Lake Logan Sprint Triathlon – August 08, 2010

What do you get when you cross breathtaking scenery, mild temperatures, and a crowd of VERY enthusiastic athletes? One GREAT event! The Lake Logan Sprint Triathlon in Canton, NC was a huge success, and a great venue for anyone looking for fun race that helps to beat the heat of Summer. Being in the Asheville/Biltmore area, you would expect this to be a mountain triathlon, but it was actually a fairly fast bike course, that is except for one particularly unforgiving hill at the beginning and end of the bike course. It’s not as noticeable on the way out on course, but after you’ve been hammering for awhile it can be a bit of an unwelcome guest (not to mention its little friend the false-flat) that greets you as you start to close in on transition. The run is a pretty straight forward out and back, and almost entirely in the shade, which is nice. If you can power through the first half of the run, which is a gradual climb, the final run down to the finish is a welcome end to a well done event. Teammate Lisa Lockhart worked hard, and was blessed to finish 3rd in her division and take home a nifty little piece of hardware! (um, earthenware, woodware?)

Festival of Flowers, Greenwood State Park – June 13, 2010

Greenwood State Park

Ninety-Six, SC

Tiffany Watson

The word of the day for everyone – triathletes and onlookers included – was HEAT! Record-breaking temperatures were expected for this Sunday, following a wave of extreme heat and humidity for the last few days. The water temperature at Lake Greenwood was a warm 86 degrees and the air temperature reached 97 with a heat index of 107. Even when my husband and I stepped out of the hotel at 5:30am, we hit a wall of heat; we felt like it didn’t even cool down overnight (with a balmy 78 degrees and high humidity before the sun came up!).

I had taken as much precaution to the heat as I knew – hyper-hydrating for 3 days prior, drinking G2 and water upwards of 80-100 oz. a day, plus I was armed with two GU’s for the bike and 1 for the run, and ShotBlocks for transition. The last recommendation I received and followed regarding the heat was to grab a water at each water stop during the run and at least dump it on my head to cool my head.

Despite all the preparations and warnings, I don’t think I could have expected the extreme depletion my body felt with the heat, especially on the run portion. Needless to say, many of us (especially the 1st timers) had to cut ourselves some slack with our race goals because our bodies were not acclimated for these conditions with a race in mid-June.

Now… on to the rest of the blog…

This was my 1st Olympic distance triathlon, with 5 sprint distances under my belt from the last 2 seasons. I was calm and focused, wanting to achieve this distance-goal I had set last summer.

Swimming is my natural talent, but I wasn’t thrilled about the mile swim in such warm water. I did a 10 minute swim the day before and got out sweating for many minutes afterwards from the heat. Regardless, I felt relaxed and excited beginning the race. Festival of Flowers starts the race headed straight into the sun, then making two left turns around a land pointe, finishing at a boat ramp. I settled into a nice, steady pace and enjoyed this leg of the race immensely… with one hiccup… a few of us sighted a 2nd yellow buoy that was part of the middle leg of the swim, cutting the corner of the 1st leg. The sun was so bright we could not see the green buoy, marking the 1st turn. Luckily, I heard another woman cry out,”We’ve missed the green buoy!” Aagh! We then had to backtrack to get back around the 1st turn legally, adding 3-4 minutes to our swim time. I was disappointed in myself for underestimating the 1st leg and adding time to my strongest sport, but I didn’t let it upset me too badly. I picked up my pace and plowed forward. As a side note, while I finished my swim, I kept drafting emails in my head that I was planning to send to the Director, informing him of the need for an additional buoy on the 1st leg (or any leg of a swim that faces the rising sun!), shortening the distance of sighting when one is swimming directly into the sun.

The bike leg was very strong for me; I beat my personal goal by 5 minutes. I was surprised, however, at how many minutes it took my breathing to settle after exiting the swim, having not practiced a brick of the 1mile swim to bike. The FOF course traveled over rolling hills into the town of Ninety-Six, mostly rural, country roads, and then back into the State Park. My only complaint on this portion was several miles of highway 702 where the road is grated and made for a very rough ride. I prayed extra hard on these miles for my tires (whose lifespan is nearly over!). As I finished my bike leg, I cheered on the many runners ahead of me that I passed coming in… noticing many of them walking and suffering from the heat, cramping, etc. Uh oh! Pulling into transition, I felt strong and excited, especially with a good cheering section of neighbors and my husband.

Here I go… one more leg… but my least favorite… and in the extreme heat! Come on, Tiffany! Look strong! Be strong! It can’t be that bad?!?!

With my 1st steps, I felt my inner thighs and buttocks cramp up, but I eased up, jogged delicately and those muscles gradually loosened up over the next few minutes. As I headed out of the State Park, I was shocked by how quickly I was out of steam. My training and my game plan included running the 10K with two or three 1 minute walking breaks, if I needed them. Ha! That game plan was thrown out quickly as I already slowed to a walk before finishing mile 1. Needless to say, my next hour was gruesome – run some, walk some, repeat. Honestly, I didn’t have any will power left to push harder or finish strong — I just wanted to be done. Fortunately, the runners all around me seemed to follow the same pattern. So… misery is better with company! And the company is even better for your morale when they run and walk the same short intervals! I did grab water at each mile to take a sip and dump the rest over my head, but the heat of the wide open asphalt and pelting sun was merciless. My thoughts during this leg were simply to survive without health problems – the slushing of my stomach tempted me to hurl at times, so I knew during those times to walk! The chills and dehydration brought on fears of passing out, prompting the water stops. So on I trudged. My one hour goal for the 10K was long gone. Oh well… I did finish!

After a long recovery hour under the misting tent and on the massage table, my spirits picked up… I had completed my 1st Olympic distance! Woohoo! And even with a very slow run (and walk!), I was only 4 minutes shy of my 3 hour goal. Too bad I missed that 1st swim buoy!

A week later, many thoughts still swirl through my head…

-Maybe I will do another one in order to beat my 3 hour goal (but not FOF!)…

-Isn’t it OK to participate in this distance if 2 of the 3 sports are strong but the 3rd is weak? Perhaps I’ll continue to push my swim and bike and then just accept the run for whatever it will be.

-Would I have enjoyed it more if I had just power-walked the entire 10K? Hmmm… less pressure and expectation… now that’s a thought.

-Ultimately, I need to get acclimated to heat better, but I still will not choose to suffer in 95 degree weather often. Like most athletes, I train early morning or in the evening, so my control over the heat is limited.

Overall, I am glad I set a new goal and completed it! But as a fellow triathlete said, “The Oli ain’t no joke!”

Clemson Sprint Triathlon – May 15, 2010

The 2010 triathlon season is heating up, literally! Summer seemed to be coming early to Upstate South Carolina, but that did not keep team FWE from the always popular Clemson triathlon. Featuring a beautiful lake swim, this event always draws a big crowd (the fact that it is a Best of the US Qualifier doesn’t hurt either). The rain held off this year, but once most of the participants had made it to the run a little H2O would have been quite welcome. Still, despite the heat there were several PRs set by the team. Congratulations to Lisa for beating her previous year’s time by over 4 minutes, and to Tiffany for giving her previous race a KO by shaving off over 5 minutes. You both finished well!

GHS Swamp Rabbit 5k – May 7, 2010

A great event sponsored by the Greenville Hospital System, the Swamp Rabbit 5k seemed like the perfect opportunity for many of the participants in nutritionist and teammate Lisa’s “Weigh to Go” class to step out into their first 5k. “Weigh to Go” is a program that teaches healthy living and encourages men and women in their fitness journey though lessons on nutrition and fitness. It was a beautiful day and the run was a great event. The class did a fantastic job knocking out their first 5k. Way to go guys!!!

Inaugural Paris Mountain International Triathlon – April 17, 2010

This one was billed as one of the toughest international distance races in the country and it did not disappoint! Featuring the same 2.2 mile ascent (with over 1000 ft. of climbing) that the professionals race in the USA Pro Cycling Championships each September, this race was one that won’t soon be forgotten. If you are in the market for something different that will challenge your mind and your body, the Paris Mountain event might just be what you are looking for. As if the climbing during the bike leg was not enough of a challenge, the first 2.5 miles of the run consisted of a continuous climb up the other side of the mountain. Just when you thought you had reached the top, the run course turned to the trails for the descent to the finish line. This part of the run could be described as a “white knuckle” course. It required great concentration, and agility. More than once I had to grab onto a tree to “slingshot” myself around a corner, and as you often had to pick just the right spot to plant your foot (trail, boulder, log) your eyes needed to be as quick as your feet. It was exhilarating and gut-wrenching. Later when I checked my HRM data I had topped out at over 200bpm, but I can’t be sure if that was due to effort or the adrenaline rush from the last part of the run. In either case, the advertising was spot on, The PM tri is not for the faint of heart! – Tom

Parris Island Sprint Triathlon – March 20, 2010

It’s official, the 2010 Parris Island Triathlon is officially in the books! Again, another great race put on by Setup Events and hosted by the truly incredible Parris Island Marine Base. We had a great time this year, and got to spend some time with some fantastic people, both new friends and old. To all of you who completed your first race this time, a HUGE congratulations!!! We’ll follow up with a race report later. Lisa set a PR, despite being beaten up a bit during the race. While not besting my previous year’s time this go around, I gladly can say that by God’s grace I was able to finish, despite some freakish cramping issues in the pool which eventually forced me off the bike for awhile. Still, we both have to say it was a truly fantastic day and can’t wait for the challenges and new faces we’ll encounter next. On to the Paris Mtn. Tri!!! (WHAT could I be thinking???)

Where’s My Super Suit?

Beach 2 Battleship Full – November 7, 2009 – Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

Triathletes and superheroes have a lot in common. After all, both have wardrobes comprised mostly of lycra and spandex, both cause a stir when walking into a convenience store wearing the aforementioned outfit, both have an obsession with high tech gadgets, and of course there is the whole alter ego thing we all wrestle with. But lest our egos become Super-Sized, there are plenty of opportunities for humility in 140.6 miles.

I certainly didn’t get this far on my own. I had lots of help along the way. I want to thank Jesus for seeing me through every step and giving me everything I needed to accomplish this, my wife Lisa, my kids, and family who went above and beyond being supportive, Trainer Jeni Schumacher who started me on my triathlon fitness path, Coach Jamie Church who stuck with me through all the ups and downs of training, master bike fitter and coach Jim Cunningham for making me one with the bike, Dr. Jeff Harris (triathlete & all around cool Doc) who kept me moving, all of our friends who have prayed for and encouraged me, and Carolyn Bain for introducing me to the benefits (and pain) of neuromuscular massage. I owe a debt of gratitude to all of you. You all are the real heroes; I just got to wear the cape.

Sometimes the life of a superhero can be really tough on the family, a little fact it would behoove every triathlete to remember. Spiderman, Superman, Batman – none of these guys had a stellar track record in the relationship department – what ever happened to Vicki Vale? She didn’t even last through the sequel! And who can forget the trials of the valiant Frozone (alter-ego Lucius) of The Incredibles?

  • Lucius/Frozone: Honey?
  • Honey: What?
  • Lucius/Frozone: Where’s my super suit? (i.e. what happened to my tri-shorts, I left them here on the floor last week? )
  • Honey: What?
  • Lucius/Frozone: Where – is – my – super – suit?
  • Honey: I, uh, put it away.
  • [helicopter explodes outside (or weather looks perfect)]
  • Lucius/Frozone: *Where*?
  • Honey: *Why* do you *need* to know?
  • Lucius/Frozone: I need it!
  • Honey: Uh-uh! Don’t you think about running off doing no derrin’-do (i.e. 6 hour training ride). We’ve been planning this dinner for two months!
  • Lucius/Frozone: The public (My fitness level) is in danger!
  • Honey: My evening’s in danger!
  • Lucius/Frozone: You tell me where my suit is, woman! We are talking about the greater good!
  • Honey: ‘Greater good?’ I am your wife! I’m the greatest *good* you are ever gonna get!

This is all simply to say that I realize my training was a great effort for my family as well. Don’t get me wrong, they could not have been more behind me. My wife (definitely in the “greater good” category) was truly Mrs. Incredible, 100% on board. She is the one who signed me up for this thing in the first place. How many women do you know who would insist the yard remain uncut (and even cut it herself) so her husband’s legs could remain fresh for the weekend ride? Not many I’m sure. Ultimately, we all survived the crazy schedules and there was nothing left to do but race.

The Venue: Beach 2 Battleship Iron Distance Triathlon, Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

Lisa and I (with me still in my mild-mannered husband and father persona) drove up on Thursday to give us plenty of prep time before Saturday morning. My super powers are enhanced by certain types of music, so we jammed our way across the state with Eye of the Tiger and the best jock jams the 80s and 90s had to offer. Once in Wilmington, we spent the rest of the day getting settled in, visiting the expo (excellent by the way), and searching out places to eat pasta (Everyone knows that pasta to a triathlete is like spinach to Popeye).

Friday AM: Lisa and I woke up early to take a little bike ride under race conditions (i.e. cool temperatures). We had a great ride, went to the pre-race meeting, and spent the afternoon sorting out the special needs and transition bags. That evening my incredible sister-in-law and brother-in-law made the five-hour drive and met us for dinner. My fellow caped crusader Jolene joined us, and we all descended on Olive Garden, ready for our endless bowls of pasta. Well, apparently someone at Olive Garden figured out that a town full of spandex clad warriors, an endless bowl of pasta, and a slow economy just didn’t add up to fiscal responsibility for the restaurant, so the offer was no longer available. Obviously the forces of evil were working against us. Despite such a plot, we enjoyed a good meal, good company anyway, and headed back to our hotels hoping to catch at least a few hours of sleep before we set out to conquer the world.

Saturday AM: The alarm in the secret lair was set for 4:30AM, but we were up well before that. First a quick hot shower to try and loosen up the shoulder, and prayers that the inflammation would be down so I could manage a half-way decent swim and not be in agony through the bike and run. Most importantly we prayed that whatever happened I would honor God through it. We took our time checking things in transition and getting body marked (all the work had been done, my bike and bags were turned in the night before). Time moved along quickly, and by 6:30 I was on the shuttle headed to the beach.

Swim: It was a chilly morning (temps in 40s) and the sand was downright freezing! Frozone would have felt right at home. 68-degree water would be most welcome compared to the ice-sand. Is this sleeveless wetsuit going to be warm enough? Luckily for me, a freakish imperviousness to cold is one of my super powers. After the national anthem and some heart pumping music we were off. To date, this was the roughest swim I had ever been in. I certainly got my share of kicks and scratches. KA-POW! BIFF! POW! Now I know why they call a mass beach start the “blender.” I didn’t baby my shoulder though and just went about my business. It would take more than a kick to the head to stop this buoyant boy wonder. I glanced at my watch occasionally, and around the 50 minute mark I saw what I thought was the last turn, marked by the distinctive “Wiggly Man.” Imagine my amazement to realize that I had already made the turn with the rest of the pack, and was actually approaching the swim exit. Fifty-four minutes and I was out of the water! That was better than I had ever hoped for, even with a good shoulder. My feet didn’t work when I climbed onto the dock, so I hit the deck hard. Although impervious to cold, I was thankfully not impervious to the numbing effects of the cool waters and didn’t feel much from the fall. With a hand from one of the volunteers I was up and on my feet again in no time. On to the wetsuit strippers, the shower, and then the changing tent – leg one was complete!

Transition 1: Who knew it was so hard to get dressed when you can barely feel your fingers and toes? How did Superman do this in a phone booth? Don’t even get me started on Wonder Woman. At least the attitude in the tent was jovial as everyone was excited to have made it through the swim. After a quick check to make sure I didn’t forget anything, I was off to mount my trusted steed. Hi-Yo Silver, awaaaayyyy!!!!!

Bike: After what seemed like a REALLY long transition I was finally into my comfort zone. The bike felt good, and I have to admit that it was quite a rush getting to ride a bicycle on the interstate. Once we got out of town there was little traffic on the course, and every intersection was controlled – nice. The volunteers at the special needs stop were spot on, which made for a very smooth and quick stop. As the day wore on the sun really began to heat things up, so off went the gloves, arm warmers, and vest. Then there was the last forty miles of the ride, a continual head wind that just wouldn’t stop. To be fair though, it was a pretty flat course, so I probably shouldn’t complain too much about the wind. Everything went just as I had planned, nutrition and hydration all according to schedule. The IGC (Iron Guy Cycle) performed flawlessly. After 112 miles my shoulder still felt fine. I was getting set up for the run and hoping to nail my personal target time.

Transition 2: This one was a little quicker than T1, now that I had the feel for how the whole changing tent/transition bag handoff worked. I was thankful to just keep from putting my shorts on backwards. I still was not racing through the transitions, and then it was time to ease into the run.

Run: Things started off pretty well. I found myself having to intentionally slow down during the first mile, and it was actually getting hot! I never expected to be pouring water on my head in November. I made a quick “pit stop” at the first rest station, and that’s when the trouble began. If you’ve ever been there you know what I’m talking about, that slushy feeling in your stomach that feels like you are carrying around a small ocean (I wonder if the Flash ever had this problem?). I managed it for the first 6 miles or so, but after that I knew I was in trouble.

Because of that slushy feeling, I had quit drinking as much, and stomach discomfort soon turned to something more sinister – stomach cramps! Could this be some type of wicked plot from an unseen super nemesis? More likely they were the results of unprocessed Clif Bars and Shot Bloks, but an effective does of Kryptonite nonetheless. Feeling betrayed by my belly I pressed on. I ran as much as I could, but sometimes it felt as if I had to choose between slowing to a walk or throwing up, and I chose the former. I resolved to make the best of the situation, run as much as I could, and take “pit stops” as required.

Still Running: When the sun set on the course the temperature plummeted. At the halfway point I put on a long sleeved shirt, wished I had packed some gloves, and hit the road again. I had started to find my rhythm again here and there, I even cheered at the downtown crowds, and had some good miles. My wife and family were staked out on course and the times I passed by them were some of the greatest moments of encouragement for me. About mile 17 I had a close encounter with some railroad tracks in the dark, rolled my ankle, and did a very graceful fall onto the pavement. So there I sat stunned, on the ground, alone in the dark. Was I injured? How was my ankle? Was I cut? Bleeding? Could this be the end? Had the would-be Iron-Dad finally been defeated? What to do? I had no choice – I got back up. That’s what you do when you fall down, you get up, and I’ve already learned many lessons from that moment. I started back slowly, making sure that everything was working properly. Miraculously, I made it through the fall without a single scrape. Thank you God.

Finishing: Realizing that my goal time was an impossibility, I decided to do my best to enjoy the rest of the race. I encouraged others on the course, I prayed for those who looked like they were struggling, and I took in every moment. Once the end was in sight, adrenaline clouded any stomach pain – I was about to fulfill a life’s goal. The final 100 meters was surreal Should I fly across the line? I settled for a slow run/ jog to make it last. I heard my name called over the PA system and reality came crashing in. I had done it. 140.6 miles. I was an Iron Man.

It’s hard to explain the rush of emotions I felt once I stepped across the line. Elation, relief, euphoria, thankfulness. It was beyond words. My family was waiting for me, it was so great to see their beaming faces. I declined any medical help at the line, after all, I was fine, a super hero. Obviously the race organizers recognized our super status, why else would they give us all those neat foil capes to wear? After a few minutes I was feeling a little nauseated and decided to visit the medical tent, just in case. It turned out I had become dehydrated on the course. The stomach cramps I experienced in the tent were the most severe yet. I felt worse there than I had at any point along the course. Judging by those around me, I had done well to stave off hypothermia, which seemed to be common in the tent. After a couple of bags of fluid l was good to go. The next morning I felt great, ready to tackle the world, or at least the breakfast buffet!

The series of thoughts and emotions one goes through during one of these events is unique, and I’m sure it’s different for everyone. To summarize, mine went something like this:

During the marathon leg: “Once this is over, I am NEVER EVER EVER going to do this again.”

At the finish line: “This was awesome, but I won’t be doing this again for a LONG LONG TIME.”

The next morning: “I wonder how the run would be without the stomach issues? Maybe another try in a FEW YEARS?”

Perhaps I’m now under the influence of an enemy mind control ray, or suffering from Post Super Hero Syndrome, but as crazy as it sounds even to me, I think I want to do it again. Soon. Will it be this year? Only time, schedule, and the demands of life will tell. Until then, up, UP, and AWAAAAYYYYY!!!!

Finish Well!