The Journey

The journey is more important than the destination.

Several years ago a friend of mine asked me if I would do the Fairlee Triathlon in Vermont. After training for three months, feeling like I was going to drown in the swim, feeling nauseus on the run, I crossed the finished line and was hooked.This led to my triathlon journey.

Please consider supporting my latest effort to raise money for Bretton Woods Adaptive through the Janus Charity Challenge at Ironman Lake Placid this July. Check out the Links I Like section of the blog or explore the BWA Fundraiser links.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I've Moved, Come Check Out My New Home

I'm officially moved. After exploring most of the major blogging platforms I've settled on Squarespace...and wish I had made the move sooner.

With the move will come more posts about what gets me excited (outside of triathlon and endurance sports of course!) - social media, marketing and technology.

I'm looking forward to sharing ideas with you at my new home, come visit and let me know what you think.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Where's the parenting manual?

I've experienced plenty of challenges through my 11 years of fatherhood. But, there is no doubt though that the good has far outweighed the bad. After completing a 5k road race with my So recently, one of the things I realized I struggle with the most really has nothing to do with my Son, but rather with me.

I hope I can safely say that all parents want the very best for their kids. As parents, we've experienced things that we want to share with our kids so that we can share that sense of accomplishment or feeling of elation that goes along with the experience.

My 11-year Son and I have done several road races together, all in the 3 - 4 mile range. I'm extremely proud of each one of them and very grateful that it is something we can do together. However, in every single race, I have an internal struggle of how much to push and how much to back off. Depending on the race distance and how much training he's done, he'll want to walk for portions of the race. In most cases I tell him "we'll go at your pace buddy" and "you can walk whenever you feel like it". Inside though, I'm torn up trying to figure out how much to push and tell him to dig through the aches and pains he might be feeling, versus when to just let him go at his own pace.

I'm sure there are some who will read this and think, the kid's 11! Why push him at all! Maybe others think I should tell him not to walk at all and just find a way to deal with the pain.

I believe in the power of sport and competition for kids, when it has the healthy support of the parents and the adults involved in guiding the kids (as opposed to the parents that get thrown out of the crowd for harassing the officials). I think the social lessons of teamwork, and the internal lessons of goal setting and motivation are uniquely ingrained into the brain through sport and competition. As a parent, part of my role is to push him when he needs pushing, sometimes letting him fail when there may be a lesson to learn, and sometimes supporting him before he does fall.

And therein lies my struggle.

In which situations do you apply each role? I know there is no right answer, and I suppose that is part of the lessons we learn as parents. We need to struggle and fail as parents sometimes to learn how to be better parents. However, sometimes I think it would be nice if someone could write a step-by-step guide that is given to you as you leave the hospital.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A tale of two races (Part II)

I did everything I could to recover from my Saturday race. I used The Stick, stayed off my feet most of the day, took a nap and even took a hot bath with some fancy bath salts that my wife had. I don't know what I was expecting to feel like but my muscles still felt pretty beat up from the intense Saturday effort.

It was an early start to the day when I woke up at 2 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. My alarm went off at 4 a.m. but my eyes were already open as I lay in bed. After a traditional pre-race breakfast of Green Goodness and protein powder, my family and I were out the door and arrived in South Berwick right at 5 when transition was supposed to open.

Pre-race was pretty laid back. I had a sweet transition area spot at the end of a rack leaving plenty of room for my gear. I had enough time to catch up with the other GSTC'ers racing, Dave and Tom, along with a few other folks I knew from the local tri-scene.

The Swim
After a first place age group swim the previous day I was definitely confident at the swim start. Probably too confident. Instead of going out strong and steady I red-lined for the first 100 yards and found myself hyper-ventilating. After laying off the effort for about 15 seconds and regaining my composure I went back out and finished the swim strong. I ended up 7th out of the water in my age group but pretty sure I lost a couple of places with my early pacing mistake. Overall, I was still happy with a sub 28 minute 1.2 mile swim.

The Bike
The first few miles of the bike is when I started to realize it might be a painful day. Even my intentional effort to spin easily over the first few miles of flat roads, the residual muscle soreness was still very present from Saturday's effort. I tried to get into a steady rhythm and eventually got into a groove and did my best to not work the leg muscles too hard.

I did go through several bouts of doubt as to how I would respond on the run. I tried not to let too many negative thoughts build up about what the run when going to be like if I had sore muscles from going easy on the bike. I was thankful that I did some reading about David Goggins and his perspective on dealing with pain and suffering while racing.

I also kept repeating to myself one of my favorite perspectives on keeping a positive attitude: that nothing we do or feel has any inherent meaning, only the meaning we give it. I could either commiserate with myself about the running pain I was anticipating, or, figure out a way to embrace it and help to feed my drive to finish.

The Run
Thankfully, I managed not to commiserate. However, I did suffer. With every stride my muscles ached but I was able to maintain my nutrition and hydration so that the only thing I had to do was focus on blocking out the leg pain and keep putting one leg in front of the other.

One thing I did better in the race than any other that I can remember is get hyper-focused in the present moment. Typically in longer races, my mind is racing with everything from calculating my pace to watching my heart rate. I have a hard time finding that place I can usually get to in a training run, where a 2 hour run is done before I know it. This race was different. As much as I hurt, I never walked and there were several points where I didn't really remember any details about the previous mile or two.

I do remember virtually every step of the last two miles. I saw the mile 11 marker on the road, my energy level felt good and my hydration felt good, so I went as hard as I could the race of the race. It hurt so so much, but if you are a reader of this blog, then you know about my first and only DNF six weeks earlier, and finishing this race (the 2nd in 2 days) became what I perceived as an emotional must.

As I crossed the line I could feel the lump in my throat grow and eyes start to well up. My wife and son were waiting for me at the line and I couldn't hold it back any longer as I gave each of them a huge hug. I know they didn't care whether or not I DNF'd in Lake Placid, however, they had both sacrificed so much to let me train for my races this year that I was super motivated to finish this race and be able to hug them at the end. Something I wanted to do so badly in Lake Placid but never got the chance to.

A couple of good friends, Paul and Tony, were also there at the line. It was especially good to see them both because they were also in Lake Placid. I had spent the equivalent of several days training with Paul preparing for the event (and he had an incredible inaugural Ironman performance). I think he had a unique perspective on how disappointing Lake Placid was for me and how satisfying it was to finish the Pumpkin Challenge.

My triathlon journey has taught me some valuable lessons this year. I'm expecting next year's journey will be just as valuable!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A tale of two races (Part I)

The original plan for the year was to do the Patriot Half Iron race as prep for Ironman Lake Placid. Knowing the time it takes to train for an Ironman, my original intent was to take the rest of the year off from racing after Lake Placid.

However, after an unexpected and disappointing Ironman result I was compelled to redeem myself and signed up for the Great Pumpkin Challenge. The challenge consists of a sprint distance on Saturday followed by a half iron distance on Sunday. While I finished both races, they were two very different experiences.

The Sprint
My training for the two weeks leading up to race weekend was a little spotty. Work and pool closings have kept my schedule a little tough to manage. So, I really wasn't sure what to expect on race day. My plan for the Saturday race was to go comfortably hard and push it a little if I was feeling really good.

The Swim
The swim was 1/3 of a mile and the way others in my age group were looking to jump the gun I figured it was going to be a fast one. One of the biggest benefits of going through an Ironman mass start swim with 2,400 other racers is that I feel completely comfortable getting to the front and mixing it up to try and move into clean water. I did just that and found that I was able to find a clear line quickly. I saw some other swimmers on either side of me for the first 50 yards or so and then I just saw what I thought was another racer from my age group about 20 yards up ahead. I was feeling good so I pushed it a bit hoping to try and catch up to them. I thought it would be kind of nice to be 2nd or 3rd out of the water.

I never caught that person in front of me but chasing them down helped me nail a good time. I would later find out that the racer in front of me was one of the Elites and I was actually the first swimmer out of the water in my age group! I've only been swimming since I took up triathlon six years ago so I was super excited to have such a good result.

The Bike
I've ridden the bike course a couple of times prior to race day so I was comfortable where I could push and where to back off some. Starting in the 2nd wave behind the elites, and being first out of the water I was able to keep track of who in my age group was passing me (For those that don't know, the age of each racer is written on their calf prior to the start). I was feeling pretty good and was surprised to only see 2 others in my age group passed me during the bike. I was even more surprised to catch up to 2 of the female elite racers that started 1 minute ahead of me. Either they were having a really bad day or mine was going better than I thought.

The Run
As I roll into T-2 I'm still feeling really good and it hits me that I'm currently in 3rd place in my age group! I've never been in this position before! I'm used to finishing maybe in the top third or top half of a race but getting on the podium hasn't ever been on my radar. Now, I'm starting a three mile run in 3rd place but I have no idea how far back anyone else in my age group is. Because the age is written on the back of the calf so you don't know if your losing a position until someone has already passed you.

Even though I'm pretty lean right now from my Ironman training schedule, I'm a larger than average for a triathlete at 190 pounds, which has always been a disadvantage on the run. But, I kept to my plan of going comfortably hard until the 1 1/2 mile mark when I heard footsteps behind me and saw a "35" on the back of the calf of the racer who just passed me. Dang, he's in my 35 - 39 age group! I was feeling good but started to have an internal dilemma. Do I try and keep up and hope I don't over do it before the half-ironman I would be doing is less than 24 hours???

My competitive juices temporarily ruled the day and I picked up the pace to stay with him as long as I could, which ended up being until the 2 1/2 mile mark when I looked at my heart rate monitor and realized that I was pushing the red zone. My more sensible side took over I backed off a bit but it was enough to lose contact. One more person from my age group before crossing the line at a sub 7 minute/mile pace and about 2 minutes faster than last year's time. This was good enough for 5th place out of 45 in my age group and 27th out of 433.

For now I'll just say that the Sunday half ironman the next day was a physically and emotionally exhausting experience. So, in order to do it justice I'm going to tackle that one tomorrow because right now I'm going to have a Guinness, eat more food and hopefully fall asleep on the couch.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The end is in sight

Three days to go until my last triathlon of the year, the Great Pumpkin Challenge. A sprint distance race on Saturday followed by a 1/2 Iron distance on Sunday. My original race schedule for the year didn't include any racing after Ironman Lake Placid, but after a DNF at that race I signed up for the back to back races.

My Son asked me why I was doing this event, which caught me off guard a bit. He's seen me do several races including 2 Ironmans, several 1/2 Ironmans and several marathons so it stumped me why he found signing up for this race so strange. But, I told him straight up that it was an attempt to redeem my season and that I didn't want a DNF to be how it ended.

Had I not signed up for that race I probably would have been a blob on the couch for the rest of the summer. Knowing I had one more major challenge for the year has gotten me out the door to train, even after what has been a very long season that started on January 1.

I've had a hard time staying motivated over the past few weeks but the in the last few days my excitement and desire to race has really grown. I've been reading David Goggins Blog for some motivation. Read about him if you can - he's an incredibly driven person with a perspective on suffering in endurance sports like nothing I've ever seen. His perspective has helped on many of my recent long training sessions.

Yes, I'm looking forward to a break from the intense training schedule. BUT, my mind is swirling with ideas about what's the next endurance challenge. Any ideas...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ironman Lake Placid Race Report: The Day After

It's been almost four weeks since Ironman but it seems like much longer. I've gone to start this post several times but for some reason it's been tough to find a way to wrap the race report up, which is ironic, because Monday after the race was arguably the most fulfilling days of the of the weekend.

I've been drawn to using athletic events to raise money since I did my very first triathlon six years ago (has it only been seven years?!). I've said here before that triathlon is an inherently selfish sport, especially given the training demands of the longer distance races. I feel incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to participate and I think this is what has driven me to give back in some way.

In the case of Ironman, there is a very sophisticated program set up in the form of the Janus Charity Challenge. I participated in the program during my first Ironman and helped to raise over $115,000 for a local Habitat for Humanity chapter. This year my cause was Bretton Woods Adaptive and we raised $41,500, which earned an additional $4,000 donation from Janus Investments.

A side benefit to participating in this program, especially if you are one of the top fundraisers (we were 4th this year) is that you and your family receive VIP treatment during the Monday award ceremony. Besides being recognized on stage with the other Janus Charity Challenge participants in front of a couple of thousand athletes and guests, my family and myself were in the VIP seating area and had the opportunity to sit with such pros as Michael Lovato, Hillary Biscay and Paula Newby Fraser. Though one of the best parts was being able to sit with and catch up with Carol.

Carol is a fellow Janus athlete and has participated in the program for several years. She does an incredible job fundraising (this year she raised over $400k for her organization) and is one of the kindest and most genuine people I've met. She won this year's Janus Charity Challenge, as she also did in 2006, the first year I participated. One of the thing's that draws me to triathlon is the people. Carol is a perfect example of that and it was great to be able to see and catch up with her again this year.

This year's Ironman was an incredible ride. A friend sent me an e-mail after the race with some incredibly inspiring words. She wrote "...this destination that you've come to has meaning and adds more depth and experience to your life, and allows you to reflect on so many things you might not have if the out come were different."

A DNF was never an option that day, it just wasn't something that I thought about. However, just as my friend wrote, since it happened there are so many things that have I have gained a deeper about. In the end they are all reasons for me to continue to be grateful for the opportunity I have to participate in endurance sports.

What's next? The mind is swirling with ideas! Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ironman Lake Placid Race Report: Run

You may have already read the end result of my run. But, I wanted to cover in more detail the time leading up to the pre-mature end and if you'd like to read the details, they were posted the day after the race.

For how the race ended, I felt surprising good on the start of the run. Once I got off the bike I walked briskly to the transition area. I had just ridden 112 miles, and yes the legs were fatigued, but it definitely felt like all the long rides and hill training I had done for the past 7 months had paid off. The idea of running a marathon was still a little daunting, but seemed very possible. And, I finished in about 20 minutes faster than my goal time. This gave me some extra fluff time on the run to try and reach my time goal of breaking 13 hours.

Transition went smoothly and I was in and out much quicker than my 2006 race. I remember thinking that this gives me an extra few minutes to do the marathon and still make my goal time.

One of the best moments of the race was heading out of the transition tent for the run. Just after exiting the transition tent I saw Amy and Connor. I hadn't seen them for over 6 1/2 hours so it was a nice emotional boost for me. As soon as you leave the tent there are spectators everywhere lining the streets. It's like this for the first 3 or 4 miles of the race which makes it hard not to go out too fast because of the adrenaline, but I stayed conservative and tried to just keep a steady pace.

Once you pass the crowd lined streets of the first several miles there is an out-and-back section after a left hand turn onto River Road, which as the name suggests, spends most of the time following alongside the Ausable River. It's a winding road and as my buddy Paul puts it, you kind of feel like your in Groundhog Day. After a while, every bend you go around looks the same as the other and your not quite sure when you'll get back.

I still felt pretty good heading out for the first time on River Road. Though this section of the course becomes mentally challenging. It's flat for the most part, however, except for the aid stations there are virtually no spectators and for me its when the demons start to come out which started at about mile 10 of the run.

I didn't quite understand why I was starting to feel a little mentally beat down. Of course I felt physically beat up, but I had been training for seven months and had put several 15 - 20 mile runs in the training log, most were after a four to six hour bike ride the previous day.

At about mile 11, the first loop back through town begins which is about 3 miles total. I went through some ups and downs during this time but mostly I began to feel myself sliding to a place I was beginning to get nervous about.

In two previous races, a half Ironman and after my 2006 Ironman Lake Placid finish, I ended up once in the hospital and once in the medical tent after passing out at the finish line. Both times dehydration was the culprit. I remember the feeling I had at both races before passing out and shades of that same feeling were creeping in - only halfway through the marathon. Not a great sign. The feeling is hard to explain but it's a groggy feeling where I go through waves of dizzyness and loss of focus.

I'm a pretty heavy sweater and as a result try to stay topped up on my hydration. I didn't think about it at the time (though I've been obsessing about it ever since the race), but even though I pee'd a couple of times on the bike, I hadn't kept close track of how much I was drinking. For a humid and warm day I should have been taking in about 24 - 30 oz of water per hour. Honestly, I don't know how much water I had during that 6 1/2 hour ride. I remember finishing my first two 24 oz bottles in the first 3 hours, which already put me behind. After that, I was using the 20 oz bottles they gave us on course and I'm sure I didn't go through as many as I should have.

And so, after what I remember being my last relatively good section at about mile 14 to 15 of the run, things started to go down hill rapidly. On the run I generally can't take in as much water as I can on the bike. I was shooting for 24 oz per hour but was no where near this. The worse I felt the harder it was to taken in both nutrition and hydration. After mile 15 I can't even recall what I took in for either calories or hydration. Again, not a great sign.

The rest of the race is pretty foggy. One of the last clear memories is seeing one of the GSTC support crew at the 21 mile marker. I remember he suggested that I try jogging 100 yards and walking 100 yards and I told him I was done running. I was completely out of gas.

The rest of the story has already been told here.

I'm incredibly grateful for the support of friends and family prior to race day, on race day and since race day. I've been humbled by the comments of support by my familiy plus new and old friends which has helped put the whole experience into perspective. Without this support, I have to admit that it would be significantly harder to deal with.

Most people who really know me would describe me as a pretty low key guy who doesn't let a lot of things bother me. For the most part I've always had the attitude that what's done is done - let's move on with the situation as it stands and deal with it. Intellectually, that is the easy part, however the challenging part is accepting that logic emotionally. This DNF experience has been tough. Whereas I could normally be pretty disciplined about accepting situations for what they were and moving on, for some reason in this situation, my discipline has been really tested.

Besides asking myself what I could have done differently, the biggest question I'm asking myself is did I give up too easily? Many friends have told me how inspired they were just to see me do the training and make it as far as I did. I'm truly grateful for that and don't want to come across the wrong way. To most, getting pulled off the course by EMT's after 135 miles can be defined as not giving up too easily. My intent here is not to sound tough or somehow inflate my ego. Nevertheless, I'm constantly asking myself that question - could I have gotten up off the bumper of that ambulance and gutted it out to the end. Not knowing the answer really bothers me sometimes.

I'm so thankful to the many friends that have reminded me of my own words that I use as the intro to my blog - "The journey is more important than the destination". The interpretation I'm trying to emotionally solidify for myself from the experience: I learned more about how deep I can go physically, physiologically, mentally and emotionally on July 26th, 2009. Use that experience and apply it to every other part of my life. I know, in time, this is the meaning that will stick.

The rest of the long weekend ended on a high note at the awards banquet the next day as a result of the Janus Charity Challenge. More on that soon....

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ironman Lake Placid Race Report: Bike

With the swim behind me I was anxious to get on the bike. There is a good little run getting from the swim exit to transition but it goes by quickly with the hundreds of screaming spectators that surround you as you move through the 10 foot wide chute. I saw some of my family in the masses of people which is always great to be able to do.

Thanks to my well placed transition bags I was able to easily find mine and make my way to the transition tent. 112 miles is a long way so I took my time to make sure I had everything I needed. After getting my socks and shoes on I doused myself in sunscreen before getting my helmet on. That's when the first annoying pain of the day hit. The velcro around the neck of my wetsuit had apparently left a pretty good section of irritated skin, which burned as I put the sun screen. But, I shrugged it off, continued with my preparation and made my way out to my bike.

I walked briskly out to the bikes. There was a heavy downpour during the swim and the grass in the bike area was pretty soft. No need to twist an ankle on the unstable ground by trying to run out to my bike.

One of the nice treats of Ironman is the volunteer support and organization is awesome. My bike was waiting for me at the end of my row and I made a point to thank the volunteer as I grabbed it and made my way to the bike start.

Just before the bike mount line I saw my wife and son. It would likely be 6 1/2 to 7 hours before I saw them again so I took the time to give them both a quick kiss and made my way on the bike.

The first 2 miles of the bike course is a mix of sharp downhills and false downhill flats making for a nice way to start out the bike. After the first two miles the climbing begins, lots of it. Drafting is a always something race officials try to discourage, which in Ironman means a distance of 7 meters between you and the bike in front of you. It is comical to try and comply to this rule when there are hundreds of other athletes, all going 12 - 15 mph uphill. I didn't see any race officials but I suspect they would be lenient during the first several miles as the race begins to spread out.

I felt really comfortable on the bike. My goal time was 6 hours 45 minues but even more than that I wanted to have similar lap times over the two lap course. A drastically slower 2nd lap would most likely mean I pushed too hard early on and was setting myself up for a very tough run.

I was determined to take it easy on the first lap. I kept close eye on my heart rate and tried to keep it under 135 on the hills and under 125 on the flats. The first 40 miles start out with several rolling hills, a fantastic 5 mile downhill and several miles of flat section along a river before getting to the serious climbing. When I got to this point I was still feeling very good but wasn't quite sure how my body would respond on the upcoming hills.

My coach had me doing quite a bit of bike work, particularly on hills only 10 - 14 days before race day. While doing the training I was nervous that I might be doing too much too close to race day, but, my fears were overcome as I navigated the hills. I felt strong and steady and by the end of the 1st loop I had posted a time of 3 hours 10 minutes, without pushing very hard. This was well ahead of the 3 hours and 20 minutes I was shooting for.

Making my way through town after the first lap, I was able to see most of my family, except for my wife and son. There are so many people in that 2 or 3 mile stretch and your moving at 20mph so it's tough to try and make out faces as they whiz by behind the barriers. I know they were around but as I made my way back out on the 2nd loop I wished that I was able to catch their faces.

There was some incredible support out on the course. Thanks to Tom's crew (Tom is a GSTC teammate), whose enthusiasm was incredibly helpful out on course. I actually had other racers who were around me at the time we passed Tom's crew comment what great support the GSTC had. Quite a compliment to be noticed out of the tens of thousands of spectators out on course!

The 2nd loop went smoothly also. I was riding into a pretty strong wind coming up the climbs that dominate the end of each loop which made the end more challenging. However, for just having ridden 112 miles and close to 6,000 feet of climbing, I thought I was in good shape. My total bike time was 6:33. Eight minutes faster than my 2006 time and only about a 10 minute difference from loop 1 which I was happy with. Plus, aerobically I felt in really good shape.

I would soon find out that I had made some hydration errors while on the bike that would seriously cost me later in the race....

Monday, August 3, 2009

Where is the line?

If anyone knows where it is please let me know.

You may have seen me write before that triathlon, especially Ironman, is an inherently selfish sport. It requires the commitment of your family almost as much as the athlete. Here's my dilemma:

Where do you draw the line between pursuing individual goals and walking away for the family?

If you are a regular reader than you know about my recent result at Ironman Lake Placid. In many ways I've accepted my DNF and no doubt have already learned a lot about myself and what I can use from that race in other races and in other areas of my life.

The support and well wishes I've received for just getting to the starting line have been overwhelming and have themselves been inspirational. But at the end of the day, I didn't make it to the finish line and several times day since race day I think back to what I can remember about those last couple of miles on the course and wonder could I have made it if I just tried to keep going. Not knowing the answer is sometimes tortuous. I want to redeem myself, to myself.

On the flip side, my wife and son had a challenging day also. I think they both love the excitement that comes with the Ironman event. But at the same time getting up early and trying to navigate Lake Placid with thousands of other spectators plus the stress of seeing me come in from the course in an ambulance is not something anyone wants to experience often. Is it fair of me to want to sign up for another Ironman and put my family through all that again?

And so goes my search for the line. I know I won't find it right away. I suppose this is also part of the journey and just searching for the line we'll all learn a little something about ourselves.

So again I say, if anyone knows where the line is, please let me know.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ironman Lake Placid Race Report: Race morning and swim

Race day is a bitter sweet memory. While I was incredibly grateful to be out there, the way the day ended still has me up at night trying to figure out what I could have done differently or whether or not I could have dug any deeper and pushed through to the end.

I woke up at 3:45 feeling like I had gotten a great nights sleep. One thing I seem to have inadvertently trained myself to do is to use the bathroom first thing in the morning. This may seem like it isn't a big deal but being able to empty the bowels before leaving the room and not have to worry about standing in a port-a-potty line with 2,400 other athletes is a huge relief!

After using the bathroom I went about the routine I had been running through in my mind a thousand times. Get the uniform on, put the timing chip on, put on my sweatpants and sweatshirt, mix up my nutrition and fill the water bottles. I was hoping to be done by 5 but was ready to walk out the door at 4:45. It was nice to have my bike and transition bags already dropped off from the previous day.

The plan was to meet Paul at 5 and walk down to transition together. I don't remember what we talked about while walking down to the transition area but I was glad to be walking there with him. We had done marathon training together, lots of training for other races together and most recently we had been training for the past six months together for Ironman, his first and my second. We developed what was already a pretty tight relationship to one that was even tighter. Doing 7 hour bike rides together with someone who you have so much in common with will do that.

Once I arrived at transition I went through body-marking in what was a surprisingly short line, and went to my bike. There I put the bottles in their cages, topped off the air in my tires with a borrowed pump and gave the chain a quick lube. The last step was to drop off my special needs bags.

The only thing I had to do now was sit and wait. I found a seat at the place where I was going to meet my family and took in the craziness for a while. I felt calm even in the midst of all that was going on around me. While I was waiting I started the process of getting my wetsuit on so I was ready to go once my family arrived.

At 6:30 I met up with my wife and son and we made our way up to the swim start area. I had the chance to say a quick hello to the rest of my family. At about 6:40 I took in two Hammer Apple Cinnamon gels, took a swig of water, said my good byes and off I went to the swim start.

It took about 10 minutes to actually get into the water even though the total trip was only about 50 yards. All of the 2,400 athletes were being corralled over the timing mats through a 10 foot wide chute.

Just as I was getting in the water it started to rain pretty hard. The water was refreshing as I did my first few strokes and I was feeling very comfortable and relaxed after swimming for three or four minutes. I swam over to one of the beaches to minimize the treading I would have to do before the start. With about 5 minutes before the start I made my way up to the starting rope.

I still don't know how smart a decision this was. In 2006 I started about 25 yards back from the starting rope and while it was pretty crazy I was able to find clean water after the first 1/4 mile. This time, that wasn't the case. My swim had improved a lot in three years and I was feeling comfortable about starting closer to the front. I was still surprisingly calm when the cannon went off. I put my head in the water and started to swim.

The problem with starting so close to the front ended up being that I was never able to get into a great rhythm until close to the end of the first 1.2 mile loop. All the craziness actually made the first loop go by quickly. In that first 32 minutes I had my goggles knocked off once, almost had my wedding band pulled off, and got knocked around pretty good.

The 2nd loop wasn't much better, even though I had cleaner water to swim in with fewer people, I seemed to have gotten stuck behind a slower group that no matter how hard I tried, I could not get around. I got out of the 2nd loop and saw that my time was almost 1 hour 8 minutes. I was swimming sub 1 hour training swims at this distance so I was kind of disappointed in my swim time. But, I just made my way to T1 to get on with the rest of my race.

In the grand scheme of things the Ironman swim is just a warm up for the rest of the day.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ironman Lake Placid Race Report: Saturday Pre-Race

Saturday turned out to be more relaxing than I expected. The plan for the day is to put my transition and special needs bags together and drop them off along with my bike to the transition area.

The transition bags can be a bit overwhelming. In 2006 I put way more than I needed in them in anticipation of any worst case scenario I could imagine. I did pretty much the same this year, but not quite as bad. Here is this year's breakdown:

Swim to bike transition bag: Helmet, bike shoes, sunglasses, socks, skullcap, electrolytes, gel flask with a mix of Apple Cinnamon and Banana Hammer gel, CO2 cartridge, Hammer Bar and arm warmers.

Bike special needs bag: This bag is available after the 1st 56 mile loop. This contained a 2 spare tubes, CO2 cartridge, Hammer Bar, 24oz bottle with 3 scoops of Hammer Sustained Energy, spare socks.

Bike to run transition bag: Running shoes, dry socks, canister of electrolytes, visor, gel flask with the same mix of Hammer Gel, Hammer Bar.

Run special needs bag: This bag is available after the 1st 13 mile loop. This contained a flask of Hammer Gel, canister of electrolytes, 20 oz bottle with 2 scoops of Hammer HEED, dry socks.

After getting the bags packed and putting the numbers on my bike and helmet I made my way down to the transition area to drop everything off at around 11am. Because of my participation in the Janus Charity Challenge I got a great number, 72, which meant I was pretty well placed in the transition area making my bag a little easier to find. This may seem like a little thing but I had a goal of beating my transition times from 2006 so being able to find my bags out of the other 2,400 wasn't a simple process.

After racking my bike and hanging my transition bags I made my way down to Mirror Lake with the family so my Son could get a swim in. He had a blast and I was able to get off my feet for a while and sit in the shade. My awesome wife had packed sandwiches so we were able to enjoy a picnic lunch next to the lake.

After the swimming and picnic it was back to the hotel for some downtime before having to get back for the 2pm gathering of Janus Charity Challenge racers. If anyone reading ever decides to do an Ironman, I strongly urge you to get involved with this program. Besides raising money for the charity of your choice the people involved are fantastic and I've made some great friends. It was nice to catch up with them before heading back to the room for more downtime.

At about 5:30 I had my traditional pre-race meal of pasta with my wife's homemade pasta sauce. Then, before turning in I layed out my GSTC race uniform & timing chip so I'd be ready to roll the next morning.

I felt ready to go. I did experience a few episodes of panic over the size task I was about to undertake, but I kept trying to turn my thoughts to the gratitude I felt for the opportunity I had to be able to participate. The only left to do was wake up and race....more on race day soon.

Ironman Lake Placid Race Report: Friday pre-race

We arrived in Lake Placid the Friday before race day at about Noon. It was great to be in town again. This was my fifth year being at the race and 2nd year racing. There is something about the Lake Placid community and the energy of Ironman that is magnetic.

The plan for the day was to get registration out of the way and get a 45 minute ride in to loosen up after the 5 1/2 hour drive. We hit registration first and breezed right through - quicker than I expected. So quick that I didn't have time to experience the nervous anticipation I had in 2006 while waiting in line. That "Oh s$*t" feeling of what have I gotten myself into. Instead, I found myself surprisingly calm.

Ironman has their act together. There are four stations to go through during registration, it's all volunteers and is a very smooth process considering there are 2,400 athletes to process.

First stop is to sign waivers and verify emergency contact information is correct. One different thing I remember signing this time over my last Ironman was a HIPPA form in which you could give Ironman permission to share my medical status should I end up in the medical tent. If you read my last post you'll know that it was a good thing that I checked "yes" on this question.

Next stop is weigh in. I weighed in at 200 pounds even, which is about what I expected. My home scale was at 194 without clothes and I had been taking Liquid Edurance to help with my hydration. A result from this supplement is small weight gains just prior to race day in the form of water weight.

Next stop is getting race day gear. This includes:
  • Swag bag, which is considerably weak considering it's by far the most expensive race to sign up for and they seem to have more sponsors than they know what to do with
  • Swim cap marked with race number
  • Timing chip
  • Race numbers for the helmet, bike and race belt
  • Five gear bags each with a number sticker and instructions on which bag goes with which sticker. The gear bags are for morning dry clothes, swim to bike transition, bike special needs, bike to run transition and run special needs. I remember this being completely overwhelming in 2006 but normal and expected for my return race.
  • Number bracelet which identifies me as a participant and will get me into transition areas, swim start, post race awards, etc.
Last stop is to verify the timing chip which is a quick process and I'm out the door. I ran into a friend from Great Bay Masters during registration who was during the race for the 2nd year in a row. It continually amazes me what an awesome community trialthon is. I've been involved in the sport long enough that it's guaranteed that any race I go to I'll run into someone I know and be able to have a great conversation about the sport we share.

After a quick check-in at the hotel I connected up with my GSTC teammates for a spin. We were out for about 40 minutes and did a short portion of the bike course. I felt very relaxed and strong, especially on the hills we did - I remember hoping race day would bring the same feeling.

The rest of the day was pretty relaxed. After a quick shower I decided to worry about packing my gear bags on Saturday morning and just relaxed for a while until dinner. We were sharing a 2-room suite with some friends and were able to catch up with them before heading over to The Dancing Bear for dinner at the High Peaks Resort, both the hotel and restaurant are highly recommended if you are ever in Lake Placid!

Monday, July 27, 2009


The last 24 hours have been a roller coaster. It's 7am in Lake Placid and as exhausted as I am I've been up since 5:30 after finally getting to bed around midnight.

Lots of people have asked me "what happened" at the race yesterday? I'm not sure that I can fit it all into one post so I'll try to give a short summary now and will put up a full race report in the coming days.

After feeling good most of the dayand having what I thought was a pretty good swim, bike and first 10 miles on the marathon, things took a very quick turn for the worse after that.

Somewhere soon after that I began to get behind in my nutrition and hydration and it very quickly caught to me. Every time I tried to take in some gel I felt like I was going to throw up and unfortunately that was the only nutrition I had with me. I tried to use some of the on-course nutrition but that didn't sit well either. Trying to eat pretzels was a particularly bad idea. I started to gag almost immediately after the first bite.

After running for most of the first 10 miles on the run I started to run and walk as I was able. Slowly that turned to more walking than running. I was hoping that trying to make up for the fluid loss by slowing my pace would catch me up and I could pick up the pace for the 2nd half of the marathon. That never happened - it seemed like my system just stopped absorbing anything at that point.

At about mile 18 or 19, I don't remember exactly, I went from what I perceived as a power walk to just trying to put one foot in front of the other. Things are a little spacey until I get to mile 21 when I see some awesome supporters from the Granite State Triathlon Club. They gave me some words of encouragement and I pushed ahead.

The situation really went downhill after that. I remember going by an ambulance that was located next to an aid station and the EMT's asking if I was OK. They said I was wobbling a bit but I told them I was OK. After another 2o yards or so I stopped and got really wobbly. I think the EMT's were following me because I remember being held up at this point. They told me that they wanted to check me out and walked me back to the ambulance.

One of the last clear things I remember is them setting me down on the bumper of the ambulance. After that, the memories are scattered, except for one. At one point I heard them saying my name and rubbing their knuckles on my chest to get my attention and asked a question: "David, we need your permission to transport you to the medical tent". My eyes welled up with tears as I nodded yes. After that I remember a mix of feeling cold and hot, shivering uncontrollably and trying to hold the tears back. All I wanted to do was close my eyes and go to sleep but the EMT's kept asking me questions and rubbing my chest to keep me awake.

The next crystal clear memory is seeing my wife at the medical tent. At that point holding back the tears was impossible. I completely released. My time in the medical tent was a similar story of sporadic memories as I was hooked up to IV fluids. But, after four liters of fluids I began to feel coherent again.

After getting back to the hotel room the reality of why I faded so quickly became apparent when I got on the scale. Even after receiving 4 liters of IV fluid I had still dropped 15 pounds from my pre-race weight.

Dealing with my first DNF is an experience I'm still trying to figure out....more on that to come I'm sure.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

T minus 12 hours

It's just after 7 PM on July 25th. The cannon will go off in almost exactly 12 hours and I can hardly believe it!

There aren't many things we do in life in which we focus so intently on a single activity or goal. For the past six months I've put in anywhere from 15 - 25 hours per week training for a single event. Now that it is here it's nearly impossible to explain the range of emotions I've experienced in the last several hours leading up to right now.

Maybe I'll make an attempt to put them into writing during the free time I'll be working to fill once the event is over. For now, the one emotion I'll share is the incredible sense of gratitude I feel, mostly towards my wife and son, but also to the rest of my family, for the support. Triathlon is an inherently selfish sport that isn't possible without the support of those around you and I hope to sufficiently express to them how thankful I am for that. I have no doubt the gratitude I feel for their support will pull me through more than one of several expected low points tomorrow.

When asked by friends and family my reaction to finishing my first Ironman in 2006 the first response that came to me was that it was one of the best and worst days of my life. In one day I experienced an incredible range of emotions, often all within a few minutes of each other while trying to find the strength to push through the emotional and physical pain to reach the finish line.

Knowing that I'll likely have a similar experience tomorrow is difficult to put into words, so, rather than try I'll end it here, put on my "running playlist" on my iPod and work on getting a little bit of sleep before my 12 hours are up.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Experience the Ironman, virtually

My family and will be in Lake Placid this weekend to give me the support I know I'll need through race day. To make it easier for them to follow I've set up a couple of tools which I wanted to share here. Several friends have expressed an interest in following along on race weekend. - This site will have several splits throughout the day in addition to a live video feed of the finish line. Whether you see me cross the line or not, I find it inspiring to watch athletes cross, in particular as the midnight deadline approaches. If (that's a big "if") I meet my finish line goals I hope to be crossing by about 8pm and an 7am start. However, Ironman can be unpredictable so it could also be anywhere from 8pm to midnight. Mostly likely I'll finish somewhere between 8pm and 9pm. - I'm going to try and update my Twitter feed as often as possible with pictures and how the pre and post race activities are going. I'm going to show Amy how to update Twitter as well so there may be a few guest tweets from her on race day.

Live GPS tracking - Thanks to the wonders of GPS, I've rented a GPS tracker that I'll be wearing for at least the bike and run. This is my first experience with the device but as I understand it, visitors to the links below will be able to see live tracking including speed and elevations. Pretty cool! The links are below for this tracking:

From handhelds:

The deadline for donations that will count towards the Janus Charity Challenge is Saturday. I need to report to Janus by 2pm. So, it's not too late to donate! Donate here.

2 days to go!

Nutrition, Triathlon's Fourth Discipline

Triathlon, when it comes to long distance racing, is really not very accurate. It presumes that there are three disciplines that you compete in. While that may be technically true I believe that nutrition is a discipline that is as important to practice and master and the other three.

I've been doing long distance triathlons (1/2 Ironman and Ironman) now for five years and I'm still not 100% comfortable with a nutrition strategy. However, I've done lots of testing and will be testing my latest strategy on Sunday. The intent of this post is to lay out that strategy. Hopefully it helps me think it out again and helps others racing long distance triathlons.

I'll preface the "menu" below with the fact that I'm a huge fan of Hammer Nutrition products. They don't have any junk, offer a full line of products for endurance athletes and most importantly are a great company that offers all the help you need. If you haven't ordered before and you'd like to try them out you can receive a 15% discount on your first order by using this link.

Pre-race: With the race starting at 7am my goal will be to eat at around 4am. Breakfast will consist of 3 scoops of Sustained Energy mixed in 24 ounces of water along with 2 serving of Hammer Gel (I like to mix the apple cinnamon and banana). That will be about 500 calories made up of about 120 grams of carbs and 10 grams of protien.

I've also been using a product from Hammer called Liquid Endurance. You can read about the product on their website but I'm using it to help minimize fluid depletion.

Swim: 15 minutes before the swim start I'll have 1 serving of gel (about 90 calories or 23 grams of carbs)

Bike: After going through the first transition and getting on the bike, I'll start to take in 100 calories every 20 minutes. I'm planning on a 6 1/2 to 7 hour bike. The calories for the first 4 hours will be from Sustained Energy which is a mix of complex carbohydrates and some protien. Having some protien mixed in for long distance events helps to prevent your muscles from cannibalizing on themselves when they run out of glycogen for fuel.

For the 5th hour I'm planning on having a Hammer Bar which is about 220 calories and has a mix of carbs, protien and a little fat. This is a new addition for me but after trying an all liquid nutrition strategy during my Ironman in 2006 and feeling hungry, I'm trying to add some fat to help feel more full. Fat can tend to slow the absorption of nutrients during the digestive process which has the potential to slow delivery of fuel to my muscles, but I've tested it in training and I still seemed to feel OK.

For the balance of the bike I'll only take in Hammer Gel. I respond very well to the gel and in anticipation of 5 hours of running I want my stomach to be feeling good by the end of the bike. I tried Sustained Energy during the run in 2006 and the slower absorption of the protien didn't agree with my digestion during the run.

Run: My plan for the run is to try and stick with Hammer Gel. I'll drop my caloric intake to 25o calories per hour and will also be bringing another Hammer Bar with me in case I get that hungry feeling like I did in 2006. It may prompt a little walking with the fat and protien content but the change in flavors and fuller feeling stomach will outweigh the walk and help me to run the balance of the race faster.

I'm planning on relying more on the aid stations this year for water. In past years I've worn a fuel belt with water for the entire run portion of the race. My plan this year is to wear the fuel belt for the first of two loops and then drop the belt in my special needs bag before loop 2. I tend to feel like I have a bloated stomach deep into a long race and I'm hoping that getting rid of an elastic belt around my waist will help make the 2nd loop more comfortable. Once I hit the bike I'll be shooting for taking in 20 - 30 ounces of water per hour, depending on how I'm feeling. The forecast right now is for muggy weather so I'm going to try to shoot for 30 oz.

Two other things I'll have with me on the course.

1. Endurolytes - these are electrolytes and I'll be taking in 2 - 3 per hour to avoid hyponatremia and muscle cramps
2. Tums - Just in case I get any stomach distress, these will hopefully help to provide some temporary relief.

Post Race: While I'll try to each some high quality protien and carbohydrates to try and replenish the 10,000 - 13,000 calories I'm expecting to burn, what I'll likely reach for are potato chips and pizza. For whatever reason this is what I crave post race :-)

That's it! I've tried to keep it relatively simple so that I don't have to do a lot of thinking about while on course. And, most importantly, I've tested everying during training to get as sure as possible that I'll respond well to the plan.

I'm just a regular Hammer customer who really believes in their products. I don't receive any compensation from them. I actually spend quite a bit of money on their products. So, if you decide to give them a try please mention my name or use this link and they will provide you with a 15% discount on your first order and give me a referral credit based on the amount of your first order. Me and my wallet will really appreciate it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Five Lessons Ironman Triathlon can teach us about owning a business

This is a cross post from the other blog I write for. As you'll see, the content is right in line with this blog.

On July 26th your Direct Capital blogger will be competing in Ironman Lake Placid for the 2nd time. The Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run and has been called the toughest single day endurance event.

Before joining Direct Capital, I started and owned a couple of businesses which gave me a first hand understanding of the challenges involved with such a venture. Much like the Ironman, you need to have great endurance to handle the ups and downs of owning your own business. Having spent many hours on the road training, my mind has many times reflected on the similarities between these two situations. I decided to put “pen to paper” and share with you five lessons I learned while training for Ironman that are just as applicable to the business owner.

1. Have a goal

For a lot of people their goal is their “why”. It’s why you take on the risks and challenges you do. It’s why you get up every morning. Whether your business is struggling in our current economy, or you’ve found a way to thrive, what is it that drives you to push forward? Signing up for the Ironman (or probably any type of endurance event) crystallized this effect for me. With a full work week in addition to a family at home, finding time to train for an event like this is challenging, but not impossible. It means getting up at 4 AM most mornings to fit my training in so I can be at the office by 8 AM. I can almost guarantee that if I didn’t have the goal of finishing the Ironman, I wouldn’t have been up at 4 AM.

If you haven’t already done so, develop your business goals. Once they are defined, it is inevitable that they will help get you out of bed on those tough mornings.

2. Be passionate about what you do

I’m passionate about triathlons. Some combination of characteristics drew me into the sport. There is something about the business you built that you are passionate about. Identify what that is. Is it the industry? Your customers? Your products? What your products do for your customers? Once you have developed a goal, identify what inspired you in the first place and why you are passionate about it. Being passionate about a clear goal is an unstoppable combination.

3. Be Disciplined

I remember when completing a 5k road race seemed like a huge challenge to me. My perspective has changed and I believe that virtually anyone can complete an Ironman. Whether you are old, young, able-bodied or disabled, everyone that chooses to attempt the event can find out the basic principles of what it takes to finish the race. Once you know the principles then all it takes is the discipline to execute. The secrets to becoming a successful business owner are not all that secret. Once you have your idea, the principles of sales, marketing, financial management, etc. are well documented. Just like training for Ironman, what makes the difference is the discipline to follow the plan. Attention for our time is constantly being pulled in several directions. Discipline is what keeps us moving in the right direction.

4. Have flexibility

Even though I’m pretty strict about my triathlon training plan, there have been several occasions in which the pool was closed, the weather kept me from a bike ride or a family obligation took priority. Just because I had to miss a workout or shorten a training session, the goal of finishing the Ironman never changed. I made adjustments and kept moving forward. If you are currently a business owner, you probably already understand that adjustments are virtually always required even with the most well thought out plans. Business owners need the discipline just mentioned to keep focused on the end goal and the flexibility to adjust to the roadblocks and challenges that inevitably will get in the way.

5. Build a team around you

My idea of endurance sports before the triathlon was 5k road races, meaning, when I signed up for Ironman, I didn’t have any idea how I was going to do it but knew I needed help. So, I went out and got a coach. There are several examples of people who excel, or are the best in their field, and still have coaches and teams supporting their efforts. Even if you are a 1-person business you may already have a team around you in the form of an accountant, attorney, etc.

Our Finance Managers are part of their clients’ teams. Before recommending one of our financing, capital and credit products, or setting up a vendor financing program for a customer we first have a conversation about their business and base our advice on what will serve them best.

What business lessons have you learned from your latest athletic endeavor?

Monday, July 20, 2009

What it takes to do an Ironman

With over six months of training under my belt I thought it would be interesting to look at the aggregate of my training over that time period. I'm a little obsessive about keeping track of my training so putting the numbers together was pretty easy. Here are my numbers since I started my "official" training on a sub zero 10 mile run on New Year's Day.

  • 148 hours
  • 2660 miles
  • 140,600 calories burned
  • 98 hours
  • 625 miles
  • 98,000 calories burned
Thanks to the input of @IronmanJourney (check out his Ironman training blog), I'll put these hours into some frame of reference. I finished my first Ironman in 13 hours and 55 minutes. My goal for this race is to finish in under 13 hours. Aggressive, but looking at my previous times, its possible as long as weather conditions cooperate.

As simplistic as these numbers are, I do believe it truly is what it takes to do an Ironman. I tried to capture some of the personal characteristics we develop through training on another blog I write for. Take it from someone who used to think that a 5k road race was a challenge, as long as you have a plan and put in the time, virtually anyone can do an Ironman.

A reminder, help to raise money for Bretton Woods Adaptive! Only a few more days to make your tax deductible donation.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dear Friends

The following is a letter sent to friends and family asking for their support in raising money for Bretton Woods Adaptive.

Dear Friends,

Almost one year ago I received the gift of an entry to Ironman Lake Placid taking place on July 26th. For the past six months I've been training for the race and also trying to pay that gift forward. I'm writing to ask for your help in doing so by joining me in raising money for Bretton Woods Adaptive (BWA). If I am one of the top fundraisers at the race in Lake Placid, the Bretton Woods program could receive up to an extra $10,000. Your donation, no matter the amount, could very possibly put BWA in the position to secure extra funds for their worthy organization.

The BWA Sports Program is a year-round program offering recreational opportunities to people of all ages regardless of disability. My Dad, who is a polio survivor with very limited use of his legs, began skiing (among other outdoor activities) only a decade ago. For most of his life he did not realize that there were opportunities like this available to him. He has thrown himself into ensuring that others do not have to wait as long as he did to enjoy the thrill of the outdoors by helping to develop and enhance the BWA Sports Program.

I've heard countless stories of how this organization has made a huge impact on the people it serves and experienced some firsthand also. If you'd like to read about a couple of them, I've written about them in my blog. Please consider reading about BWA and if you are inspired by the work they are doing then make a donation and/or spread the word by forwarding this e-mail before race day, July 26th. Whether it's $10 or $100, every bit helps!

Donate here or follow BWA on Facebook here.

Read more about Bretton Woods Adaptive here.

Follow our updates on race weekend here.

Track progress on race day here.

Thank you so much for the support and helping to spread the word!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The day I got to help Martin

On a beautiful day last fall I was fortunate enough to be part of a hike up Mt. Willard in Crawford Notch, NH. This was not a normal hike. From the trail head to the top was only about 1 1/2 miles with an elevation gain of about 800 feet. What made it such an incredible hike is being part of a team that took Martin to the top.

Martin used to be an avid outdoorsman doing everything from hiking, to fishing and hunting. Martin was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, in 2002 and now is confined to a wheelchair with no use of his muscles with the exception of his eyes and a great smile. He can't speak, eat or breath on his own. Fortunately he has an incredible support system of family and friends to help him. I was grateful to be part of that support system that day in helping him realize a goal of his, to do a climb in the White Mountains through Bretton Woods Adaptive (BWA).

It will be difficult to express how the day went in words. It is an experience that would be so much richer if you could be there. I was able to get a few photos which will help paint the picture.

We met at the trailhead right next to train depot by AMC's Crawford House. We got there around 9:30 AM. Martin and his family arrived at about 10AM and after almost 2 hours of preparation we started up the trail.

While watching Martin get prepped for this excursion, I found myself trying to imagine what life for his family must be like on a daily basis if we needed 2 hours to prepare for a 3 mile hike. We needed to transfer Martin from his full time wheelchair to a rig that would help us help him get up the mountain. Besides the ventilator, spare batteries for the ventilator, oxygen tank, suction gear (Martin can't swallow so periodically the nurse would suction out his mouth) and medications, the family also brought a small lift that assisted in transferring him from one chair to the other.

We used a specially designed "wheelchair" that looked more like a wheelbarrow. It was actually a metal device with four handles that allowed Martin to lay in a relaxed sitting position in which we could secure his mostly limp body for the climb up the mountain.

There were six of us that rotated through four positions on the chair - one on each side for stability plus one of the front and back. It was a definite challenge carrying Martin's limp body plus the wheelchair up the mountain but the expression you could see in Martin's eyes and smile were worth the effort and then some.

I'm not going to try and describe the experience because I don't think words can do it justice. I've included a slideshow at the beginning of this post with photos from the day. Please help to support more efforts like these by donating to Bretton Woods Adaptive.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The ride I'll never forget. A 120-mile ride report.

I've had a few "epic" rides during my cycling and triathlon days but last Saturday's July 4th ride topped them all.

It was the peak bike weekend for my Ironman training which meant a 120 mile ride "in the mountains" per my training plan. Being in NH the White Mountains were the natural choice, plus there is a century ride already mapped out. All I had to do was find another 20 miles to do.

So, the route was taken care of. Now to actually ride it.

I used Map My Tri to plot the route. A great feature of the site, besides being free, is the elevation information. It told me the ride had about 5,300 feet of climbing. A little short of the 6,000 I'll face in Lake Placid but it's the closest thing to mountain climbing I can find and not make a weekend trip of it.

The route included
  • Bear Notch - approximately a 3 mile climb
  • Crawford Notch - long gradual 15 mile climb that gets steeper the longer into the climb you get and concludes with a 1 mile section at 13% grade
  • Franconia Notch - a comparatively easy 5 mile climb and then a long downhill into the town of Lincoln.
  • The Kanc - a very challenging 11 mile climb that includes a few switchbacks and no respite to the steep grade. But, the reward is a very fast 20 mile descent into Conway.
I did the ride with my buddy and Ironman training partner, Paul, and was happy to be able to experience the ride with a good friend. It made for a different and better experience.

As hard a ride as it was, it wasn't what really made the ride "epic". Here's why:

  • The ride started in the sun, probably around 60 degrees and little to no wind.
  • As we began to climb Crawford Notch we go through our first of two July 4th parades and it also begins to sprinkle. The further up we go, the harder it rains.
  • After the Crawford Notch peak, its a nice flat ride past Bretton Woods and the Mount Washington Hotel. Normally there would be beautiful views except we were focused on staying up right as the hail started to come down! That's right, it hailed!
  • After the hail it "just" downpoured for a while. We stopped at Fabian's country store across from Bretton Woods to refill our water bottles, which we definitely needed. However, being soaked to the bone, not moving and creating internal heat and then starting back up we were shivering and absolutely freezing in our tri-shorts and tri-tops.
  • After making the turn on Route 3 towards Franconia Notch the rain slowly came to a stop and held off during our descent through the Notch into Lincoln. As an aside, having the sun made this a gorgeous ride. I've never cycled through this notch, only driven, and being able to bike by Cannon Mountain and the site of the Old Man in the Mountain was a special thing.
  • As we roll into Lincoln towards our last big climb (the Kanc) we go through our 2nd July 4th parade and then see the clouds, hear the thunder and see the lightning. I'll ride in some pretty tough conditions, but one thing I don't mess around with is lightning so we played it safe and pulled under a store awning and watched the skies open up for about 30 minutes. It was some of the hardest rain I've ever seen. Thankfully it was warmer than up near Bretton Woods and we weren't quite as cold from not moving.
  • At this point we've been riding for about 5 hours and still have 35 miles to go including 15 of it uphill. We are anxious to get going again. After 30 minutes the thunder and lightning appears to have stopped (even though its still raining pretty hard) so we head out. Even though my legs are spinning I'm absolutely freezing. I think the storm brought in some colder air. Paul and I said to eachother we'd actually like to start climbing just to get our heart rates up and warm up.
  • After about 5 minutes, we hear thunder again and have to pull under an awning for about 15 more minutes :-( Finally we said screw it and started the last 15 mile climb even though it was still pouring.
  • While it felt good to climb and begin to warm up, after being on the road for 85 miles, going uphill at that grade was a physical and mental challenge but we made it to the top.
  • The problem with making it to the top is now we had to go down, fast, and though the rain had slowed the roads were still very wet. I tried not to think about the thin tires on wet roads hydroplaning at 35 MPH but it was not easy.
  • As we traveled down the mountain, the sun came out, roads dried up and by the time we got back to the car it was beautiful.
How did we celebrate finishing our epic ride? We went for a short run :-) Afterall, Ironman is only a few weeks away!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Value of Competition

Most reading the title of this post will probably first assume it is about competition against others. That's natural, and it's what I normally do when thinking about competition. But I got a different perspective this past weekend while attending my son's track meet.

It was the first real track meet I had been to. His bi-weekly practices were at times more like organized chaos and there was never the kind of formality like a real meet with starting guns, timers, announcers, etc.

Admittedly, I was a little skeptical of spending the entire day at the track when my Son's 3 events would take him a total about about 90 seconds. However, any opportunity to spend time with my family is a good one so I went looking forward mostly to that part of the day. However, I came away from the day with a lot more.

I got drawn into watching kids from 9 - 13 years old compete in all kinds of running events from the 50 meter dash to the 1600 meter run. Why? I absolutely loved watching these kids, including my son, digging deep within themselves and putting out incredible efforts. You could see in their faces the determination and focus going into their efforts and some were clearly turning themselves inside out to finish their race as fast as they possibly could. It didn't seem to matter if the kid was first or sixth, the same level of effort went into the competition. What a great life lesson!

And that is why I will do everything in my power as a parent to make sure my son has opportunities to compete. Yes, the competition with the kid in the next lane or against the other team provides good lessons and perspectives for kids to learn early. But, the bigger lesson in my opinion is kids learning how to compete with themselves. In other words, making that internal connection what it feels like to push beyond what you originally thought possible. What better physiological lesson to learn early and often as a kid?

These lessons don't need to be learned in traditional competitive sports. That competition happens in all kinds of activities. The dancer who won't give up until he or she nails the move they've been practicing. The musician that repeats a piece over and over again until it sounds just right. They are all competing with themselves, trying to turn out their best performance, just like the kids on the track.

My son didn't qualify for the State finals this weekend, but he beat his previous times in the 100 and 200 meter sprint. The lesson I know he learned from that effort about how to compete with himself is the best result I could hope for as a Dad.

Congrats Buddy!

Friday, June 26, 2009

T minus 30 days

I'm not sure how this happened without me noticing but there are only 30 days until Ironman Lake Placid!!

The last few weeks of training have been really good. They included some long ridees including a 110 miles through the NH Lakes Region, White Mountains and a climb over the Kancamagus Highway. The training block peaked with the Patriot Half Ironman last weekend in which I beat last years time but about 20 minutes. All this was followed by a light recovery week this week before the last push through a couple of monster weeks.

I'm going to try and write consistently over that period, but we'll see how well I do at balancing the schedule.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Making the outdoors accessible

If you've been following along for any length of time you'll know that as part of my Ironman Journey this year I'm raising money for Bretton Woods Adaptive, a non-profit organization that helps people with disabilities experience recreational opportunities. I've been collecting stories about this incredible organization and will be publishing them on this blog over the next several weeks leading up to the race.

Below is an article from Tom Eastman titled: Making the outdoors accessible to all Bretton Woods Adaptive Program blazes new trails for people with disabilities. Please read this great story and consider making a donation. It's a long read, but a worthwhile story.

BRETTON WOODS-On a fine fall day, six volunteers from the Bretton Woods Adaptive Program helped a 29-year-old consultant achieve his dream of hiking to an Appalachian Mountain Club hut.

It wasn't easy traveling the rocky, root-strewn 2.7 miles from the parking lot to the AMC's Zealand Falls Hut last Saturday, Oct. 6. But thanks to new advances in gear for the disabled, and a lot of sweat equity, it wasn't impossible, either.

Chris Hart, director of Urban and Transit Projects for the Institute for Human Centered Design at Adaptive Environments in Boston, Mass., has cerebral palsy. His condition impacts his body, but not his spirit.

Hart is an adaptive skier and busy consultant who travels frequently around the country, helping to design systems that make it easier for the mobility challenged to negotiate their way around urban buildings and transit systems. "With the aging of the Baby Boomers...there is going to be a greater demand to help design things that will allow people to remain independent longer," said Hart, who noted that last Saturday's first-ever hike by the Bretton Woods Adaptive Program to an AMC hut fulfilled a long-held dream.

"My grandfather began hiking all of New England's tallest 100 peaks when he was 75. He finished them when he was 83," said Hart. It takes some effort to understand him, given his condition, but like the hike, with a little patience, his message is loud and clear. "I could not ever hike with him. But now, today, I am hiking. It lets me go to where my grandfather went - for the first time!" he said, with a grin that said it all.

There were two rough sections along the 2.7-mile hike from the parking lot off Zealand Fall Road to the hut. Of the two, the worst was just below the hut, and it took the volunteers a good 45 minutes to port Hart in a Terra Trek Wheelchair, an all-terrain wheelchair. The wheelchair is modified to carry two poles in front that turns it into a rickshaw type vehicle.

For the section from the trailhead to two-tenths of a mile below the hut, Hart had been carried in a Trail Rider, a one-wheeled Rickshaw-like device designed and manufactured by an intern at Northeast Passage, a non-profit organization based in Durham at the University of New Hampshire dedicated to solving accessibility challenges for people with physical and cognitive disabilities.

The hike from the trailhead to the hut took three hours Saturday, while the hike out Sunday took two and a half hours.

The weather changed from the morning's sunshine, and rain began to fall as they got to the hut Saturday afternoon. After a quick visit to Zealand Falls next to the hut, where the fall foliage was at its full glory, all changed out of their wet clothes into dry gear and then enjoyed a hearty meal prepared by the AMC hut crew of roast turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce before bunking down for the night by lights out at 9:30 p.m.

Sandy Olney, director of the Bretton Woods Adaptive Program, said one benefit of doing the hike in fall was no bugs. "I needed folks to be available so it had to be a weekend, and I hoped Columbus Day Weekend would give me the number I needed to get people up on the trail. We had six wheelchair team members and three 'Sherpas,' who carried supplies and gear up to the hut prior to our making the trek with Chris," said Olney.

In addition to Hart, Annie O'Neill also made the trek. She is a 26-year-old who has autism and who is an avid downhill skier and hiker. A resident of Wilder, Vt., she works two days a week in food service at Landmark College, Putney, Vt., and volunteers in the kitchen at Lebanon SeniorCenter, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and David's House.

Volunteers participating on the trek as wheelchair team members were Lennie Fillius of Bethlehem; Jim Hogan, a construction worker from Franconia; Tom Norcott of Franconia, Emily Voytek, a college senior majoring in geology at Tufts University in Boston; Gary Biadasz of Bethlehem, and Olney.

The Sherpas were Charlotte Fleetwood of Cambridge, Mass.; Keith Wortzman of Boston; Roy Loiselle of Cranston, R.I., and Herb and Ellen Kingsbury of Kittery Point, Maine, as well as Fillius' wife, Mary, who came up on Sunday to help transport gear from the hut back to the trailhead. Also recruited at the hut Saturday night to help with the portage out Sunday was a French Canadian guest name Stefan, along with members of the AMC hut crew, who helped carry gear down.

"It proved that wilderness and back-country hut experience is accessible to people who use wheelchairs. The inconvenience of having to use a wheelchair should not keep someone from hiking with their friends," said Olney this week,

The AMC caught a lot of flak when it rebuilt its Galehead Hut to make it handicapped accessible, including its restrooms. But, proponents argued at the time, one never knows what technological breakthroughs will occur over the next century, thus bringing the outdoor experience accessible to all.

"The bathrooms at both Zealand and Galehead are handicapped accessible. If there is a will there is a way in terms of bringing people to the huts. I like to say that if we put the programming out there, people will come forward and take advantage of it and enjoy it. It's one of those, 'If you build it they will come,' kind of things, " said Olney.

Located in Zealand Notch, the former scene of indiscriminate logging and devastating fires in the 19th century, Zealand Falls Hut occupies a choice four-season spot with outstanding views at the eastern edge of the Pemigewasset Wilderness.

Completed in 1932 along with Galehead as part of legendary hut master Joe Dodge's plan to make all of the huts a day's hike apart, it operates year-round.

The Bretton Woods Adaptive Program until this year was a ski program.

"But what was once the steering committee became a board of directors when they applied for nonprofit status with the IRS in the fall of 2006," said Olney. She said the board presented a proposal to go to a four-season program, and to hire Olney as full-time director. The new owners of Bretton Woods - CNL Income Properties - embraced the program. The Bretton Woods Adaptive Program is one of the primary beneficiaries of Olympic ski great and Bretton Woods director of skiing Bode Miller's annual Bodefest.

The program has expanded to include not only skiing, but hiking, road cycling, downhill mountain biking, paddling, water skiing and fishing.

The goal, said Olney, is to "enhance the lives of our participants by creating opportunities for them to enjoy outdoor activities."

Having people experience environments that they were previously excluded from, and to experience the freedom of speed in motion, "is exhilarating for me as well as the participant," said Olney, formerly of Nantucket, but a resident of Mount Washington Valley for the past five years.

Among her greatest success stories was this past winter, when Olney and crew helped a woman with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis fulfill her dream to go skiing.

"Erin Brady Worsham, an artist from Nashville, Tenn., who has ALS, first encountered Bode Miller while watching the Winter Olympics on TV. She was intrigued, so she Googled Bode, and found a link to the Bretton Woods Adaptive Program. Erin, who lives with her husband in and 12-year-old son, had never skied before, but she was excited by the element of speed that it could give," related Olney.

She corresponded with the Bretton Woods Adaptive Program's president of the board of directors, Cris Criswell, who suggested she come up and try adaptive skiing at Bretton Woods this past March.

"She only has the use of her muscles from just her forehead. She cannot swallow or breathe on her own. She has been on a feeding tube and respirator for 11 years. She paints, writes an speaks with an electronic sensor taped between her eyebrows. She calls that her 'cosmic connection,' " said Olney.

The resort provided her family with food and lodging for the visit. It was a cooperative effort between Bretton Woods and the adaptive program at Loon, which loaned two master tetherers, George Hollingsworth and Dave Blenkhorn.

"We had to rig the bi-ski to accommodate her. She needed head support so we ended up transferring her head rest from her own wheelchair to the bi-ski, a device which is a sit-ski with two articulating skis," said Olney.

The team connected her respirator to a portable battery, took her up the Zephyr chair, and at the top, disconnected the portable battery so that the respirator was powered by its internal battery.

"We skied down Crawford's Blaze, and about halfway down we started to get a low-battery warning. The battery failed sooner than anticipated due to the cold weather. So, we high-tailed it to the bottom! We got to the bottom, got her plugged back in and caught it all in time before it completely failed. We did have a backup in case the respirator failed on the slopes - we had an Ambubag, which has a pump which allows you to manually pump air into her respirator, but thankfully we did not have to use it," said Olney.

Erin Brady Worsham wrote the following account via e-mail: "The people of the Bretton Woods Adaptive Program took my vision in 'Go Fast' and made it a reality. I can never truly thank them for that. So, why did a girl from Nashville, Tenn., who's almost completely paralyzed from ALS and breathes with a ventilator, and who had never skied before in her life, feel the need to make a pilgrimage to the White Mountains to go skiing? Cris, who is also a minister, put it best in an excerpt from his invocation at the annual Hartford Ski Spectacular in Breckinridge, Colo., which is the country's largest winter sports festival for people with disabilities. 'So whether by birth, by disease, by accident or by war, whether you ski or whether you ride, one board or two, two legs or one, sit-down, stand-up, with or without sight, it is our magic carpet ride - we all glide over frozen, sparkling crystals for the same reason, to be transported into another world, a place where the crippled dance, the lame walk and the blind see, where we may all, each and everyone, no one left behind, all together, mount up with wings like eagles and join the dance which has no end.' Amen to that!"

The Bretton Woods program has 60 volunteers in winter, and for this past summer, the program's first, the program had 25 volunteers. Olney said the rewards of volunteering are many.

"You get the glow. When everyone came down off the mountain Sunday and we went and grabbed some sandwiches together, everyone was so positive and sharing what they had achieved, and appreciating it so much, it was great to be around that positive energy," said Olney.

For more information about the Bretton Woods Adaptive Program, call 278-3398; e-mail; or write Mount Washington Resort, Route 302 Bretton Woods 03575; on the web at