Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Post Eagleman

Espen Kataraas in the 2007 Eagleman 70.3. He's a successful triathlete who manages his career, family, and sport to the MAX.

In a very real way I have had resistance to posting another blog. It would mean my Eagleman race report would be "paged" down to the rarely read or searched archives of this blog. However, unlike my blog, my training habits have and will not be relegated to the archives. To have trained six months specifically for EM is not to be taken lightly. EM training and race have impacted my life. Though without a specific race on the agenda, I have been continuing my training as if EM has never happened. This is a good thing. I like the divided attention the three disciplines give me; there's always something different to look forward to and creative workouts to prevent any monotony.
The timing of EM coincided with the end of the school year for my girls. This has allowed me to turn to more early morning workouts, one of which has become the backbone of the summer training, so far. This involves biking to the St. Michaels Pool for a swim workout and returning home. Twice now I've been able to throw in an extra 20 miles on the bike by riding out and back to Neavitt, either before or after swimming. Friday saw a first when Dan Bieber and Dave McKendrick were at the pool when I got there. The three of us then biked to Neavitt, creating my first "paceline" where we pushed the upper limits of our speed. Michael Valliant and Landy Cook hopped in the YMCA pool Monday morning this week and began, what I hope, is a passion for swimming.
After a pleasant ride to Neavitt Sunday morning with Motoko, I met up with Dan Bieber and Becky Weisley to try an open water swim in Harris Creek. With Becky in the kayak keeping an eye on us, Dan and I braved the few seanettles we saw from the dock. Unfortunately, the seanettles won out as we swam into many, covering our arms and legs with the acid-like tentacles. We had to abandon our swim and probably call off creek swimming until fall. Bummer!

Since Eagleman I have had several medium mileage runs that have restored my shakey confidence in my running, despite my poor performance in the run at EM (I'm hung up on that, and probably won't let it go until proven otherwise in another Ironman event). My lastest run was a 10 plus miler yesterday morning around the Pot Pie area. From various points around Wittman you can see 4 different counties. Our peninsula is surrounded by water and there are lots of fields and very little traffic. I maintained an easy pace playing with stride-length and cadence, as well as, intensity. It was a good run, as I finished in 5 minutes slower than my official PR of 1:21.

This brings me to Espen Kataraas, a triathlete who has been a help to me this spring in preparing for EM. Through another friend, Mark Sommers, I was led to Espen and his wealth of knowledge in the sport. Between his website and email, Espen helped calm my nerves by guideing me toward the right wetsuit, tri-clothes, and bike parts for EM. Then, on Father's Day weekend I got to meet Espen in person here in Wittman. Espen is often an age-group winner in tris, and often places in the top tear at most events. Check out his website: to see more. Much like when Valliant and I met ultrarunner Dean Karnasas during the 50/50 Endurance Run, meeting Espen was like reacquainting with an old friend. He is an unassuming fellow, eager to help, and a very easy gentle person (of course I met him after he'd just done a time-trial on the Eagleman course, so maybe he was just exhausted). Espen won his age group at the Columbia Triathlon this spring and finished the Eagleman in 2007 in 4 hours 16 minutes. His run was his weakest link in Eagleman with a time of 1:26 for the half marathon , 54 minutes faster than mine, Wow!

In any case, Wittman is becoming a meca for multisport. We actually have 3 triathlete residents, a few tri-wannabes, and several cyclists including Mark who is an Elite age grouper. I saw my first out-of-town couple arrive in Wittman Park, set up their bikes, then go for an all day ride. We have athletes like Espen visiting here on a regular basis. We had Joanna Zeigler, the overall women's 2008 Eagleman Ironman 70.3 winner, stay in Wittman over that weekend (100 feet from my house). The RUR's have been known to show up here in Wittman on an occasional Sunday morning (you're due again). And, we regularly have age-group placement triathlete, Dan Bieber, come join me for various multisport activities. It's a freakin meca!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Eagleman IRONMAN 70.3

My wave's start at 07:24 Sunday. I'm exaclty in front of the closer white starting buoy. My 40 - 44 age wave was the largest of the Eagleman at 300+ men.

The 2008 Eagleman was a wonderful experience for me. Despite heat indexes of over 100 degrees, I managed to finish the 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run under my upper time limit of 6 hours (5:58:14). Combine the satisfaction of reaching a goal with the more soul-nourishing aspects of this event, and you get one happy "Iron Frog", as Mike Valliant termed me (see Michael's race report at ). The people make an event, and this was no exception.

Having family and friends spectating was an awesome feeling. Carita and I left the house at 4:45, and she hung with me during the pre-race set-up. She, also, spotted where on the starting line I should start the swim, giving me optimal conditions to get a good start. At the first turning mark of the swim I spotted my friend Jack in his kayak as I managed a shout to him. It is very difficult to find someone you know among 350 red caps. My daughter, Eleanora, and friends Chloe and Cole were in a canoe near the finish. Coming out of the water I first heard Michael yell something "Frogish" to me, then saw Jill and Carita. Upon finishing the bike portion my mother, sister, niece, and Michael were there to cheer me on. At the 2nd Aid Station of the run both Carita and Eleanora were working hard supplying everyone with drinks and ice. Carita also gave me a whopping kiss (I wonder if she was giving everyone a kiss?) It was also, great to finish the 70.3 into the arms (literally) of friends and family.
Me getting hosed off by a fireman after my finish; it felt awesome!!

This is the Transition Area, restricted to only the athletes. I am dead center of photo with my back to the camera leaning over toward my right side.

The competitors were swell; helpful, generous, and fun. A fellow racked next to me in Transition (that's the area only the triathletes are allowed where the bikes are racked and the gear is stowed in a very confined area under the bikes) offered for me to take water and gatorade out of his cooler anytime I needed during the race. We all helped each other pump tires. A little tip one mate gave me, probably saved my race; that was to put ice in my shorts during the run.

My small segment of Transition real estate.

The volunteers were awesome, providing us with endless aid, supplies, and direction. I'm sure most volunteers, including my wife and daughter, were equally at risk of heatstroke in the hot sun . Eagleman would not happen without these people.
Catholic School mates Yvonne Laucherman and Ruth Yoash-Gantz surrounding me at the post race celebration. Yvonne placed 2nd in her AquaVelo age group. Ruth, who is a cancer survivor, completed her second Eagleman. She also survived a hard blow to her head at the start of the swim this year, as well as, a bee sting on her head while on the bike.

I cannnot go on without explaining to you who were most influential to me in getting me to do triathlons in the first place:there are several. Last year's Eagleman found me as a spectator because Ruth Yoash-Gantz, a classmate, friend, and roommate of my sister Kim, was participating. I arrived at the beach last year in time to catch Ruth as she was putting on her swimcap and entering the water. I was so inspired by her, that as things came together over this past year, I soon found myself registered for this year's EM, with little fear for what I was getting into. Friends, Mark and Motoko, gave me a bike last October; a really really nice bike. This gave me no excuse to say "no" last December to Dave McKendrick when he told me I could register for EM, if I wanted.

I'll start my race report with saying that I am already looking for my next triathlon. My swim went great. My time of 37:42 was right on target, more than 2 minutes under my 40 minute upper goal. More importantly, I came out of the water with energy and ready for what lay ahead. I did experience some nausea coming out of the water. That was either lack of fuel (no time to fuel/drink during the swim) over the previous hour or I was a little sea sick. In either case, by the time I had 4 or 5 miles under the bike and I had eaten and drunk something, I was feeling great again.

Me exiting the water and peeling off the wetsuit. I didn't notice how hot I was until I left the water and hit the hot air.

The 2:52:39 hours that the bikeride took seemed like 30 minutes. It was a truly enjoyable, scenic ride through lower Dorchester County. The ride took us through my ancestral homelands of the Golden Hill area, past Upper and Lower Keene Broads, as well as the Applegarth homestead and graveyards filled with distant Tubman, Keene, Travis, and Applegarth cousins. The wind was negligible and the heat at bay. Aid stations were in 10 mile increments stocked with water and Gatorade Endurance Formula. I had a refillable bottle mounted between my Aerobars (handlebars) and 2 other bottle brackets in the V of the bike frame for hydration. My 3 back shirt pockets were packed with a 6 ounce tube of Clif gel, Electrolyte Capsules, chapstick, 2 Clif Bars, and a bag of oranges. I, also, had a turkey and avacado sandwich aboard, of which I ate half. Coming into Transition 2 to the cheering crowd of friends and family was a great feeling. I was pumped with adrenaline and pleased to be well under my 3 hours goal for the ride.

I knew I had to be well hydrated and fueled for the run portion of this Ironman 70.3. So, I restocked my 3 back pockets and off I went. Before I got out of Transition half of my supplies had bounced out of my pockets. I was left with my gel and electrolyes along with my handheld water bottle. In the end, that was all I needed. After the first 2 miles and a comfort station stop I was having trouble. I realized I was hot and my energy was spent. I started to walk in the 3rd of 13 miles. I didn't know what I was going to do. Time was slipping away and dreams of doing this race in 5:30 quickly vanished. By mile four I had things figured out. At each aid station, which were at every mile, I would stop, get ice in my handheld bottle, hat, shirt, and shorts, hose down front and back, and drink Gatorade and water. That sequence I repeated at each mile for the next 9 miles of the race. That enabled me to actually "run" the whole distance between aid stations. As near as I can tell, my core temperature would go too high, cause my heartrate to heighten, and cause me to lose energy. Cooling my core with ice and water would get me running again.

Some portions of the course were on fresh blacktop. The heat was intense. Certainly, none of us had any business running on a day like Sunday. The best comment I heard was that the run was just "plain hateful", mumbled by a competitor as he went by. My attitude toward the run changed to survival mode in the initial miles. Concern for my health in the heat became my focus. I was no longer in race mode. I question whether my decision was a wimpy one. Did I allow the pain to overcome my desire to be competitive? Should I have hung on to a tougher mental attitude? These questions were in my head soon after the race. But, as the days have passed since my first Ironman event, I have no regrets about any of my decisions before or during Eagleman. I know myself even better now, and trust in the messages sent from the ole bod.

I ran the run without a watch. Running into the finish crowd and hearing my name yelled was icing on the cake to when I looked at the race clock over my head indicating that I was finishing in under 6 hours. My run took me 2:20:44, twenty minutes longer than I dreamed possible for me. Strangly, compared to my competition, my second strongest event for the day was my run. My strongest event was my swim, of which I am well pleased, given that is where most of my efforts have been directed over the last 6 months.

My recovery from Eagleman has been easy. I have only slight muscle aching throughout my entire body. Triathlons definitely work all the muscles. As we all endure the heat of this last day of 2008's first heatwave, I will always remember my first Ironman 70.3 whenever the heat gets this intense again. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to acheive such an accomplishment, but more so, to have a supportive network of family and friends. You are my "Iron People"!!!

Saturday, June 7, 2008


In 24 hours and 27 minutes I will begin the 2008 Eagleman IRONMAN 70.3. I can't begin to tell you how excited I am to give this a try. My gratitude for the opportunity to train and compete is overwhelming. This point was never so poignant then when I drove to "packet pick-up" in Cambridge yesterday afternoon. Along the way I drove past the helicopter, emergency vehicles, police cruisers, and media that were surrounding the little yellow house outside Trappe where a man, only hours before, had killed his wife and himself. A multitude of questions rang through my head, but mostly, "how could this man become so distressed/angry/desperate as to do such a thing?"

How did we allow this man to slip through the cracks in our community? This horrific event gives so much meaning to what I am about to do tomorrow. I will go forth at 7:24am Sunday as a product (however fast or slow) of everyone in my life: my wife, daughters, parents, sisters, family, friends, and mentors. With your love, support, and encouragement I will tackle the challenges in the race tomorrow, much the same way I have lived my life for the past 43 years. It is with confidence that I will come out of tomorrow, either fallen or victorious, into the arms of my life that is all of you (that includes You, God). Everyone alive should be able to make that last statement. Why did a man in Trappe not feel that way yesterday?

I began titling this post as "Numbers" because of the multitude of them running around my head: my times, splits, schedules, pace, velocity, mileage, etc. I got off on the above tangent, but I'm not sorry. These numbers have been my focus leading up to the race to give me an idea of where I will be tomorrow, and what I can expect. Now, that the time is near (exactly 24 hours from this moment, as I type) my focus is changing to having fun with all this. I will do tomorrow what my body, mind, spirit, and conditions will allow. So, though the numbers will still be there to compute, I am slowly removing them from my focus.

There is one number, however, that is not leaving, and that's my race number of "995". I will sport 995 on my shoulders, legs, helmet, bike, and front. Mike Valliant knows my "thing" about race numbers, and I think he'd agree that I have a good one. Talk to you in a few days. Thank you, all, for making the fabric of my life.