Thursday, January 06, 2011
As part of a contest to win a kilt, I am posting the following link to a web-based clothing company called Scotsweb. If, like me, you are interested in things Scottish, you will find them at:
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Rather than being bothered by it, I can honestly say that I am feeling enthusiastic about turning 50. I have so much to be thankful for:
> a marriage to a beautiful, intelligent, caring, supportive (and long suffering!) woman that has lasted for over 25 years
> two wonderful kids
> fantastic family and friends
> a great job and first-rate colleagues
> the good fortune to have travelled from coast to coast to coast in the best country in the world - Canada
> the opportunity to have visited innumerable interesting places around the world including: Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Great Britain, Ireland, Holland, Belgium and the United States
> the means to indulge (some of) my excentricities such as triathlon, bagpipes/kilts and bluegrass music
> the blessing to live in a great small city (Fredericton) in an amazing province (New Brunswick)
> an incredible mother who raised three boys, largely on her own, and who at 74 continues to work full-time as a nurse in a substance abuse rehab program
> a father who died far too young but who in his 48 years on earth modelled just what it means to be a husband, a father, a professional and a caring, contributing member of society.
As I reach this milestone, I've decided to suspend new posts to this blog. Who knows, I may decide to reactivate it at some point so I'm not closing it down. It's not that I'm giving up on running, triathlon or Team Diabetes. Far from it. I've just found that Facebook and some of the on-line Forums that I participate in (such as www.beginnertriathlete.com) are how I stay in contact with folks. If there are any blog readers who would like to connect via FB please let me know. I will be checking into this site from time-to-time as well so feel free to leave a message and I will (eventually) read it.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
While Lobsterman was to be my main goal, I had plans to do several other “sprint” distance events over the course of the summer as well – Shediac, Sackville, PEI and Fredericton were all possible. Turns out though that every race weekend I had other commitments that prevented participation. So, it turned out that Lobsterman would be my only race of the year.
It took me a while but I finally registered for the race in late August. I was really concerned that I would not be ready to do the distances required – 1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run – and so rather than commit myself I waffled. After being firmly nudged by my on-line tri friends in the “Left Right Repeat” mentorship group, I finally completed the online registration. They say that you’re not committed until you’ve put money on the line and that is so true. Once I had spent almost $200 for the race and after-party (more to follow on that topic!) I realized that things were VERY serious.
Unfortunately, turned out Mrs FBP was unable to travel with me, for two reasons. First, she has recently had foot surgery and standing for any length of time continues to be hard. Second, we have a brand new 12-week old puppy which needed to be looked after. So, our husband-wife getaway weekend became a father-son bonding weekend.
DS (Dear Son, aka Chris) and I hopped in the car on Friday morning and headed south on I-95. Weather was lovely and the scenery in northern Maine was wonderful. We arrived in Freeport just after noon and headed straight to the headquarters of catalogue giant LL Bean. Freeport is ground zero for LL Bean and so in a series of stores they stock every imaginable piece of outdoor oriented gear (and more) that one could imagine. Freeport also contains a host of other outlet stores (Nike, Adidas, Polo, Nine West, Brooks Brothers, etc.) so we spent a couple of hours walking about and doing some shopping.
With a bit of time on our hands until the race registration opened, I decided to drive down to the race site and get a sense of what things would be like on race day. Glad I did because I initially got lost finding my way there. If that had happened at 6 a.m. on race morning I would have been frantic. Got to the site and the park operator was nice enough to let us in within paying the usual $2/person entry fee. The site was a beehive of activity already and so I had a very good “feel” for what it would be like. Afterwrads we took a short drive along the bike/run course and I noticed that the reviews were right – it was VERY hilly.
From there it was back to Freeport to pick up my race kit. That process was incredibly quick and well organized. As I was leaving the registration area I stopped to chat with a young man who was representing an injury rehab provider (chiropractic I believe). When he asked where we were from and I told him he laughed and called his wife over (she was also working at the booth) because she was from ... Fredericton. They met in college, he from NY, she from NB and so they settled in ME. Although I don’t know them, here family lives one block from where I do!
From Freeport we headed further south to Portland where we checked into our hotel and then went out for supper. I was already super nervous so had trouble eating the spaghetti that I ordered. Chris had no such trouble with his HUGE order of clams and fries. Suffice to say, even with a tough economy, portion sizes in the US of A don’t seem to be suffering!
As always happens the night before a race I started to obsess about my gear, the weather, failure, etc. I barely slept a wink and finally around 4:30 a.m. I got up and started to get ready. Woke Chris up at 5:30 (just like when he was little and we were going to hockey goalie practise), we loaded the car and headed for the race. The thermometer registered a frosty 6c !! Water temp was expected to be only 61F so now I was worrying about frostbite.
I was sure we would be amongst the first to arrive but not so. There were lots of people already there. We parked and I went to pick up my timing chip and get “body marked”. This is the process of having a complete stranger write in indelible marker your race number (I was 319) on your upper arm and lower thigh and then your age (as of December 31st) on your calf. I was so nervous that when she asked for the left arm and right thigh, I offered her the wrong arm. Sheesh, not a great start! From there it was into the transition area where I set up my bike on the rack, laid out my helmet, sunglasses, bike shoes and socks, food needs, running shoes, etc. Then it was back to the car to get warm, obsess a bit, walk around to calm my nerves, chat with other participants, re-check the transition area, back to the car, etc., etc.
Race start was 9:00 so around 8:30 I got into my wetsuit and headed down to the water for a look. There were lots of people already in getting acclimatized so in I went. WOW. 61F is c-c-c-c-cold. When I finally put my face in I thought my heart was going to stop. Not sure if I got used to it or simply had numbness set in but either way I was ready. We were called out of the water, they welcomed us, played both Oh Canada and the Star Spangled Banner – I sang along to both – and we got our briefing on the USAT (USA Triathlon) rules. Then before I knew it they were calling swim wave 1 (men 34 and under) into the water and off they went.
I was in wave 3 (men 45+) so we started 6 minutes behind the first wave (not to worry they adjust your time at the end). I managed to find some relatively open water and avoided the washing machine effect that sometimes happens in mass starts with people going every which way. I don’t recall anyone interfering with me and I didn’t interfere with anyone else.
The swim course was a sort of diamond pattern with a leg out to the first buoy then a left turn and a long second leg parallel to the shore and then another left turn to head in. I found sighting the buoys relatively easy and felt like I swam in a fairly direct line. The final leg I could feel a bit of pull from the ebbing tide (ebbing not effing!) but nothing too severe. We came out of the water about 100m down the shore from where we entered, passed through a giant inflatable “Muscle Milk” arch and then ran up the embankment, across the grass and gravel road and into the transition area (T1). As I came out of the water I looked at my watch and it indicated 31 minutes – 4 minutes better than my hoped for pace. Great start. Looked up and saw Chris standing on the bank and waved at him – we all look the same in wetsuits and swim caps – to make sure that he knew his old man hadn’t drowned. He was snapping pics of me and yelled out some words of encouragement.
I had made sure to count the number of racks between the opening and where my bike was located so that I could find it more easily. It was on the 7th rack but of course I forgot to count as I entered. Stopped, looked back, counted and then kept going and found Sebastian (my bike). Tried to peel off my wetsuit but just as I did I got a HUGE cramp in my right calf. Panic. Fall over. Try to work out the cramp. Good. Peel off the rest of the wetsuit and realize, Holy Crap, my hands are frozen. For the life of me I couldn’t seem to get my thumbs to work so that I could get my socks onto my soaking wet feet. Finally happened, on with my helmet and sunglasses. Quick drink of water to get rid of the salt taste in my mouth (fortunately the water was calm and so I had no ingested nearly as much of the Atlantic Ocean as I had thought I might) and then grabbed a granola bar to sustain me for the first part of the ride. Damn. Cold fingers trying to open a sticky granola bar wrapper is a recipe for disaster. Took me forever and I was trying to be careful not to litter because you can be penalized for this. Finally was able to open it, stuffed it into my face and started to run through the transition area with my bike to get to the mount line.
Headed out along the short stretch of dirt road that led from the park to the main road and passed Chris again. Gave him a thumbs up and off I went. The start of the bike course was about a mile and a half of net uphill grade. Not exactly what one would hope for but then again, it would mean a nice long downhill to finish so that consoled me somewhat. Initially I was really cold – sopping wet shorts and shirt from being in the water, wind effect plus the start was pretty well all through a shaded are. Soon enough though I was warmed up, dried off and settled into a nice pace. I had expected to average 25 kph over the 40k course and early on I was in the 27-28 kph range. This is slow by comparison to most cyclists but in light of the very challenging terrain – I don’t think there was a flat stretch of road the whole way – I was a little concerned that I was pushing too hard.
I got passed quite a bit – mostly by women from the later swim waves – but this was to be expected. Offered words of encouragement to them as they went by and got a few in return. One woman complimented me on my Team Diabetes jersey and matching bike (also tricked out with Team Diabetes markings). I passed a few people myself – mostly people who were doing the team relay event. Saw a few mechanical breakdowns along the way but not many, a bit of a surprise given that some of the roads were a tad on the rough side which usually plays havoc with skinny bike tires.
Before I knew it the bike leg was coming to a close and I arrived back into the park to head for the bike-run transition, known as T2. Looked at my GPS watch and it indicated I had averaged over 26kph so I had once again outperformed my best case estimate.
T2 went much more smoothly than had T1 – off with the bike gear, on with my running shoes, a handful of Sunkist fruit snacks and off I went for the 10k run. Saw Chris again as I was leaving the park and gave him a double thumbs up and smile. I realized that the worst that would happen now was that I would have to walk the 10k but one way or another I was going to be able to finish my first oly.
As I was leaving the park gate there was a woman standing there cheering on every participant by number and saying something unique to each one. I recall she said to me, “Come on 319, stretch out those long legs, you can do it”. I really took that comment to heart and tried to get into a better running posture and gait. The first part of the run was basically uphill (since it was along the same route as the bike had been). Tough way to start but once again, looked forward to the downhill finish. My training had always been based on a 9-1 system (9 minutes run, 1 minute walk) but since there were to be water stations every mile, instead of a time system I decided I would walk through the water stations and this would be roughly the right intervals. Turned out to be a great decision because my pace was almost bang on 10:00per mile.
In the first mile or so I ended up passing a gentleman who was in his late 60’s and we chatted for a minute. Me - “How are you doing?” Him - “Great” Me - “Are you having fun?” Him – “Couldn’t imagine anything better on a Saturday morning”. I was thinking to myself, “I hope I am still doing triathlon when I am your age”. A few minutes later I ended up beside a young lady who was wearing a lobster hat and so I had to ask, “Why”. Turns out she had seen a kid wearing it before the race, asked if she could wear it on the run, the kid agreed and they had managed to connect at T2 to complete the hat exchange. I lost count of how many people commented to her on the hat during the 3 or so miles we ran together. As we were running/gasping/talking she asked me how I got into triathlon and I responded that it was probably a mid-life crisis. As for her, she was a state-ranked high school swimmer in California who also did x-country and while at university decided to give cycling a try – and that turned into giving tri a try.
By the time we reached the turnaround on the run the two of us had caught up to a young man who was roughly our pace. I started to talk with him – he was a varsity hockey player at a college in Maine. I was in front of him for a while and so he obviously saw the marking on my calf prompting him to say, “I hope I am still doing triathlon when I am your age”. At a moment like that you can be either upset or proud. I chose the latter ...
I found the stretch from around 4.5 miles to 6 miles to be particularly tough but I kept checking my watch and I didn’t seem to be losing a lot of time to my target pace. I expected to be able to average 9.5 to 9.7 kph meaning I would finish the 10k in somewhere around 1:05. I was on track to beat or exceed that time so I keep plodding along. One thought I remember having was, how do people who compete at the Half Ironman and Full Ironman distance do it?
As I finally entered the park the same lady who was cheering as I left was there cheering people arriving. Same routine – a specific comment for every runner. In my case, “Hey 319, looking strong, keep going you’re almost there.” I passed Chris, he was cheering and I made my way around the park road to the finishing chute. As I crossed the line Chris was there taking another picture and he congratulated me on finishing. I hugged him, started to cry and gasp for breath, overcome with emotion. You see it was as a result of his diagnosis with type 1 diabetes in 2000 that I first started running (something I previously hated to do) with a goal of raising $$ for the Canadian Diabetes Association through their Team Diabetes marathon program. From marathon-ing came my interest in triathlon and so who better to have waiting for me at the finish line?
After I regained my composure (and my breath) we both went back to the final section and cheered for people who were coming in after me. I also bumped into the lady who had been cheering at the front gate and told her she was the best fan ever. We ended up having a nice long conversation – she had done the race previously, was injured but came to cheer on her friends, etc. Also bumped into the gentleman in his 60’s who I had passed on the run and we congratulated each other on finishing.
The post-race lobster bake was fantastic. Beautiful fresh maine lobster, melted butter, steamed clams, corn on the cob and baked potato. All for $25 per person! There was live music and free beer for participants. I couldn’t be bothered to stand in line for the beer so consoled myself with Gatorade.
After all was said and done we retrieved my gear and packed up the car to leave. Just as we were doing so, the final participant was heading out to start her run. The lady was Molly Hayes from Bozeman Montana and she is legendary because she is SEVENTY-EIGHT years old. Imagine. I checked her results on line and while she finished last, she did the course in under 5 hours and only 3 minutes behind the person in front of her – man less than half her age. UN-BE-LIEVABLE!!
All-in-all this was a fantastic experience. Can’t wait to do it again in the future!!