Monday, September 19, 2011


2011 SavageMan Triathlon - Westernport Wall #6
(Fast forward to 27:40 on the video. Matt is the guy powering up the hill wearing a white Old Style jersey)

Race Type - 1/2 Ironman
Total Time - 7h 14m 21s
Overall Rank - 250/390
Age Group - 35-39
Age Group Rank - 35/53

Race Report:
Headed to Deep Creek Saturday morning, with a quick stop in Westernport to see if I could make it up the Wall with the recently installed 11/28 cassette (I failed last month with a 25), made it fairly easily, so I had much more confidence going into Sunday. Packet pickup and racking were uneventful, and by the time I went and checked in at Wisp, it was time to head up to the Carb Dinner. The whole reception and dinner was great, good food, lots of friendly people, and Dave Scott was really down to earth and fun to talked too. I congratulated him on his upcoming victory over me. I didn't sleep very well, and was pretty much awake at 3:30, not cool when your race doesn't start until 8:45.

Swim: 38:41 | 1931 meters | 02m / 100meters
I pretty much focused my swim training on being comfortable for the distance, and not setting the world on fire. I wouldn't say it felt great getting in the water, but it was sure as hell better than standing out in the air.

Normal tumbling at the start, also, realized about five minutes in that I had forgotten to start my watch. Oops. Made it to the turtle turnaround much faster than I had expected, then coming back to the second turnaround at the Swan there was some chop that was a little distracting, but nothing serious.
What would you do differently?: I did the required distances in training, however I've never really done the training sets that make you a faster swimmer. I really should if I want to stop being a back of pack swimmer.
So running out of the water I had the first of many silly conversations with myself. I was so numb from the water, I actually thought I might be warm enough to avoid most of the extra clothing I had for the bike. Fortuantely, the small part of my brain that contains intelligence said, "Hey, see that smoke coming out of your mouth? That means it is still cold dummy." Hence the long transition time, drying off as much as possible, putting on bike pants and jersey over my trisuit, and finally arm warmers and gloves. I did not regret using any of these items.
What would you do differently?: Maybe just bring a Snuggie to wear and avoid clothing volume?
Bike: 04:01:59 | 56 miles | 13.89 mile/hr
You would think that as hard as the bike course is, any nerves or excitement would be concerning all of the hills, not just one of them. But I'm a guy, and thus, inherently dumb, so all I could think about was the Wall. What if I don't make it? Will that ruin my day? Will I curse the poor volunteers for their grievous sin of helping me get up? Despite all of these thoughts, I managed to multitask and pedal the bike at the same time. Those first 18 miles are downright pleasant, except for that Wall voice in my head.

So, here we go. Passed into Westernport and headed up the small ramp a block or two before the start of the Wall. I shifted to my small front chainring, and of course, the chain wouldn't catch. Panic time. Fumbled blindly with my shifters, and thankfully, somehow, it caught. Then you turn the corner, and it's time for the four block adventure. If they don't already, I think they should have someone recording expressions as riders get their first look up the Wall. Audio might be nice too. I did the first three blocks with a couple gears to spare, then put it into the 28 for the final part. I could hear the noise, and part of me noticed the crowd, but for the most part I just talked/screamed at myself. Here's what the conversation was like over the last block:

Voice 1:"Okay dummy, spin real fast now and stay to the right."
Voice 2:"I don't think I can do this."
Voice 1:"Shut up. Look, that guy that fell to your left, he's blocking everyone else from getting in your way."
Voice 2:"Thanks Voice 1, I think we might do this!"
Voice 1:"Crap, that other guy just fell in your preferred line, veer left right here towards the top and go over that big pothole!"
Voice 2:"WHAT?!?"

And then I was at the top. The race is over, right? I pumped my fist to the crowd and everything, so it's time to go home.

No, not exactly. But I will say, it was an awesome feeling, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the video to see if it really was as crazy as it seemed at the time.

Now it was time to assess things. The clothing drop was just ahead, but honestly the sun hadn't come out and it was chilly enough that my lungs were burning pretty good. I decided to keep everything with me, and it ended up being a good decision. Then, the long slog up Big Savage. Nothing memorable, other than the repeated conversations everyone had on the way up asking whether you had gotten your brick.

I made my biggest mistake of the day at the top of the climb. At the aid station, I got a bottle of water and some salt pills. In juggling both I managed to lose the water bottle, which went spiraling back down the hill. Winning the "Worst Idea Ever" award, I decided I should just keep going and stick it out to the next aid station. It's only 14 miles, right? Never mind there are three really nasty climbs in between. Fortunately (not that I deserved it) I was saved by Ronna, who I talked to for all while on the gentle climb before McAndrew. Besides being really nice in general, she gave me one of her bottles. I suppose now I have to do something nice for someone someday. Although I didn't get to see Ronna finish, I did manage to sneak into her transition area to return the bottle afterwards (it was a nicer, fancy one).

McAndrew and Otto were not bad at all, just grinding out the climb, and then I saw my favorite sign of the day, already mentioned in another race report, "Don't Look Left!". On my training ride last month I didn't think Killer Miller was too bad. Not the case today. Several people were walking their bikes up, and my quads were starting to get that special tingle that meant I was on the verge of serious cramps. There were some good crowds on the ascent though, and that really helped keep me going. Made it to the aid station and actually managed to hang on to the bottle this time. Yay team.

Maynardier wasn't too much of a problem, and I felt I was pretty good to go, until mile 47 when I hit this tiny little hill, and decided to stand in the pedals for just a second or two to stretch things out. Oops. Both quads seized at once. It was bad. "Might not finish the race" kind of bad. Somehow the cramps eased up, and I didn't have to walk the rest of the bike and half marathon doing a double peg-leg stumblefest. I had been hoping to finish the bike leg under 4 hours, but especially given the scare towards the end, I was just glad to get through in one piece.
What would you do differently?: Not a thing.
T2: 02:21
That's more like it. Since I had already put my arm warmers and gloves in my jersey, I just had to take the jersey and bike pants off, change shoes, and out the door I went.
What would you do differently?: Wait a week before coming back to do the half marathon.
Run: 02:24:34 | 13.1 miles | 11m 02s  min/mile
I saw coming in that two break seven hours I'd have to do better than 10 minute miles. I knew it was possible, I just didn't know if it was possible today. I felt great the first two miles, and then my legs started playing a game called "Guess Which Part Will Hurt Next?". Nothing consistent, just roving aches and pains throughout, with an occassional back spasm for good measure. At the aid stations I took on salt, alternated water and Heed, even had some pretzels at one point. I think I was averaging under 10 minute miles for the first half of the loop, but then I hit the fire road. I really did plan on running up it, I swear I did. But when there is someone walking up ahead of you, and you're not catching them while "running", you kinda need to reassess priorities. So, I walked up the last half, then started running again. One funny moment just before mile 6, a spectator shouted (encouragingly) that I was almost done, and her friend chastised her, since you never know if someone is on their first or second lap. I just smiled and said I'd see them in an hour or so. I finished my first loop in about 1:08, so I knew sub-seven hours wasn't happening. Oh well.

Second lap was pretty consistent with the first, although a little slower. This is primarily since I now walked up 3/4 of the fire road. I was feeling ok, and actually passed some people those last few miles. I tried to stay lighthearted, saying goodbye to everyone I'd seen the first time around, and letting that girl (now at mile 12) that it was ok to tell me I'm almost done now. Happily the last mile or so of the run is flat, which was a huge relief at that point since you never get completely comfortable with giant hills that want to destroy your soul. Crossed the finish line, feeling really spent, sore, but overall ok. Nice touch that they had the finish line tape up for me, makes us slow folks feel a little bit prouder.
What would you do differently?: It was what it was. As you'll read below, there is a likely reason I wasn't as fast as I could have been.
Post race
Warm down: Right after finishing BT'r SBRDave found me, having finished well before I did and hearing my name coming down the finish chute. We talked for a bit while I ate a sandwich (great post race food and ice cream by the way). I even got to take a shower after packing up to head home, so I didn't have to drive for three hours feeling like a dirty salt lick.
What limited your ability to perform faster: Yeah, this is the real fun part. I arrived home at around 8PM, and shortly thereafter my wife started exhibiting symptoms of a stomach bug. Same symptoms hit me at 1AM, and it was party one from there, so I assume it was something we caught Friday or Saturday that blew up Sunday night. Did it affect me? No idea, but either way I don't think it kept me from that podium spot.
Event comments: Simply the best supported, organized, and fun race I have ever done. My biggest regret is that I didn't get to fully take in the weekend and enjoy the area. I think I'll do the 70.0 again, but what I really think would be fun would be to run the Olympic on Saturday and then volunteer on Sunday. I've become a bit complacent in my race reporting over the last year or two, this is the first race report in a while that I was excited about writing.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I hate all of the 'Where were you?' September 11th posts.
'How did you feel? What were you doing?'

I suppose I was lucky that day, I was safely ensconsed in suburban Chicagoland. I knew nobody in New York or at the Pentagon. But today still riddles me with sorrow.... guilt.

'How did you feel? What were you doing?'
I rarely join in on the conversations. I listen, and smile sympathetically, but I don't contribute. I still feel so guilty about my response to those questions. I guess I should just go ahead and tell my story. Maybe my shoulders will lighten a little bit.


On September 11, 2001, I was working for a stockbroker.

I hated the job. It was a two man shop, me and him. He was hardly ever in the office, often out playing golf with clients. He was maybe two or three years older than me. I never asked him how old he was, I really didn't want to know. He talked constantly about how much money he was making, knowing that more than a few of his big ticket customers were there because I charmed them while he was out playing golf. I hated the job.

I mostly worked an 8 am - 4pm schedule, skipping lunch so I could leave early. The New York Stock Excahnge opened at 9:30 am which usually gave me an hour and a half to open the office and sort all the voice mail messages and faxes that had come through overnight.

Around 8:50 am a fax came through from headquarters. To my recollection, it said 'The Market will be delayed in opening. It has been reported that a small prop plane as struck a building in downtown NYC.'

And I laughed.

That is my guilt, my sorrow. I was glad for a delay to the start of my day. I laughed for a solid 5 minutes.

Until the next fax came through. And the one after that. And the one after that.

Details came through slowly, or so it felt. The handful of minutes between updates felt like hours. We didn't have a TV in the office and I don't know why it didn't dawn on me to turn on the radio. I just read the supply of faxes that started pouring in, each with an increasing about of information and horror. I started flinching every time I heard the machine kick on.

Per his normal schedule, my stockbroker flew into the parking lot a few minutes after 9:30.

'Have you heard what happened?' he asked,  'This will be bad for buisness. I need to think.' He shut himself in his office behind me.  I sat in shock and read the flow of faxes.

I had laughed.

Around 10am he emerged with a pile of printouts. 'We have to do something. We have to tell people that their money is OK,' he announced. He handed me a stack of papers. It was a list of clients and phone numbers, A-M. 'People need to hear from us. We need to personally call everyone and reassure them their investments are safe.'

My stomach flip-flopped but I didn't say anything outside of saying that I wasn't comforatable with it. I should have screamed at him, told him what an asshole he was. People were dying and he was worried about money. I didn't say it though. I sat at my desk for 10 minutes and then picked up the phone.

A few numbers in, somebody answered. She answered with a shakey, tear filled voice. I followed my script. She screamed at me. Screamed the things that I should have screamed at my stockbroker. She knew people in those buildings. I deserved those words. The full impact of what was happending and what I had just done fully hit me. I wept uncontrolably.

That is the second fold of my sorrow, my guilt. I blindly followed instructions that I knew weren't right. That I knew were crass and careless.

After I told the stockbroker what happened, he sent me home for the day. And he changed his tactic. He narrowed this list to just his biggest clients and rang with concern about their families and connections on the East Coast.


That is my story, my remembering. It isn't as horrible as it could be, as many are. But, it could be so much easier to tell, if only my actions that day were more thought out, more careful. I made someone's life worse that day, their heart ache more.

And you know what?  10 years later, I don't feel a shred better for having written this.