Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Marines Corps Marathon

It was the day I have been waiting for all summer and fall long in 2012.  It was October 28th, the day of the Marines Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.  I trained with the Team in Training Central PA team, and raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  I was lucky to have such great friends and family that I raised over $2,500 for the cause of finding a cure for blood cancer.  I was raising money first for a family friend Georgenna Pulti who was diagnosed with AML earlier this year.  I am glad to say after a stem cell transplant and some bouts of radiation she is doing good.  Later in the summer I also learned that my Aunt Sue was diagnosed with Lymphoma, and currently she is finished with her treatment and has to wait a little for a future check out.

That was the reason I ran this, and to get a Boston Qualifying time, but the first reason was the main one and more important   On the eve of the weekend we got news of the pending doom that was to fall on the Mid-Atlantic region, Hurricane Sandy.  Since I know they never cancel a marathon (this isn't baseball) we had all the stuff packed for the weekend on Friday night, and we had Bex stuff packed (she was staying with Lisa's parent for the weekend, this would be the first weekend or the first night we spent without her ever so I know this would be a tough trip for both of Lisa and I).  So Saturday morning came and we had the CR-V packed with everything we needed and dropped Bex off at Lisa's Mom house and said our good-byes, then headed over to our friend and fellow Team in Training (TNT) teammate, Jen's house.  We then went over to our Mentor Shannon's house and picked her up to come down with us.  We got down to the Marriott Hotel without any major problems except for a little accident on I-83 where we had to detour around an accident (probably should have gone down 15 and listen to the girls) but we got there.  We checked into the hotel, unpacked all the stuff and headed to lunch with some of the TNT staff members and coaches.  We ate at a place called Chopt'd that had salads and wraps. I had a wrap that was like a well chopped up salad in a wrap, I actually liked it, which is rare for me because I never ate a salad in my life.

After lunch we headed to the Metro to go to the expo.  The expo was guarded like it was Fort Knox or something, everyone's bag was checked and everyone went through a mental scanner thing, but we got in and a felt super secure (actually I think it was a bit of an overkill but who am I, just a stupid runner anyways).  Got the shirt(a really nice thick turtleneck), bib and walked around the expo with my wife and waited to for Jen and Shannon to finish going through the expo, and we headed back to the hotel.  We caught some of the Ironman World Championship on NBC and three quater of the way through it we headed down to the inspirational dinner (for my Tri friends I did DVR it at my house and watched in Monday afternoon, it wasn't like a planned a wedding on the day of the actually event or anything). 

We heard a great speech from John Bingham (a.k.a. the Penguin), which was funny and very informative for the first timers, and for me (I always say we never stop learning, ever).  Then we heard a speech from an honor team mate who battled through blood cancer, and was getting ready to run his first 50 miler.  We left the inspirational dinner and headed up for a team meeting were we met our honor team mate Jeff Allen who has been battling cancer off and on since 1992.  He gave us some candy, and we had one more group picture and all headed to bed.  I flip through some of the TV stations on the hotel TV and really couldn't find anything to watch, so I turned on Netflix and started watching the "Spirit of the Marathon" which is a story of about 5 people running the Chicago Marathon, which I have seen about 100 times, and half way through it I was thinking of another move to watch which was "Running for Life" which is about Fred Lebow, the former race director and president of the New York Road Runners, and was on Netflix.  Fred Lebow, died of a brain cancer in 1994, and ran the NYC five boroughs marathon only once in 1992 (with Grete Waitz which also died of cancer I guess this is way we raise money), but anyways sometime during that I feel asleep.  

I woke up around 4am (we were meeting in the Lobby around 5:30), and got everything ready, which included my running shirt, which is pictured here. I had everything ready, kissed my wife good-bye and told her I would see her at the finishline, and headed to the Lobby to meet the team.  We all met up I think we took another picture, we love pictures at TNT, and we headed to the jam packed Metro to get to the Pentagon.  We got off and we headed to the running festival area, it was still dark outside, and you could tell it was going to be a somewhat windy day and possible rainy day to, since every weather report in the area was calling for morning shower.  I went to the bathroom and then I headed over to the baggage check area, and checked in my bag.  I saw the pacer for the 3:05 group and talked to him for a little bit, and then I saw him heading to the starting corrals.  I followed, but stopped for the morning prayer and the singing of the national anthem, and we final got to the start line, where Olympian Shalane Flanagan started us off.  For everyone who told me it would be crowded and I wouldn't be able to start at a decent pace, you all lied.  I was right up front, the only people in front of me were the US Marines and the Royal Navy.  So the moral here is to start in the front of the race if you want to do good. 

The race started great, for the first two miles we were right on a 7:00 minute pace, couldn't ask for a better start, a kept going need to take a nature break for a few seconds around mile 5 or so, but caught right back up to the group with no problems.  Around mile 10 I was running along side a Royal Navy person, and chatted with him a bit.  He said he was the Captain of the team that was challenging the US Marines in the Challenge Cup.  He told me then that everyone better be up the ways a bit.  I was feeling really good at this point, like nothing was going to stop me.  It was around mile 16 where I started feeling it slip just a little bit, similar to how I felt in NYC two years ago, but my pace was good and I thought if I could keep around a 7:20 or so pace the rest of the way I could make it.  We hit the bridge at mile 20 (this was the cut-off bridge, if you were not here at a certain time you were stopped from completing the marathon).  John Bingham brought this up in his speech the night before, and told us that, the bridge is said to be two miles long but it will feel like 11 miles long. He wasn't wrong!  The only thing I had to compare it to was the Queens Boro bridge in NYC, it was quiet and lonely, and at that time I really could've used a pick me up.  I finally got off the bridge and we headed into Crystal City, and met up with one of the TNT coaches, and he ran along side me for a little bit he offered me a salt tablet but I refused, and boy do I regret that.  He told me some of the conditions that I was facing like a massive head wind and he would catch me on the way out of Crystal City.  Another Royal Navy guy passed me, and I gave him a heads up that his Captain was up the road thinking all the guys were up ahead of him, and he was in major trouble if he didn't catch up.  He told me he had a nightmare time, and wished me luck.  I finally got out of Crystal City, and I was falling apart.  I stopped at the one food stations that was handing out doughnuts, I refused them as well thinking my stomach at this point didn't want to digest anything.  I started running after the water and gatorade I got into my system, and started cramping really bad.  I saw a group of people that were handing out oranges and ran to them hoping that the organes could get me through the last two miles.  

I struggled really bad the last two miles, but I told my self don't walk.  I told everyone my goal in this race was to qualify for Boston, which is a 3:10 for me.  Well I will never say that wasn't my goal, I did have one other thing I wanted to do was to see what I would do when if I hit the wall.  If you ever read Chris McCormick's book he talks about trying to psych your self out of bad spots in the race, and using positive thinking to get through the rough parts (even though he dropped out of Kona this year, guess sometimes he cannot do it either).   I wanted to at least try to get myself out of this bad part and keep going to the finish line.  There were so many times in my past were I would hit the wall and just start walking the rest of the marathon, and just give up there.  But this time I kept running, or jogging as many people would say.  I was in total pain legs cramping stomach cramping, I wanted to lay down and not move any more, but I kept pushing and kept pushing to the finish line.  I finally crossed with an official time of 3:15:54, not good enough for Boston, and no I don't think I will ever give up the hunt for a entry into Boston either, maybe I just need to get older so I get more time to qualify.  I finished with sore legs and really nothing else to show for it but some awesome medal they were giving out, but I know I can push on now, and just need that push to be faster next time.  

When I got to the finish line I think I shook every Marine's hand and thanked them for their service, they all told me good job.I  even shook the Royal Navy guy's hand I saw in Crystal City and thanked him too (they are our friends aren't they).  I finally weaved/hobble my way through the finishing festival and walked about 100 miles (it was more like a half a mile but it felt like 100 miles, I laid down a few time in the grass to rest) to the TNT Tent to check in there.  I was told that they think I was the first TNT person to come in, I still have my doubt on that there were three people at the tent already that had metals (they may have been 10K medals through, I wasn't really looking) I drank some coke and sat there waiting for Jen to finish.  Lisa and I caught up to Jen and we finally headed back to the hotel on the Metro. Which was a nightmare and had to cut in line a few times so that it won't take us hours to get back to the hotel.  I didn't see my friend Andy who is in the Air Force, but we did text each other that evening, and he finished in just over four hours which is an awesome first time marathon time.  We went up to Anne the TNT staffer for this event and had some Tequila with her husband, then we went to the victory dinner (it was really just potato skins and chicken fingers) with some of the TNT people and later that night Lisa and I went out for some pizza, and then we headed to bed. The next day we were hoping to get some cupcakes from Baked and Wired but they were closed do to the forcasted storm.  Cupcakeless we began our race with Hurricane Sandy back to Harrisburg, we won by the way.   

Until next time race fans!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Harrisburg Half Marathon

Ok I will make this short this time, since it was a short race. I guess I signed up for this race kind of out of jealousy, everyone else was racing this weekend the Nations Triathlon in DC, the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Nevada, and Ironman Wisconsin. Facebook was buzzing with racing fever and I guess I caught it. I ran the Harrisburg Half twice before and both times were PR so I gave it another go and to see how my training is going.

I waited until Saturday to sign up I guess I wanted to see how the weather was going to be, and it was awesome. I drove down to the "Y" and signed up payed the $60 entry fee and got my bag of stuff, and on the way home ate all the candy that came with in the bag.

So Lisa and I set out for City Island around 6:30 Sunday morning. I warmed up a little met with some TNT'ers Nate, Mary, and Chelsea. We chatted then we all had to go to the bathroom right before we started so I got separated from them at the start. I went to the start line and my stomach wasn't feeling right, but I told myself just suck it up and hope it gets better. So the announcer was announcing stuff (I couldn't hear anything the mega phone wasn't that "MEGA" I guess) eventually the gun went off and we started I worked my way around some groups and eventually got out of the large packs, and I was chasing the faster pack of runners, coming around Metro Bank Park (the baseball field). We took the Market Street bridge and headed south I hit the first mile marker at 6:24 or so. Now I wanted to PR this race and that pace was just about right for me (a little fast but good for the first mile). I settled down to about a 6:30 pace eventually and I was holding that pace for most of the race. We went around that park at PennDOT (I forget what that park is called but it is park of the Greenbelt if that helps anyone) and we came back up through Shipoke I saw Nate and I think Chelsea again and shouted "hi" at them. Then at mile 4 (the first water stop) I got some much needed water and noticed the stomach pains were not there anymore (maybe I out ran them). We ran up along the river until the turn up the bike path right after the Harvey Taylor Bridge, and headed north until Vaughn street I caught one more runner on that stretch and at the near then end we could see the leaders they were probably about 15 minutes a head of us.

Kept going north on Second Street saw Bob Seacord he tried to take a photo with his phone but he wasn't fast enough (Bob, if you are reading this, sorry but I hope you understand I am not slowing down so some person to can take my photo, ask my wife if you don't believe me). We turned and then we were on the back stretch of the course (the part were we start heading for home not the middle of the course) from Third Street back to Vaughn and back to Front Street I caught one more runner on Front Street and picked up a runner that was right on my shoulder at this point. I caught another runner right before we turned to go down by the river. It was a TNT'er named Steve (I heard some guys yell that at him). He passed me and I held on until the ramp by the Walnut Street bridge were him and the guy that was following passed me like Dave Geesemen passed me in junior high track (he was on his fourth lap I was only on my third, if you don't get this saying ask me about it sometime).  Both Steve and the other guy ran a great race, and they knew right when to pass me, guess I need to work on a kick in the future.  I chased them across the Walnut Street bridge but couldn't catch them. I noticed the clock right before I crossed the finish line the clock saying 1:24:50 (my official time was 1:24:44). This was a new PR for me by almost 5 minutes or so.  I remember what Lisa told me right before my last bathroom break, and that was "This will be a good race for you, I feel it" can't say she was wrong on that account, she normally isn't wrong on these matters.

I gave the two guys that beat me a hand shake and a good job, and Lisa, Bex and I went to grab some food. They had some fruit I ate an orange and some watermelon chatted with a few of the other finishers and then headed out. Had a chat with Steve the TNT'er we chatted about what races we did for TNT and I was kind of waiting for the results to be posted. Bex was getting fussy and we decided to head out. Bex feel asleep on the car ride home Lisa and I got Mochas from Sheetz and a doughnut for me. When we got back I took Bex for a 5 mile run around the neighborhood. The Marines Corps Marathon training plan said 18 miles this weekend (can't cheat on that). I got back and looked up the results on-line I was 4th in my age group (glad I didn't stick around) and 22nd overall not to bad for me.

I guess that setting a PR is a good sign my training is going well and I hope I can say I qualified for Boston on the 28th of October.

That is all from me race fans


Friday, August 24, 2012

Age Group National Championship

The USA Triathlon age-group national championship were held in Burlington, VT this year.  This however was my first time going to the championship, I some how qualified through the thirty-three percent rule they had at the Nation's Triathlon, where the top thirty-three percent of each age group can go to the national championship (I don't know why they don't do slots like most races, it probably has to do with money).  But anyways I made it and I had a cousin and her family that I don't see enough of, and I thought it would be pretty cool to go to the national championships and see were I stack up with the top athletes in my age group.

So Lisa, Bex, and I got some breakfast Thursday morning at the house and we loaded up the car, with my bike (R2D2) on the top of the car and we headed north to Vermont.  I had Chrissee Wellington book "A Life Without Limits" about the world champion Chrissee Wellington on my iPhone.  The book lasted the whole way up, and Lisa loved it (she probably just told me that so I wouldn't feel bad for making her listen to it), but anyways we got up to Vermont mid-afternoon and our first stop was the expo at the Sheraton hotel.  I picked up my packet looked around the expo, and picked up some free bottles and then we headed down the road to our hotel.  We stayed at the La Quinta which was okay, nothing great just some place to stay for three nights.  Our first meal in town was at Charlie's Chicken, where Lisa and I got a whole chicken and two side.  The chicken was the size of a large bowling ball and could have feed a small village (it did say it feed two, but I was thinking this was probably two very large people this was meant it for).  Anyways we got out of there with our stomach full of chicken, french fries, and Mac-n-Cheese. 

During dinner I realized I forgot a swim suit for the practice swim the next day so Lisa, Bex, and I went shopping for a swim suit for me.  We frist went to Eastern Mountain Sport (EMS), and they were more of a hiking camping store, but the guy there told me to try SkiRack which was down the street and a sponsor of the race.  We headed down there and I found a pair of tri shorts, for about $50 which is the cost of a swim suit anyways so I got them.

The next day Lisa, Bex and I went down to Waterfront park to search for the swim practice area.  We found out by looking at the signs that the swim practice area was a little over a mile north or the actual race start, and so we walked the mile to North Shore Park.  I noticed that the lake was a little choppy, or actually very choppy.  There were waves that were close to three feet high.  It was tough to swim in it and I only got about 3/10 of mile, and I got out.  I didn't really want to die, and I sort of did get a handle of swimming in the choppy lake.  That didn't stop me from messaging Coach Bob and asking how to swim in the choppy lake.  He told be to swim with the waves don't fight them (you will lose) and turn more so you don't swallow water.  After the swim Lisa and I walked back to the car and we got some lunch a Moe's, that burrito place.  After I lunch we took my bike to the transition area.  I set the bike in transition and we returned to the hotel.  

At the hotel we waited for a little bit for my cousin to call, she and her husband were taking us to dinner.  We went to a nice Italian place called "Three Tomatoes" I had Chicken Parmesan (my usual) and it was awesome.  We all caught up with the lastest family news, and our lives through dinner and made plans for Lisa and Bex to meet up with them the next day at the race.  We got back to the hotel and I layed everything out for the next day.  I figured out the weird and wacky way they did the bibs and stickers for everything.   I took a shower and rested my head.  I actually feel asleep pretty fast and had a pretty good night sleep. 

The next morning I woke up around 4 am and I got everything ready to go, we left the hotel around 6am, after Lisa put the tattoo numbers on me.  Lisa dropped me off at the waterfront and I set up my transition area, and then I went to the bathroom.  The weather was windy and chilly, and the wind was scary since I knew the wind caused the lake to be choppy, and I didn't want the lake to be choppy since I am not a very good swimmer.  I caught up with Lisa and Bex and we started watching the wave starts.  During one of the waves, I heard someone was pulled from the water, and I later heard that the person was pronounced died when he arrived at the hospital.  This does happen in this sport, but you never get use to hearing that someone passed on a course.

It was finally my time to go to the boat house where we started the race.  We all jump off the pier into the water and had a very short practice swim.  I was one of the last people in the wave to jump in, since I am not a very good swimmer and I hate to tread water.  I finally jumped in about two minutes before the horn went off and took a few practice strokes and noticed that the lake wasn't as choppy as I thought. I got into position  and the announcer noticed we were one of the largest waves in the race.   The horn went off and we were off.  I was in a big pack of swimmers for the first 200 meters or so, I moved out to my left to get in some room.  I was sighting off the people just to the right of me until we got to the second right turn.  I apparently didn't make the turn sharp enough and I swam way outside, the boat actually came out and told me to turn in.  By that time I noticed the wave behind us has caught up to me.  I tried to catch up with them and finally caught them near the end.  I looked at my watch when I got out of the water and it said 30 minutes and some change.  The water wasn't that bad, it was a bit choppy in spots, but overall it was a good swim.  My goal was around 25 minutes, and swimming off course and finishing in 30 minutes wasn't to bad.

I got out of the water and in transition, and got my swim stuff off and my bike stuff on, and I was off on an out and back route in Burlington, VT.  There was one large hill in the beginning of the bike and rolling hills for most of the course.  The course somewhat scenic for the parts that I was looking around at, which weren't many spots.  I noticed we had a tail wind going out and a head wind coming back, or at least that is how it felt to me.  The crowd support was great in spots and I was moving along the course.   The bike here is only 40k or just under 25 miles so I just tried to get through it as fast as possible.  My bike leg was 1:16:22, I got into transition and got my bike shoes off and my run shoes on and then I was off on the run.

The run started with a hill, you went straight up the hill right off the bat.  This was the worse part of the run.  I eventually got up the hill and the first mile was around 7:15, it would be my slowest mile of the run.  You then start working your way down the hill, and eventually make two lefts and your are heading back to Water Front Park were the race ends.  I was moving down the back stretch, my last mile was a 6:26 and then I saw my support team my cousin Shelby, Pete (her husband), Ben (Pete's son), Lisa, and Bex I high-fived Lisa and I headed to the finish line, where I crossed the finish line in an official time of 2:32:39.  Okay I should say at this point I only actually did one olympic distance before, which was the Fort Ritchie triathlon in Maryland.  I approved on that by about 15 minutes.  I should be proud that I took 15 minutes off, but then I looked at my placing for the day.  I ranked 120th out of 144 finishers in my age group.  I really can't be happy being in the bottom half of the pack.  After sometime I realized I was racing against the best in the country.  You had to qualify for this race, which I will confess wasn't that hard, but still not everyone made this race.  So I finally got over that I really can't compete with the big boys yet, but maybe someday I will.

After the race my support crew and I went to a learning center that was located at the Waterfront Park called "Echo".  It had information about local wild life, and other stuff, and it was about an hour long, which I thought was a good length, since Bex normally loses interest around that time.  After Echo we said good-bye to Shelby, Pete, and Ben and headed back to the hotel.  Lisa and I took Bex swimming in the hotel pool and decided to go to the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory later that evening.  We learned how they make ice cream, and also learned they took a corresponds course from Penn State, no wonder their ice cream is so good.  We enjoyed some ice cream at the end of the tour, and took Bex to a play ground that was on their campus, after that we headed back to the hotel which was around 20 minutes away.

The next morning I went for a quick run back down to the Water Front, and when I got back Lisa and Bex were up and we went to the Kountry Kart for breakfast (it was recommend by my cousin) and it had this awesome breakfast sandwich which included a hash brown in side the sandwich.  With breakfast in our hands we headed down to watch the sprint national championship.  We saw the last few waves start the swim, and we saw some of the participant come out on the bike.  Knowing of the long journey back to PA, we decided to head home.

Will until next time, which will probably be the Marines Corp Marathon in Washington D.C. in October, which I am running for Georgenna Puliti who is batlling AML a form of Leukemia, and you can check out my mission at http://running4georgenna.com.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ironman Texas

The day had finally arrive, it was time to leave for Texas.  It was Monday the 14th of May, the CR-V was packed. We were on our way after a quick stop a my friend Jason's house to pick up some stuff for the trip and a stop at the Post Office, the kid and the wife were in the car ready for a long ride.  The plan was to drive as far as I could that night stay in some motel off the highway Tuesday evening, and make the rest of the way to The Woodlands on Wednesday.  I texted my cousin who live in Texas about 2 hours east of The Woodlands, and told her we were on our way.  She was excited to see everyone, and told me if I can get there by tomorrow evening I had a place to stay if we can get there.  So the goal change, make it to her house and I can save $80 on a hotel room, and get to see my cousin a few days early (which is great since we don't see each other that much anymore).

We drove straight through the night, it mostly rained all the way to Tennessee, and started to clear when we got in to Tennessee.  The sun started to come up in Georgia, and we stopped in Alabama for some breakfast.  The rest of the day we drove, stopped for lunch, and got pulled over for speeding in Louisiana, which is now on my list for worst states ever (previously held by Alabama for worst roads ever).

We called my cousin Allison around 3pm told her where we were, and told her we would show up around 8pm.  We made it to Orange,TX in just over 24 hours straight of driving from home.We got to my cousin's home, and unpacked some stuff, and stayed up to around 9:30 catching up, got washed up and went off to bed around 10 or so.  We got up around 7 ate some Cheerios (Bex's favorite) saw Allison off to work, and later we went to a local playground.  Later in the morning we went to the museum where Allison worked and she showed the exhibits, which were awesome (except maybe for the birds, Texas has this thing for birds, go to the Houston Zoo and you will know what we are talking about).  Then we went back to the house, got my bike and we were off to The Woodlands.  We got there some time in the afternoon got my goodie bag and we shopped at the official ironman store, got some t-shirts (like $80 worth) and then we headed to the hotel.

The hotel was about 20 minutes from the start of the race in Conroe, TX.  We took Bex to the pool later in the afternoon and then we went out to dinner.  On Thursday morning, I went for a 11 mile bike ride, it was cool and the weather wasn't too bad.  It really never got that bad that some described, in the morning it was usually cool, and by the afternoon got hot, but never scorching hot (the dew point never got that high).  On Friday I went to the open water swim process, which next time I won't forget my timing chip (I had to run back to the hotel to get mine to get my swim in, but I did), and set up the bike in transition after the swim.  Friday afternoon my cousin came into town, she was heading to Washington D.C. on Sunday, and was staying in Houston which was about 10 miles south of The Woodlands.  We had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory walked some of it off my walking around the water front to see where everything was going to be.  Lisa and Allison worked out plans on were to meet the next day (they were going to go shopping as I did this ironman thing), and we said good bye for the night.

Lisa and I went to bed after watching some basketball (it was the only thing on) and slowly feel asleep.  I got up around 3 double checked everything, and got ready to go.  Lisa got up around 4, we packed everything up, and we left for transition.  Lisa dropped me off at the transition area and drove to race start. I went checked on my bike, and got my tires inflated, checked my gear bags, and I went off to the swim start, which was a mile or so to the North Shore Park.  I chatted with some people who were walking down there as well, and we were all hoping for good weather conditions which were forecasted for the day.  I was down there in the park eating my orange and the rest of my bagel, and then I decided to go check in my morning bag, and my special needs bags.  I had all my stuff in my bags, and was wearing my Team in Training tri kit.  The one volunteer notice my stickers were falling off and took my bag over to the truck and used a Sharpie to write my number on my bag, he noticed my TNT kit and shook my hand, and said "Thank you, from a survivor, and good luck today"  I was kind of stunned since this normally doesn't happened to me, and I said thank you and I am glad he was doing ok.  I didn't really get any information from him about what type of cancer he had or how it was going now.  I was really kind of nervous for this race to start.  They shortly started to corral the professionals in to the water, and after that was the age-group folks (that would be me) turn to get corral.  I knew the water was to deep to stand in and I don't like to tread water for any period of time so I waited as long as I could to get in the water, I waited about 1 minute for the race start and it still seemed to take forever to start the race.

Eventually the cannon went off and we started.  It was nothing like I ever experienced, it was crowded. I don't think I have ever done a mass start like this before, it was crazy.  Ever stroke I took I hit someone, but I kept trying to swim like Tarzan until I got out into a clear part and then just swam.  The swim was a swim straight south then about three quarters of the lake made a left for about 100 yards, then you started swimming back and then you turn right into the canal at the water front.  Everything was going well I felt good I even thought I was sighting okay, until I got into the canal.  When we got into the canal it was the start all over again.  It was extremely crowded it seemed like every stroke I took I hit someone.  My arms were also chafing at this point, and my back started hurting a bit here.  The canal seemed to be endless, I kept trying to see where I was and with the sun I couldn't see anything so I just followed the crowed, it was big enough at this point.  I just kept swimming hoping to get to the end of the swim, it really seemed endless.  My swim time was 1:26:57, which was better than my 1:30 goal, but I was really hoping to get under 1:20, but oh well, time to get on the bike.

I grab my bike gear bag, got my gear on, and off to my bike.  I gave a name to my bike (everyone else gives their bike a name I thought I should too), R2D2.  I did this for a few reason: first it is blue and white like the droid in the Start Wars movies (I love the Star Wars movies); second, it sits on top of my car in transport like the droid did on the X-Wing in the movies; third, it sometimes has a personality like sometimes it doesn't want to shift and other times it is just perfect (this might be because I ride a lot of miles on it and it is normal wear and tear on the bike, but I like to say it has a personality).  R2 and I were off, they announced my name as I left transition and everyone was cheering I waved and thanked everyone, and mounted the bike and off I went.  I few meters down the road I saw my support team Allison, Lisa, and Bex cheering me on, and I was out on the main course.  In my mind I though Texas (the whole state was just a flat plain state), this was wrong. The course was hilly nothing to extreme, it wasn't as hilly as Musselman in New York, but was no where near as flat as Eagleman in Maryland.  We had a tail wind on the way out, and I was flying around 18.5 MPH.  I knew I had to conserve some energy at this 100 plus mile distance was not unusual for me, so I knew how to ride it.  I hit mile 60 a little after 3 hours of riding, got my special needs bag, which I had a spare tube, Red Bull, some little muffins and Twizzlers in there. I grab the Red Bull drank it, ate my muffins for some calories, added some sun block on (I did miss a few parts you will be able to see them next time I'm at the pool).  Then stuck the tube and the Twizzlers in my pocket and I was off again.  Nothing really happened for the next 20 miles, and around mile 80 I had a flat.  I pulled off the road took my rear wheel off changed the tire and it took 10-15 minutes, inflated the tire with a C02 and back off to the road for another 32 miles.  Each aid station I grabbed some water and some Power Bar Perform (a.k.a. sports drink).  I could feel the temperature going up on the bike, but really never thought too much about it.   Around mile 90 my feet and my legs started to hurt, this wasn't too abnormal for me my feet usually will hurt and legs will get sore on my long rides so I just keep pushing forward.  I was probably trying to make up the time I lost with the flat, but I just kept riding.  I was telling myself running is my sport and I can always run, and if I can't I still can walk to the finish.

I final got to the finish of the bike, and got into transition (bike time was 6:30).  Now in my gear bag I had a pair of Asics shorts and a shirt for the run, and I had them there just incase the tri kit wasn't working for me.  I sat down outside of the tent throw some baby powder on my feet (this is suppose to help with the blisters on your feet), and was talking to someone else there from Louisiana (yes the state that I hate, I don't hate the people of Louisiana just the state in general).  He stated it was a nice day, and I commented I thought it would be much hotter than this, even though at this point it wasn't cool anymore it was hot.  He told me that the humidity was down today and was down for most of the week.  I couldn't agree with him more, and couldn't have been happier that he was right.  I got my shoes on and left my running kit in the bag, my arm chafing wasn't bother me when I ran into transition and I didn't want to lose the support of the Team in Training people that might be out there cheering people on.  I ran into the tent to drop the bag off and then out onto the course.

The run course was three loops, which went right through The Woodlands, some of the parks and developments and a lot of the running was on the sidewalks of the parks (If you don't know most side walks if you run on them will make your feet hurt a lot more that regular black top on the road).  The first section is a small section out in the grass and up a little steep hill, and into the parking lot of GE, which was one of several big corporation that are down there.  Then it went through the North Shore Park (yes the same one we started the swim in), and then out on the road and into another walking path which was shaded and then out to a housing development and then through another park and then through a housing development that was under construction.  The next part took you down the water front, on the opposite side of transition and then took you across the bridge and down to the other side of the water front and then you either went on the next loop or you went to the finish.

My plan for the run was to run from aid station to aid station, and for the most part this was ok.   I just kept trying to get fluids in me and pouring water and ice to keep me cool.  The crowd was just awesome, many of them would give you high-fives, and a lot of them would cheer me on by cheering "GO TEAM!!"  I made it to the end of the first lap saw my support team again, and gave a high-five to Bex (I heard this cheered her up for the day, she probably just missed me).  I went onto the second lap and the wheels started to fall off the wagon at this point.  At some points I could barely run 100 feet let alone a whole mile to an aid station.  At one point I asked a 54 year-old who was next to me "is this the Texas death march?" his reply is "yes, but it will get better when the sun goes down."  I thought for a moment and said to my self hell the sun is going to go down soon, I want to finish before that, and started to put a run together for another 200 feet or so.  But my knee hurt and I could feel a blister starting on my foot, and had to walk again.

Somehow I made it around the second lap, and saw my support team.  I gave Bex a hug this time, and told Lisa it might take me a while to get around this third lap since I wasn't feeling too good.  I think my exact words were "This lap is going to be a long one," her reply was "better start running then."  I started to run a little more and just told my self just keep running.  I tried to run for half mile and walk half.  This wasn't working since every time I started running my knee would hurt again, and I stopped.  When I got back into North Shore Park I told my self that my knee was hurting, because my body wanted to quit (I don't real know if my knee was a physical or mental thing, so kids if your knee hurts you should probably stop, but this is me and not you so I kept going).  I just told myself that my knee wasn't the problem it was all in my head, there wasn't anything physically wrong with my knee, it was hot and my body was the problem, so I kept running after a half mile, and kept running.  I saw some people laying in the grass exhausted, I told myself don't let that happen to you, just keep running and you will get to the finish. When I finally exited the park the knee stopped hurting (it probably wasn't a physical thing).  I made it to the aid station, a very small accomplishment, I put some fluids in me and poured water and ice on me and tried to run to the end of the one street, when you got to the end of the street you got some shade, so it felt like it was worth running for.  I met someone there who was from Bangkok, Thailand. I was walking at this point and he offered me some pepperoni. I  politely said no since my stomach was not all there at this point, he was on his second lap we chatted a bit he said he was there for a business meeting and he managed to schedule everything together so he could do this race (I am amazed how some people schedule things so they can probably get there work to pay for the travel).  We got to the next aid station and I took off for a short run.  I saw them putting out glow sticks, and I started to get worried, I actually picked one up thinking Bex might want one, and put in in the race belt.  I caught up to someone who asked me the race time, we were at about mile 22 at this point and the clock on my watch said 12:15 or so.  We talked for a while, he was from the East Texas Coast chapter of Team in Training, and we talked about how we both got started in triathlon through Team in Training, it seemed like he mostly did the Nations triathlon and a few in Texas.  After a while he said let's just run a little bit, and let's beat 13 hours at this thing.  I wasn't really in the mood to run for any period of time at this point, but I said I would give it a go.  We ran probably at a 10 minute pace for about quater of a mile and he needed to stop, I said good-bye and see you at the finish, he said the same (I know I'm a jerk, but I needed to keep running to finish the race).   I don't know if he knew this, but he really go me through a tough part of the race for me, which is usually how things work.  Dave Scott once said at a dinner I went to you will have bad times through the race, but just do what you can and get through them.  That is what happened here, this guy (I never got his name)  got me through a very tough part of the race and I got to the next aid station took the fluids and poured ice on me.  I put another run together, this section of the run was through the developing neighborhood and I knew the next section was along the water front, so I told my self run to the aid station and then walk to the water front which was only about 200 yards or so and then run the rest of the way the finish.

I got the the Waterway passed a few people, and through the crowds again, they were high-fiving and yelling "GO TEAM" I caught up to a TNT person patted her on the back said "GO TEAM" as I ran by her, she greeted me with the same response.  I walked a little after that for about 100 yards or so and then ran to the next aid station, from there I had to run across the bridge and down along the other side of the river front.  The cruel part of this section is you run right by the part where you go to finish, you have to run out and then back for about mile to this section again, so as I ran off the bridge saw that and told my self I would be there soon, I got to the last aid station got fluids and walk a little bit, I saw a women there from Los Angles, and she said is this your third lap, I said "Yes, almost there" she replied pick up the pace, so I did I ran to the last section of the run course which was up a hill and back into the town a little bit.  I gave some people a high-five, everyone was clapping and cheering, I found out that to finish you have to run down this small hill and then back up it to the finish line (another cruel joke they put in this race).  I was pumping my arms and giving high-fives and I heard the announcer say "Keith Evans, Harrisburg Pennsylvania, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!" and I crossed the finish line (my run time was 4:33 and total time was 12:47:13) and one of the catcher caught me gave me some water and had another volunteer take my chip off.  She sent me through the photo portion of the corral, where I posed for the shot, Lisa always said I don't pose enough, and I thought this race deserved a good pose for a photograph.  I gave the glow stick (which I didn't need to use) to my wife gave her a hug and a kiss posed for a picture with her, that my cousin took and headed down to the athlete village.  They had chocolate milk which I loved, and I took my shoes off and put my Crocs on and met up with the support team and we headed back to the parking lot.

I said good-bye to my cousin, and thanked her for coming out to support me and to hang out with Lisa and Bex today.  Which makes me want to thank everyone that was out there volunteering, cheering, and just watching the race.  I never knew how big the crowds out here would be, and they were huge the gave you support when you needed, had some great signs to keep our spirits up, my favorite was "Suck it up, Buttercup" it reminded me of my English friend that would always tell me that when I said I was tired or sore.

I also want to give some thought here, this was a journey for me about six months of training, but it was much longer than that.  When I saw the Ironman for the first time on the TV, I wanted to do this.  I knew it would hurt and it would take me a long time, and most people would call me crazy for doing it, but I still wanted to do this.  I don't really know what made me want to do this, but to answer the question you are all asking, I will say this "run your ironman and you will have your answer."

I also want to thank my cousin for coming out, it was awesome to see her, since we use to see each other several times a year as kids, but since we became adults we haven't seen each other so much, it was great to see her, and I heard Lisa and her had a good time shopping in The Woodlands.  I also want to give a thanks to Jason who was my training partner for most mornings, he would help me with my swim, and my run at the LA Fitness gym almost every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5am.  Coach Bob for helping me on some long bike rides (I know I probably went on a few to many, but hell I like the long bike ride).  And last but certainly not least my wife Lisa, when we got married I weighted about 230lbs, and she never ever thought I would want to do Ironman, and if she did she probably wouldn't want to marry me.  But for the past 6 months or so she was there when I would ride 2 hours after work on the bike, and my long 6 to 7 hour bike rides on the weekend.  She never complained and she always supported me through this and for that I owe great debt of gratitude.  People that do these races are just one part of a team, and I truly understand that, we might get the metals and the shirts, but the families also deserve some of the credit for it.

Will I guess that is all for now until my next race, where I will see my other cousin and her family up in Vermont, so I hope to see you again.