Monday, June 9, 2014

Eagleman 2014....Ooooh that Smell...

On my bike somewhere near mile 25 on the Smithville Road I zoned out and started singing in my head, "whiskey bottles,..and brand new cars,.....Oak tree, you're in my way.." Yes, Lynyrd Skynyrd's, That Smell, was the first song playing in my car at 0430 as I left Wittman.  Even with drug undertones it was a good beat to start the day full of water, wheels, and fire; and here it was rising up in my head again in the middle of my race.  Awesome!  What a beautiful place to have a race!

Before you read on, click to listen to That Smell while you read.

Team CMS at Transition prior to the start on Sunday. 

Eagleman is a big weekend full of planning, schedules, preparations, people, fun, and racing.  The excitement builds until one is nearly exhausted by the time the race starts at 0645, but not really.  Racing jitters go away after one finds his rhythm on the swim. 

Phinn helping me prepare on Saturday afternoon.


I had a plan, an actual printed out piece of paper with my plan for this race starting on Thursday...what to eat, when to go to bed, when to be where.  There was volunteering on Friday afternoon at the packet pick up, a great way to meet other athletes.  The Expo and talks were fun at the Ironman village set up at Sailwinds Park.  Final anti-jitter swim and bike at T1-Bike-Racking on Saturday afternoon led me back to Wittman for a planned 7pm bedtime.  Well, I was packed, dog fed and walked and in bed by a little after 9...oh well.   Up at 0200 for a meal, back to bed.  Up for good at 0400 and out the door by..."Oooooh that Smell, Can't you smell that smell...."

At 0600 my transition was set up and I was checking things off my paper list.  ANNOUNCEMENT: "This will be a wetsuit illegal race" and "men must wear a shirt on the swim".  As the panic rose through transition, I shifted gears a bit with wardrobe and was set to go.  Pictures with team was followed by my first gel and water as I entered the Choptank for my warmup.  Luckily I could hear the DJ/Ironman announcer from out in the middle of Hambrooks Bay and realized they were starting every wave 5 minutes early from their posted times.  I made it back to shore, climbed the rocks, ran to the boatramp entrance and caught my wave setting up for the start.  I went to the far buoy of the starting line...alone....no one within 80 feet of me.  The other 150+ of my friends were crammed at the other end of the line...what a mess.  Horn blew and we were off.  Finding my own rhythm in a bout 2 minutes I found a potential draftee.  He was slightly faster than me...perfect.  I successfully drafted him for most of the race, following his tiny bubbles made by his hands.  Drafting helps: less sighting and its faster. 

We swam into 2 or 3 waves, maybe 4.  I couldn't see very well with some fog in my goggles and bright sunshine and poor vision to start with.  One could stand at any point of the swim course.  Near the finish it was very shallow and some people were walking instead of swimming; swimming was faster.  This was a PR for me with a non wetsuit swim of 38:42.  I was 19 of 158 in the swim.

I heard my name as I came out of the water and slapped a few hands of friends going into transition.  So much fun, but my heartrate (HR) was racing.  Off on the bike the goal was to hydrate/nourish for the upcoming run, but first I needed to slow it down and get the HR down to a reasonable low zone.  The ultimate dangerous carrot was having my coach, Tracy MacCherola,  pass me on the bike while I was slowing it down in the beginning.  Despite the urge to hammer it and chase her (can you imagine the email on that one), I was good and stuck to my plan.

Lower Dorchester County and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge rock!  Gorgeous! The wind went exactly as I saw was predicted.  It was in our face most of the way to mile 30, with the exception of some time on the Hudson Road and the last part of Dailsville Road.  Then things got faster, especially on the Golden Hill and Egypt Roads; I was hitting 25's.  The ride was quick and done before I knew it.  I had my thoughts in my fuel, but didn't execute very well; I misjudged my hydration and got off the bike in a hydration deficit.  PR EM bike at 2:37:06....Yay!!  At this point there was potential for me to break five hours in EM.  Was it to happen?.....

An aside: There's a young professional triathlete, Jesse Thomas, who I met at Poconos 70.3 (he won).  He was here at EM this year and became the champion of the alternative 81.3 course.  Yes, he missed the Smithville turn while looking at a friend in the penalty tent, then proceeded to tour Taylor's Island....11 miles out of his way.

A great bike dismount was met by cheers for CMS (me) and I elbow-high-fived to Brad and Jim and friends.  Awesome!  Felt some pains in my legs dropping my bike off.  BAM, left ham and right quad were yelling at me to not run.  Boy did they yell.  Despite this pain, I kissed Carita before leaving Great Marsh Park, off for 13 fun miles with legs that were under hydrated...I was in trouble.

"...one little problem that confronts you,.....got a monkey on your back,.... "  go with the plan.  Slow down the HR for miles 1 and 2, zone 2 for miles 3 and 4, then the run will unfold well from there.  AND, there was a good  moment there after mile 4, but it was just a moment.  I hydrated and fueled well enough during the run to stay out of  further decline physically.  But, the clock was ticking and I was only making 9:30 miles, if that.  I kept running and never stopped except to drink fluids at the aid stations.

The aid stations were great; kids and adults all working together to help the athletes.  Every kid wanted us to take her cup of refreshment.  And, there may have been a CMS member at nearly every aid station.  So good to see everyone, sorry if I seemed too out of it to say a proper hello, especially to Nita and Beth. 



Mile 12 was my hardest, "....Just one more fix (mile), Lord,..... might do the trick..., One hell of a price for you to get your kicks!...."  The finish mile was easier that I thought.  Reinke at the corner and Trevor...Dean somewhere and others...I could only manage a mouthed "O  M  G".  But I think I smiled too.  The finish chute was a welcome scene...Laura, Carita to the right, water in hand, finish medal around neck, timing chip off, Coach Tracy, more water, photo with Tracy on podium, new finish hat and shirt....all great.

I had disappointment to not meet a target.  My time was 5:24:45...a great time, but I wanted more.  It took me a  while to shake the feeling, but I got there.  I was puzzled about my legs and there was a lot of speculation, but I'm sure it was hydration.  Maybe a culmination of other things too, but, hey, it was a great race.  I learned to not focus so much on my time; it took too much away from the event for me.  Luckily, I will have all this figured out by July 27th for Ironman Lake Placid.

There are sooooo many people I love and appreciate for their support on this weekend.  You know who you are...family, CMS teammates, friends, Coaches, organizers, and my fellow athletes and volunteers.  This is an awesome event that we're all blessed to have in our lives. 

So much fun to have the CMS team and supporters all over the EM course.  Congratulations to all the CMS'ers who raced yesterday.  AND, to all  of you who are pondering whether to do Eagleman next year, Lynyrd Skynyrd says it best, "....say you'll be alright come tomorrow,..... but tomorrow might not be here for you.... HEY YOU!"  SIGN UP FOR EM 2015!!!  Cheers.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Year 50


Firstly, my apologies to you and myself for not having had a new post in 20 months. MY BAD!

Yes, its' been coming for a long time, my 50th year.  Turns out that there were many significant events in history that occurred since I was conceived: President Kennedy was shot, the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, Innsbruck Olympics, Vietnam, race riots, and Bewitched, to name a few.  So why not make my own mark in my own life's story?  The answer has been brewing for 7 years, maybe much longer.  On July 27, 2014, four day's before my 50th birthday I will compete in my first Ironman at Lake Placid. 

Mik and Joey with me at our volunteer post at Ironman Lake Placid last July.

Little do we realize when a "seed" is planted.  For me this "seed" was planted in 1980 when I was 15.  I was there for the first Oxford Triathlon watching athletes exit the water on the Bellevue shore.  I was SHOCKED and in AWE.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could possibly do such a thing, much less WANT to do such a thing.  But, here I am on the cusp of my 6th Eagleman 70.3 and less than 2 months from my first full Ironman.  I get teary-eyed just typing this; I am blessed and so very thankful for these opportunities.

The 2013 spring racing season was awesome; I had many PR's in races which culminated in a very good Eagleman, besting my previous best time by nearly half an hour.  But, I also finished with a case of Plantar Fascitis in my left foot.  I struggled with pain through the summer, and after an August eight-mile run, I decided I needed to stop running to try and heal myself.  I didn't run for 2 months, but kept swimming and biking heavily.  The PF did not get any better, worse if anything. 

I had already plopped down an ungodly amount of money on IMLP registration, but more than that I wanted to be whole again, race again, be competitive again, and maybe find something out about myself.  In October, right after the sailing season, I hired a Triathlon coach, Tracy MacCherola; best thing I've done in a long time.


I've known Tracy for 7ish years through Cambridge Multisport (CMS) as a tough competitor, coach, and a supporter of her CMS teammates.  She has brought me a long way, helping me shape some goals for triathlon and life.  I am a stronger athlete because of the work I've done over the past 9 months under Tracy's guidance.  But, she's not alone.  It takes a village to create a happy person/athlete/triathlete.  I am that person (with plenty of room for more growth) because of the help and support of several key people in my life, the most important being my wife, Carita.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ironman Pocono Mountains 70.3

Here’s the quick and dirty of my Ironman Pocono Mountain 70.3 form Sunday:
Tri-bikes on the Jetta after the race.  Ryan's is the "Blue" one that he got only 2 weeks ago.  Mine, the trusty Sommers Titanium, has over 17 years worth of miles (probably close to 50,000 miles.
 Personal Best!!!
Total time: 5:34:26

1.2 mile swim: 30:54 12th of 121 204 of 1329
1: 5:04
56 mile bike: 2:54:36 27th of 121 322 of 1329
T2: 2:28
13.1 mile run: 2:01.24 35th of 121 375 of 1329

· Air temperature at start: 48 Burrrr degrees. After loading our morning clothes into bags and buses we stood for an hour in our wetsuits and bare feet at the beach. I hate that they “close” transition in these races. Swim start 7:34

· Swim start at abandoned resort, complete with weeds and trees growing where they should not, broken buildings and patios; at very eerie lake with fog (kept looking for “Jason” to rise up from water)

· Water temp: 64 which felt warm as we entered because we were so cold


Tri-friend Ryan Clift and I standing at Second Pond Lake on Saturday, the day before Pocono 70.3.  Notice our long sleeves and that no one is doing warm up swims behind us...yes, it is cold.  Ryan's time for the race was 5:22; he passed me on mile 48 of the bike and started 4 minutes behind my wave.

· Michael in lead pack gasping to settle into swim 2 minutes into race. Swim panick is close.  Just remembered that there was an Elvis impersonator at the timing mat who shook my hand as I entered the beach.

· After some mental struggle, Michael settles into swim half way to first buoy. Fog is a factor but my goggles stay clear and I can always see the next buoy but not the one beyond. I am 12th out of water of 121 in my division, but I don’t know that at the time, but, do know that I swam into 4 waves ahead of me.

· Its cold, so Michael takes his time dressing in T1 for bike; smart to be warm on bike, long sleeves and hat; long T1 at over 5 minutes.

· Michael feels very good during whole bike over very hilly, very technical course dodging potholes, road washouts, bumpy intersections, medical crews, orange cones in center of road, and hairpin turns at 35mph. Saw 2 wrecks including stretchers and neck braces, many flats.

· Michael nearly scares the piss out of himself while going 44.6 mph and stops at mile 36 aid station and visits the bathroom.

· One section of road is so rough there are dozens of water bottles scattered from falling off competitor’s bikes; more dodging

· At T2 the sun is out and temps are in the 60’s. Michael strips to his CMS tri-suit, wearing the green proudly!

· Michael forgets to wear race bib on run. Two minutes up run-course Michael returns to T2, takes off timing chip before mats, retrieves bib, puts chip back on and continues on course; probably lost 5 – 6 minutes on run

· On run after hitting the Porto pot at mile 2 Michael meets 33 year old woman, Kelly, who talks for 8 miles (yep, over an hour) of the run and helps Michael forget the pain of what he is experiencing. She left me while I was gobbling my last gel and water at aid station mile 10 and I never catch her again.

· Michael finishes in downtown Stroudsburg, PA feeling strong to the cheering of throngs, finishers medal, space blanket, water, and hug from Kelly

· Chicken broth, bagels, and chocolate chip cookies

· It starts pouring rain as we’re collecting gear bags from the buses and bikes out of transition; it is a melee….freezing too. Picture rain, a school bus with windows open, volunteers throwing identical, yet, individually numbered, gear bags out the windows to other volunteers who mostly catch the bags except for the few that explode spilling shoes and personal items on the wet ground.

· Definitely missed the friends and comforts of Eagleman’s simplicity and WARMTH.  Poconos helped me love hills; it was really a fun and exciting bike course through gorgeous country roads.

Pro triathlete, Jesse Thomas, whom I met at bike racking on Saturday, won Poconos on Sunday.  He was back in California for his wedding anniversary dinner with his wife the same night.  He said his race to the airport was nearly as tough as the race.

· Michael registers for Osprey Triathlon on Monday morning.  Michael does not know why he did this whole race report in the third person; will do better next time.

· See you at Snowhill on Saturday.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Experiment


Liv, me, El, and Cole on the Airline Trail, White Mountains, heading to Madison Springs Hut in early August 2011.

Okay, I just need to break the ice of such a long absence from posting to my own blog. Life is full of good stuff. Though I try not to write too much about my personal/family life on this post, I do want you to know my elder daughter is a freshman in college and loving every moment of it. My other daughter has adjusted well to her older sister’s departure and is continuing the strong Keene presence on their high school playing fields.


The Ironman Eagleman in June saw my return for a personal record on that course. I was thrilled to have competed and absolutely bowled over that I improved in the rankings. My one-word adjective for my Eagleman experience 2011 is “luscious”. The water was so warm and nice, the bike was sunny, calm, and beautiful, and the run was a bearable temperature with a light breeze to cool us in every direction, or so it seemed.

The summer saw racing the Star on Wednesday nights, racing the log canoe on the weekends, and keeping with a light to moderate activity level of swimming, biking, and running. The families reached the White Mountains in August for some gorgeous hiking. I spent a week in Utah with my sister where I got to do some trail running (Yay!), swimming, hiking, summiting, and mountain biking.

Me outside Moab near Dead Horse State Park about to venture onto my first solo mountain bike experience.  I went downhill for 8 miles here and it took me over an hour.  Some spots I had to walk they were too scary for this flat lander.


Two weeks ago my friend, Pete, and I towed Seabiscuit, my Star, to New York for a Centennial Regatta for the Star class in Larchmont. We had our chance to shine; we even led two of the races, but victory was not to be ours.

The experiment: Two weeks ago I signed up for a half marathon in Chestertown. What was I thinking? I have not been running, and I certainly haven’t run anything close to 13 miles since Eagleman in June. So, as the time drew near, I succumbed to the notion that I would simply make this race an experiment; one where I would do what I could in the hopes that all my other contortions of late would give me the stamina to finish strong. I’m happy to say that I faired well.

However, I made two mistakes. The first was forgetting to roll on anti-chafe protection. I have the worse case of chafe my underarms have ever had because of a rough shirt I was wearing. The second mistake was not eating anything immediately before the race and not carrying any fuel with me. To counteract this mistake I drank Gatorade at every aid station, and that saw me through.

I felt good at the start and quickly fell into an 8:05 pace for the first 5 miles in the warm, windless misty morning. Not knowing whether I would bonk later, I cracked off on the speed, but kept a good 8:15 pace going. All was well until mile 10 when my knee started to act up…nothing too serious, it was just talking to me to slow down. I finished around 1:51 for the 13.1 and felt very pleased with my performance. I didn’t think there were as many as 40 people ahead of me, but there was. I finished 8th of 22 in my 10 year age group. Now, because I am no stranger to injury, I did take it easy yesterday and with my recovery today. I’m very thankful for what I can do.



Me with Mikaela after her 2nd place victory at this year's Chesapeak Man Skipjack Triathlon.  At the same time I was running the half, down south in Cambridge a friend was running her first triathlon, Chesapeake Man’s Skipjack, a 70.3+ Ironman distance. Mikaela swam with us for the first time over 4th of July weekend when six of us met at MRYC for a swim in the Miles River at daybreak. We were wowed by Mikaela’s fitness level and speed in the swim and the bike that followed. I believe it was that day that we convinced her she needed to sign up for a triathlon, so she did in a large way by being 2nd overall for the women in yesterday’s event. So cool!

This is the season for the trails and I look forward to the first fall run at Tuckahoe with friends.