“Winter’s cold, spring erases…”

2017 Monument Avenue 10k Race Report

 45:51 (7:22/mile)

93/954 (AG)     817/21,953 (Overall)

April 1, 2017 – My first race of the new season is the Monument Avenue 10k, which I’d only done twice before.  In 2007 my goal was to go sub-50:00 and I finished in 47:10 after my ability to go sub-50:00 had been questioned (by my well-intentioned neighbor).  In 2014 I raced with an injured left IT band after a month-long layoff and was only able to manage a disappointing 48:58.  I’d been training all winter with Karen and Erin since the conclusion of my 2016 season, with my only real downtime being the week that I’d spent in Haiti in December.  There were a lot of cold, dark mornings where I’d have rather been in bed instead of running outside, but I was determined to get faster before the spring racing season started.

The Monument Avenue 10k was one of the “A” races on my calendar, so my coaches gave me a full taper for it.  Karen thought that I might be able to run 7 minute miles, but she had never before trained me for a stand alone 5k or 10k – so I thought she was a bit optimistic.  My personal best in a 5k had been at the 2015 Turkey Day 5k in Martinsville, which is a hilly course.  I’d run that race at an average pace of 7:13 minutes/mile, so that was my best recent result to use to extrapolate my 10k pacing.  There was no point in using my time from the 10k in 2014 since I’d been injured.  Ultimately, we (mostly I) decided on shooting for a sub-46:00 race, so I’d need to run 7:24 minutes/mile or better to get it done.  I figured that was doable, and would lead to a PR of at least 1:10 if I was successful.

Over the course of my 2016 season I had learned to trust Karen’s pacing strategy.  There was some mild disobedience early on where I went out too fast on the run, and that had been counterproductive in every instance.  Thus, I was fully committed to doing exactly as she said for the 10k.  I was told to run the first three miles at a 7:30 pace, and then to negative split the last 3.2 miles as much as possible.  In 2007 and 2014 I’d gone out too hard in the first 5k and then really struggled coming back in.

From a health standpoint, I was injury-free for the first time in about a year.  I’d fought metatarsalgia and piriformis for all of 2016, and the metatarsalgia had been controlled with orthopedic inserts in my shoes.  I tried a couple of rounds of physical therapy for the piriformis, but it never fully went away.  Over the winter I’d started having deep tissue work done once a month at Karen’s suggestion, which was a fairly painful process.  That being said, after four or five sessions, the piriformis pain had finally began to abate.  So, come race day I was healthy, rested and ready to see if I was faster at 38 than I had been at 28.

My only problem heading into the race is that one of the ear buds for my IPod broke about five minutes before my start time.  It still worked, but was hanging by the wire.  I managed to get it back in my ear and hoped that it wouldn’t fall out as I ran.  Then, it was into the corral with Wave C as we moved forward to the starting line.


GPS Data

Mile 1 (7:29)

Based upon my expected finishing time, I probably should have been seeded in Wave B.  Nevertheless, most of the folks in the Wave C corral ran past me in the first mile.  I resisted the urge to go with them, and in the past, I’d made the mistake of going too hard in Mile 1.  There was a fair amount of congestion, but after we took a right onto Monument Avenue I hugged the left side of the road and it wasn’t too bad.  I knew from experience that I’d end up running a tad over 6.2 miles, and thus, I would need to run an actual pace that was a shade faster than 7:24 minutes/mile in order to have an official time below 46 minutes.  As expected, my GPS read 1 mile just before I got to the Mile 1 sign, and I’d probably run a little extra distance bobbing and weaving around the other runners.  I ran the first mile in 7:29, which was right on Karen’s plan of 7:30’s for the first three miles.  The heart rate was climbing, but I was feeling good.

Mile 2 (7:29)

The second mile of a 10k for me seems to take forever, and this time was no different.  You’re beginning to get far enough into the race to start feeling the burn, but you’re not even halfway home.  I continued to have Wave C folks run past me, but I didn’t let that discourage me or get me off my pacing strategy.  I knew that at least a few of them would get passed on the backside.  I stuck to the plan with another 7:29 mile.

Mile 3 (7:27)

By the start of Mile 3 my heart rate had headed north of 180 but I was still feeling pretty good.  Its hard to tell, but the “out” portion of the race is a slight upgrade and there was a light wind blowing out of the west, which wasn’t helping.  Thankfully, I’d found a lot more daylight as the race progressed, so there was less bobbing and weaving going on.  Fatigue was creeping in, but I still felt better than in years past.  Once again, I came in very close to my 7:30 minutes/mile goal with a third mile of 7:27.  Given the extra distance that I knew I’d be running, I was really right on pace.

Mile 4  (7:19)

The turnaround cone was a welcome sight and I hit the 5k mat in a time of 23:26 for an official pace of 7:32 minutes/mile.  That meant that I needed to run the final 5k in 22:33 or less to go sub-46:00 minutes.  I’d signed Karen up for text message alerts so she could track my progress on her phone, and I imagined that she was pleased when she saw my 5k split.  I was behaving myself this time.

After turning around to head back east I picked up the pace a bit.  I was tired, but I still felt like I had a decent amount left in the tank.  I was conscious about overdoing it though, so I didn’t speed up too much, not wanting to bonk in the final mile.  By the end of Mile 4 I was hurting, but still OK.

Mile 5  (7:18)

Mile 5 of a 10k is kind of like Mile 2 for me.  It hurts, but the end is still a ways off.  On the upside, I was gradually moving up through the field and was passing people who had run past me in miles 1 and 2.  As much as my lungs and legs were burning, it felt pretty good to pick people off one by one, and that became a lot of my motivation.

Mile 6 (7:12)

The last full mile of a 10k hurts so good.  My legs and lungs were on fire, but I knew that the end was near so I was able to pick up the pace even more.  I passed a lot of people in Mile 6 and it was clear that many people had gone out too fast.  I’d done that in both of my prior 10ks, so I was familiar with that feeling of just hanging on.

I looked to me like my sub-46:00 goal was in reach, and by the end of Mile 6 my average pace was reading 7:22/mile on my GPS.  That was two seconds below my goal pace, but I knew that my official pace was slower since my GPS was tripping every mile before I was getting to the official mile markers.  I needed a time buffer for sure, but I wasn’t sure exactly how much.  I knew that it was going to be close.

Mile 6-6.26  (6:15 minutes/mile pace)

You hit that 6 mile marker and you think its over, but that last 2/10ths of a mile seems to go on forever.  I began my final kick as soon as I passed the 6 mile marker and kept glancing at my watch as it ticked ever closer to 46 minutes.    I could see the finish line up ahead and put everything I had left into the end of the race.  As I crossed the timing mat I stopped my GPS and saw that it was reading 45:51 – 9 seconds to spare.  I promptly collapsed on a nearby retaining wall to catch my breath, but was then chastised about moving through the finishing chute by a volunteer.

Post Race

After cooling down a bit, I found a couple of work colleagues and chatted about our races for awhile.  I took advantage of the free Chapstick and Whitehouse rolls, and then made my way back to my office where my car was parked.  The finishing area was getting pretty full by that point, so it was a good time to bail.

Overall, I was very pleased with my race and I’d executed Karen’s pacing plan pretty much spot on.  I PR’d by 1 minute and 19 seconds over my 2007 time, and I beat my 2014 time by more than 3 minutes.  All of those cold and dark runs over the winter months had paid off, and I was running faster at age 38 than ever before.

As much as the race had hurt, part of me wondered if I could have gone faster.  Karen had originally thought so, but I wasn’t convinced and had told myself that sub-46:00 was the best I could reasonably expect.  Perhaps my body was only willing to live up to my mind’s expectations.  If I’d have said 45:30 or even 45:00, could I have made it?  I don’t know, but maybe I’d have to be a bit more aggressive with my pacing goals in the shorter races moving forward.

Next up for me was the RTC Sprint Triathlon on April 22nd.  That race, and particularly the swim, hadn’t treated me very well in 2015 and 2016.  Maybe, as they say, the third time would be the charm.

monument result





Taking Stock – 2016 Year in Review

2016 was another year of firsts for me, and most importantly, my first attempt at a full Ironman.  I completed Ironman Maryland, but due to bad weather and flooding, the course had been shortened from 140.6 miles to 126.2 miles.  That included a complete cancellation of the 2.4 mile swim.  I’d hit my pacing goals for the bike and the run portions – even with a flooded run course – but it was still bittersweet.  I had trouble calling myself a true Ironman and ended up deciding against getting the M-dot tattoo.  Even though I’d promised not to do a full distance Ironman in 2017, my wife had pity on me.  By the end of the year she had agreed to let me to sign up for Ironman Chattanooga on September 24, 2017.

My other big first in 2016 was signing up for coaching services with Karen Holloway and Erin Wittwer through ProK Racing and Sweet Spot Cycling respectively.  I quickly learned that I hadn’t been training as hard as I thought I had, and they increased my training volume and intensity beyond my prior levels very early on.  There was also a new accountability factor, so workouts were only missed when I had a really good reason.  In fact, I found myself developing a phobia of yellow and red when it came to my Training Peaks account.  Anything other than green meant that I wasn’t doing a workout as prescribed.

From a training standpoint, I had increased my swim/bike/run volume from 228.79 hours in 2015 to 305.37 hours in 2016. That was a jump from 4.4 hours per week to 5.9 hours per week.    The majority of that difference came after May once I began working with Karen and Erin, and my volume peaked in August 2016 as I prepared for IMMD.

August 2016.PNG

Peak training for Ironman Maryland


The goals for 2017 were to make some additional age group podiums in the local spring triathlons and then to prepare for a sub-12 hour effort at Ironman Chattanooga.  Other than recovering from IMMD and the Richmond Marathon, and then a week-long break during my Haiti mission trip in December, I really had no plan to take a hiatus from training.  I’d battled nagging injuries (piriformis and metatarsalgia) for most of 2016, but was mostly injury-free by the end of the year.  Hopefully the injury bug wouldn’t bite in 2017.

20162016 1

“Lately I’ve been feeling low, a remedy is what I’m seeking…”

2016 Richmond Marathon Race Report

3:48:01     (8:41 min/mile)

112/301 AG     950/4060 Overall

Its so common that they have a name for it – the Post-Ironman Blues.  You train day after day, week after week, month after month – all for a singular purpose – Ironman glory.  You kill yourself for a day, you finish, you’re euphoric…and then…nothing.  No more 4:30 a.m. alarms.  No more weekend long rides and runs.  No more anything.  Your life has revolved around Ironman for so long that you don’t know anything else anymore.  Its like becoming “institutionalized” in The Shawshank Redemption.  After being released from prison, you’re ready to rob somebody just to get sent back to the big house.  “Brooks was here” indeed.

After Ironman Maryland, the rush of finishing faded fast and I felt like there was a giant void in my life.  Sleeping in while recovering from that endeavor was great, but it felt like my hard-earned fitness was going to slowly fade away.  I was already signed up for the Richmond Half-Marathon, but I was wanting more.  Ironman training makes you obsessive, and its a hard cycle to break cold-turkey.  I needed some metaphorical Methadone to help me kick the habit, so I began thinking about upgrading to the full marathon, and voiced my thoughts on that issue to coach Karen.  That was like asking a fox whether it wanted to babysit a chicken, and soon enough, I was signed up for the Richmond Marathon.

There wasn’t a whole lot of time left for race specific training, and I ran 13.2 miles exactly two weeks after IMMD as my last “long” run.  I continued biking during my marathon prep, but swimming was pretty much cut out of the program.  If the short turnaround time wasn’t problematic enough, my right knee starting hurting in late October and I was sidelined for a weekend.  Leigh Anne did a marathon with her friend Michelle that weekend in North Carolina, so my downtime was spent spectating and watching the kids while the ladies ran, which actually worked out quite well.  Thankfully, my right knee pain went away after a few days, but I was still fighting my left-sided piriformis issues.  Those were old hat, however, and come race week, I felt like I was ready to go.

I’d only run one standalone marathon before, which had been the Richmond Marathon in 2015.  That race was sort of an afterthought to the Richmond Rox 70.3 triathlon, so I had never really trained solely for a marathon.  I’d run a 3:53 in 2015, and Karen and I thought I should try for a 3:45 this time around.  That felt sort of like a moonshot for me, so I figured that I’d either meet my goal or blow up spectacularly.  Either way, it would be fun.


A 3:45 marathon equates to an 8:35 minute/mile pace.  Karen had told me to run the first three miles at a 9:00 minute pace, and then to run the rest of the first half in the 8:35 – 8:40 minute range.  The plan was to negative split the race, and hopefully I’d be able to run some sub-8:35 miles on the backside.

Race morning was cold but not freezing, and I drove downtown and parked at my office to avoid the bulk of the traffic.  I then walked/jogged about 10 blocks to the starting area and immediately got in the long line for the porta-potties.  I’d given myself about twenty minutes to spare, but by the time they started playing the National Anthem, I still had a long ways to go in the bathroom line.  Thus, I abandoned the line and figured that I’d just have to hold out and hope for the best during the race.

Even though I hoped to run a 3:45, I hopped in the starting corral with the 4:00 pace group since I was going to ease into the race.  As soon as I found my place, the race had started, and so began the movement en masse towards the starting line.


GPS Data

marathon map

Mile 1-3 (8:54)(8:57)(8:54)

From the get go, most of the folks lined up with the four hour pace group took off in a hurry.  A four hour marathon equates to 9:07 minutes/mile, and I was setting off at a 9:00 minute/mile pace.  I was near the front of the pace group and got swallowed up by throngs of people passing me.  That was okay, and I hoped that I would be passing them a little bit later in the day.  The first three miles all head west and are really flat, so it was pretty easy to lock in my pace.  In actuality, I ran slightly faster than I planned, but I was close enough to the plan to satisfy Karen.

Miles 4-6 (8:36)(8:36)(8:41)

The next three miles were still very flat and took us out towards the Country Club of Virginia on River Road.  I’d picked up my pace a bit after passing the Mile 3 marker and was feeling good and relaxed.  I hadn’t brought any gels with me since I knew they had those on the course.  I didn’t need one quite yet, but hadn’t seen any at the first couple of aid stations.  I did have an 8 ounce running flask with Gatorade Endurance with me, and had been sipping on that instead of slowing for handoffs from the volunteers.  I planned to finish it by the time I got to the “party zone” on River Road near Mile 7 and then toss the empty flask to Leigh Anne if I saw her and the kids.

Miles 7-9 (8:10)(8:38)(8:32)

Mile 7 was pretty much all downhill on River Road so I let my feet turnover a little faster.  That led to an 8:10 mile, but my heart rate actually dipped thanks to the gravity assist.  I saw Leigh Anne and the kids near the bottom of the hill and tossed her my empty flask.  The course then crossed the James River, and then took a left to parallel the river towards the east.  I knew that the easy part of the course was now behind me and that there were some hills coming very soon.  At that point though, I was still feeling pretty good and was nailing my pacing plan.

marathon mile 7

Mile 7

Miles 10-12 (8:37)(8:44)(8:40)

Mile 10 was pretty flat, but then there was some climbing through neighborhoods up away from the river in miles 11 and 12.  My heart rate jumped up a bit, as did my pace for those two miles, which was expected.  Still, given the elevation gain, my pacing remained fairly steady.  Still no gels at any of the aid stations, however, and I was beginning to get a bit nervous about my nutrition.  I began eyeing the gels that were hanging off some of the other runners’ race belts and considered asking for one.  I wasn’t quite that desperate yet, but I was beginning to fear a late race bonk if I didn’t get some additional calories soon.

marthon mile 12

Mile 12 on Forest Hill Avenue

Miles 13-15 (8:35)(8:31)(8:27)

I crossed the halfway point on Forest Hill Avenue and STILL no gels to be found.  I’d asked the volunteers about gels at the prior aid station and somebody told me they thought there were some around mile 15.  I picked up my pace a little to begin my negative split on the backside and began having evil thoughts about the people around me who’d had the foresight to bring their own gels.  I made a mental plan to execute a gel mugging if I didn’t come across any soon, but about that time I finally saw a lady with a box of gels on the near side of the next aid station.  I grabbed two, downed one immediately, and then took the other one about a half mile later.  Caffeine and calories, just what the doctor ordered.

Miles 14 and 15 were both below my overall goal pace of 8:35/mile, but I knew that my least favorite part of the course was up ahead.

marathon mile 15

Mile 15 before the bridge.

marathon kids

Miles 16-18 (8:43)(8:44)(8:35)

As soon as you pass Mile 15, you take a left from Semmes Avenue onto Belvedere, which is a slight upgrade for 1.6 miles until you turn left onto Main Street.  You also have to cross the Lee Bridge, which is notoriously windy.  Unfortunately, the wind was coming straight out of the north, and thus, directly down the bridge.  There’s no shelter from the wind on the bridge unless you’re lucky enough to tuck in behind a group of people.

When I got to the bridge, the 3:50 pace group was about 50 yards ahead of me and I wanted to link up with them and draft.  I tried to accelerate, but just couldn’t catch up to them without putting out more energy than I wanted to expend with so much of the course left in front of me.  In looking at my GPS data, my heart rate jumped up as soon as I turned onto Belvedere and wouldn’t return to its prior level for the rest of the race.

Upon turning left onto Main Street off of Belvedere, you get a little bit of reprieve from the wind, but its still a false flat with an uphill grade all the way to the Mile 18 marker.  Due to the wind and the elevation gain, my pace deteriorated a bit for miles 16 and 17, but I got it back down to 8:35 once I turned out of the head wind.  By that point, I knew that I was going to have to have a super strong finish in order to get in under 3:45.  In 2015, however, I had begun to fade after Mile 18, and faded badly after Mile 22.  Hopefully I could keep it together this time around.  I had grabbed another gel at an aid station on Main Street, so at least that nutrition problem had subsided.

Miles 19-21 (8:25)(8:44)(8:35)

Miles 19 and 20 were north on the Boulevard, and straight back into the wind again.  My pace for mile 19 dipped back down to 8:25, but then it creeped back up again, probably due to having to climb over the bridge near The Diamond.  It was in that area that I saw Leigh Anne and the kids one last time before the finish line.  I also managed to catch the 3:50 pace group on the Boulevard and ran with it for about a mile before continuing on past it.

I pretty much knew that 3:45 was out of the equation since I just didn’t have the legs to maintain the sub-8:35 minutes/mile pace that I was going to need in the last 10k.  Since my stretch goal was no longer in the cards, my fall-back goal was to see how long I could hold things together without blowing up.  My legs definitely felt better at the 20 mile point than they had the year before, but the pain was already in the mail.

Miles 22-24 (8:44)(8:44)(8:43)

The next four miles were dark times for me and my mood really went south.  On the upside, I was able to put together three straight miles between 22 and 24 at a consistent pace, but the struggle was real.  Other runners and spectators began to annoy me for no reason, and I felt like lashing out at anyone who said “you’re almost done.”  The poor souls, they were just trying to be helpful, but I wasn’t in a mood to be helped.  I needed all of my concentration to keep moving forward on legs that were increasingly feeling like jelly.

Miles 25-26 (8:58)(8:43)

Mile 25 was not pretty.  To borrow a t-shirt quote – everything hurt and I was dying.  It was my slowest mile of the day in 8:58…BUT…my slowest mile was still under a 9:00 minutes/mile pace.  In 2015 I’d ballooned to 9:42 in mile 25, and had run a total of seven miles at or above a 9:00 minutes/minute pace.  There were no such miles in 2016 and I was proud of that.

The last mile of a marathon for me is infinitely better than the 25th mile, and I managed to get myself back down to an 8:43 pace.  The final quarter-mile was all downhill, which is fun, but a bit precarious on blown out quads.  I didn’t scream down the final hill quite as fast as I did in 2015, but it was still a fun descent.  I crossed the finish line in 3:48:01, and was immediately sorry that I didn’t run two seconds faster to finish 3:47:59.

That being said, I was more than five minutes faster than the year before, so I was happy with my effort.  Perhaps more importantly, I’d executed Karen’s race plan as well as I could, so I knew that I hadn’t left any time out on the course.  It had taken me a few races, but I’d finally started heeding her advice and pacing myself more conservatively in the beginning.  The time that I “lost” in the first three miles when I was warming up was more than made up for on the back end.  I felt like I passed a lot of people in the back half of the race who’d passed me at the beginning.

marthon certificate

Post Race

After the race I found Leigh Anne and the kids and downed a couple of slices of pizza.  Leigh Anne insisted on taking my picture in front of the race banner even though there was a long line, and then we began the long walk back to our cars.  It was all uphill back to my parking spot at the office, which wasn’t a whole lot of fun on tired legs.

So, with the Richmond Marathon complete, my 2016 race season had come to a close.  Not with a whimper, not with a bang, but with a solid effort in a race that I didn’t plan on tackling until six weeks beforehand.  In actuality, I was signed up for the Turkey Day 5k once again in Martinsville, but this time I planned on running with the kids instead of racing.  The primary focus of 2016 had been the day-in-day-out grind of preparing for my first full Ironman race, immediately followed by my marathon prep.  It was time to dial it down and to focus on helping the kids through their race.

marathon pr

marathon post race

“If nothing can be done, we’ll make the best of what’s around…”

2016 Ironman Maryland

Race Report – Part 2


 79/216 AG     424/1890 Overall

October 1, 2016 – Race day is finally upon me.  I spent a moment reflecting on how I came to be on the cusp of tackling a full Ironman triathlon, and it goes back to my 2013 New Year’s resolution to get in the best shape of my life.  2013 began with running and P90X, along with some obstacle course racing.  I stumbled into triathlon by accident in 2014 (Read about it here ), and by 2015 I had dropped the obstacle course racing entirely and had committed to triathlon.  I completed my first half-iron triathlon in May of that year, and had signed up for IMMD that Fall.

I didn’t have long to reflect since there was a lot to do before Busher and I headed out the door.  On went the trisuit and tri-tat numbers (with a little help from Leigh Anne).  I lubed myself up with sunscreen, even though the forecast was for rain and wind, and then I grabbed my gear and off we went.

We took Busher’s car to the nearby school that operated as a staging area, and we had to catch a shuttle bus to transition.  When we got to the school, pandemonium was beginning to ensue since all of the parking spots were taken and there was no one directing traffic.  Up went my stress level as I imagined scenarios that involved missing the shuttle buses, and then, the swim start.  Busher took the initiative in creating a new line of parked cars in an unoccupied portion of the bus loop, but then we had to stand in a long line while waiting for more buses to arrive since the one that had been there when we pulled in had already filled and departed.  After 10 minutes or so (which felt like an eternity at the time), several buses appeared and we managed to get on board one.  At that point, cars were still rolling up to the school in droves, and I have no idea where the remainder ended up parking.  Even the bus loop had completely filled up by that point.

The bus ride to the transition area was only 5-10 minutes, and my stress level had reduced a bit by that point since we were in route with plenty of time to spare.  Busher and I had even remembered to bring a pair of nail clippers with us so that we could cut the zip ties that were keeping our bikes from blowing of the bike racks overnight.  If you read Part 1 of this Race Report, then I’ll bet you were thinking that we’d forget about that, right?  Wrong!  Unfortunately, just as the bus was pulling up to transition I realized that my two 900-calorie nutrition bottles for the bike leg were still safely cooling in the mini-fridge back at the Day’s Inn.  Commence full-blown panic mode.

I didn’t have my cell phone with me and neither did Busher.  Thankfully, the lady in the seat directly in front me had one in her hand, so I asked her if I could use it.  Since the bus was starting to empty, she was a bit concerned, and was probably wondering if I planned on taking her phone and running off.  Busher, sensing her hesitation, yelled, “He forgot his nutrition bottles and needs to call his wife!”  She reluctantly relented, and I managed to get Leigh Anne on the phone and asked her to make an emergency trip down to the transition area.  Since many of the roads were closed, however, I was concerned about whether she could even get to me before the swim start, let alone find me in the throngs of people.

Roughly 20 minutes and three borrowed cell phones later, I finally managed to find Leigh Anne and grab my bottles.  Crisis averted, but I’d certainly wasted a lot of extra heartbeats in my anxious state that might have come in handy a little later in the day.

IMMD swim

Early morning controlled chaos.

Garmin Data

Swim: Cancelled

Now that the bottle-fiasco was over, I could finally focus on getting ready for the swim and in getting into my wetsuit.  At that point, the wind was blowing hard and the Choptank River still looked really rough.  After lining up in self-seeded swim waves, an announcement was made that the swim was going to be delayed for thirty minutes due to the rough conditions.  If the waves didn’t die down some during that time, then the swim was going to be cancelled.  Thus ensued thirty minutes of waiting and wondering.  More anxious heartbeats wasted.

At the appointed time, another announcement was made that the swim was being cancelled.  A collective groan went out from the athletes, and we were told that a “time-trial” start would begin for the bike leg in thirty minutes.  The lowest number would begin first, with athletes being sent off every 5-10 seconds.  Since I was bib 1442, I knew that I was going to have to wait awhile.  Interestingly, there were a handful of athletes who grabbed their gear and bailed.  I can’t image spending so much time and money on a race, only to quit due to a swim cancellation.  But I digress.

Back to transition I went and off came the wetsuit.  I didn’t have anything but my trisuit to wear since my long sleeve shirts were already in my gear bags and in the special needs bags that had been turned in to the race volunteers, and as soon as the wetsuit came off a chill began to set in.  Busher and I moved into the transition tent, but all the chairs were already occupied, so we were forced to either stand or sit on the cold concrete.  I was in the tent for over an hour waiting for my turn to take off on the bike, and in that time, I began shaking from the cold.  Many of the athletes had long sleeves for the bike leg, but I had decided that it would be warm enough to ride in just my trisuit since it was supposed to be in the 50s and 60s.  I began having serious reservations about that decision, and wondered if I’d set myself up for trouble.  I am, admittedly, a total wuss when it comes to being cold.

After what felt like an eternity, it was finally time for me to get out onto the bike course, and I left Busher behind in the tent.  Unfortunately for him, his walk up registration left him with one of the highest bib numbers, so he had about another hour to wait.  I wouldn’t see him again until the run course.


Time trial bike start by bib number due to swim cancellation.

Bike: 5:07:59   (19.48 mph)  

My conservative goal for the bike leg had been to complete the original 112 mile course in 6 hours or less, which equates to 18.6 miles per hour.  I knew that such a pace was more than doable since Coach Erin had me in good biking shape, and I was actually setting out to shoot for the 19-20 mph range.  Still, I’d never run a marathon after riding 112 miles (or 100 miles as it turned out), so I didn’t want to overdo it on the bike and end up walking on the run course.  I was going to err on the side of caution instead of pushing my luck.

The bike course was two loops after an initial 12 mile ride out of town.  Its very flat, and even though the official course map claims that it has ~1400 feet of elevation gain, I can’t recall that much elevation change.  The tough part of the IMMD bike course is the wind, and that part didn’t disappoint.  It was blowing out of the northeast pretty steady at about 10 mph, and must have been gusting to 20 miles per hour or more.  The wind, coupled with on and off rain, made for a challenging ride.

At my coaches’ direction, I eased into the bike and didn’t let the initial surge of adrenalin control my pace.  Any fears that I’d had of freezing on the bike evaporated after about five minutes, and I was plenty warm for the rest of my time on the bike.  I immediately noticed, however, that the high humidity was going to be an issue all day, and my glasses and helmet shield kept fogging.  I finally had to stow my sunglasses in the front of my trisuit and rode with just the helmet shield for the remainder of the ride.

Around mile 12 I got out onto the “loop” portion of the course and passed the local high school that was doubling as an aid station and the special needs area.  Shortly thereafter, I was riding in relative proximity to several other riders and noticed that the guy behind me was riding on my tail.  Interestingly, as soon as I noticed it a marshall came up from behind on a motorcycle and gave him a drafting penalty.  They are pretty good at sneaking up on you, and I’d see several marshalls on the course throughout the day.

From miles 13-30 I was able to make pretty good time since the wind was generally at my back.  It was during that stretch that 5-6 guys went by me in a pace line like I was sitting still.  They were blatantly drafting and riding together, and I don’t know if they ever got caught, but I was certainly hoping that they would.

From miles 30-40 the course turned to the north-west, and the favorable tailwind turned into a cross-wind.  This made things more difficult, but still manageable.  From miles 40-51, however, the course was headed north-east – directly into the teeth of the wind.  For the vast majority of that stretch we were on an open and unprotected portion of the highway.  I saw my speed dropping to 15-18 miles per hour, and I fought the urge to pedal harder to keep my pace up.  The goal was to ride at a fairly even effort all day long, and I didn’t want pride to sucker me into fighting the wind and blowing up later because of it.  That part of the course wore on me a bit mentally, but I knew that loop 2 was going to be even worse.

Around mile 51 I hit the turn to start the second loop and saw my family on the right side of the road just before the high school.  I hadn’t expected to see them until the run, so that was a nice surprise.  Shortly thereafter I pulled into the aid station, but didn’t actually need anything from my special needs bag.  My first nutrition bottle was kicked, and I needed to refill it from the second bottle, which was hanging off the back of my bike.  There was no safe way to do that while riding since I needed to remove the screw top from my original bottle, so I stopped for about 30 seconds to take care of business.  Then it was back out on the road for loop 2.

The second loop of a two-loop course is interesting in the sense that you are tired, but you no longer have to deal with the mind-f*ck that comes with seeing the second loop’s mile markers on loop 1.  For example, the 40 mile marker on loop 1 came just before the 80 mile marker for loop 2.  Thus, you end up telling yourself how much you’d give to be passing the 80 mile sign instead of the 40 mile sign.  The second time around, even though you’ve gone 80 miles and your butt hurts, you thank God that you’re not actually at that the 40 mile point.  There are plenty of mind games that get played when you’re on a bike for 5+ hours, at least in my brain.

Everything went well for the majority of loop two, and it was nice to pick up the tailwind again between miles 51 and 70.  I started seeing long lines for the porta-potties at the aid stations, and wondered how much time people were losing just to empty their bladders.  Karen had told me to just go on the bike, which is not as easy as it may seem – particularly after you’ve spent nearly 40 years telling yourself not to pee your pants.  The first time is definitely the hardest, but it certainly helps when its raining.  Once the seal is broken though, you feel like you have to go every 5 miles.

Miles 78-91 were back into the teeth of the wind, and were the worst part of the ride by far.  A larger guy passed me somewhere in that stretch and I accelerated a bit to stay behind him in order to get a little bit of relief from the wind.  I made sure to stay at least 5 bike lengths back from him to avoid a drafting penalty, and its a good thing I did because the marshalls came back around again.

At mile 91 I took a left turn to head back towards town and finally got out of the direct headwind.  At that point, I still believed that the bike course had only been shortened from 112 miles to 104 miles – per the Facebook posts the night before – so I thought I still had 15 miles to go.  As I got closer to town, however, I realized that I was running out of course, and later learned that additional flooding had caused the course to be shortened to 100 miles.  So, no swim and a loss of 12 miles on the bike.  My 140.6 had been turned into a 126.2.  Well, at least not many people can say they’ve done one of those.


Somewhere on loop 2 since my second nutrition bottle is already gone.

As I rolled back towards T2 I felt pretty good, and I had never gotten to the point were I felt like I “had” to get off the bike.  Fighting the winds on the bike had taken its toll on my physically, but my training had held up and I felt ready to run.  Thanks for all of those Sweet Spot intervals on the trainer Erin!  My family was off to my right as I came into the transition area, and it was nice to see them again.  After crossing the timing mat, I was off my bike and on my way back to my transition spot.


Entering T2 – prior to course flooding.

T2: 8:22

It was a fairly long run around the transition area to rack my bike and then to get my run bag from a volunteer.  I had an assigned spot on a rack that was well off the beaten path, so it took me awhile to get there, especially since I had to run on the asphalt in my bike shoes.  I then headed into the transition tent that I’d spent over an hour freezing in earlier in the day.  Off went the cycling shoes and helmet, and on went my race belt.  Time was spent applying liberal amounts of Bodyglide on most every area of my body, and I was willing to take a little longer in transition to prevent some serious chafing issues later.

Immediately outside the tent was a volunteer, and I inquired about sunscreen.  There were several bottles for you to use on yourself, and I was a bit disappointed since at Ironman 70.3 Raleigh in 2015 they had volunteers who would smear it on you, which was much faster.  Thus, a bit more time was lost in trying to make sure that I was fully coated.  I then handed off my bike gear bag to another volunteer and headed out onto the run course – passing my family again as I left the transition area.

Run: 4:27:48    (10:13 min/mile)

Miles 1-3 (9:44)(9:59)(9:59)

Karen had given me strict instructions to run the first three miles at a 10:15 pace, and then my plan was to try to hold 9:45 – 10:00 min miles thereafter.  Coming out of T2 I felt really really good, and the crowds were spurring me along.  Unlike the start of the bike course, I was unable to keep my adrenalin from taking over and I was running faster than planned.  I remember looking at my watch and thinking that Karen was going to yell at me, but I felt like I couldn’t run any slower.  I tried and tried to slow down, but I was feeling great and felt like I’d have to walk in order to hit the 10:15/mile time goal.  I sure wasn’t about to walk in the first three miles of the marathon, so I kept going and knew that I’d hear about my disobedience later.

Miles 4-6 (9:59)(10:11)(9:53)

The first six miles of the marathon were probably the quickest and easiest six miles of my life.  Not in terms of pace, but the miles just seemed to fly by.  I was seeing the run course for the first time and there were a fair amount of spectators on that part of the course to keep me energized.  My pacing remained pretty even around 10:00/mile, with the only deviation coming in mile 5 due to a quick stop at the porta-potty near the turnaround point.  I was then headed back towards the transition area to begin the downtown portion of the first run loop.  So far, so good.


Around Mile 6.5.

Miles 7-9 (10:01)(10:18)(9:53)

If the first six miles were a cakewalk, the next twenty were about to get crazy.  At mile 7, I saw Busher for the first time since the early morning, and he was just heading out onto his run due to his later bike start.  Around the mile 8 point I had to run back around the transition area to head downtown.  See the picture above labeled “Entering T2.”  Unbeknownst to me, the transition road had flooded in the hour and a quarter since I came out of T2.  At that point, the water was just over ankle deep and was about a city block in length.

Without thinking or slowing, I trudged into the water but then saw a bunch of people stopping to take off their shoes and socks.  I immediately regretted my decision to keep my shoes on since I’d have 18 miles of wet feet, but I did have an extra pair of socks in my special needs bag.  I tried to run through the water without walking, but high stepping was pretty tiring.  Thus, I walked a bit to keep my heart rate under control and waved to my family as I went by.  My pace for mile 8 jumped up to 10:18 due to the slow down, but I was able to maintain a positive outlook nonetheless.

After rounding the transition area and turning towards the finish line and downtown area, I realized quickly that keeping my shoes on and plowing into the water had been the right call.  There were two more flooded areas ahead of me, and these seemed to be deeper and longer than the first.  Basically, two more city blocks of water to run through.  Did I mention that IMMD has a three-loop course?  This meant that I had to run through each flooded area five times – approximately fifteen city blocks worth of water jogging.  Turns out they didn’t cancel the swim, they just combined it with the run.

IMMD water

The second or third flooded area near the finish line/downtown area.

In a weird way, I liked the flooding issue because so many people were mentally defeated and were doing a lot of vocal complaining.  I’m usually a glass-half-empty type of person, but I somehow managed to put a positive spin on the situation and I kept a good attitude about it.  Karen had said to take the course as it comes the night before, so that’s what I chose to do.  That being said, trudging through the water was exhausting.

Miles 10-12 (10:00)(10:00)(10:19)

By mile 10 I had escaped the water and was in the downtown portion of the run course, which was filled with spectators.  A local brew pub is open all day for the race, and there were a lot of inebriated people out there.  Some beers and kisses were offered as I passed by, but I politely declined and kept moving forward at my 10:00/mile pace.

immd run

Downtown – looking towards the brew pub at the far end.

By mile 12, I had gone back around the transition area, through the flooded transition road again, and was onto loop number 2.  It seemed as though the tide was still coming in because the water had gotten a bit deeper.  The early-run euphoria had long since faded, but I was still feeling OK.

IMMD water

Headed onto run loop 2 near Mile 11.

Miles 13-15 (9:51)(9:50)(10:08)

Miles 13-15 were on the most boring portion of the course, but it was completely dry so I was able to make decent time.  I still had enough juice in my legs to run some sub-10:00 minute miles, and when I got to the turnaround cone at mile 14.7 it felt good since I knew that I’d never have to pass that point again.  There are three run loops, but the third loop is a bit truncated on the part away from town.

I’d tried to stay on top of my nutrition on the run, but unlike the bike, I didn’t have any nutrition with me.  I was taking a gel about every other aid station, along with Gatorade, but was worried that I might need some additional calories.  I also dipped into my medicine bag at that point to take a couple of Tylenol, some salt tablets and a Diclofenac, which had been prescribed for my ongoing left-sided piriformis issues.  I’d fought those issues all year with varying degrees of success, and had even undergone physical therapy.  Thankfully, the combination of Tylenol and Diclo was working well-enough, so the piriformis pain was at a minimum.  I’d learned my lesson at the Patriot’s Half-Iron triathlon three weeks before about putting pills in my trisuit pocket, and had wisely put the pills for IMMD in a small baggie to keep them from dissolving.

Miles 16-18(10:11)(10:10)(9:58)

Miles 16-18 were still free and clear of water as I wound my way back towards the transition area once again.  Fatigue was definitely setting in, but I was still able to run a sub-10:00 minute mile for mile 18.  It would be my last such mile of the day.  I found myself taking longer to get through the aid stations, and every time I slowed down it took more and more effort to get back up to speed.  I’d begun to see A LOT of people walking on the course, and not just in the areas of the standing water.  Mentally, I was still strong, but my body was starting to wear down.  Sadly, I still had three more trips through each of the three areas of standing water still in store for me.

Miles 19-22 (10:41)(11:14)(11:02)

I hit the transition area flooding again at mile 18.5, and damn if the tide hadn’t come in even more.  I tried to run through it, but eventually was reduced to a walk.  Then a run.  Then a walk again.  Once I got through it my legs felt like I’d just gotten off roller skates.  If you haven’t tried it, its a fun feeling with more than 7 miles left to go in a marathon.  On the upside, I hadn’t felt any blisters develop, which was a miracle in and of itself.  Score one for my liberal application of Bodyglide in T2!

Flooded run course
Suffering at mile ~18.5 just outside the transition area.  Visor reversed for good measure.

After getting through the water, I rounded the transition area again and headed into the two other flooded areas on my way to the downtown area.  Those were now out of control, and the water was getting close to knee level in the deepest parts.  I tried to find slightly shallower parts to pass through, but that was like trying to nail Jello to the wall.  I made it through and then headed back towards the nightlife near the brew pub.  That area was a nice pick-me-up, and I was seriously considering snagging a beer from someone.

Heading out of the downtown area of the run loop in either loop 1 or 2.

Even though my spirits were good, my body was rebelling and my quads were burning.  My pace deteriorated into the 11:00 min/mile range, which was OK, but I was worried about blowing up and having to walk it in.  I was determined to continue running, and to only walk in the flooded portions and at the aid stations.  As I came through the flooded transition area again around mile 21.5 I saw my family and told them to go ahead and head over to the finish line.  They were shocked to see the other two flooded areas on that part of the course, and thought that the flooding had been limited to one area.

Miles 23-25 (10:47)(11:17)(11:39)

I’d read about the “dark times” of the Ironman run and experienced that first-hand between miles 22 and 25.  You know you’re close to the end, but it still feels a long way off.  I began to be reluctant to slow at the aid stations.  Every time I did so, my legs tightened up and it was hard to get back up to speed.  Night was falling, and there was the carnage of walkers all over the course by that point.  They began giving out glow necklaces at the aid stations, and I was told that the athletes had to put them on, but wasn’t sure if that was correct.  I think I wore one for a mile or so, then felt silly and threw it away at the next aid station.

In the first two loops of the run, the turnaround cone for loop three had taunted me and I’d looked forward to finally getting to go around it myself.  That finally occurred around mile 22.6, and then I was on my way back to the transition area for the final time, and then back downtown.

My 4 hour 30 minute goal for the marathon was attainable if I kept running, even with the unexpected combination of the swim and the run.  My legs felt as though they could give out if I got slightly off balance, but I was able to keep running, even if my pace continued to degrade.  By the end of mile 25 I came up upon the finish line, and turned right to head towards the brew pub one last time.  I could hear the finish line music playing and began to laugh because it was that hilariously terrible song from the beginning of Dumb and Dumber, Boom-Shak-A-Lak.  Google it, you’ll laugh too.  That brought me out of my dark time and I got excited since the finish was almost upon me.

Mile 26 (10:53)

Upon rounding the final turn near the brew pub, I took one of the American flags that a volunteer was handing out.  It was then pretty much a half-mile straight shot up to and through the finishing chute.  I’d run past the finishing chute five times by that point, and it was nice to finally be able to head into it instead of around it.  There’s nothing quite like seeing the red carpet (literally) rolled out for you and being called an Ironman for the first time.  I managed to pick up my pace a bit just prior to crossing the finish line, but it wasn’t a sprint by any stretch of the imagination.  I crossed the line in a total time of 9 hours, 44 minutes and 9 seconds.48_m-100751826-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1391_081630-6064551


In the weeks leading up to the race, I was wondering if I’d break down and cry upon finishing, as many Ironman finishers do.  My finishing moment was the culmination of three and a half years of training, a lot of which was done in the dark, the rain, the heat or in pain from nagging injuries.  Had I thought back to all of those moments as I ran through the finishing chute, I certainly may have broken down, but I was focused on the moment and on seeing my family in the grandstands off to my right.  Quite frankly, it all happened really fast and before I knew it, I already had my finisher’s medal, a t-shirt and a bottle of water.

IMMD finish

Immediately after the finish.

My family met me just beyond the finish line, which included my wife and kids, my parents, and my uncle Jeff and aunt Marcy.  All things considered, I felt pretty good, and we chatted for five to ten minutes about the race.  Once my heart rate came down I began to get cold, so Leigh Anne gave me a long sleeved shirt to put on.  I’m not quite sure what happened, but I really began struggling with my fine motor skills and couldn’t put the shirt on.  Jeff noticed what was going on and suggested that Leigh Anne take me over to the medical tent.


The medical tent was maybe 50 yards away, but the closer I got, the worse I felt.  I began to have to lean on Leigh Anne to stay upright, and then I started getting tunnel vision.  By the time I got inside the tent I could barely see since the sides were closing in and I was close to passing out.  Thus began an hour stint in the medical tent on a cot, and I was given a bag of IV fluid since my blood pressure was low.  I had promised Leigh Anne that I wouldn’t try to do another full Ironman in 2017, and she took that opportunity to tell me to remember how I was feeling as I laid on the cot when I started thinking about doing another one.

IMMD med tent

I may have an IV in my arm, but I still got my finisher’s shirt!

I still felt pretty shaky after leaving the medical tent, but after downing a Pepsi, everything got back to normal.  I was then able to walk back to the transition area to get my gear with Busher (who’d finished in dumping rain while I was convalescing), and then he, Leigh Anne and I hit up the McDonald’s drive through for some much needed calories.   Then it was back to the Day’s Inn for our fine post-race meal and a couple of beers, but exhaustion soon set in and we called it a night.  Sleep has rarely come so easy for me.

Overall, IMMD was a great experience and I was able to meet my performance goals, even with some adverse conditions.  Due to the swim cancellation and the shortened bike course, however, I was left wanting more, and had (and still have) reservations about calling myself an Ironman.  I’d also planned on getting an “M-Dot” tattoo after the race, but ultimately decided against it since I didn’t want to have to tattoo an asterisk next to it.

Still, I’d managed to bike and run for nearly ten hours in a single day without dying, which would have been impossible for me a few years prior.  The road to IMMD had been long, with many ups and downs – but mostly ups.  Thankfully, I had a lot of support from my family, which made the whole endeavor possible.

IMMD marked the end of my 2016 tri-season, but I still had the Richmond Half-Marathon on my calendar in November – even if that was something of an afterthought to IMMD.  I was glad to be done with my high volume training weeks for awhile, but dedicated training for the half-marathon was going to commence as soon as my body recovered from the 126.2 miles of IMMD.  I was still pining to tackle the 140.6 miles of a full Ironman, but I’d already made that promise to my wife to wait until 2018 before doing another full.  If only I could find a loophole to get around that agreement…

IMMD medal

Yes, that is the bedspread from our room at the Day’s Inn, Cambridge.