else.

There was a lot of goose poop on the straight stretch from mile one to two along the water, so that stretch was dodging piles, which added a little fun. I was wearing my new Nike flash vest over a long sleeve Nike hoodie and a tech shirt, which was perfect for the first two miles, but a little warm in the final mile. Awesome for running, and plenty of compliments after, but it was one layer too much during the run, so I was running with it open and draping off of me for the final .75 miles.

It was a good run. Basically, a strong tempo run, with no pressure. I IMG_7388finished, put my medal in my vest pocket, and ran back on the course until I found the rest of the group at about the 1.5 mile mark. My wife was wearing THE MOST AMAZING OUTFIT (everyone else in the group – along with 80% of the rest of the field was wearing the race hoodie) and was running up and then running back to walk with her mom for a bit, so we ran up and then back, and then I walked with her mom for the last mile until about 200 meters to the finish, when I ran up on the outside of the course so I could get finisher photos for them.

IMG_7393IMG_7404

Post Race

After the family finish, I checked the awards tent. Even with the easy cruising, I felt like I did okay, but I ran without a watch so I couldn’t tell the pace. I ended up with second place in my age group, with the first place guy smoking me.

After I got my award, I found IMG_7409the fam in the apple cider line. Then, cold walk home. Very cold walk, once the sweat froze. Very happy for the vest! We went to breakfast and had a great warm meal at Eggy’s.

After we got back, my wife and I went to the gym with her cousins. We met two little boys – probably ages 8 and 12 – and played an hour of 3 on 3 basketball, boys vs girls. We didn’t keep score, but it was a lot of fun.

 

By The Numbers

Temperature: 31 start, 32 finish
Weather: clear and beautiful, very sunny
Number of times I hit the bathroom before the race: 3 in house, 1 at race
Big burps I let out on the run: 1
Number of people who passed me: 8
Number of people I passed: 3

Nutrition consumed in race: 0
Hydration consumed in whole race: 0IMG_7419
Hydration consumed after race: 1 cider

Layers of shirts: 3
Layers I needed: 2
Layers on legs: 2

Song playing when I finished: “What Do You Mean” Justin Beiber
Number of medals I got: 2
Number of miles I ran: 5.5
Miles in the race: 3.1
Number of 5Ks I’ve ever raced: 2
Number of Grant Park Turkey Trot races I’ve raced: 2
Seconds slower than last year: 17

Number of times someone got hit in the face with a basketball: 3

Finish time: 19:29Screenshot 2015-12-25 22.22.50
2nd place age group
17th place overall out of 1886

Chicago Marathon 2015

On Sunday, Oct. 11, I raced the Chicago Marathon. It was my second and last race of the season.

Getting there

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 12.22.47 PMOn Thursday morning, I was live on set at DailyBurn‘s DB 365 workout as the chat coach. Usually this is done online, but I had the opportunity to be on set, which meant a little bit of camera time as well as the online chatting. It was a lot of fun – the crew there was great, and it was cool to see all of the behind the scenes action.

I left Astoria and went straight to LaGuardia to fly into Chicago. I arrived around 2 pm. My brother was working so I couldn’t see the niece and nephew. I didn’t really feel like driving downtown to come back to the airport that night to pick up my wife, so I hung in the O’Hare area for a while. I ended up in a mall, sucking the free wifi while I did coaching and GO! Athletes work.

I picked up my wife and put her on the rental car agreement (SIDENOTE: total joke. It was an extra $100+ for her to drive the car as well!), and went downtown. Arrived around 1 am, bed at 2 am.

Friday

Did a chat shift at DB365. Took a Divvy to the expo and picked up my race bib and packet. My assignment was in corral F, wave 2. The fastest pace group in that area was 3:40. My goal was 3:10, so I was told by the pace group leaders to hit the customer service area to see if they could switch me. I had serious anxiety about it and, for a brief moment, thought my race was pretty much done. The guy at the counter asked if I was really going to run a 3:10. I told him I was going to do 3:09:38. He gave me a new bib in corral A, and just like that, problem solved.

Friday was also a board interview with my wife, which went very well. That was big thing number 1 of the weekend. After, we went to the south ‘burbs to stay with grandma. Normally this means a late night at several rounds of canasta, but we chatted a bit and were in bed at a reasonable time.

Saturday

After food, we went back toward the city to meet up with a friend. We ran a few errands, and then went to the restaurant for dinner with my wife’s extended family. I ate pizza and bread. Pre-race dinner of champions!

I left the party early, around 8:30. I set out all of my race gear, pinned my bib to my singlet, set out my nutrition…. WAIT. WHERE IS MY NUTRITION?!

The correct answer here is: ON MY KITCHEN TABLE. IN NEW YORK.

So it’s Saturday night, nearing 9:45 pm, when I figure out I forgot all of my gels. Something deep down told me to get a few at the expo. I never buy anything at the expo, so that was odd. And of course, since I never buy things at the expo, I didn’t do it. Without my Honey Stinger gels, race day was going to be using what’s on the course, even though that wasn’t what I trained with. I was not too rattled but I was a little concerned about how I’d feel around mile 15. I had a few ideas for coping:

1. ask a friend for a gel if I saw them (still likely wouldn’t be my gels, but it would be calories in hand)

2. look at the ground and pick one up if someone drops one (I saw one before the race and did not grab it)

3. ask a spectator if I saw someone who looked like they had one.

I was in bed (er, on the couch) by 10:15 and asleep shortly after. I was excited but didn’t feel the sick nervousness I sometime feel. I was feeling confident and ready. I thought about my training, about making it through my long runs at a great pace, and about how cool it would be to qualify for Boston.

RACE DAY

I woke up at 6:05 am and made a cup of coffee. I wasn’t feeling very hungry but choked down half of a cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter and a banana, along with some water and Gatorade. I couldn’t do the rest of it. I got dressed, used the restroom a few times, and left around 6:45 am.

My in-laws’ place is under half a mile from the start of the race. I walked down the road and cut through the park, like other runners were doing. My gut said to walk down the road to Michigan Ave, but I didn’t. I ended up having to cut through a blocked area, go through a parking garage, and exit only to be spit into the madness of Michigan Ave again. My gut was right, again (lesson learned this time!). I did a little warm up jog to the entry area and entered the gates around 7:10 am. The corrals closed at 7:20 am, so I started a direct slow shuffle toward the bathrooms on my way to the front to find corral A.

Along the way was a park entry to a huge lot of port o potties. I went to the far ones, thinking there would be no line – which was true. As I was running up to one that opened, another runner cut me off and went in, saying others were open further down. My next step sent my left ankle over, rolling to the outside. It hurt! I hopped into the port o potty and tried to assess my ankle. I don’t think it was sprained, just tender. I was pissed for about one second before I accepted it as part of my day – the race was going to happen just the same!

I ran out of the lot and back into the line to the corrals, and got into the corral at about 7:17 am. Promptly at 7:20 the gates closed. I found the 3:10 pace group and got closer to them, and then did some light stretching for my calves and hip flexors. I was one of the only people in what I could tell would be the group who had pinned the pace bib to their back.  A nervous dude next to me chatted for a bit with me: what number marathon is this? How fast are you shooting for? Oh, you did Ironman Lake Placid too?

IMG_6777The National Anthem came over the speakers. We all shuffled, bounced, and fidgeted in the corral. Then, in the most anti-climatic way, people in front of me started moving and I saw the clock running. The race began without much commotion at all. Before the starting line we all broke into a slow run, then started our watches. I was about 3-4 seconds behind the pace group leaders. We hit the first series of turns, under the bridge, around some corner, and then we were off.

My strategy, as recommended to me by several people, was to hang at the back of the pace group and let others “do the work.” Thinking about it in that way was helpful; mentally, I thought of myself hooking on and being pulled. My effort level was low to moderate and the pace, about 7:13/mile, was comfortable.

I reminded myself to disregard the first 10K. I think if you feel good in the first 10K, you should ignore it (going out too quickly in the first half can be detrimental). If you feel awful in the first 10K, also disregard that, as it may also change. I wanted to be conservative on the first half and brave on the second – not necessarily going for the negative split, but sticking to my plan to be consistent and steady.

I saw the Chicago theater sign. I recall the turn in Lincoln Park. Around  6 miles in I was in need of nutrition. I had been taking in Gatorade Endurance at the water stations, but only in small quantities. I typically would have had a gel at 6, 12 and 18 in my long training runs. By mile 7 I was freaking out a bit. I began looking at the ground for discarded or dropped nutrition. I was swerving to see if packs had been opened. By mile 8 I was contemplating sucking the leftovers out of someone else’s used gel. That thought was gross enough to occupy my mind for a while. The only gels on course are at mile 18 and there was no way I was going to make it.

I remembered the November Project cheer station would be near mile 9. I thought it might be a full water stop, so I envisioned approaching and asking people for a gel. Instead, it was a small group of people in Grassroots Gear with signs. I spotted them, made my way to that side, and ran up yelling, “Gel, gel, gel!” A few cheered for me as I came over, and I felt like I went into beastmode: I NEED A GEL!!!!!! My savior was at the end of the row, and pulled out a Hammer gel from her run pack. I gave her a hug and thank you, and then caught up with my pace group. I felt instantly better after taking it – probably just mental, but still. It helped.Screenshot 2015-10-21 15.51.48

The next point of interest was the half way mark, where my first marathon fell apart. I distinctly remember the pain setting in at that point in my first effort, and the wheels really coming off. I made not of that and how this race was different. At this point, I said to myself, “this is happening.” I was going to BQ. I tried to stick to the blue line and not necessarily with the pace group.

Miles ticked away and my pace stayed steady and easy. I did  not feel breathless or like I was exerting myself too much. 16 and 17 came and went.

Mile 18 was another gel. 19 came and I felt good. 20 hit and my goal was to maintain contact with the pack, which surged slightly on a long straight stretch. “Just hang on,” I thought. At 21, one of the three pacers came up to encourage the guy next to me. I moved up to the group, which had faded from about 30-40 runners to about a dozen of us, and we had caught two runners with 3:05 pinned to their backs. Somewhere in here I noticed my form deteriorating, and my chin starting to go up. I was actively trying to keep my chin down and not tilt my head back.

Somewhere in here was the two dragons in Chinatown. For running through 26 neighborhoods, I remember very little. My focus was on keeping pace and staying relaxed. At some point I high fived an Elvis impersonator, but beyond that, there was very little recognition of the crowd or the scenery.

IMG_6850At mile 24, I looked at my watch. I saw the pacers looking as well, and it was my guess that although they were on track, they may have felt a little behind. We turned a corner which leads straight north toward the finish, and I got a surge of energy. At the same time, the pacers yelled, “If you are going for a BQ and you feel okay, go now!” and I was gone. I instantly picked up the pace from 7:10 to 7 to 6:50 to 6:45. For the first time in the race, my breathing labored a bit. I was getting tired and my energy was tanking, but I thought there are only two miles left and I can gut it out. I slowed at the aid station to drink and found it tough to get up to speed again. I accelerated: 7, 6:55, 6:50, 6:48….

My head started to feel light. I began closing my eyes for a few extra steps occasionally. Around mile 25 I felt myself sway in a way that told me I was close to passing out. I shook my head to literally shake it off. A grimace hit my face. I was shrugging my shoulders, shaking my arms, and trying to get all of my energy to expend.

Screenshot 2015-10-21 15.57.14Around the 1 mile to go mark, my right foot started to cramp. I have had charlie horses or cramps, say in the pool after pushing off from a wall. It hurts; it’s annoying and disruptive. This was a bit different. Deeper, more painful. I let the thought hit me, I noticed it, and then I let it pass. I was asking myself to be present and without judgment – judgment took too much effort. My pace was still at 6:50, although I didn’t know it by the watch, but only by the perceived exertion. I pumped my arms. Took long strides. Took short fast strides. 800 m to go and my head began to fall back. Similar to before, I could not get my chin to drop, but this was more pronounced. My upper back and neck was cramping and pulling my head back. I opened and closed my hands. Somewhere along this my wife saw me and said I looked terrible (I did).

My ears started to ring a bit. I don’t recall hearing any crowd. I turned right to get up the bridge overpass, and my it was the first time I felt my breath gasp. I let out a little noise and pumped my arms up the hill. Do. NOT. back. off. BQ. BQ. BQ.

I knew I had it at that point, but I really wanted it. I turned left to the final shoot, under 400 m, and I kicked. I kicked in that way that makes you think someone didn’t run to their full potential because you shouldn’t be able to do that at the end of 26.2 miles (and maybe I didn’t run to my full potential, and that’s pretty cool). My head fell back. My field of vision narrowed. I thought, “just don’t pass out before the line.” I zoomed past groups of guys in the final stretch. I tried to smile. I hit the first timing mat, then the second… then my right knee hit the ground, I did a quarter spin and fell back on the ground just after the mat. Moments later I was on a stretcher, carried by four people to this board on the back of an ATV.

“Do you know what day it is? What month is it? Where are you? What are you doing?” I said, “It’s Sunday, Oct. 11. Marathon Sunday. I just qualified for Boston. I need a medal.” I didn’t make it to the medals; instead, I got a direct transport to the med tent.

I walked from the ATV to the stretcher in the tent with assistance (it was about three steps). I laid down and explained I was just dizzy and had not eaten enough. Then, in a flash, my legs seized up. First, my right quad. I yelped. Two massage therapists came to help. Then my left quad joined, and both had pain inside near my adductors. Then, yelp again as my calves both contracted. My left foot torqued to point my toes to the right and my foot was stuck turned in. I breathed deeply. I yelled. I held my breath. I screamed FUUUCCCCKKKKKKK! More staff came over. One person was on each leg, twisting and pressing the muscles. I breathed, gasped, and writhed on the stretcher. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.

More people gathered. I asked to take my shoes off. My foot wouldn’t move. I sat up. I rolled over. I could not get it to stop.

The nurse went to get an IV. One took my temp. I was 102.3 degrees. They put ice bags on my neck, chest, armpits, stomach, and groin. The massage people continued to press and pull. I continued to breath deeply in between shouts of AHHHHHHHHH!!!! and F-bombs. The nurse took blood without me noticing, and then hooked up the IV. I slammed another Gatorade, although I felt a bit nauseous.

When the IV was half drained, my legs released a bit. The massage people continued to work them. I asked for my medal and someone went to get me one. My neck hurt from whatever weird head thing was happening as I was fighting passing out. At some point the race folks called my wife, who was not allowed in. She waited by our designated meeting point.

IMG_6769IMG_6767When the IV bag was done, I felt much better. I used the bathroom so they let me leave. A volunteer got me my sheet, and I exited in the stream of people. It had been rather quiet when I finished, but the foot traffic had picked up significantly by the time I left the tent. Zhen and I walked to her mom’s place and I took an ice bath and cleaned up for breakfast at The Original Pancake House.

BOSTON

My friends at November Project gave me the traditional “Boston Breakfast” on Wednesday when I returned. I was thrilled. I celebrated the 40 minute PR and Paul Leak’s 40 minute PR – he ran Chicago in 2:51! Huge!!

BY THE NUMBERS:

Temperature: 52 start, about 60 finish
Weather: clear, windy
Pace group: 3:10
People in pace group to begin: about 30-40
People in pace group when I ran off at mile 24: less than 12
Number of pacers in my group: 3
Gels consumed: 2 (mile 9, mile 18)
Gels I left on my kitchen table in NYC: 4
Gels I would have consumed: 3-4
Distance covered where I looked at ground to pick up gel: 2.5
Number of times I swerved because I thought I saw one: 1
Number of times I thought about eating a half eaten gel: 2
Number of half eaten gels actually consumed: 0

Neighborhoods the Chicago Marathon runs through: 26
Neighborhoods I remember: 5 (downtown, Lincoln Park, Old Town, Chinatown, South Loop)
Times I saw my wife: 0IMG_6836
Times wife saw me: 1
Times wife tried to see me: 3
Miles she walked trying to see me: 7

Finish Time: 3:08:48
Time needed to qualify for Boston: 3:10:00
Time cushion for Boston registration: 1:12
Time cushion needed to register for 2016 Boston Marathon: 2:28

AG Place: 262/ 3289
Gender Place: 1364/ 20,174
Overall Place: 1558/ 46,032

Number marathon for me: 3 (not counting Ironman marathons)
Former best marathon: 3:48:xx (2009)
PR by: 40 minutes
Chicago PR by: about 1:15:00
Medical tent time: about 40 minutesIMG_6832
Medical tent PR: about 5-10 minutes
Body temp: 102.3
Way temp was determined: rectally (no joke)
Number of bags of ice on me after: 9
Number of blankets on me: 2
Number of massage therapists working on my legs: 5 total (3 at a time)
Approximate duration of calf cramp: 4.5 minutes
Approximate duration of ice bath after race: 22 minutes
Number of days I limped because of cramp aftermath: 4
Number of times I used the whirlpool tub after race: 5 in 2 days
Food consumed post race to house: 2 Gatorades, 1 water, 1 IV fluid bag (intravenously), 1 sip of Goose Island beer
Food consumed in house: 1 large glass of chocolate soy milk, 1 water, 1 Lara Bar mini
Food consumed at The Original Pancake House: 1 Dutch Baby, 1 chunk of wife’s Garden Baby, 2 cups coffee
Length of nap later in day: 0 minutes (could not get to sleep!)

Blisters: 2 (baby toes)IMG_6781
Toe nails I will lose: 1 (small toe, left foot)
Injuries:
– neck pain, 5 days
– left calf, 4 days
– right quad, still hurts
– plantar fasciitis, held up okay!
– right nipple, chafe for the first time ever

2014 in Review

I was thinking about this the other day – I had a moment where I said to myself, “the last year has been really great.” But what I realized was that I’ve been praising the last 365 days for the last, well, about 365 days, meaning I’ve had an amazing year-plus, with no end of awesome in sight. Fingers crossed.photo

Let’s do a 2014 by the numbers: 

Number of races: 9
Number of races I won: 2
Number of age group podium placements, not counting wins: 2
Number of medals: 9 (but only from 5 races!)
Number of trophies: 1 (it has flames on it)
Shortest race: Grant Park Turkey Trot 5K
Longest race: HITS Naples 140.6
Most bizarre race I participated in: Brooklyn Bridge SwimIMG_4538
Favorite race: HITS Naples 140.6
Number of severe sunburns received: 1 —>
Best finish photo: Rev3 Half Aquathon
Worst (but sort of best) race photos: Grant Park Turkey Trot
Number of visits to Finish Line Physical Therapy: 24
Number of specialists I saw: 2
Number of broken bones: 1
Number of times I flew to Chicago: 4
Number of times I drove to the Midwest: 2
Number of flat tires this year: 2
Number of pairs of shoes I ran: 10
Number of those shoes that were test shoes: 5
Longest ride not in a race: 146.8km (91.2 miles)
Longest ride in a race: 180km (112 miles)
Longest run: 21.6 miles
Fastest mile in a run (never tried for a single mile pace): 5:38/mile (5.3 mile run)
Number of crashes: 0
Number of athletes I coached privately: 9
Number of athletes I coached privately who met or exceeded their goals: 9
Number of times said athletes cursed my name: unknown
Number of whole cakes I consumed alone in under 72 hours: 2
Number of mini muffins consumed mid-ride with ETC: approximately 42
Number of times I put coffee in a water bottle while riding my bike: 1
Weirdest thing I ate while riding my bike: leftover burrito
Most memorable ride: first time to Orchards with Cameron
Most memorable run: canceling the ETC run because of rain but running with everyone (at their own risk!) anyway while it monsooned on us
Song most often stuck in my head while running: Sia “Chandeliers” (1-2-3, 1-2-3-3)

Monthly highlight reel & favorite moments:

January: Placed 1st in AG, 4th overall at HITS Naples 140.6. Two weeks later, ran the coldest half marathon of my life. Started attending November Project workouts. Interviewed Janet Mock.

February: Spoke at Harvard. Joined the GO! Athletes Board of Directors as Director of Strategic Initiatives. Wrote for Huffington Post.

March: Named to Trans 100 list.

April: Helped my wife with her amazing show at Abron’s Arts Center. harvard1Modeled for Brooks Pure Project Trunk Show at New York Running Company. Volunteered at Brooklyn Half.

May: Enjoyed the Bahamas. Taught kids how to ride bikes.

June: Volunteered at REV3 Quassy. Won my first race. Attended the Nike LGBT Sports Summit in Portland. Enjoyed Voodoo Doughnuts. A lot.

July: Was inducted into the National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame. Did my first evIMG_7135er (and likely last!) swimming race. Got officially cleared by USADA. Modeled for the Role Model issue of Candy Magazine.

August: PRed and placed top 10% in NYC Tri, even with a 6 minute stop to change a stranger’s tire. A week later, won the November Project Positivity Award and a silver medal at Gay Games 9. Recorded my first radio interview with OutCasting Media.  Named to Advocate 40 Under 40 list.

September: Won my second race. Spoke on panels in Denver and 10489847_805774314922_2196117563667788321_nYonkers. Began job as bike messenger. Went camping and loved it.

October: Spoke twice in NYC. Led NYC Marathon training runs and conducted a marathon clinic for runners. Maybe slept in?

November: Volunteered at NYC Marathon. Attended the NCAA Think Tank on LGBTQ Athletes and Religion. Transathlete.com turned 1. Met a muppet (cannot wait to talk more about this in 2015). Did my first recorded Google Hangout panel with Campus Pride. Spoke in Philly. Began the Deck-a-Day New Year’s Resolution Jump Start group, with nearly 400 members today.

December: Got a holiday card from the President. Candy Magazine released. Broke my toe. Named Best Personal Trainer of the Northeast by Competitor Magazine. 

Best-of-Competitor-2014-LogoThat’s not all, but that’s enough. It has been a TREMENDOUS YEAR and I couldn’t be happier to have the community, opportunities, and blessings I have. I was thrilled to meet great new friends, to spend so much time with Empire Tri Club, to see the athletes I coached have such great success, and have the opportunities to share my story with others. I have an awesome life, an awesome wife, and big goals to keep the momentum moving into 2015.

Happy New Year!

Grant Park Turkey Trot Race Report

headerSaturday, December 1, was the Grant Park Turkey Trot 5K in Chicago. I was in town for Thanksgiving, and knew I would be close, so I couldn’t pass up the option to take part in another Windy City race. I was staying in a hotel on Michigan Avenue with my wife, her cousins, and her mom. The hotel had a grand pool, where I got in a quick 600 m the night before – my first swim since the Poconos. Shhh….IMG_0790

I ate a huge dinner at Kiki’s Bistro, where I had a super cheesy pizza the size of a plate and various desserts. I was still feeling full when I woke up on race morning – never a good sign – so I didn’t eat anything. My wife and I were sharing a room with her cousin, so I got dressed in the bathroom and snuck out of the room at 7 am to get to packet pick up in Grant Park.

Pre race 

I ran just over a mile to get to the packet pick up. It was about 31 degrees, with a wind chill to make it feel like 25 degrees. I wasn’t sure what to wear, because it was expected to warm to 40 by the end of the race. I ended up in my typical winter ninja outfit: black tights, a tech t covered by a long sleeve covered by my black Nike jacket, hat and gloves, and my Rev3 buff.

I was nicely warmed up by the time I got there. But I also had 45 minutes to wait until race start. I got my packet, pinned my bib. I took trip to the porta potties, and tried to stay warm near a wall by the bathrooms. I did a little active stretching and lunge matrix warm up, and with 10 minutes to the race start went to drop my bag. I took my jacket off and checked it, and went to the start corral.

This was a Turkey Trot and a family-friendly event with some children and many walkers. I intended on running, and knew I wanted to line up near the front. I saw the 10 or so guys who I expected to win and lined up by them.

The startIMG_0792

With four minutes to the start, I decided another bathroom trip would be a great idea. I ran to the porta potties and back with a minute to spare. That was a good warm up.

The race

The race was one mile up, one mile back along the lake to the aquarium, into Grant Park, and a loop to the finish. I kicked too hard when I saw the finish line without realizing there was still about .15 miles left. I hit the 3 mile sign when I thought I was going to be at the finish. Rookie mistake to not know the course! Still, no one passed me. I expected to average about 6:20/mile with my foot injury and not really running since September. I was surprised to run 6:12 averages. I was definitely racing it, but felt untrained and slower than my potential. I also felt my pizza for about half the race.

The Photos

I had one photo from an old NYRR race that looks like all of my skin is falling off my face. I’ve always said it was my worse photo. But the photographers had to have a field day looking at the photos of me from this race. The photos look like it hurt more than I remember it hurting. It was a 5K! It was not this serious!!

photos

After the race, I saw a guy in a New York Running Company shirt. turkeytrotI asked if he was a NYer, or just ran the marathon. He actually works at the Running Company, so we talked and took a photo. I drank some hot cider, gathered up a few protein bars and cookies (but didn’t eat any – still wasn’t hungry) and did my deck a day while waiting for awards. I knew I did well, but wasn’t sure how many people ahead of me were in my age group. I didn’t win anything (5th in AG) but I would have won the AG I’ll be in next year – something to consider for next November. Then I walked back to the hotel.

By the numbers

Temperature: 31 start, 38 finish
Weather: clear and beautiful, very sunny
Number of times I hit the bathroom before the race: 4
Number of times I did that because it was warmer than outside: 3place2
Big burps I let out on the run: 1
Number of people who passed me: 2
Number of people I passed: 3

Nutrition consumed in race: 0
Hydration consumed in whole race: 0
Hydration consumed after race: 2 ciders, 2 coffees

Layers of shirts: 3 before, 2 during, 1 for photos
Layers on legs: 2

Number of 5Ks I’ve ever raced: 1

Finish time: 19:12
5th place age group
15th place overall

placement

Rev3 Pocono Mountains Race Report

IMG_8566Sunday, September 14 was the Rev3 Pocono Mountains Olympic and Half distance triathlons. My wife and I LOVE the Poconos, and the race was in the place we typically stay, so we used time share points to book a house and chose to work it as a hybrid race and vacation. The best kind of races, I think.

This was a team race for Empire Tri Club so I knew other people would be there. Four teammates stayed with me, and the house was large enough to comfortably host a team dinner for 10 people the night before the race. There’s something to be said about having different rooms. And a kitchen! I liked this much better than hotel life.

This was going to be my last race of the year, and before a busy three days.

Day beforeIMG_8463

On Saturday, every athlete had to rack their bike at T1. This was a point to point race, with T1 located about 20 or so miles from T2 and the finish line. It was a lot of running around the day before the race: first to the finish line and race expo to get my packet and hear the mandatory race briefing, and then to T1 to rack my bike, then my house mates and I went grocery shopping to prepare for the team dinner. All of this in the cold, cold rain. I had not packed appropriately for wet or for cold.

IMG_8468Back at the house, Hallie flexed her catering skills while Cameron DJed. Olof had supplied beer and Caitlin brought homemade cookies. The team came over for a mega dinner and everyone took off around 8:30 pm. We were all sorting transition bags and gear by 8:45 pm (courtesy of the house having a dishwasher, I think), and everyone was in or around bed by 9:30. That’s too early for me. I played on my phone for a while and then turned in around 10:30 pm.        

IMG_8474Pre race 

I was up at 4:30 am along with the rest of the crew. We   prepped breakfasts and put on race tattoos while Cameron DJed again – probably the first time I was okay with music (or talking) so early in the morning. Then: coffee, grab stuff, and out. We drove to T2 and the finish line to set up T2. I had an easy morning because I was doing the aqua bike race, and had no T2. I looked at my space and then left to hop on the shuttle, which took us back past the house again and over to T1. I ate a bagel with chocolate peanut butter and drank some Pre Race mixed with Accelerade. I don’t typically drink that but I had forgotten my drink mix and Hallie saved my morning.

When I got off the bus at T1, I could see my breath. I was shaking. I had on my kit and a wind breaker and didn’t want to take it off. Transition closed at 6:40 am so I rushed to set up my bike gear and pump my tires, and then put my wetsuit halfway on and got in line for the bathroom. I left my socks on to save my feet until the swim. It was 45 degrees and I hated everything.

IMG_8475The swim

The swim was in a lake, with one section so shallow that my hands hit the rocks. I got up and walked that part (I DON’T CARE!). The rest of the swim was uneventful. It was a little longer than the distance they said – and I know this not because my time was slower, but because everyone’s times were slow. I didn’t have a gps and cannot confirm, but this is my suspicion. The swim felt horribly slow, although my time was better.

In all, the swim was actually okay, although it took about two thirds of the swim for me to adjust my attitude about the race. I hated everything in the morning. I hate being cold. The water was the warmest part of the morning so I actually didn’t mind it. I sighted okay and didn’t get kicked, so that’s a success. And my goggles actually worked flawlessly, so that was cool too.

My left (formerly injured) shoulder has been hurting for about 10 days, so I had low expectations of the swim – as I often do. I got out of the water with a pinch in my back near my shoulder a bit worse than it had been, but I can’t really complain. The last two times I swam? NYC Triathlon and Gay Games. I exited the water in the middle of the pack.

T1

I entered T1 just before Joe, a friend also doing the aqua bike. He’s a very strong cyclist, a coach and instructor at Tailwind Endurance, and a beast of a racer. I saw him run out as I was getting my wetsuit off my feet and trying to get into my socks. I thought that was it – but I was putting on my jacket no matter what. Cold + wet is even worse than just cold.

The bike

I saw Joe in front of me about 100 feet when I started riding out. The first few miles were fast descents – I don’t have the weight so he gained a little time on me, but I passed him around mile 10. I felt the pressure of having him behind me the entire race, and I timed my lead at the turn around points: there were three 180 degree turns around park “toll” stations. I did not have much time on him, even going into mile 40. At mile 50 or so I saw he was less than a minute behind me, so I really pushed.

The good thing about racing an aqua bike is that you can turn it inside out on the bike and not have to worry about putting together a decent run. I kept thinking about this while riding. I tried to keep a strong cadence and full pedal strokes. Then I’d grit my teeth and grind it out for a while. It was good enough for the fastest bike split of the aqua bike.

I started the bike with only my half filled bottle of drink from the morning. At half way I threw it and grabbed a bottle of Gatorade Endurance. I forgot my gel in my morning bag so I took in no other water or nutrition. Not a solid plan. I didn’t bonk on the bike ride, but I think I suffered later in the day because of this. IMG_8478

The final miles of the bike route were through the run course on some hilly sections. I cheered for all the runners and saw I had a gap behind me, but I still pushed as hard as I could through the final stretch to make sure Joe didn’t catch me. I didn’t know that he dropped his chain somewhere out there, which bought me a little time.

The final stretch was through a few driveway paths, and then there was the dismount line going into T2. I got off my bike and sprinted with it to the transition timing mat, which served as my finish. DONE.

T2   

There was no T2 for me, but I still had to get my finish photo and medal. I had joked with my teammates about wearing my wetsuit across the finish to be funny… so I got my swim bag and put it on, along with my helmet and glasses, and one shoe. Not sure why one shoe. Why not? Joe finished and we chatted, and then I walked out of T2 and on the first section of the run course to get to the finish line. I walked across and IMG_8507enjoyed my Jumbotron photo. Then, the standard wet towel to medal and visor to chip return to food to gear bag to cheering. I saw the ETC people who did the Olympic distance and ate some food with a few people.

In the finish area I checked my results and grabbed my race receipt and then waited to make sure it was right. I also took a ton of photos.

By the numbers
Temperature: 45 start, 60 finish
Weather: clear and beautiful, no wind
Current: none
Number of times I thought about not doing the race while in T1: at least 7
Number of big gulps of lake I took: surprisingly, none
Big burps I let out on the swim: 2
Number of times I walked during the swim: 1
Number of back strokers I passed on swim: none – the 1 guy was going as fast as me

Gels consumed in whole race: 0
Bars consumed in whole race: 0IMG_8574
Water consumed: 0
Gatorade consumed: 40% of a bottle

Number of 180 degree turns on bike: 3 (nearly 4)

Number of spiders I saw in the house: 3
Wildlife I saw on the course: 1 snake, 1 lizard, 1 deer carcass, 1 roadkill raccoon
Number of bears I saw: 0
Number of bears on the course: at least 1

Finish time: 3:14:26
1st place overall
Swim: 40:36

T1: 3:49
Bike: 2:30: 01 (average 22.4 mph)

SPECIAL SHOUT OUTS: 
Andrew & Kate for doing their first halfs!
Hallie for getting 1st place AG and 5th overall in her first Olympic attempt

IMG_8470