Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spring Reach the Beach!!

We did it!!!

After 200 miles, two lost runners, a lost driver, a bloody, nighttime fall requiring a visit to the medical tent, and another fall resulting in the incapacity of a runner, the team of Ultra Front Runners NY battled our horrible luck and finished the inaugural 200-mile Spring Reach the Beach Relay in Third Place overall out of 150 teams, and 2nd place in the Men's Ultra division. It was tough, and at times it seemed that even just finishing the race would be hopeless. But we pulled together as a team, fought hard, and finished strong and proud of all that we had overcome. It was an incredible experience, one that I shared with the greatest of friends, and I will never forget how impressively my team ran and how proud I was to be a part of it.

The entire experience is even more meaningful because it almost never even happened for me. I was never supposed to be on the team, and, in fact, I thought Kelsey and Josh were nuts to do another Ultra Relay just two weeks after we did the Cape Relay. Then last Monday, I got a message from John saying that Rich was injured and wouldn't be able to run, and asking me if I could run in his place. My first reaction was, "No f---ing way." But then John, Kelsey and Josh tag-team-texted me to get me to join them, with the promise that I could just do five of the six legs, and Josh would run a 7th. I finally relented. I was planning on running the Brooklyn Half this weekend anyway, and I would only have to run about 21 miles, so I said what the heck.

I was a little terrified, though. Everyone else on the team was MUCH faster than me. And even though I've been running well recently, I'm nowhere near the same ballpark as they are, and I really didn't want to let them down. But, I was determined to do my best, and was excited about the opportunity to run hard and push myself, especially since I was disappointed that I didn't get to do that at the Cape Relay.

So, off we went to Massachusetts. It became a running joke throughout the trip as Kelsey, Josh, John and I recounted stories just two weeks prior of our very same trip. Every once in a while, someone would say, (a la American Pie): "This one time, two weeks ago..." Also, I realized that it was my fourth trip with Kelsey to Massachusetts in less than two months: our Boston Blue Line Run, the Boston Marathon, and the Cape Relay. I felt very fortunate to be able to share my big runs with such a great friend and Koach.

After a deja vu-inducing dinner at the Post Road Dinner in Norwalk, Conn., and a hearty breakfast at Denny's in Mass., we arrived at Wachusett Mountain in Princeton, Mass. for the start of the race. I was going to run the 5th set of legs, but just the first five times, for a total of 21.58 miles. Frankly, I was relieved that I had so few miles to run. I figured that even if I was significantly slower than the rest of the team, I would have a minimal negative impact on their overall time. I was also happy that all of my legs were relatively short, and my only long-ish leg was early on in the race, when my legs were still fresh.

What I was really nervous about, however, was the fact that there was another FRNY Ultra Team that had the same starting time as we did. Of course, both of our teams were out there to have fun, and it was great to have the company of other Front Runners on the course. But I couldn't help but think about the fact that Michael S. was on the other team, also running the 5th leg, and I was dreading, dreading, dreading the--in my mind, inevitable--moment when he would smoke past me and leave me in his dust.

So, for my first leg, I was a little nervous. Luckily, it was a short leg, only 3.3 miles, and we had amassed about a 7-minute lead over the other team. Still, I was determined (mostly out of fear) to not get passed. When I got the slap bracelet from John, I made a mad dash out of the transition zone and down the hill. That first leg, though, had a net elevation loss of almost 300 feet. And I was flying. But I knew right away that I was going too fast. I knew that I would come to regret flying down that hill and pounding my quads so hard. But I couldn't help myself, it was just so fun to go that fast. After a couple of minutes, my Garmin beeped to let me know I covered a half a mile. I looked down at my watch. Eeek! 2:43... or a 5:27 pace. What was I thinking?!?! I made myself slow down a bit. But I was still leaning forward to take advantage of gravity pulling me downhill. I tried to make my steps as light as possible to minimize the impact on my quads. 

I was also (irrationally, I guess) convinced that Michael was right on my heals. I took a quick look behind me a few times and of course he was nowhere near me. I did end up getting passed by someone from Team Race Menu, the team that ultimately ended up winning the whole race. The guy just smoked me. He must have been going at close to a 5 minute pace for that run, because he completely whizzed by me and before I could even react, he was long gone. And I was still running fast, too. In the end, I finished that first leg in 19:56, or a 5:57 pace. It was my fastest road run ever except the 1.7-mile Norway Run that I did in 2008. If it was two-tenths of a mile shorter, it would have bested my 5K PR by a whopping 16 seconds per mile. I felt amazing, and I was excited about my other legs for the race.

By my second leg, we were about 26 minutes ahead of the other team, and the leading Team Race Menu was way ahead of us so we weren't going to be able to reach them. Kelsey suggested that we run this leg at about 90-95 percent effort, the idea being that we had comfortably settled into our spot and would save our legs for if we needed to really race in the later legs. So I took my second leg a bit easier. At 5.58 miles, it was my longest leg, so I didn't want to start out too fast. I tried to keep my pace around a 6:30-6:40. And in doing so, I ended up passing a lot of teams that started before us. It was a great feeling to slowly catch up to people and pick them off one by one. The van stopped for me halfway through to give me water, and it was good to see them. This was probably my favorite run, because I had no real pressure, my legs were still feeling strong, and I could run it at a comfortable but fast-ish pace. I finished this leg in 37:03, or 6:38 pace, right about what I expected.

It was in our third rotation that things took a turn for the worse. We got lost, for the first of many times. But at least we have a good story to tell. John and Kelsey stayed at the transition while the rest of us when to look for Gabe, our missing runner. We found him, about a mile and a half past the transition. Rich stopped the van, jumped out, and pointed Gabe in the right direction. But instead of putting the van in  park, he put it in reverse! There we were, in the middle of the night, and our driverless van was speeding down the street backwards. I was in the passenger's seat, half comatose when I realized what was happening. I got up, dived into the driver's seat and reached for the brake pedal with my hand. The van practically screeched to a halt as we narrowly avoided certain disaster! And then all five of us started busting out laughing. It was the perfect way to break up the tense, somewhat frustrating feeling of getting lost on the course. And it was at that moment that I realized how glad I was to be on a team where even in the most difficult situation, we managed to have fun and laugh together. It reminded me that I did these relays not just to run and compete with other teams, but to have fun with my friends, and that was exactly what we were doing.

Before long, we were back on course. But this time, only about a minute or two separated me from Michael on our third leg. So, again, I was terrified. Kelsey sensed my trepidation, and pulled me aside to give me a pep talk before my leg. And he told me exactly what I needed to hear to put my nerves at ease. It's times like this that I realize how lucky I am to have a friend who's my coach who also has a background in social work. Kelsey always knows what to say to get me in the right mental place for a big race; just one of his many, many amazing qualities.  :-)

And so, when I got the wristband from John, I busted out of the transition, determined not to get passed. As I was leaving, I think I saw Chris coming into the transition to hand off to Michael, so I knew that it was tight. But I just ran that leg as fast as I could. It was a bit scary because it was past midnight and in the pitch black dark. But I refused to let myself get passed. I also had the advantage of not having to run a sixth leg, so I knew I didn't need to save my legs for a long 7.3-miler at the end like Michael needed to. So I just friggin ran. Rarely have I ever run that hard, pushing both my physical and mental limits like that. It was exhilarating. It was also terrifying. But I wasn't about to let my team and myself down, so I just kept pushing, never looking back. Before I knew it, the 3.39 miles were over, and I was still in the lead! 3.39 miles in 21:50, or a 6:26 pace. Exactly the same pace as my Coogan's 5K back in March, a race that I was very thrilled about. So I was ecstatic that I ran the same pace for a longer distance after already running 9 very fast miles. And of course, I was very, very relieved that I didn't get passed.

Over the next few legs, we started gaining some more time on the other team. And I was again relieved that there would be some room separating me and Michael so I wouldn't have to push myself so hard. But then we got lost again. We had ended up behind the other team, until Gabe and John was able to pull us ahead slightly. At this point it was actually Michael who gave me a reassuring talk, which I was really appreciative of. Still, I knew that I would leave the transition only about a minute or so ahead of him, so I knew I needed to push as hard as I could. I wasn't looking forward to that, and I had just about resigned myself to getting passed by him.

When I got the wristband from John, I couldn't see how far behind him Chris was, but I knew he would be coming in any second. So, again, I busted out of the transition and ran as fast as I could. This would be my most challenge leg of the relay--not because of the distance or the elevation, but because of the circumstances. It was 3:30 in the morning, I was extremely tired from both lack of sleep and having run 13 miles already, I was pushing myself to run as fast as I could, I was running with an almost overwhelming sense of fear that I would get passed by Michael, and to top it all off, I was running in the pitch black dark. I seriously couldn't see anything. The tiny headlamp I was wearing was no match for the thick fog and darkness of the night. I prayed that I wouldn't step on a pothole or a crack in the road.

And at this point I was getting a little delirious. I thought I was running on the sidewalk, which was separated from the main road by a curb. I jumped over the curb to run on the street--only to realize that it wasn't a curb, but just a painted white line separating the shoulder from the road. The last half mile of the leg was even worse, as I ran onto some sort of park trail for the transition. The trees overhead blocked out any possible speck of moonlight. As I turned onto the trail, one of the race volunteers told me to watch out for potholes. I had to let out a laugh, because how the heck are you supposed to watch for potholes if you can't even see them?!? But somehow, somehow I was able to finish that leg in one piece, and I was so happy to see Kelsey at the transition.

I'm not sure how I did it, but I managed to fend off Michael for that fourth leg too--although just barely; I think he came in about 10 seconds after me. And somehow, I managed to post another fast time: 4.31 miles in 27:53, or a 6:27 pace. I was, again, so happy that I was able to run as fast as I did. And I only had one more leg to go!

But after I ran that leg, we got lost a third time. After four rotations, we were 9 minutes behind the other FRNY team. And in his leg before mine, John had fallen in the dark, badly scraping up his hands, arms and torso. It was looking like we just weren't meant to have a successful race.

The fifth set of legs was probably the hardest one for the team. For the first time during the relay, we were several minutes behind the other team. We were all starting to feel the toil of our bodies, and some of us had already run more than 30 miles. We briefly saw some of the other team's runners on the road, and they looked like they were still going strong. It was disheartening.

And then John came running into the transition. And I was off, one last time. I think this was the hardest leg for me mentally, as I knew that no matter how hard I ran, I would never be able to catch up to Michael. Not that I was able to run very hard at all... My legs were beat, my spirits were low, and I just wanted my run to end. I don't remember a whole lot about this leg except that I ran over a rickety little bridge; and each time a car would drive over it, it would bounce and send shockwaves up my legs. I couldn't wait for that run to be over.

And then, 4.47 miles later, it was over; I had finished in 30:18, or a 6:46 pace. It was my slowest leg of the race, but I was done! I had finished my five legs, totaling about 21.58 miles in 2:17:00 or 6:20 pace!!! (My Garmin says the course was only 21.1 miles, so it would be 6:29 pace; either way I was pleased!). I was so happy I was finished. And I was so glad that I had run strong for all of my five legs. It was an amazing race, and I felt great to be done and be able to rest.

But that feeling didn't last long. Kelsey, running right after me, ended up falling too. As he limped into the transition, shorts tattered, with a pained expression on his face, our hearts sank. Kelsey had sprained his ankle, badly, and wasn't going to be able to run his 6th leg. I think it's fair to say we were pretty devastated at that point. Not because we weren't going to win the relay, but because our good friend and coach Kelsey, who has never had an injury as long as any of us has ever known him, was suddenly unable to walk without assistance. Finishing the relay seemed at this point to be a lesser priority than taking care of the team's members. But still, we soldiered on, determined to finish despite being kicked while we were down.

It was during that very last set of legs that I really was so proud to be a member of the Ultra Front Runners NY team. It was pretty evident at that point that we weren't going to win. Our team was exhausted, broken and bloodied. But with our amazing and inspiring resilience, we pulled ourselves together, and made our way to that finish.

I ended up having to run that sixth leg of mine. And it was brutal... 7.29 miles in what was then the mid-morning heat.  I felt like I was running in slow motion, like the leg would never end. But despite it being my longest and slowest leg by far, I knew that I had the support of my team carrying me along the way. They were there at the halfway point, ready with a bottle of water for me. And then, a loooong 55 minutes after I started, they were at the transition area. And I could hear them ecstatically cheering for me way before I even set foot in the zone. Those cheers meant that we had really accomplished something. Running 200 miles despite being kicked down over and over again.  Showing our strength and unity as a team when all of the forces seemed to want to pull us apart. And being able to laugh and have fun amidst a disappointing string of bad luck.

About 7 miles later, Josh finished the last leg, and we had REACHED THE BEACH! Our final time was 22:25:29, or a 6:41 average pace. We had finished 3rd overall out of 150 teams, and 2nd in the Men's Ultra division. The other FRNY team, A Case of the Runners, finished about 20 minutes ahead of us, and were there to cheer us in.

According to my Garmin, I ran a total of 28.39 miles in 3:12:18, for an average pace of 6:46. The official RTB course maps say I ran 28.87 miles, which would come out to a 6:39 pace. Either way, I am super thrilled with my performance.

And then we got to celebrate with a nice New England Clambake, complete with a lobster roll, mussels and chowdah. Our first real meal in 24 hours, and it was a tasty one.  :-)

In the end, although the race had not gone quite as we had hoped, we were all very proud of our accomplishment, and happy to have been able to run together. I, for one, was so honored to have been included on the team, and so inspired by everyone's resilience and determination. And most of all, despite everything that happened, all of the bad luck we experienced, I had some of the most fun I've ever had. Congratulations to A Case of the Runners for a great race, and thank you, Josh, Tyler, Gabe, John, Kelsey and Rich, for making Spring Reach the Beach 2011 an experience I'll never forget!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Jersey to Ptown to Jersey

It's been a busy few weeks!

Three weekends ago, some Front Runner friends and I went to New Jersey for the New Jersey Marathon and Long Branch Half Marathon. I just did the half. It was supposed to be an easy run for me. It's my third year doing this race (read last year's race report here), but I've never really raced it since it's always right after a marathon. This year, of course, it was two weeks after Boston, and I wasn't fully recovered yet.  So it was just going to be fun.

So I made myself not think about time. In fact, Daniel and Jonathan almost convinced me to run without my watch, but I wasn't quite able to do that.  Still, my primary goal when I was in the starting corral was just to finish and have fun. And when the starting horn sounded, that's exactly what I did, starting out at an easy pace. About two minutes into the race, I realized that I should have peed one last time beforehand, because I kind of had to go. As luck would have it, there was a porta-potty about 3/4 of a mile into it. I decided, in keeping with my goal of just doing a fun run, I would use the porta-potty and then I really wouldn't care about my time.

When I came out, I saw the 1:30 pace group was couple hundred yards ahead of me. And then, just like that, what started out as a fun run quickly turned into a run with the 1:30 pace group. It just pulled me in. I didn't want to do it, but I felt compelled to join them. Well, the rest is history.  I ran with them for the next 10 miles or so, until I realized that they were at least a minute, maybe 90 seconds, behind pace. And then miles 11-13 I started to speed up.

I dropped the pace group. Once I left them, it actually started to feel like a race. The field was very thin (out of 6,000 runners, there were less than 100 in front of me). I started to pick people off, one by one and try to pass them. I also knew that I had to run some really fast final miles if I wanted to make up for the deficit I was in. But my legs were tired by this point, and I couldn't push as hard as I wanted. My final time: 1:30:04.  Ughh! To miss by a mere 4 seconds! If only I didn't make that bathroom break. If only the pace group had been more on pace. Argh, so frustrating.  But after a few moments of being annoyed, in the end, I was very happy. My second fastest half marathon time ever, and I wasn't even trying that hard to race it. I was pleased, and excited about the chance to really race my next half marathon, in Brooklyn, three weeks later.

That race wouldn't have been possible without the yummy carby dinner we made the night before.  Farfalle with chicken, broccoi rabe, tomatoes and mushrooms. It was so easy and so yummy. The perfect meal before a big race.

*                                   *                                      *

The following weekend, seven Front Runner friends and I went up to Massachusetts to run the 2nd annual Cape Relay, a 184-mile run from outside Boston to the tip of Cape Cod. It was a great experience, so much fun! I ended up running about 27 miles with some of my best friends, and I'll never forget what a great time we had. All this, despite the fact that the race itself was extremely unorganized and poorly managed, and I definitely will not be doing it again.

The weekend started out with a nice carby chicken parm and pasta dinner at the Post Road Diner in Norwalk, CT, where we met up with the other FRNY relay team.

And after a night at the Mansfield, Mass. Red Roof Inn, the FRNY Ultragays had breakfast at the charming Cafe on the Common, where we enjoyed what would be our last proper meal for the next 24 hours.

The relay started in Borderland State Park in Massachusetts, about 30 miles south of Boston, and headed almost the entire length of Cape Cod, to end in Truro, Mass, about eight miles shy of Provincetown. Our team was seeded to start the relay at 12 noon, in the very last wave. I was to run a total of 27.6 miles over six legs, and my legs ranged in length from 2.9 to 6.7 miles. My goal was to average around a 6:45-7:00 pace for the entire course.

At the start, we met some of the other teams who were seeded with us. There was another gay Ultra team, the "Fanny Packs," from Boston. And there were two college Ultra teams, the Dartmouth Endurance Racing Team, and "We Is Fast" from Northeastern University--they looked like they were going to be our toughest competition.

Jonathan was the first runner on our team. The first leg was run on trails that sounded pretty technical, which is Jonathan's expertise. When we met him at the transition area six miles later, he was several minutes ahead of every other team. After that point, we pretty much never saw any of the other teams who started with us again.

Jonathan was followed by Josh, Mike, Drew, Me and Kelsey. Peter and John were our drivers. My first leg was 4.68 miles, mostly flat. It was not too memorable. I ended up passing two or three people. But I was running a little faster than I planned on running, mostly because I didn't want to be the one on my team that let one of the other teams pass us. So every few hundred yards, I looked back to see if anyone was behind me. But sure 'nuff, there was no one.

My second leg was 6.35 miles, again mostly flat. It wasn't quite dark yet, but I wore my reflective vest. This time I passed at least a dozen or so runners. Each time I passed someone, I would say to them, "Good job, keep it up." But it would actually give me a little energy boost. I finished in 42:23, or 6:40 pace.

So with two sets of legs done (or one-third of the race), the FRNY Ultragays were well in first place. None of the teams we started with were anywhere near us. And that's when the race started to fall apart. We noticed on our third set of legs that we weren't passing any runners anymore. That seemed a little odd. Could it be that we were in first place? Apparently we were! We had somehow passed every single other team in the first third of the relay, and were already leading all of the other racers! That seemed really cool--for a moment, until we realized that the race organizers were just not prepared for us.

We started arriving at transition areas before they were set up. At one transition, the porta-potties were still all tied shut. The volunteers didn't know what to do with us. And then we learned, the awful, awful news. Transition 18 was not ready to open. It would not be opening until 11:45pm. But we were on pace to get there an hour earlier. So what would that mean...? Apparently our team would be held, for an hour, until the race organizers got their sh-t together. Meanwhile, all of the other teams would catch up to us, and there would be a mass start of all of the teams at 11:45. And would they deduct the HOUR we would have to wait? According to the race official, "This isn't a Boston Qualifier; we're not serious about times here."

Are you F-cking kidding me?! I was ripsh-t. Why the f-ck would you organize a RACE if you're not going to give a sh-t about people's times?!?! Don't tell people it's a race, and charge a thousand dollars a team if you're going to f-cking SCREW OVER the fastest teams. WTF are they thinking?!?!  I was so pissed off and felt completely deflated and used. Basically, the 11 miles that I had run at 6:35-6:40 pace were completely wasted. I could have run 10 minute miles and been in the exact same situation. What a f-cking joke.

So the experience of running my third leg was pretty much ruined. It would have been a wonderful run--2.73 miles across the Sagamore Bridge onto Cape Cod. Finally reaching the Cape after about 100 miles of running. It would be quite a dramatic moment. But I wasn't racing. There was no point to running fast, since we would just be stopped after reaching Transition 18. So Peter joined me, and we jogged the leg together--in 21:31, or 7:52 pace. By this time, the race had just about lost its excitement for me.

As if to make up for the fact that we'd have to wait at Transition 18 for an hour, the race officials kept promoting the "pasta dinner" there. We'd get delicious hot food, blah blah blah. And here's the difference between the organizers of the Cape Relay and the organizers of a quality race like Reach the Beach. Whereas RTB invited members of the community to sell food and raise money for community groups (the Girl Scouts, little league teams, schools...  remember my picture of Transition 13 here?) the Cape Relay charges you for sh-tty food so they can continue to profit off of runners' exhaustion and lack of choice. The whole thing just made me feel like some corporate race organizer was getting rich by cheating the runners out of a quality (or even just passable) race experience. I've never before participated in a race where I felt completely duped, until now.

11:45 came, and the race officials said they still weren't ready for us. Then midnight came, and they said 15 more minutes. Finally, at 12:15, the race officials said that the first 5 teams that had come in could start, and then they would let the other teams go, 5 at a time, in 5 minute intervals. Of course, another team that had just come into the transition at 12:14 also left with us at 12:15, so by this point it was pretty much a sh-tshow.  Whatever.

We were told they would maybe hold us at Transition 24 too. So frankly, I didn't know how fast to run. If I ran it fast, the effort could be wasted again, if we were all going to just have another mass start later. I asked Peter to run with me again, since it was dark and it was my longest run--6.72 miles at around 3:00 in the morning. This was the leg where I discovered another huge difference between the Cape Relay and Reach the Beach. When you are running at RTB, there are signs--reflective signs--that tell you, the runner, where to go, and that tell DRIVERS to be careful of runners on the road. At the Cape Relay, there was completely inadequate signage for runners, and the few that they did have were NON-REFLECTIVE, save for a little two-inch piece of tape that was stuck on them. Even worse, there was NOTHING to tell oncoming traffic that there was a race going on. Trust me, you don't want to be the runner leading a race at 3:00 in the morning  when oncoming traffic has no idea anyone is there. Just another example of how the race organizers had no regard for safety, let alone the runners' enjoyment of the race. Miraculously, Peter and I ended up not getting hit by a car and finishing the 6.72 mile leg in 46:09, or 6:52 pace.

By my 5th and 6th legs, we were so far ahead of the other teams that there was pretty much no reason to run fast anymore. We got to most of the transitions before even the volunteers checking in the runners arrived. At this point, I decided to just have fun with it. There was no point killing myself when we were going to win anyway and the time was going to be wrong anyway.

Thank goodness, though, that my last two legs were both under 4 miles. My very last leg had about a quarter mile start in the sand dunes, which was not fun. But I enjoyed the scenery, and tried to take in the sights.

While it was nice not having to run that fast for my last two legs, to be honest, I wish it was more of a race. I remember that my last leg at Reach the Beach last year was one of my faster legs, because I was neck-and-neck with another runner. It would have been fun to push myself a little more and see how fast I could go.

But in the end, I did have fun. Some of the best fun I've ever had while running. Despite a poorly organized race, the eight of us had an amazing time together. I got to spend the weekend with some of my best friends in the world, and we were all doing what we loved to do. That's the real reason why I run these relays, not for the competition or the medal or even the bragging rights, but to have fun with a wonderful group of people. And the Cape Relay organizers, no matter how bad a job they did, could not take that away from me.
After the race, the eight of us celebrated our victory and recovered our bodies with a night in Provincetown. For dinner, we went to the Lobster Pot. Of course, I couldn't resist the lobster clambake. After all, we ran nearly 200 miles!

*                                       *                                      *

Finally, this past weekend, I kicked off Triathlon Season with a sprint triathlon and an Olympic tri relay.

On Saturday, Timmy and I went to Toms River, NJ for the Jersey Shore Kickoff Tri. You may recall that we both did it last year. Since this was just a little Sprint Tri, I didn't really give it much thought before the race. However, Friday evening, as we were driving down to Jersey, I realized for the first time that I had never actually ridden my brand new tri bike outdoors before. The bike that I got in December, I've only used in Computrainer sessions. So I had no idea how to use the aerobars. And I had no idea whether the bike would fall apart if it hit a bump. Uh oh...  I called Rachel, hoping she would reassure me by telling me that aerobars were easy to use and I had nothing to worry about. But she made me feel like I was nuts to even consider riding the bike for the first time in a race. I didn't really have any choice, though; we were on our way to Jersey and I had no other bike to use...

So at 6:50am Saturday morning, we started the race. The swim wasn't particularly eventful. It was just 400 meters, and seemed to be over almost as soon as it started. One thing I remember was that it was a bit of a zoo at the start. I guess because the swim was so short, people were fighting more than normal to get a good start. So pretty much the first half of the swim felt like people were kicking and clawing all over me.

The bike is where I got nervous. And once again, I forget to set my bike computer so during the whole race, I was fidgeting with it. The aerobars, however, didn't pose a problem for me. I pretty quickly got the hang of them, and I actually felt quite comfortable in the aero position. And switching from the aerobars to the outer handlebars to brake and turn, while a little scary at first, turned out not to be that big of a deal. 

There was, however, one problem. When I got my bike in the mail in December, it came in a few pieces, and I had to screw everything together and tighten the bolts. Well, apparently I didn't tighten the bolt to the handlebar setup enough, because every time I went over a bump, the whole front assembly would shift downward, and I had to pull it back up. Not by a huge amount, but just enough to make it annoying. I'm glad it wasn't any worse, because otherwise the aerobars could have come completely unattached. Oyyy, that would have been bad. Note to self: tighten all screws on my bike.

Finally, the run came. Since the bike was so short, my legs felt strong. I must have passed 20-30 people on my run, and it was a great feeling. The only issue was that for some reason I thought the run was a 5k (that's what it was last year, and that's what it usually is for a sprint tri), but it was 3.55 miles. So I was not really prepared for that last little bit. (I am, however, a little skeptical that it was really a full 3.55 miles; it didn't feel like I was running a 6:25 pace. Maybe more like 6:45 or so...).

In the end, I finished in 1:12:46, or 11th out of 18 in my age group. OK, I guess, for my first tri of the season. But I'd like to finally get to be in the top half of my age group at some point. I guess that means I have to work on my biking. And swimming. Ugh...

Place.......48/131  [11/18 AG]
Name........David Lin

Swim Rank...58  [13/18 AG]
Swim Time...12:49.1
Swim Rate...1.87
T1 Time.....2:21.4

Bike Rank...72  [14/18 AG]
Bike Time...33:57.0
Bike Rate...17.7
T2 Time.....0:53.7

Run Rank....16  [5/18 AG]
Run Time....22:45.2
Run Rate....6:25

Total Time..1:12:46.4

Dinner Saturday night was dumplings with homemade dough for the wrappers, sauteed broccoli rabe, and scallion pancakes made with the leftover dumpling dough. It took a bit of effort to make the dough from scratch, but it was worth it. And we got plenty of carbs for the next day...

Sunday morning, we did it all over again. This time, Daniel, Paul and I did the tri as a relay, and Timmy was our cheerleader.  I did the 1.5k swim, Daniel biked 40k, and Paul ran 10k.

I think my swim went really well. I was pretty much in a zone the whole time and able to just focus on my stroke. My one problem was that I forgot to look at the course beforehand and count the buoys and figure out the difference between the yellow and orange buoys that I saw. So, when I was in the water, I had no idea how far I had gone until I was almost at the finish. I'm sure I'll remember the next time I do an open water swim to look at the course beforehand....

The official time for my swim was 27:32. I didn't wear a watch, but based on the race pictures, I suspect that time was 5 minutes off. I think they gave me the wrong color swim cap so I started 5 minutes earlier. So, with a time of 32:32, I would have placed 134th out of 238 swimmers, somewhere in the middle. Daniel finished the bike in 1:19:46, and Paul ran in 45:12, so we came in 2nd place in the relay division (even with 5 minutes added on). Pretty good for team FRNY!

I enjoyed the race, but I do have one big complaint. The race directors made a point of telling us in email communications that there were going to be "ample porta-potties." Well, there were FOUR of them. Four porta-potties for about 300 athletes. I ended up waiting in line for about 40 minutes, and that's why I didn't have a chance to look at the swim course beforehand. Hopefully next year they'll plan it better, because it was a good race otherwise.

*                                       *                                      *

My whirlwind month of racing craziness is not yet over.  I was planning on running the Brooklyn Half this coming weekend, and finally getting a sub-1:30 time for an NYRR half marathon. But Monday, I got word that a runner on one of the Spring Reach the Beach teams is injured and can't run. So I was asked to fill in. I feel so honored to have been asked, especially since the rest of the team is, like, much much MUCH faster than me. I'm pretty nervous, since I really don't want to let them down. But I'm also excited. I've been running really well recently, and this is my chance to help out my friends who need a last minute replacement. Also, I didn't really get to run as hard as I wanted to at the Cape Relay, so here's my chance to push myself a little harder in a relay race that's a bit more amenable to faster runners. The team is me, Kelsey, John, Josh, Gabe, and John's friend Tyler. Rich will be our driver. This is gonna be fun!!!