Thursday, January 12, 2012

And so it begins in Naples

Well the time is here and I am a basket of emotions.  My wife and I have talked about '2012' for such a long time!  It always seemed like a distant time that we dreamed about, but that would never actually ever happen!  Well when the ball droped to bring in the New Year I said, "Oh Crap!  It's 2012."

Like I said, I am having some mixed emoption.  I am scared for the unknown, but trusting this project is suppose to happen.  I am excited to go out there and give it my best, but also sad that I will be away from my family so much.  I am worried about my mind and body's ability to hold up, but am super confident in my physical and mental abilities.

The first race of the year came super quick and I stated to do my final prep for Naples Florida, a new HITS series race.  I said goodbye to the family and headed out to the unknown for the first of 30.  I am now pretty accustomed to air travel and had an easy time with the flights, althought three layovers is not my favorite when crossing the country.  A huge thank you to one of my clients, Penny Moir and her husband Scott, for booking my flights using their airmiles.  This is an easy and free way for people to help me out.  If you have extra miles I would love to discuss the possibilities.  I arrived late into Naples, Florida and didn't have any issues finding my host families home.  My good friend, Brian Bailey, has a  sister who lives right by the race site and was kind enough to open her house to me for a few days while I raced.  It was like I was at home, as they have 3 kids similar in age to my 5.  I had the pleasure of sleeping on one of the girls beds with flowers print and girly colors.  Made me feel right at home.  They were incredible hosts and took care of me the whole time.  THANK YOU!

Relaxing and fishing with host family in Naples



I went down to the race site, Saturday, for check-in and to watch the athletes run the shorter distance races.  The HITS series is designed to have a sprint and olympic distance on Saturday, and the half and full distance on Sunday. When I unpacked my bike, I noticed that the airline had nicely opened all my stuff and forgot to put it all back in.  They had lost the top bearing for my headset on my SHIV.  Where is TIMP Cyclery when I need them?!  Luckily, I found a local shop that helped me get the right part!!  My favorite Saturday activity was the FREE novice division race.  This is something special that the HITS series is doing and I LOVE IT!!!  They think, and I agree, that the sport should be a family friendly event.  So on Saturday, after the Sprint and Olympic races were all done, they put on a short novice race for new first time racers and kids.  I am super excited for this, as I will be bringing my kids to some of their other races throughout the year.  What an awesome way to include the family without breaking the bank!  Here are a few shots of the kids in action!

Novice Division Start 
50 meter swim!


The night before the race I ran into some fun fellow competitors.  We all decided to go out to eat together.  We found a nice local place called Naples Tomato.  It was a little expensive, but was good eats.

Richard Chackman, Damone Weaver, IronCowboy and Rameek Mcnair

Race morning came quick and I was ready to go.  I felt completely recovered from my test race, which I did over Thanksgiving in Cozumel, but did not feel I was in as good as shape.  I had to recover from the event and then not do too much before this first one of the season.  I was not 100% sure what my body would give me.


Ricking the TriMapper Tattoo

Swim Start In The Gulf - Naples Florida

The race field was small, as the race series is just brand new.  I am working with First Endurance and using their entire product line to help me get through the 30 IM events.  I have had great results in my training with them and am excited to continue to learn and use their products.  The full and half distance athletes all started at the same time with the full athletes having to exit the water, round a cone on shore and do one more swim lap.  With all the half distance races out of the way it was smooth, smooth sailing on the second lap.  I didn’t touch any other swimmer and had my own water.  This is a huge benefit of doing a HITS series race early on in their development as a race series... No bloodshed at the start of the swim!  I felt safe and under control the entire time.  With the small amount of athletes, I didn’t have many people to pace off of, nor did I have people on my feet to hurry me along.  I think this helped me remain calm, but also made me swim a little slow.  At certain parts of the swim, I found my breathing to not even be labored.  This is maybe a good strategy for the remainder of my races this year, use the swim as a full body warm up!

Exiting the water in 5th place



The race field was small, as the race series is just brand new.  I am working with First Endurance and using their entire product line to help me get through the 30 IM events.  I have had great results in my training with them and am excited to continue to learn and use their products.  The full and half distance athletes all started at the same time with the full athletes having to exit the water, round a cone on shore and do one more swim lap.  With all the half distance races out of the way it was smooth, smooth sailing on the second lap.  I didn’t touch any other swimmer and had my own water.  This is a huge benefit of doing a HITS series race early on in their development as a race series... No bloodshed at the start of the swim!  I felt safe and under control the entire time.  With the small amount of athletes, I didn’t have many people to pace off of, nor did I have people on my feet to hurry me along.  I think this helped me remain calm, but also made me swim a little slow.  At certain parts of the swim, I found my breathing to not even be labored.  This is maybe a good strategy for the remainder of my races this year, use the swim as a full body warm up!

GoPro footage of the bike - oooh this is gonna hurt!
 

Camera Crew Capturing My Journey

This guy is my buddy and escort.  He was all mine from mile 12 to the finish.

After shooting into the lead, I never looked back on the bike.  I hammered the peddles and made it to the turn around in 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 16 min lead.  I knew if I worked hard, I could lead off the bike with a 30 plus minute cushion.  I started to feel like 
I was like a kid in a candy store having a motorcycle escort in front and at times a police behind me.  I liked to refer to my experience as a “make a wish”.  Trust me when I say I know my place in triathlon and being up at the front isn’t it.  I am not a pro and consider myself a mediocre amateur at best.  But, I can only race who shows up... at this race and on this day, I had the lead and was taking it all in!  I had such a good time on this ride, and just didn’t want it to end.  When I hit the 100 mile mark, I still had the lead.  I did some quick math in my head.  I had to open up the jets if I had any chance of break the 5 hour mark on the 112 mile ride (this has been a goal of mine.)  With s slight wind at my back, a motorcycle escort, and a goal in mind, I put my head down and did some work over this last stretch.  We were now back in town.  There were police at each intersections making sure traffic was stopping, so we would have a safe fly through the intersection.  My motorbike (I like to refer to him as mine) was laying on the horn letting each intersection know we were on our way.  At the finish line, a few of the policemen who were at the lights, came up to me saying that they had radar out a few times. They had clocked me at just over 30 MPH!  Yes!!!  Upon getting home, I looked at my Garmin results and averaged just over 27 MPH over that last 12 miles.  This last effort allowed me to reach my goal of a sub 5 hour bike ride - 4:58!!!

HITS race director wishing me well as I head out of T2
As I headed out onto the run, I knew I was going to be in trouble.  I had pushed too hard on the bike and I knew it.... but it was worth it no matter the outcome.  The first 6 miles felt good and I was able to hold a normal pace.  But as the legs grew more tired, each step became more difficult.  There is such a fine line between pushing too hard on the bike and hurting your run, and holding back on the bike and helping your run.  A formula as Ironman athletes, we wished could be revealed to us, without all the trial and error.
During the second half of this marathon run, I had to stop many times to stretch out my legs.  I was just trying everything I could to get energy to them.  I was motivated to keep running with the cheers from the crowd and the media video camera rolling.  
The coolest thing happened to me with 4 miles to go in the race.  I had the win all but locked up and an older lady on the side of the road yelled, “Are you the leader?”  I replied with an enthusiastic, “YES!”  She proceeded to tell me that her husband kept calling her to come home.  She then told me that she had been waiting to go home till I came by, so she had a chance to run just two blocks with me.  What a fun and meaningful experience!  She told me that she used to run marathons and at the age of 78 just tries to get out and be active.  Despite all the joys that came from this day, these two blocks were some of the most meaningful for me.
With two miles to go, I picked up my pace just a bit and ran the rest of the way in.  I crossed the finished line and could not believe what had just happened.  I WON, I JUST WON THE RACE!  Pictures and claps was all I could see and hear...and it was all for me!  I knew this was a once in a lifetime moment and tried to take it all in.  I talked to some media people, but with an early morning flight to catch and a family to get home to, I quickly gathered my things and headed back home.


Talking with the race announcer just after the finish line.
Crossing the line first in a full distance race was incredible for me. 


Taking it all in.


8 comments:

  1. That is amazing! Such a great start to 2012! Congrats!

    (missing the cowboy hat)

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  2. What an awesome experience!! Congrats to you James, starting out the year right. Is there any footage we can see of the race, I would love to see you on camera!!

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  3. Sub 5 hr. bike?? You are a beast!!!

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  4. Great write up James. Congratulations on the WIN. Looking forward to hearing about your 2012 journey

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  5. What a great way to start the journey this year! Nice job! I am looking forward to all the details of races to come.

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  6. CONGRATULATIONS! You are such an inspiration, keep it up! :)

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  7. Way to go bro! So great to win and a great way to start off the year! Love the lady joining you and great pictures too!

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