I sat anxiously by my laptop on October 1st, 2010 while on vacation in Lake Placid, NY awaiting the 10AM start of online registration for the inaugural Ironman Pocono Mountains 70.3 Triathlon. I submitted my $275 which would then commit the next year to training for my first “Ironman”-branded event. I had been tossing the the half-iron distance around since it would be the next logical progression in my pursuit of a full iron distance. When I saw the ad in Triathlete Magazine, I thought that this was a sign that this was the race for me since it was so close to home. The eventual outcome was one I never expected.
From October 2010 until May 2011, I focused on building a solid base of endurance which ultimately ended totaling 2x the distance of each discipline in the half-iron distance per week : Swim 2.4 miles, Bike 112, and run 26. My wife and I were heading to Peru for 2 weeks at the end of May to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and then spend 4 days in the Peruvian Amazon exploring the jungle. Hiking at high altitude would be the perfect recovery before kicking training into high gear. Upon returning from Peru I turned my training over to my coach Scott at TriYourLimits . Scott would prescribe weekly workouts for me via Workoutlog.com and I log on each day complete the workout and upload my Garmin with my results. The training was very gradual with a recovery week thrown in every 4th week. Things went very smoothly and I did not incur any injuries as I had the previous season coaching myself. I knew I needed a coach to guide me because I would easily overtrain doing it myself.
The season flew by. I competed in the Patriot Sprint Triathlon in Bath, PA by Piranha Sports in July. That turned out to be a bit of a mess. The bike leg was cancelled due to last minute oil and chipping of the roads thanks to the idiots at PennDOT. The swim was really bad for me personally. I tried to get in the mix and got kind of freaked out. Water was VERY warm too. Never got into any real rhythm. Run was equally bad with concrete quads the whole time. Good wake up call though.
In September I competed in the Steelman Olympic Triathlon at Lake Nockamixon. This was a much better performance. Had a great swim, 0.9mil in 29 min, and I felt really comfortable. Probably was my best swim(33:04min/mi pace) so far and it was the longest(0.9mi) too. Bike leg was 18.8mph avg speed, which is ok for a pretty hilly course. I was trying to hold back a bit to save my legs for the run. The run was another story. The sun popped out and, with all the rain we had, it going very humid. I don’t fare well in hot humid conditions. a 58min 10k is nothing to write home about. Even had to walk a couple times.
The rest of the season was all training for Ironman Pocono. I followed my training plan pretty much to a T. 2 weeks prior I started into my taper and things really started feeling good then. I felt really fast(relatively) and had to hold myself back a bit sometimes. I was feeling like this could be a good race. I had a little bit of anxiety the week before, but when the rains started coming down that began to dwindle a bit. I was watching the current-level forecasts on the NOAA website for the Delaware River and it wasn’t looking swimmable. On Friday before the race they announced that the swim leg would be cancelled. Strike 1!
With the swim cancelled, my anxiety all but disappeared. I still wanted to have a good bike and run, but without the swim it just isn’t a triathlon. We headed up to the Fernwood Resort in Stroudsburg, PA on Saturday and checked in at the expo. I attended the athlete meeting and got the details. There would be a time trial start for the bike and they would just run down the rows in T1 telling each athlete to go every couple seconds. They had changed the bike course multiple times due to roads washing out. Forecast was for rain all night into the morning and cold. Fortunately the winds were supposed to be light. We ran my bike over to T1 and then dropped my run bag over at T2 at Stroudsburg HS. It was crazy with everyone driving all over the place to drop their gear everywhere. Logicstically it was not well thought out.
We stopped at Thai Thani on Rt. 611 for some lunch. Yeah Thai food for a pre-race meal…probably not a great idea. I had Masaman curry which is not very spicy, so it should not be an issue. We then checked into our room at the Fernwood. I had reserved a suite so I thought we would have a decent room atleast. The room stunk and was very musty. There was a heart-shaped tub and a sauna in the room. The tub was probably why the smell was so bad and the sauna didn’t even work. Place overall was kind of old and rundown. A bit disappointing. We stopped over to see some friends that also were competing and shot the breeze with them for a bit. I hit the pasta dinner later and there was no one there. It was pretty basic, but fine.
I woke up around 4AM on Sunday and had bagels & peanut butter and coffee. Deciding how many layers to put on was a bit of a decision. I took extra stuff with me and figured I could hash that out while waiting around in T1. I met our friends in the lobby and we jumped on the yellow school bus shuttle and headed over to T1 at Smithfield Beach in Delaware Water Gap. It was interesting listening to the conversations on the bus. I chatted with a couple guys who were next to me in T1 most of the morning in between taking a half-dozen piss breaks in the woods. The clouds actually broke for a few minutes while we waited but did not last too long. Finally they started calling people off to start and after over an hour we were on our way. River Road through DWG was very smooth and slick feeling. It had a major camber and made you feel like you were going to slide right into the woods. I hesitated to get in the aerobars. We hit the first big hill after a few miles and there was people walking their bikes all over the place. I dropped down to an easy gear and spun my way up. I told myself I was not going to take any chances and just wanted to finish in piece.
The next hour on the bike went pretty smoothly. I didn’t look at my time until after an hour and was surprised that I was averaging over 18MPH. I didn’t feel like I was going that fast. Hmmm….I could finish in under 3 hours?…Which was what my original goal was. They had a figure-8 configuration in the course and while cutting across the middle road I heard something metal against the road. I thought hopefully I just ran over something? Then a guy passed me and said “man you are dropping metal all over the road.” I looked down at my bottom bracket and my left crank arm was totally loose. I could see the teeth from the inside shaft that runs through the middle. “This cannot be happening” I thought to myself. I pulled over to the side and through my bike down. I walked back to try to find the pieces I was missing but no avail. About 20 people went by me asking if I was ok or needed anything. Yeah right! You are wizzing by me at 20MPH in a race…are you really going to stop? They were out of ear shot before they finished getting the words out. Save your breath people!
The walk back to my bike was a tough one. I was mad and disappointed. I could not believe it was going to end this way. All the hours of training I put in and it all comes down to my bike falling apart. I got back to my bike and tried to ride it some more, but it eventually would not even turn the chain anymore. I ended up walking a mile and a half until the SAG van at the cutoff crew was coming down the road I had covered earlier in the ride. He stopped to ask what was wrong and said he could not do anything about that. They loaded my bike in the van and the driver asked for my number. He then got on the race radio and called in the words that made it all sink in….”1769 DNF!!!” I could feel my stomach drop instantly. I felt close to breaking down.
There was another guy and girl in the van already. The girl sat in the passenger seat and seemed pretty upset. The guy was quite jovial and helped lighten up the mood a bit. We had to retrace much of the course I had already ridden following the last rider. He was stopping every few minutes and it was pure torture. It started getting late in the morning and I figured my wife was getting worried since I hadn’t been seen yet. The guy in the van had a phone so I left her a message. We picked up more riders as we went and eventually we filled up the van and had to head back to T2 early…thank god! The van became somewhat of a support group for DNF-ers. My wife eventually got the message and called me back. We eventually got back to T2 and there was major traffic jams in Stroudsburg due to the race and telephone pole being down. I grabbed my running stuff in T2, called my wife and headed towards downtown where she was waiting with one of our friends on Main St.
While walking towards town, athletes were coming past me with their finishers medals around their necks and the silver foil blankets on. That didn’t help! My wife came around the corner and things really hit home then. We collected ourselves and heard that we had to go back to T2 to get my clothes from the morning. We picked that stuff up and skirted downtown to get to our car. It was an early Bonefish Grill night. Finally I thought there is no way I am going to waste all this training I have done. I jumped on my iPhone and looked to see if there were any more Ironman 70.3’s this season…Miami on Oct 30th! Bingo!
My wife was all for it too and I began making arrangements that night. I had never expected to be going to Miami, but hey you never know what adventure lies around the corner. So the training will continue for another month. It should be a good race with a swim and a flat bike and run course. We are spending a little more than I had planned, but it should be a great experience. It could end up being the greatest thing to happen when you look back on it. Stay tuned for more on that in future posts.