2012 Ironman Syracuse in the books

Posted: June 25, 2012 in cycling, Running, Syracuse Ironman 70.3, Training, Triathlons
Tags: , , , , , ,

Done! Very emotional finish for me yesterday. The heel nipping of self doubts, and former paradigms of accomplishing something I did as a much younger man came to an end yesterday at 2:47:08pm. I’m back, and I have put my stamp on it. 8 months of committing to a single end: crossing the finish line after covering 70.3 miles of the half ironman distance. I seized the day! Further more, I enjoyed every second of it, whether it was going as planned, and even as much when plans changed. In my very narrow, singular focus, it was my day to be had.

Before I go on further about my experience of race day, I cannot say enough or do it the proper justice in thanking Ken, all of his race staff, and especially so, the hundreds of volunteers that went above and beyond to make the race day experience fun, and memorable. We (athletes) were treated like royalty on the course and at the race venue. There were friendly folks out along the course that cheered us on. The couple that was spraying the misting spray from their garden hose on Palladino Road made lots of friends that day. I would be one of those friends. I hear there is an appreciation party for the volunteers. In my opinion, us athletes should put it on. I’ll flip burgers, whatever is needed.

To everyone that helped put it on, thank you!

Race day- 3:18am, I’m up and moving. Alarm was set for 3:20am. No clue how my body does that. 3:20am is early even for hunting season. Lee is up, our weimeraners are not sure what is going on, but they’re getting fed, and liking it. Transition bag was packed night before, double check it again, we’re good to go. Finish my fueling ritual, and we’re down the road. Arrive at Jamesville Beach 4:40am from the south end of Apulia Road, no traffic, no fuss, no delay. Waiting in a long line is not something I am real good at and this suits me well.

A little bit of a walk from parking to the transition area. No problem, we’re early, and enjoyed the early morning walk. A little cool/brisk, but I am more than excited, and warm enough on my own accord. Headed down to body marking, and met fellow blogger Carrie Stevens who said she would be my personal body marker for the race 🙂 Great to meet folks that you chat with online. The marking area was set up on the way to entering the bike corral, and it was a no brainer. Got into the transition area, and set up for the race. Common throughout the day, everything you had to do or take care of was worry free, and easy. Us old guys trying to focus really appreciate this.

CNY Tri Club, had a tent along side the bike area, along with bike racks for the tri club. This is where race day hospitality goes into another gear/level. Great place to hang out, food, gatorade, two of their own porta-potties. Yep, life is good. My sister Kim (Fraser) met us their at the club tent. Lee (wife) and Kim were there not only as my support crew, they volunteered to be wet suit strippers. I had some fun with that topic. The club’s hospitality was extended to them as well, and is appreciated.

Met up with my fellow Endurance Nation Teammates Doug Johnson and Bob McCallum. Very cool to finally meet them in person. I would eventually see them again way out ahead on the run course. They were like rockets out there. Both were in full EN ninja mode. Doug went sub 5 hours (1st ever 70.3 event), Bob, just over the 5 hour mark. very fast company to keep.

Swim start couldn’t be better! Gorgeous blue sky morning. not too breezy, and very sunny. Perfect day! Before the start of the 50-59 swim wave, I have my mantra repeating in my head: “You have a plan, execute, and repeat. swim smooth, and steady.” The horn blared and off I went. No problems finding room to settle in. The new wet suit was feeling good. No real problems other than the occasional competitor swimming over me or bumping as the faster swimmers from the following waves worked their way passed me. I got kicked in the head once, but a side glance, not hard. No harm, no foul. I felt that I was swimming a little smoother, a little faster, and I would confirm that as I stood up at the swim exit point. 9 minutes faster than the open swim rehearsal on the swim course a week before. Slow yes, but faster, and I’ll take it. Got running down the line while pulling down the suit top, no problem. I spotted Lee and Kim, and had them strip the wet suit off. Told them I was stoked at a better swim time. Off I ran to get the bike.

No problems in transition. 5 minutes, a little slow, but I was ok with it. Long day still lay ahead. Got out on to the road and got things moving. The fast trip into the hamlet of Jamesville is deceiving as you get your first short hill after turning the corner. The race rehearsals were priceless in knowing what, when, where. Everything along the entire bike course went by in a flash, it felt very fast. Sweet Road went by faster then I remembered it during training. I think a lot of that perception comes not only from race day excitement, but in the fact of being among cyclists all through the course rather than the lonely time trial experience of training. With the swim wave starts there was a constant flow of faster cycling animals that powered up through the sea of triathletes that dotted the course. We were among some great talent during the race. The dreaded wall just before mile 20, went better than it did in training. I ran the rear disk, trispoke front wheel, and it was super aero. Lots of free speed with that setup.

The remainder of the bike went just as planned although a little faster than in training. Nutrition went as I had planned, although that is subject to post race review as will become evident shortly. I kept my heart rates in zone 2, and low zone 3. No big pushes. Everything I did on the swim and bike was done to set up a good run. The last third of the bike helps with that. I took every advantage on cruising the downhills, being very aero, and maintaining smooth effort on the remaining flat stretches of road, and small rises. Bike split- 3:20. A full 8 minutes faster than race rehearsal, and I did it with less effort. I felt really good about execution of the bike plan. Mentally I would have liked to see what I could have shaved off, and I am guessing 15-20 minutes. No doubt I would have been spent once I got off the bike. It is a race of combined disciplines after all. Two legs down, and all according to plan. I was feeling really good coming into the transition area.

Second transition went fine with out issues. 2 minutes, I was ok with it. The first few hundred yards, I was pleasantly surprised. I was moving forward and not feeling that bad getting my running legs under me. Just before reaching first run aid station, my left quad cramped up hard. Walked the station, picked up water/ice/coke.

At this very point in the race I have critical choices to make. The following is what I had going on in my endorphin soaked head: “Ok, I am well trained, a boat load of lessons from Endurance Nation to draw from, think it through.” That kept me calm and comforted for the entire run, that plus the statement I made the day before: “I plan to enjoy the day to the fullest.” For the stubborn side of my brain: “Seize the day” would satisfy any other negative thoughts.

I continued to walk another 100 yards and run down the first hill. It was getting hot, 81 degrees I am told, and I decided on trying a 9:45-10 min pace. I originally planned on 9:15 after the first mile. My quad settled down, and for a little while I thought I had straighten out my problem. Used the porta-pottie at the 2nd aid station. All good, fluids are good, yeah! Picked up water/ice/coke/iced sponges (love those.) On the way to mile three, my left hamstring locks up. Right side is now twinging. I massage a little, walk to corner that turns uphill to turnaround. At the corner, resume running. Third of a mile, my left quad locks up. I stop, and massage with stretches. I walk to turnaround and next aid station, continuing to grab water/ice/coke. Run the down hill at 10:15 pace. Calves start to twinge, I slow down to 11:30 pace. Bottom of the hill, both quads start up again. I walk to next aid station, same routine- water/ice/coke/orange slices/ice sponges. Slammed a GU gel @ mile 5. Run the flat up to the hill just before the park. Walk to top, and resume running to aid station @ mile 6, water/ice/coke. Run to second loop, stop at shower tent for 30 seconds. It felt wonderful. Asked the volunteer if I could just camp there, and I made myself laugh. Saw Lee there, happy thoughts, make it happen. Good pick me up. Think about 15 great years together. The love of a good woman is so inspiring. I’m back running to start the 2nd loop.

It was tempting in so many ways to say the hell with it, and walk off the course. “Seize the day” was my redeeming thought for the day. As I describe my battle, I fail to mention that I was in good spirits. I was truly enjoying my race experience despite the setback. The volunteers were wonderful, saying hi, thanks, and joking with them, even when I was reduced to walking to work off the cramping. I met a bunch of triathletes from New Jersey while out on the run course. Spent some time with a few of them. I enjoyed that a great deal. Misery sure does love company 🙂 Post race on the way home I discussed this with Lee, about wanting to bail on the first loop. She flat out told me, no way, not happening. Would not let you do that. She knows me, and she had my back. I do count my blessings.

2nd loop out, I made it to the next aid station again, water/ice/coke/orange slices. Walked a quarter mile, ran the down hill again. My slow pace was now slower than first trip out. Both hamstrings would tighten up on and off again. I did manage to satisfy whatever was cramping up my quads. Most of the second loop was the same as far as fluid intake. Biggest change during the repeat loop- I hooked up with fellow triathlete Peter Jennings from New Jersey. He was having similiar issues and we decided to walk the hills, run the downhills and flats at a pace where nothing ached or cramped up.

On a side note, it did bother me a little to walk a hill, as I happen to like them. I live and train in a hilly area.

We enjoyed great conversation, and the last 5 miles just went by. I still had gas in the tank, but could not get the muscles to loosen up. Calves that I worried so much about twinged a few times, but never became a problem. A few times I tried to up the pace and I would get immediate feedback of tighthening and twinges of different parts of both legs. I problem solved as much as I could, and I felt empowered that I knew I was doing what I could to salvage the remainder of the race. After meeting up with Peter I was happy to resolve the dilemma to just enjoy the ride, and not do any further damage.

We ran most of the last mile in, and did our best to look good for the pictures. We all know that is most important. In fact during the semi epic loop back to the finish, that is what I said to most of the people we chatted with. I made simple fun of the moments.

Crossing the finish line was so emotional. So important personally. Crossing the finish at 7:37:08 was a full hour longer than what I had anticipated. But other than being able to say I ran a faster time, I really don’t believe I would have enjoyed or savored the day any more. I would likely to have missed out on the final miles spent running along side with Peter. Lee and Kim were at the finish line waiting on me, and I was so glad to see them. I looked for them all the way along the finish lane.

Another side note: We both started in the same swim wave, but Peter is just over into the next age group. Even so, we timed our feet, and crossed the timing mats at the same time. Good fun.

The ice cold chocolate milk after the finish was so, so good. I went by the food tent, I wanted what they had, but could not eat. It would be a few hours before I did. Funny how a big day in the sun will do that to you. Lee and I stopped back up to the CNY Tri Club tent, and I got a wonderful massage. A big thank you for arraigning that on race day. The massage tent at the finish was busy, and would have to wait. We headed home after that. The nice walk in seemed like a distance event walking back.

On our way out we saw several fellow triathletes still out on the course. Those folks are tough as nails, and have an iron will. They have my absolute admiration, and respect.

Stopped into Poole’s diner at the end of our road, and had a soft ice cream cone. You could say I inhaled it. Slept on the couch, and had a plate of perogies a few hours later!

Tonight, I celebrate with a chicken wing pizza, a mug of Arrogant Bastard Ale ( a favorite), followed by a salute of American Honey (Wild Turkey whiskey) at my favorite spot- Harry Tony’s.

This part of my journey has come to it’s natural end. The process from October, leading up to the time I cross the finish line has been more than an enjoyable one. The growth, lessons learned, improved fitness, and health has been for a lack of a better word, incredible!

This journey will transform into another. More weight to lose, more events to race, problems to solve and correct. Next year may bring bigger goals and challenges. I do thank all of you that followed my writings, and I hoped that we shared common ground at some level. A big thank you to Ken for prodding me to blog this journey. I am also forever grateful for Lee, my wife, who’s love and support made this all possible!

See you all at the next race!


  1. Carrie says:

    Congratulations!! So glad I saw you at the body marking station! Savor this accomplishment 🙂

  2. Beth says:

    Awesome job Mike! Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I am fairly sure I was out on the run course with you!

  3. Alex says:

    Great work! I was also out there – let me tell you, I wanted to cry on that first loop. Good for you for not giving up.

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