“After 10 Life Gets Serious”

After the age of 10 things change for us as human beings.  We start to become more aware of others around us and their (and our own) expectations.  The same is true for athletes who run, bike, or swim.  After you reach the number 10 it starts to get more serious.  The pain of a run is more noticeable the first time you go past 10.  The seat on your bike, and your legs can also attest to the same thing.  And the first time you swim 10 minutes straight also leads you to believe that you can even take yourself more seriously.

This year, Glen Oxford has accomplished a lot in a little more than 14 months.  He went from barely exercising, to completing his first Iron Distance Race, and executing it very well.  Below is his report from his event:

Beach2Battleship Full 2011 Race Report

Made possible by ucandoitcoach.com/blog

I guess you’ve got to start these reports from the beginning.  First, the upfront disclaimer that this is semi-true recollection from a tired racer.

About six weeks ago, just prior to SavageMan, which I thought would be the last major event of the year, I sign up for B2B, grabbing one of the last spots.  The 140.6 is something I figured I would build up to with 6-9 months of prep time.  I could say, “somebody made me do it,” or point the finger at a few likely suspects, but in the end, I am a big boy and should know better.

After returning from SavageMan, with very little time to prepare, I get my first big break:  Deb offers to guide me through my month leading up to the event.  Charity?  Guilt?  Pity?  I’ll never know why, but I can’t imagine how I would be feeling today without Deb’s support.

All of October revolves around preparation for this event.  Workout, eat, sleep, and try to cram a bit of life in-between, putting off everything else.  Not what I would consider a well-rounded human.  “Hey, kids, I am your dad. Remember me?”

I consider 2011 my rookie year, since my last serious athletic endeavor was in high school.  I have discovered that for 2-3 days leading up the event, I try to make sure that I have everything covered to the point that I start to feel sick — like I have the flu.  B2B is no exception, but now I recognize it for what it is and try to ignore it — like hiccups.

Part of my prep is trying to figure out what the weather will be.  With three sports, spanning from dawn to dusk, it is no easy task trying to get the proper gear.  I am not one of those guys who seems indifferent to the cold, so it is ironic that in the 2-3 days prior to B2B, the headlines are talking about snow in DC on event day. Yeah, Wilmington is south, but they are talking 20 degrees colder than average with rain.  “It’s just hiccups, you’re not sick,” I tell myself, as I am trying to decide between various leg warmers and chemical packs.

Thursday, I lay everything out for the 5 bags for event day, plus pre-event workout bag, plus normal clothes.  I am ready.  The bike has a new shifter cable and brand new tires/tubes, both broken in on one or two rides.  An unusual thing about B2B is that it is a point-to-point-to-point race.  That means that you have to have various bags of gear ready to be distributed to the various transition points plus the regular special needs bags all turned in on Friday night.  The organizers do a great job, but it’s still nerve racking for a rookie trying to cover every contingency.

Travel day. Pack the car.  “Girls, get in.”  I am about to put the bike inside, on top of the last luggage.  As I roll the bike out to the car, it’s not rolling right. More hiccups??? No, something is not right.  The rear wheel (with the power meter and all the other sensors) is not spinning like it should.  I grab the original rear wheel from the basement which hasn’t been used in over a year, and we start our 5-hour drive to Wilmington and event check-in, bike racking, and bag drop-off.  This is not a mellow drive.  I love my power meter.  I have trained with, strategized with, and basically become a power-meter cripple, and now I am hours away from dropping off my bike for the biggest race of my life, and I don’t know if I have a rear wheel that works.  What’s that f*@%g  thing they say in yoga to calm down!?

We arrive a little later than hoped, change the tire on the old wheel, wonder if it will be holding air in the morning, turn in the bags, and settle in for a solid night’s sleep.  I know the girls get a solid night sleep, because I am awake all night.

A brief regression here.   The race is set to start at 700 am sharp.  Cut-off times, draw-bridge permits, road closures are all based on a 7:00 am sharp start.  With sunrise at 7:28am and with any kind of overcast, 7:00am is still night dark.  I am not so much worried about the 800 other studs who want to swim over me during the mass start, it’s the sea-creatures that feed just before dawn in the intercoastal water way that bothers me.  Thankfully, the Coast Guard delays the race until 7:15am, when they know feeding time is over.

Finally, the gun goes off and there is nothing to do but get on with it.  B2B has one thing going for it:  you get to swim with the incoming tide, making for some very short swim times.  Another bit of luck is that the water temperature is about 8 degrees warmer (69F) than it could have been.  The start of the event brings a great relief.  And then you realize that you are swimming through 800 other guys’ great relief, as well.  Next time, I’ll get a little closer to the front of the group on the beach.  The course map shows an arrow straight swim down the channel for about 2 miles followed by a single dogleg to the left to the swim finish.   In reality, the channel twists and turns like a mountain road.  Every time I stop looking for sea-creatures to see how I am doing, I am swimming towards one shore or the other.  At the pre-race briefing, they said a Styrofoam cup could do the swim in 80-90 minutes.  I edge out the cup at the ladder.

There is a pretty long (300-400 yards) run for the transition tents.  Along the way, there are cold showers, hot showers, warming tents, strippers (wetsuit strippers), and a lot of screaming spectators.  During this run, I am trying to figure how much to wear on the bike.  It’s not raining, but there is plenty of mist, heavy clouds, and wind from the NW 5-10 mph, with temps in the low 50’s.  I spend some time coordinating my outfit, which results in a T1 time of about twice of those who finish around me.  But I look and feel good!

The bike course leaves from Wrightsville Beach and is described as a pancake flat, 112-mile single loop, predominately heading out to the northwest and then returning to the southeast, to finish at the Battleship NC, in Wilmington.  The beginning of the bike is always fun for me as I get to pass some fast swimmers/slow bikers.  I generally relieve my sinuses as payback for the swim relief at the start.  As I get 10 or so miles into the ride, the adrenaline tapers off and I realize there is a lot of riding ahead.  Most of the course is out in the open, so there is very little protection from the wind, which seems to be building with more frequent gusts to about 15mph.  The visor to the aero helmet is totally misted over as is the face of the Garmin on my wrist.  The aero helmet over my ears lets me hear every bit of wind, every breath, and the flapping/vibrating of the tape covering the ventilation intake.  This is not a very glamorous time of the event.

Time to stop feeling sorry for myself and to start thinking.  No, don’t think about the fact that you haven’t run a marathon in 25 years and your scheduled to do one in about 5 hours.  Think about the nutrition plan.  One small (100 cal) Clif Bar on the hour, one GU (90 cal) on the half, and drink about 130 cal each hour (24 fl oz).  I have not been drinking enough, because the first 15-30 minutes getting out of T1 was busy and crowded.  Slurp, slurp, slurp.  Because the course is so flat, and the wind is consistent, I am able to use the Hr monitor to keep myself in check as far as power output.  I am feeling good about the bike, as long as I can keep the calories up without stomach issues.  Time to just tough it out. Slurp, slurp, slurp.

By about mile 40, we are pretty thinned out.  I can generally see the next guy up ahead, but to overtake anyone is taking a long time.  There are a few rain drops from time to time that last 5-10 minutes, but generally just solid overcast, mist and winds 10+ in the face, temps still low 50’s.  I am not sweating at all, but I am not shivering either….just please don’t start raining hard.  I am able to hold about a 20mph average with Hr 130 steady.  I am also able to not think about the full marathon that is coming up in 3 hours and what miles 18-26.2 will be like and wonder if I should have put in some longer runs, or put this whole 140.6 thing off until next year.  Yup, none of those thoughts are going through my head.

Nothing brings you back to the moment like having to go.  Well, I thought I would stop briefly at some point during the ride to straighten my back out, so it might as well be now.  For about an hour, the relative motion of the riders is very slow.  However, you stop to wiz and about 6 guys pass you and are out of sight before you can shake.  Well, that’s over with, and I feel much better and come back charging.  Except it isn’t over, I have merely broken the seal.  It turns out to be the first of 4 stops.  I get to pass the same 5-6 people 5 times.  One guy actually starts cheering for me.

Finally, something changes.  A shadow. A hint of sun. A dry spot on the road.  It was forecast to clear late morning and it’s finally happening.  At about 60-70 miles the course turns to the southeast, and there are signs for Wilmington.  The wind is building, 10-15G20 from the NW.  Now this is cool.  What had been 19-21 mph ground speed is now 28-32.  The pavement is smoother.  Life is good.  As we get closer to town, the Half distance bikers (There is a 70.3 B2B that starts just after the Full distance start.) enter the same course.  This means that you are not lonely anymore and you get to chase people down again.  The last 25 miles fly by in well under an hour.

T2 goes pretty well.  A volunteer takes your bike, and you head to the tent to change.  Clear skies, very windy, and temps in the upper 50’s.  My base layer is not sweaty from the bike and I choose not to change shorts.  Fresh socks, sneakers on, hat, sunglasses, no more putting it off; it is time to run a marathon.

The first 2 miles are familiar by now.  Legs protest a little until they realize you’re not kidding, and start to work.  The course is a 13.1 out and back, that we do twice.  The “hills” are the two bridges that cross the rivers between town and the Battleship.  There are aid stations every mile and lots of cheering people in the old town section that the course goes through.

Mile 3 and I check my pace.  Too fast, better back it off some.  Just 22 more to go.  Wait, no, 23 more…plus the .2.  Getting there.  I have about 60 oz of Accelerade bouncing along in my stomach, mixing with 7 GUs and a green banana.  Bladder checks good, but the bowels are protesting.  At first I think I am getting a common side ache, but this is a bit different.  Time to find out.  Lots of gas.  Thankfully nothing more. Well, that’s over with, and I feel much better and come back charging.  Except it isn’t over.  From somewhere around mile 5 to about mile 20 there is some character building happening.  I am able to run nearly all of this section, but it’s not pretty.

By Mile 20, most of what was inside me that wanted to get out has done so in an orderly fashion.  I get glimpses of the Battleship/finish line on the other side of the river, and I am coming into the heart of the crowd, all cheering the runners on.  I spin my number belt around long before I get close to the finish, so I don’t forget later, and suddenly I hear a lot of “Go, Glenn!”  I’m motivated.  The bib has everyone’s first name in big letters right over the number.  Whatever it takes.  I am not running a marathon at this point.  I am just doing a couple of more miles.  Thirty more minutes and I am in the club with the cool kids, the folks that I admire.

Gregory Shatto (46) came out of the water 11 seconds ahead of me.  He finished the bike 35 seconds faster than I did. (I will fix that next year.)  Somewhere on the run, I pass Gregory.  I think it happened about Oct 16th, near DFW, on a training run that I did not want to do, in a place that I did not want to be.  Greg finished 2nd in age group and 5th Masters.

Swim: 44:49

Bike: 5:12:42

Run: 3:51:06

Final 10:05:02

Smita, Peri and Maddie certainly share this accomplishment with me.

Thank you, Deb, Molly, Jeff, Jason, and Clay