Ironman Santa Rosa Race Review

Ironman Santa Rosa

My phone alarm jolted me out of unconsciousness. It was race day. Strangely, I woke up feeling at peace. I had been training for almost a year for Ironman Santa Rosa. My first full Ironman. Still dark for a few hours, I turned on the lights and changed into my triathlon suit that had covered my frame through three Half Ironmans and a handful of shorter races. The race day checklist stared back at me from the breakfast table of my grandparents’ house. First on the list were affirmations. Stay grateful, let go of negativity, find steadiness in success and failures. Then I sipped my Greens and Beet shake, chocked full of vitamins and adaptogens.

I filled my water bottles and loaded the gear in my pack. My Iron-sherpa, Chris, started the truck. We were off. The drive to Lake Sonoma passed uneventfully as we talked over the steady pulse of my race day playlist.

Maybe I knew that today was more than just a race. Ironman Santa Rosa was a day to celebrate the journey of transformation that started five years ago when I started to face my PTSD head on in full sobriety; this race an opportunity for me to give thanks for my growth in Mind, Body, and Spirit. Or maybe my meditations and deep stretches had calmed me. Perhaps my body was also ready for the race, having gone through the race day morning rituals many times before. I reminded myself to let go of the outcome and simply be in the moment for each stroke, pedal, and stride. Like Mark Allen said, “transcend the numbers”.  After all, whatever my finishing time, it would be a personal best.

 

Final Prep

Chris and I walked to transition amidst the bustle of cars parking, headlamps on athletes winding their way down the hill from the bus drop-off and the warm breeze touching our faces. Generator-fueled light stands illuminated the parking lot and I merged into the foot traffic of athletes entering into transition. Among the racked bikes, everyone scurried about to inflate tires, fix last-minute disasters, and don their wetsuits. A few bikes down from me stood Eric McElvenny, Marine, and spokesman for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. We met last year for the Oceanside Half and he recognized me. Eric lost a leg in Afghanistan and has been competing in long-distance triathlon ever since. He embodies Ironman’s slogan of “Anything is Possible.”

After inflating my tires and putting my water bottles in their cages, I slipped into my wetsuit and barefooted it down the longest boat ramp in the world. The extended wait for the porta-potty (when is it not?) did not leave much time for my swim warm up.  The crowded boat ramp was not conducive to getting a few strokes in before the race. Oh well. I’d done many a race without a warm up and would ease into the 2.4-mile swim. In fact, I was more concerned about overheating with the lake temperature at 76.1. I planned to flush my 4mm suit often. Those one-armed isolation drills would come in handy.

 

The Swim

The cannon fired and we were off….to a slow penguin waddle as the rolling start bottlenecked the eager athletes and spread out the traffic in the lake. Jumping in, I instantly knew I had never used a wetsuit in this warm of water. I swam 4 miles in the Willamette River a few weeks back without a suit. The river’s 70º temp felt great on my skin. But the suit would save my legs for the bike and run. So it goes. The golden sunrise over lake silhouetted the safety kayakers and buoys as I began the 140.6-mile journey. The mist lifted over the water and I rounded the buoys, settling into a rhythm.

Ironman Santa Rosa Swim

Photo courtesy of Jeff Dyer

“Smooth”

My mantra for the swim steadied my energy and I focused my awareness on the body: high elbow recovery, good torso rotation, and keeping a long body. It’s fascinating what comes to mind when I allow space. My yoga instructor’s voice popped in like Obi-wan Kenobi guiding Luke’s Death Star run. “Let a steady breath be your guide.” Namaste, Perry. After the first lap, I exited the water to run across a timing mat, high-fiving volunteers and thanking them.

My mission to set a course record for most high fives was off to a great start.

Back in the water for round two. Feeling good and loose, I increased my pace a bit. No feet or elbows found my face. and I worked my way through the crowded spots. My only struggle was passing a swimmer who was slightly faster, but zig-zagging and unintentionally boxing me out. Before I knew it, the final meters of the swim lay in front of me. I increased my kick to get the blood flowing to my legs to offset the heart rate spike that accompanies the swim exit.

Swim time 1:13:40

 

T1

I gave out more high fives up the ramp as spectators cheered me and fellow athletes on. It took resolve to not run up the steep boat ramp, but I did not want to burn out later in the day. Steadiness. I came to the changing tent in transition and a volunteer handed me my bike gear bag. Immediately, I realized my rookie mistake and silently thanked whichever volunteer saved my ass. 

Being my first full Ironman, I left my bike gear next to my racked bike. Bush league stuff, Mike. I learned that in full Ironmans you change in the changing tent and leave the bike racks clutter-free. During the swim, a volunteer had bagged my gear.

T1: 10:59

 

The Bike

The bike leg started with an immediate steep grade uphill from the transition to the main road. Crossing the bridge above Lake Sonoma, I felt fresh. The light breeze began to dry my body without any chill.  I let go of the thought that a warm morning might lead to a hot afternoon for the run. Heeding my coaches advice, I focused on gently lowering my heart rate by using a moderate cadence in a low gear. My aerobic threshold was 146bpm. I gradually eased my heart rate down as the long descent required minimal pedaling to move at a steady clip.

Ironman Santa Rosa bike 1

My other goals on the bike were to drink one water bottle per hour and sip my fuel (Hammer Nutrition Perpetuum) every 10 minutes for a steady supply of energy. Perpetuum had served me well in all previous Half Ironmans and I decided to stick with it. Two worried thoughts circled back to me every so often. The first was getting a flat tire. I had spare tubes and c02 inflators, but I was still concerned, having popped three tubes since getting new tires a few days before (nothing new during race week!). 

The second source of worry was my left knee. The week prior, I felt a sharp pain in the last few miles of my final long ride. No pain after getting off the bike. It didn’t come back in the days following, but my mind considered the possibility of it making a 4th quarter appearance during the 112-mile ride. I smiled and bowed to that thought and guided my mind back to my cadence and heart rate. Steadiness.

Ironman Santa Rosa bike 2

Through the rolling hills of wine country and under a canopy of oaks I brought to mind the 29 Marines whose names adorned my jersey. Nine days ago was the anniversary of Todd Godwin’s death. A tear-filled sprint session on the trail that afternoon helped me accept the lingering grief surrounding his death, thirteen years ago. Godspeed and Semper Fi, buddy. 

I allowed my mind to find gratitude for having known the “T-0-Double,” as we called him. Todd’s orange hair and fair complexion led to a few situations where higher-ups got us confused. Todd got chewed out a few times for my rookie mistakes as a young lance corporal, newest to the unit. He took them in stride and surprisingly never paid the hate forward to me. The entire barracks echoed with his hearty guffaw of a laugh. Everyone knew about his late-night trips to the vending machines to buy honey buns. Amazingly, these nocturnal binges never seemed to alter his chiseled physique and ability to outlift, outrun, and outfight most men in Alpha Company. Todd is a Marine to the core.

Once a Marine, always a Marine.  Not even IED’s can change that.

 


Posing with Todd Godwin during first deployment to Iraq.

The bike ride is the loneliest leg of a triathlon. No one bumping into you, like during the swim. And unlike the run, aid stations and crowds are few and far between. Lots of time to think. Lots of time for the mind to toss some doubt and worry my way. I am an average swimmer, decent runner, and a below average cyclist. But despite that, my mental strength makes up for these deficits. From yoga and meditation, a greater body awareness helps me to allow negative thoughts to come and go like the clouds. No need to block out and no need to hold on.

Any combat veteran has an unfair advantage in endurance sports. Many of us find solace in thoughts such as “No one’s shooting at me, so it’s a pretty awesome day” and “I’m not gonna die here. What, am I really gonna be afraid of getting tired?” (Of course, one man who had a heart-attack, but luckily there was a doctor racing who stopped and saved his life!)

Some of the course was familiar. The Vineman Half bike course followed and sometimes went the reverse of this course. Mostly flat with some rolling hills and hardly any headwind or crosswinds to fight against. My hydration strategy worked a little too well. (*TRIGGER WARNING*) I had already pissed four times in the first hour and aid stations were mostly just a chance to rinse my legs off with clean water.

 

After the first sixty miles, the course took us downtown Santa Rosa and crowds cheered. It was a welcome boost to hear the thumping music and see familiar faces before slingshotting around the corner and back out to the country roads.

A couple sections of the road felt like they been transplanted from Iraq. Potholes and crumbling asphalt lay waste to a few tires of fellow triathletes, who resolved themselves to a time-draining tube change. Among the wreckage were dozens of water bottles, launched from their cages after encountering a fatal bump in the road. My only loss was some feeling in the nether-regions after one surprise bump and the rubber top to my bike’s internal bento box. Adapt and overcome.

While the second half of the bike course was less scenic, the motivation from the cheering crowd and sections of super-smooth roads made up for it. About 80 miles in, that familiar knee pain began to arrive. Allowing some space in my mind, a helpful phrase popped in. “Focus on what you CAN do and let go of the rest.” This is what I tell my clients each day and now I had the opportunity to practice what I preached. So I focused on the upstroke of my left, which eased the pain. Occasionally I massaged the tight spot and simply decided to keep going. I was confident this was a stiffness from overuse and not the pain of injury.

My growing saddle sores rejoiced when I cruised into transition and handed my bike off to a volunteer. Trotting into the changing tent, I felt like royalty not needing to rack it myself.

Bike time: 6:03:09

 

T2

In the tent, the menthol sting of an Icey-Hot or tiger balm products instantly assaulted my eyes and nose. I changed socks and removed my helmet while chatting with my fellow triathletes. Upon hearing this was my first Ironman, they all flashed huge grins and gave me some sage advice.

“Enjoy the run, don’t worry about your time. Ease into it”

“Take your time in the chute and soak it all up. And for God’s sake, don’t look at your watch at the finish line! I’ve ruined a finish photo doing that!”

T2: 09:05

 

The Run

I welcomed the offer of volunteers to apply a new coat to my #FreeRangeGinger body and rounded the corner into the run course. My heart surged when I saw my wife and daughter waving at me. The little one was ringing a cow bell as I gave her a kiss. My sister, grandparents, and friends also lined the sidewalk and sent me off with a fresh dose of motivation.

 

Ironman Santa Rosa run 1

“Wipe your mouth, dada.”

I felt good. Really good. My legs were fresh and spirits were high. The knee pain from the bike vanished. I subdued my desire to head out too fast and settled into an easy jog. Keeping my heart rate below 146 bpm, I heeded the advice of my coach and fellow athletes to ease into the run.

My coaches game-plan was for me to stay “MAF,” or under 146 bpm until I “knew I would finish.” The second part of that struck me as much more ambiguous today. I mean, I knew I was going to finish before I even started this run. But I stuck to the plan and decided I wouldn’t push above 146 bpm until after the first 13 miles. I’d heard plenty of stories about people hitting the wall around mile 18-20 and didn’t want to make that first-hand experience.

For nutrition, I decided to use a Clif shot every 30 minutes and supplement with Gatorade as needed. I just haven’t found another great option for the run in a triathlon and I wasn’t about to switch it up today.

Within a few miles I found a woman who matched my pace and as we ran she asked why I was running this race. I told her about Todd Godwin, Brad Faircloth, Dave Houck and the twenty-six other Marines on my jersey. This was what it was all about! People hearing about these guys. Celebrating their lives and honoring their sacrifices in the symbolic act of pushing past my own limits to become an Ironman. She told me about how she was running this race to deal with the pain of her husband leaving her. Definitely no shortage of inspiration at this race.

My run strategy worked well. The run course was divided into three loops of 8-point-something miles and swooped back into the downtown each time. By far the most spectator-friendly course I have run. The course was at least half on smooth dirt trails the width of a fire road and made it easier on the knees. I felt good during the first loop. Through the second loop my legs began to stiffen and fatigue a bit, but my stomach handled the Clif shots like a champ and my spirits were high.

I allowed myself to wonder how it was going to feel crossing that finish line and hearing Mike Reilly shout out his trademark phrase, “Michael Ergo, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” I didn’t linger too long in the fantasy. There was still running to be done. My third loop started with tired legs. For the first time in my running career, it was a struggle to even get up to my aerobic threshold of 146 bpm. Usually, I have to slow myself down on a regular basis with my watch beeping to alert me of an overzealous pace.

Ironman Santa Rosa Sarah

My best friend and number one support.


Once again I harnessed gratitude. This time it was for my family. I am immensely grateful for my wife, Sarah, who lets me spend the long hours training while she herds two little kids around the house and attends to their constant needs. I strive to do most of my training in early hours of the morning, but there is not squeezing in a 5-hour bike ride before the kids get up. Compared to raising young children, running a marathon is easy. It was just over 5 years ago that she took a risk and demanded the “real me” and convinced me to step out of my self-made prison of alcoholism. She’s fiercely loyal and has stood up for me when others haven’t. She knows me better than anyone else. She’s put up with the different fad diets, Crossfit evangelism, biohacking, spear fishing adventures, and questionable fashion choices I’ve made over the years.

Compared to raising young children, running a marathon is easy. It was just over 5 years ago that she took a risk and demanded the “real me” and convinced me to step out of my self-made prison of alcoholism. She’s fiercely loyal and has stood up for me when others haven’t. She knows me better than anyone else. She’s put up with the different fad diets, Crossfit evangelism, biohacking, spear fishing adventures, and questionable fashion choices I’ve made over the years.

Ironman Santa Rosa run addie-mike

I thought about my daughter Adeline. She is my little shadow, constantly running with me on the trails. Addie tells  me someday she wants to do a “tuh-ra-thuh-lawn” with me when she’s bigger. She came into this world during November, a month previously overloaded with the memories of death and killing in the city of Fallujah. Fear, loss, chaos, and anger staked claim to November. But her birth changed doom and gloom to hope and life. The moment I saw her delivered from Sarah’s womb the universe collided with my past, pushing it behind me. In those intense moments of absolute presence, I shifted. I too was delivered and born again as she looked into my eyes and held my finger in those first minutes of her life.

Ironman Santa Rosa Liam

And of course my nine-month-old baby boy, Liam. He was born almost exactly three years after Adeline. His middle name, Todd, is of course after one of the greatest warriors I have known. He is a living reminder of how those we love are never truly gone because we carry them in our hearts forever.

I’m not into astrology or numerology, but I find symbolism and meaning in numbers. After all, what is special about the distance of 140.6 miles? It tells a story. The story of the first Ironman and the three races that preceded it on Oahu. My race bib was number 346 and it matched up with three birthdays of my wife and kids. Mine is on the 5th. Whatever the meaning behind it, number 346 gave me the presence of mind to cultivate a spirit of gratitude for the most important people in my life.

 

Ironman Santa Rosa family picture

My source of strength.

 

Home Stretch

Gratitude is my secret weapon. Much more than a positive thought, gratitude is a stirring feeling of thankfulness. Each heartbeat sent shockwaves of joy throughout my body. My legs came back to life and picked up the pace. I quickly did the math and knew that if I hustled I might, just might get close to a 12-hour finish. With my coaches calculations, I planned on a 13-hour finish.

I began to pick up the pace and going faster actually felt better. Maybe this was just delirium. I rounded the final turns of the course and entered the chute. Now I finally let myself believe it. A few more steps and I am an Ironman, I thought.Not by myself, but because of an all-star cast of a support crew. Sarah, Adeline, Liam, my extended family, swim team, coworkers, community, and of course the spirit of 29 Marines adorning the front and back of my jersey.

Whoever says triathlon is an individual sport misses the point. The individual may get the glory, but it’s the people behind the scenes that deserve the credit.

 

Ironman Santa Rosa chute

Feeling no pain in the Ironman chute

Thumping bass notes and distant cheering grew louder as I rounded the last turn in the chute. The home stretch! The fading, late afternoon sun gave way to shadows pierced by the finish line flashes from cameras and cell phones.

 

I slowed to a steady jog, soaking it all in. I’ll never have another first Ironman, I thought to myself. Let’s savor the moment.

 

The final 50 meters were so loud I couldn’t even hear my own voice. Spectators enthusiastically banged the side boards on the chute and cheered me in as my own support crew shouted my name excitedly. And just as I had imagined in my head for over a year, Mike Reilly finally proclaimed,

 

“MICHAEL ERGO, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

 

 

Run time: 04:19:08

Total Time 11:56:01

Ironman Santa Rosa Finish 1

Ironman Santa Rosa Finish 2

Ironman Santa Rosa Newspaper

Photo by Melissa Ergo

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Lucky’s Lake Swim

Lucky’s Lake Swim Review


“We provide all alligators for free. There is no extra or hidden charge” boasts the Lucky’s Lake Swim website.

 

After reading that I knew my casual google search for open water swimming in Orlando had struck gold. My family and I were on vacation and I hoped to get some training in during my time in Florida.

Glassy conditions for Lucky's Lake Swim

Not only are the alligators provided, but Lucky’s Lake Swim is a totally free event happening daily. In a world of $1000 entry fees for  Ironman triathlons, I figured there had to be a catch. Who would open up his own home and let strangers come each day for a 1k swim in the warm Florida lake waters? As it turns out, Dr. “Lucky” Meisenheimer would. Besides creating a swim with a cult following, Lucky has quite the resumé. One needs only to glance at Dr. Meisenheimer’s wiki page to discover the man who is the cross-section of medical doctor, author, former collegiate swimmer, actor, yo-yo enthusiast, family man, and foot-in-mouth-swim record holder. (Yes, that’s a thing.)

 

Am I in the right place?

I drove to Lake Cane, entering Lucky’s lakefront property around 6:00 am and parked beneath an outdoor basketball hoop. A regular to the pre-dawn ritual greeted me, “You swimming today?” Al Johnson,  a Vietnam Vet, took me down to the dock and got me the orange clip-on float buoy, required for all newbies, including “Michael freaking Phelps” as the website states. He traded my signed waiver for a green swim cap and we set our gear on the dock. Al noticed my outsized military tattoos and told me he had served with the 173rd in Vietnam. Apparently, I’m not the only veteran-turned-endurance-junkie out there. Al and a pair of former Air Force F-16 pilots were regulars.

Lucky's Lake Swim fake alligator

It’s a little more convicing in the dark

 

It was then that I noticed a hungry gator just a few inches deep staring up at me. “It’s not real!” Al chided me after glancing my open jaw. Good to know.

 

Floaties are provided for Lucky's Lake Swim

Floaties are provided for Lucky’s Lake Swim

 

Dark Waters

The swim starts at 6:30 on weekdays, so it would not be light until halfway through.  The other regulars showed up, some with wetsuits because it was likely the coldest swim of the year. In central Florida, this means 63º, which felt like a bath tub compared to the San Francisco Bay. And to boot, the water was a full 20º warmer than the air temperature that morning! A novel experience for a west-coaster like me.

When it finally reached half past six we all paddled out and began our lake crossing, keeping left of the buoys. Of course I wasn’t thinking about gators biting my legs, or arms, or neck. Nope. Quickly those thoughts disappeared as I settled into the familiar rythm of stroke and breath. The silence of early morning complimented the still, dark waters of Lake Cane. The only sounds were my breathing and the splash of my hands entering the water. Soon enough I touched my feet to the soft banks on the opposite side of the lake. Halfway there.

Lucky's Lake Swim sunrise

During the trip back a sunrise slowly peaked over mossy oak trees and simplified the sighting back to Lucky’s dock. A thick mist hung over the Lake Cane’s surface, catching the orange rays of the dawn.  Twenty-seven minutes after I had jumped in, my hands reached the dock and feet found purchase on the shore. My first crossing was complete!

Lucky's Lake Swim dock signs

 

Hanging Out

The air temp. was still in the 40’s. Warm up back in the truck with the heater on, I figured, until I heard someone call out to me “you gotta try the hot tub!”  A quick rinse and then into the tub. Heaven. I chatted with a few of the other regulars who were happy to hear about my swims in the Pacific. They were used to the out-of-towners and glad to hear about my first time here in Lake Cane. They told me about the duck who sometimes made the crossing with them and a Jack Rusell terrier who also completed multiple swims. Why not?

Lucky's Lake Swim hot tub

Fully reheated, I stepped out and was promptly handed the first-timer’s goodie bag. It included a bumper sticker, patch, and log sheet to track all my future crossings. Swimmers are given various caps and shirts after milestone crossings (25, 50, 100, etc.).

Lucky's Lake Swim swim cap, bumper sticker, and patch

 

Lucky himself took me to sign the wall and was nice enough to snap a picture with me, talking about how it all came together back in 1989 when he first organized the group swims. Eventually, it grew from him and a couple friends to dozens of people a day and sometimes 200 plus swimmers on summer weekends. Crowds like that sound like great training for an Ironman mass swim start, but I was grateful for the relative solitude my group of seven afforded me that morning.

Lucky's Lake Swim photo with Dr. Lucky Meisenheimer

The photo on the right is none other than Gwen Jorgenson, who swam here in September ’16.

Lucky's Lake Swim wall signing

…and it’s official!

I always enjoy the feeling of starting my day with a good swim, especially in open water. But more than the exercise, the feeling of community and shared experience made Lucky’s Lake Swim special. Not only was there a tight-knit group of regulars, but they extended that welcome to me, a tourist. When it comes down to it, the shared experience is what makes this special.

The walk to Lucky's Lake Swim

 

Driving back from Lake Cane, I smiled. Only 24 more crossings until I earned that white swim cap!

 

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Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz Review

Standing on the pier awaiting the swim start for Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz

 

Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz was my third middle-distance triathlon. In contrast to the first two, I did not feel an excessive amount of pre-race jitters. The lack of fear coming into the race was a welcome change. I felt confident I would finish and  had no attachment to any finish time. Okay, I wanted to finish in under 6 hours, but it wouldn’t be a heartbreaker if it took longer. After all, I race for fun. I race to celebrate being alive and honor other people I care about. It was also the first triathlon training strictly with the Maffetone Method.

Up until a week before the race, Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz was simply another triathlon. Sure, I cared about it, but I did not raise funds for any charities like my previous race in Oceanside. That all changed when my coworker, Dave, shared some heavy news with me. His wife, Sarah, just found out she had cancer. Both of them were understandably devastated by the news, but as a testament to their strength in the middle of uncertainty, they were not hiding from this. Dave and Sarah were sharing the news with others, partly as a way to have some choice in the matter. How do you react when someone shares this with you? I certainly didn’t know. Continue reading

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Ragnar Trail Tahoe Review

Ragnar Trail Tahoe

 

Runner on the yellow loop trail during sunrise for Ragnar Trail Tahoe.

Last year while in Tahoe and recovering from my first Half Ironman, I walked by Royal Gorge Resort the week before the Ragnar Trail Tahoe race and saw a couple storage containers with the logo and big signs saying “Ragnar.” After investigating online, I knew that this race was speaking to my soul. Through a series of connections I was able to find a team. The “Twisted Blisters” were a Team in Training group out of the Sacramento area using the race to raise money for Leukemia and Lymphoma research. They had all spent time training in the hills and getting ready specifically for the Ragnar Relay, while I had been keeping in shape by training up for my next Half Ironman in September. Truth be told, I was cycling and swimming regularly, but my runs were few and far between.

 

What the hell is Ragnar?

The Ragnar Trail Relays are blend of camping, distance running, and partying. It brings together the fringe cultures of trail runners, CrossFitters, and miscellaneous bearded outdoorsy types. Teams of 8 — or 4 if you’re f*cking insane  really fit — take turns with each member completing  the three loops: Green (3.3 miles), Yellow (5.8 miles), and Red (7.1 miles). Staggered starting times for the different teams ensures there are runners at all times on the trails without things getting too crowded. Running through the night and into the next day, teams continue until they finish.

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Mt. Diablo Trails Challenge Review

Signing up

Fresh off completing my second Half-Ironman I decided to sign up for a race that caught my eye a few years ago: The Mt. Diablo Trails Challenge, put on by Brazen Racing. I had run one previous trail race with Brazen in the South Bay and loved the experience. Something about the “vibe” of trail runners was much more relaxed and running through the hills with the only sounds being my footsteps and the rustling of trees in the wind beat running on surface streets any day of the week.

Three days before the race I pulled the pin and signed up for the half marathon course. After clicking the button to register, I figured I might glance at the run course and elevation chart. Why not, right? The chart revealed what looked like a great stock right before that crashed hard around mile 10 with a total ascent/descent of about 2,492 feet. This could be a bit hilly, I suddenly realized. Continue reading

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Ironman 70.3 California Review

When I first considered trying the Half-Iron distance, Ironman 70.3 California was the race I wanted, but it had sold out months before. When it opened a couple weeks before Vineman 70.3, I jumped on it. My initial motivation was just to complete the race in honor of my fallen brothers from 1st Battalion, 8th Marines. Fortunately the race turned out to be about a lot more than that. Ironman 70.3 California offered a chance for a race early in the season and a bike ride through Camp Pendleton.

 

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A view of Ruby’s Pier- the Ironman 70.3 California finish line.

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13.1 : SF Rock ‘n’ Roll Review

 

Today’s  race review of the San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon is a guest post by Shari Blackburn. 

13.1

 

By Shari Blackburn

 

San Francisco Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon Race Medal

Waking up to a dark room with the train sounding its horn outside of my window… I hesitate to lift or move any muscle. “Another day…” I remember this feeling of anxiousness like mornings before. This is something I questioned constantly as an endurance-junky… “What am I doing? Do I really want to purposely wake up at 3:30 in the morning to put my self through hours of pain and soreness?”

 

As I wash my face and look myself in the mirror, all I yearn for is my plethora of pillows and soft, warm bed. As I put on my running shoes and Team RWB t-shirt, I think of those who do no have the luxury as I do to put on a t-shirt and shorts. I remember those mornings gearing up in my ABUs, ready for pre-departure briefings at headquarters to the missile fields.  Those days, winters were Continue reading

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SuperSEAL Triathlon Review

San Diego is a special place for me. My first memory is playing on the beach with kelp  near the Del Coronado hotel. I transformed from a doughy boy into a Marine at the recruit depot in the fall of 2001. Now with family living down here I have enjoyed the occasional visit paired with a quick tri in the morning.  SuperSEAL was a great chance to see how my training was coming along for Ironman California 70.3 next month.

 

The SuperSEAL Course

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SuperSEAL was a bit longer than the last Olympic distance triathlon I raced. The 1 mile swim was much closer to the Half-Iron distance and the 40k bike a decent length to see how my indoor trainer sessions (thanks to El Niño rains) had prepared me. The 10k run was standard length with the first leg on a dirt trail. Racing in San Diego usually affords great scenery, but Coronado’s Silver Strand tops them all.

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Take the Rock Swim Review

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“Don’t you know there are sharks out there?”

is the top question people ask upon learning I have swam from Alcatraz Island to Aquatic Park, San Francisco.

Other common queries are about the water temperature, distance, and the simple question of why anyone would do this. I asked these same questions the first time Earle Conklin approached me about taking on this challenge as a pang of fear coursed through my body.

Earle, a Vietnam Vet, wanted to organize a swim for all Veterans and their families. When he explained that he had led boy scouts across the 1.3 miles cold water channel in San Francisco Bay I felt my manhood being called into question. If those kids could do it then of course I would try it out. Continue reading

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Ironman 70.3 Vineman Review

Ironman 70.3 Vineman First Light

I awoke 30 minutes before my alarm went off. Race day! I dressed and triple-checked my gear to make sure nothing was missing. My friend Chris and I loaded gear into his truck and hitched my bike to the carrier. The family would not be awake for another couple hours. As opposed to many other races and events, a sense of calm pervaded over the race-day jitters. The waiting for Ironman 70.3 Vineman had ended.

This race was different for a few reasons.  First off, I managed to stick to my sixteen-week training plan without missing too many training sessions.  I missed a few of my long bike rides because of some weekend trips, but I was able to prioritize my training and plan sessions around work and family time. I knew I had put the hours and miles in. But it was not just the training that put me at ease. Today I had the quiet resolve to finish no matter what because I was representing my friends and fellow Marines who had died fighting with me in Iraq or lost their lives since returning. This race was bigger than me. I knew a lot of people were pulling for me.

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