Thursday, August 16, 2012


Tuesday July 17, 2012,

I woke up and gathered all my things for my journey back to the US.  I said my goodbyes to Julienna and the kids and headed out.  I had a few issues checking in with France Airlines.  They were not sure if they were going to have room on the flight to check my bike.  With all the cyclist traveling home, they have been having some issues.  They told me this was my fault, as I didn’t call the airlines first letting them know I would be coming with a bike.  WHAT?!?  This is the first I have EVER heard of this and I travel A LOT with my bike.  They made me stand there for 30 minutes, making calls to make sure they had room.  WHAT a JOKE!  When I finally made the flight and took my seat, I looked around and counted AT LEAST THIRTY EMPTY SEATS - clowns!

They also tried to take me for a ride with check in fees.  They wanted to try and charge me $220 Euros to check my bike.  A fee for the bike, AND a fee for being over weight, AND a fee for the size.  HELLLLOOOOO that is what the bike fee is for, because it is all these things.  I love telling people what their procedures are.  I told her I only had $105 Euros left on my cash card, $10 Euros cash and she wanted more.  I pulled out $58 US cash, which she made me go change into Francs.  She even took the change out of my pockets to try to get out every last penny I had on me.  I was still short of the $220 she needed, but with the boarding deadline approaching and me left with only lint in my pocket, she let me go through.  

I tried to stay awake for the whole flight, in an attempt to try and turn my body around quickly.  I landed in NYC at 10 pm and was greeted at the airport by Namwan!  She is a Thai student who did a school study 16 years ago at our home back in Canada.  She now lives in New York and is hosting me for my one night stay before I head to Lake Placid in the morning.  Before heading to her place for the night, we put my bike in her store so I could leave it there for a few weeks.

Namwan from Thailand, all grown up.

I made a dumb error when booking all my flights and booked myself into the wrong airport in NY.  I didn’t want to pay the $150 each way on the short Delta flight and this is why I would be leaving my bike with Namwan.  Jim Wilkes (my host for the Lake Placid Ironman) helped me out in a HUGE way and booked my flight from JFK to the race site.  He is also letting me use one of his bikes for the race there.  I will leave my bike here in NYC city for when I return early in August, for the US championships in NYC, NY!

Wednesday 18, 2012

Steve and Namwan
New York is hot!  I slept in and finally got to watch some of the Tour De France (not live he he) and just relaxed until lunch when Namwan was going to show off her new store, take me to lunch, and show me her little town.  When I first met Namwan, 16 years ago, she knew maybe 5 words of English and was just a teenager.  Now she speaks great English, some Spanish and perfect Thai.  She is living “The American Dream” and has moved to NY and opened her own business.  She seems very happy and I couldn’t be happier for her.  She gave me a quick tour of her shop and then Steve (her husband) and Namwan took me out to lunch at an Italian restaurant (home made noodles and everything.)  It all tasted great.  Steve went back to the store and Namwan took me to show off her little town, which had some great views and oceanfront property.  I started to feel a little sick and a bad headache set in... must have been something I ate.  I also felt like throwing up.... this is the first time this year I have not felt very good (well outside of a race that is ;)  Namwan dropped me off at the airport where my next adventure would begin.

Trying to sleep.... in an airport...
I checked in for the flight.  It was suppose to be an easy flight to NJ and then back to Syracuse. It turned into a series of delays, which kept me in airports ‘till I finally landed at my destination at 2:30am.  Jim Wilkes (complete stud) was patiently waiting for me there.  We waited.... waited.... No Bags!  For some reason with all the delays and confusion, my bags just didn’t make it out of New York City.  I filled out some paperwork and received an overnight bag from Delta. It had everything I would need to stay clean and smelling fresh and a new Delta T-shirt.... which will never be worn. >:/

Found Him !!!
The drive to Jim’s place in Potsdam, NY was about 2 1/2 hours from the airport.  I wouldn’t want to live so far away from a major airport, if I had a choice.  On the way to Jim’s, I saw a single headlight coming towards us on the two-lane freeway.  We had just passed a slight bend in the road, when a motorbike went flying by in the opposite direction.  I looked back and knew he wasn’t going to make the corner.  He drifted into the shoulder and then all I saw was the red tail slight spinning through the air.  CRASH!!!  Then 3 cop cars whipped by in full pursuit.  They didn’t see the bike go off the road and they blew right past where the bike wrecked.  Jim and I flipped around to see if we could find the guy and the bike in the dark.  We were pulled off to the side of the road, when a another cop car went flying by.  We tried to flag them down, with no luck.  Jim jumped on his phone and called 911 to see if we could get the cops to turn back around and come back to where we saw the crash.  A few minutes passed and the ALL the police in the area were at the scene.  Cop cars, trucks and vans all pulled up and everyone started looking for the bike and bike operator.  They quickly found him and secured the area.  They blocked off the road in both directions which meant Jim and I were stuck.  A helicopter came in and landed on the two lane road (very impressive) and air lifted the guy to the hospital.  Jim and I gave our statements and then were released to continue our journey to Jim’s house.  We pulled in around 5am.  A quick bowl of cereal and I was set for some much needed rest.  I slept for about 5 hours before waking up to face the day!  Click below to read a quick write up on the model citizen involved in the motorcycle crash;

The few days before the race, I was used to get readjusted to the US time zone and getting as much recovery as possible.  I had a goal of trying to sleep from 9 pm to 9 am everyday, but with no success...  I went to bed on time, but couldn’t get my body to sleep past 7:30 am.  But I was still super happy about that.  On Friday, Jim and I headed to Lake Placid to check out the town and get all checked in for the race.  I got to check out the Olympic grounds from two previous Olympics and the “Miracle on Ice”.  We wandered around the expo and met many new and interesting people.  

Jim and I at check in.... I think we are giddy to be doing Ironman! 
One day I will BOBSLED!

Legends once skated here.... when there was ice....

It is almost like I am in the picture!

View from above of the Oval and Transition

I would like to formally introduce you to Mr. Jim Wilkes.  This guy is pretty amazing.  Jim says “I am just s semi-normal guy aspiring to be the 1st Army Wounded Warrior to earn an Epicman (triple ironman triathlon) invite. I am also a retired Army Officer, Team Red, White, and Blue member, and new IBM'er; who was told tris and life were going to be impossible because of a brain injury and other hindrances I picked up while serving in the military.”

Meet Mr. Jim Wilkes

You should see this guys case on the wall with all of his military aways and TWO PURPLE HEARTS.  A pretty special guy indeed.  He helped me out in a big way during my stay in New York and I can only see us doing some incredible things together in the future.  Jim’s wife, Amy, is also pretty amazing for putting up with Jim ;)  What I found most interesting about Jim, is that when he swims he looses function of one arm and when he runs for a long time he looses his vision.  I, for one, would pick up darts or billiards.... but that is what makes him special.

Kids Swim Start!
Saturday morning we headed out the door and watched Jim’s son Jonathan compete in a local kids triathlon.  It is always so much fun to see all the little people out there swimming, biking and running.  When Jonathan was out on the run, Jim went out to run with him.  Half-way through the run, Jonathan wanted to walk and Jim told him that they don’t walk and that they don’t quit.  Jonathan reply cracked me up.  He said “No dad you don’t quit, but I do!”  I thought this was super cute and at the very least Jim was getting the message across the he doesn’t and won’t quit.  

Saturday afternoon we headed back to Lake Placid and got the bikes and transition bags all set to  leave at the race site.  Jim was letting me borrow his old TT bike, which after a few adjustments looked like it would work out just great.  The evening was concluded with a great dinner (thanks Amy) and early to bed.

Dinner with the Wilkes Family.  A very special group!

Sunday July 22nd - Ironman Lake Placid Race day

Don't forget your number here!
We woke up nice and early in order to get to Lake Placid in time to get all set up.  Jim was paranoid about getting there in time and being ready.  I told him I had made 15 start line with 100% success and this one would be no different.  With most everything already at the race site the day before, there isn’t that much to do race morning.  With bike bottles in place and transition bags hung, we headed to the swim start.  I was surprised that a few people recognized me in my cap.  They wished the Iron Cowboy good luck on the day and told me that I inspire them to keep going and doing more.  What an honor, even if I am only inspiring a small few.

The swim start area was massive and I positioned myself perfect.  I weaved all the way from the swim entry to the far right side of the massive swim field, possible the biggest of the year.  I waded through all the athletes and positioned myself front and far right.  I do this for two reasons... 1) I breath on my left and want to be able to see the field of athletes and 2) I have the option to swim right and escape all the chaos.  This has worked really well for me and Lake Placid was no difference.  The gun went off and I took off fast in order to not get run over by the faster swimmers.  I held my ground and found open water almost immediately.  I have tried all strategies when the swim starts and really like both.  I like going off quickly and settling into a pace and I also like starting really slow and maintaining that pace.... jury is still out.  The lake was warm and perfect.  Nice and flat with good under water vision.  The swim course in Lake Placid is set up year round (when not frozen) and is a narrow rectangle 2 lap race course.  I stayed to the right all the way out to the far buoy and made the turn to cross the top and head back towards the start.  I again stayed out of trouble all the way back, popped out of the water, ran across the timing mat and jumped in to do it all again.  I really like the courses that have two equal laps where you have to get out of the water for a second a run a bit, even if just for a few steps.  It’s a perfect time to check your progress, get upright and up out of the swim prone position.  All the way back out to the far swim turn around where the swim field had finally spread out.  I swam more on the buoy line and made a discovery that I had wished I’d discovered with 10 swim strokes of the race.  I have only seen this in one other race and it remains one of my favorite swims at the 70.3 in Lake Stevens Washington for this same reason.  THERE IS A WHITE CABLE UNDER WATER CONNECTING ALL THE SWIM BUOY AND RUNS THE ENTIRE SWIM COURSE.  If you get nothing else from this blog and have aspirations of doing Lake Placid in the future THIS is valuable information.  From the far buoy home I didn’t sight once.  It is like you are swimming in a swimming pool, it is so much fun.  I really didn’t sight once.  I would keep the white line just to my right side and hammer the last fourth of the swim.  I am positive that this swim was negatively split - boom baby!

I exited the water having having found this white under water angel.  I transitioned quickly and didn’t struggle with forgetting my race number, forgetting my shoes or not being able to find sun screen.  The first few miles of the bike a steady climb and then transitioned into a 7 mile stretch of some of the funnest riding I have done all year.  It was fast and felt like a roller coaster ride.  I was riding Jim old titanium Trek and was SOLID.  This thing was a tank and with the 5 or more extra pounds I flew down these hills.  I didn’t have a computer on my bike but would bet that this is the fastest I have even gone on a bike.  The course like many others was a two looper but Lake Placid is really pretty.  After reaching the last turn around and getting through some easy rollers we had about 13 miles back to town.  This stretch turned out to be very challenging with it being into the wind and uphill.  I sound like an old person.... “I remember walking to school in the winter into the wind and uphill both ways” - ha ha!!!

It was the prettiest section on the course and easily the toughest.  Everyones pace slowed as we approached town and headed out once again.  The streets were packed as we rolled through and it gave me a good boost of energy flying through the mobs of people.  Also I was pretty excited to go do the “Roller Coaster” section again.  The second lap didn’t disappoint and was actually harder then the first with the winds blowing stronger than the first.  I also noticed my knees coming closer and closer to my chest and my bike position shifting.  It felt like my seat had dropped or had been slowing dropping since the start of the ride.  My race number sticker had been wrapped around my seat post like in any event this year so the officials can see the race numbers.  My race number was now scrunched into more than half its size with the seat drop.  I figure the seat moved about an inch and a half if not more.  This make for a less than comfortable ride over the last 20 miles or so and reaffirmed the benefit of  using your own bike in a race, but I save $300 in Delta check fees which always puts a smile on my face ;)

At the finish!
On course with Olympic Ski Jumps
I took off onto the run with no cowboy hat as it had blown away in the weather we had in Switzerland.  The Placid run course starts off with a steep downhill section which takes you to the main part of the run course.  I was HOT but I was in good shape with my nutrition.  My pace wasn’t fast but it was steady.  At about mile 4 I came to an aid station (which most of them were themed making the run much more fun) with a redneck theme.  Some of the volunteers working the air stations were wearing cowboy hats!!  I approached one, quickly told my story and asked if I could trade my visor for her cowboy hat.  She didn’t hesitate and quickly made the trade, BOOM!  It is a amazing the difference in crowd support when I wear my hat and when I don’t.  I had some great support from athletes and even spectators who recognized and cheered on the Iron Cowboy.  At around mile 18 I can upon a tall lean black gentleman who seemed to be struggling and he walked along the side of the road with his head down.  I pulled up and started to walk beside him.  I asked him how he was doing and he seemed defeated.  He proceeded to tell me that he had had a great race to this point but was tired and didn’t feel like he could reach his goal of breaking 12 hours.  He was defeated!  I looked at my watch and told him to walk when I walked and to run when I ran.... slow and steady.  I told him if he did that I promised we would break 12 hours and reach his goal.  We started running and ran between aid stations and walked and fueled through them.  I held him back when we were running to eliminate excess walking when not at the aid stations.  I tried to talk him through the tough parts and tried to help him work through the pain.  We ran step for step together for the remainder of the marathon run and as promised I delivered him to the finish line in 11 hours and 45 minutes.  I stayed back and let him enjoy the finish shoot as he victoriously conquered the Ironman for the first time.  I crossed moments later and went to give him a congratulatory hand shake.  He said “No man”  and gave me a big hug and told me that he couldn’t have done it without me.  This was one of the best moments for me in the Lake Placid Ironman and I was happy to share it with my new Ironman buddy!


I felt great after the race, took in some food and get a much deserved massage.  I wandered over to the finish line to see if I could find Amy and her two boys.  They were positioned in the grand stands waiting for Jim to conquer his day in Lake Placid.  I got a front row seat against the barrier and watched for several hours as the participants of the day poured into the finish area.  It was amazing to see all the joy on peoples faces both from the athletes and the loved ones in the stands.  I saw huge smiles, and plenty of tears of joy.  I heard cheers and joyous cries as athlete after athlete achieved this huge physical and mental accomplishment.  Jim experienced some difficulties on the day and I had the “opportunity” to watch the finishers for hours and see many of the athletes stories come to their conclusions.  Jim ran strong across the finish line in 16 hours.  Congrats and a HUGE thanks to Jim for his incredible generosity and help during my stay in NY.  You sir are awesome!

The Iron Cowboy.

Waiting for Jim to finish...

One of the best crowds of the year... it was loud for hours!

Waiting....Waiting.... the kids fell asleep right before Jim came in ;(

The man doesn't quit and finished strong!  Just awesome Jim!


  1. I LOVE reading your posts, Son. Great job, as usual. Go get em in Quebec, Canada!

  2. as usual, another great post James! When are we getting #17?