The moment I found out I made it:
Saturday, 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….
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.
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.
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 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.
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!!
After the race, I saw a guy in a New York Running Company shirt. I 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: 3
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
Last weekend, one of the athletes I coach raced his A race – Ironman Maryland. His goal was to hit a time of under 11 hours, with his previous Ironman time at 11:40. We worked together for three months with a plan that integrated the strength training and Bikram yoga he enjoyed, as well as workouts to fit around his busy travel schedule.
Empire Tri Club posted a blog recap of Matt’s race and an interview with him and me about our experience. Matt was an awesome athlete to coach – he was intentional about his training, very open to feedback and suggestions, and he asked a lot of questions, which showed me that he was truly invested in his training.
Below is the interview from the Empire blog – spoiler alert: HE CRUSHED IT.
Here’s the post:
Matt Tambellini is living proof of what a year of hard work and focus can do for your race. The 33-year-old finance worker from NJ has been competing in triathlons since 2010, but got serious about the sport in 2012. After a few years of sprint & olympic tri’s, Matt signed up for Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2013 (his first full distance tri). He hit his goal of going sub-12 hours (11:40 to be exact), but had a self-proclaimed “awful run” and knew knew he could do a lot better. He joined Empire Tri Club about a month after his race, and started working with Empire Coach Chris Mosier in the months leading up to IM Maryland on Sept 20, 2014.
Matt’s results at Ironman Maryland are astonishing. Not only did he beat his Personal Best by 1 hour 15 minutes – but he also crushed his 11 hour goal-time that he set for himself (10:26)!
We caught up with Matt and his coach Chris this week to learn more…
[E]: Empire Tri Club
[M]: Matt Tambellini
[C]: Chris Mosier
[E]: Matt, tell us a little bit about your athletic background.
[M]: I’ve always played a lot of sports…baseball was my main sport growing up. I played competitively through college.
[E]: What goals did you set for IM Maryland? Anything in particular that enticed you to sign up for this race?
[M]: My main goal was sub-11. Timing was the most important factor when signing up for the race. Late season and relatively close to home made IM MD a no-brainer.
[E]: How did your training for this Ironman differ from the past Ironman?
[M]: I worked with a coach (Chris Mosier) for the three months leading into IM Maryland…I didn’t really follow a program leading up to CDA so obviously this experience was much different.
[E]: What did you find most beneficial in working with a coach?
[M]: The mix of speed and interval work, combined with consistent check-ins and encouragement from Chris were definitely the most beneficial aspects of working with a coach.
[E]: Chris, anything in particular that you think helped Matt during his training?
[C]: Matt was successful in part because of his commitment to strength training. He maintained regular once or twice a week functional strength sessions all the way up to his taper week, which helped his core and muscular endurance in his race.
[E]: How did you two communicate & stay on track?
[C]: Matt and I had weekly phone calls, which helped me keep track of his progress and modify his schedule when he was traveling for work. He had a pretty busy schedule but he really made the commitment to hit his workouts, stay on top of his nutrition, and prioritize rest. He was open to new ideas in his training and he trusted the plan.
[E]: What was the biggest challenge you faced going into this race?
[M]: I cramp a lot…so my biggest challenge was sticking to nutrition and hopefully avoiding cramps. I knew I was trained enough to him my goal, but cramping was one thing that could put it in jeopardy.
[E]: Do you get nervous before big events? Any rituals/superstitions to help ease your nerves?
[M]: I was incredibly nervous before this race…it was all I thought about for the month leading up to it. A little bit of meditation and a lot of sunflower seed chewing helped me ease my nerves.
[E]: Did your race go according to “Plan”? At any point did you feel like you hit the wall? How did you get through those tough parts?
[M]: My race was a bit different than planned. The swim, which is usually my easiest discipline, was much more challenging than I thought. The bike was much faster than I could have imagined and the run was pretty much according to plan. There were definitely some points on the run that I felt like a wall was coming, but I think mental toughness (and a little bit of cola) was the key to getting through it.
[E]: One of the most frequent questions we get asked is how to fuel properly for an Ironman. What was your nutrition plan? How’d it go?
[M]: I thought a LOT about nutrition given my past cramping ailments…my plan was at least 300 calories/hour on the bike along with salt pills and a consistent dosage of salt/electrolytes every 10-15 minutes on the run. It worked pretty well as cramps were minimal.
[E]: What was your first meal post-race!?
[M]: I wanted nothing more than a calzone after the race! Every topping you can think of!
[E]: Any friends / family / teammates you want to thank for supporting you during your race / training?
[M]: Definitely a big thank you to Chris. There’s no doubt that my experience wouldn’t have been nearly as good without his guidance. Caitlin Alexander also deserves a shout out as she helped motivate me on many a Saturday morning for early morning bike rides. Last but not least, thanks to Sara Hunninghake for introducing me to Normatecs!!!
[E]: Looking ahead, what are your plans for next season? Will you be signing up for another Ironman? Any goals for your next race?
[M]: Next season I’d like to connect with the team more and compete in a team-sponsored 70.3. My goal will be to break 5 hours, as I haven’t broken that in the half distance yet.
[E]: Chris, you must be very proud as a coach. Any last thoughts?
[C]: Matt was the type of athlete every coach would love to have: he was goal-oriented, gave me great feedback, and asked a lot of questions. I couldn’t be prouder of Matt – he worked very hard for those results and it was great to have him exceed his goals.