Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ask Me Anything: The #OopsIBrokeMySpine Experience

Looking to put together a blog post, answering as many questions in re: what happened, recovery, insurances, etc. Either Tweet me or comment here and I'll compile them into a single post.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Heisler Declares Eligibility for #TRSDraft

Placeholder photo. Choose some budgie smuggler photo later.
Also, Photoshop down to race weight.

Publicist Note: Draft. Do not post!

I, Ryan Heisler, am hereby declaring my eligibility for the Winter 2014 The Real Starky Draft. I believe it is the correct time to take this step in my triathlon career profession hobby. Although I don't project as a first-round pick, I believe I would provide excellent value as a later-round draftee.

I am a rough three-tool prospect (editor's note: to quote one Sterling Archer...uh, phrasing?) who can activate on sponsorship, race decently, and provide excellent beer support from the great state of Maine.

To wit: after #OopsIBrokeMySpine, I attended Revolution3 Maine to cheer on friends. Additionally, having a relationship with Rising Tide Brewing Company (editor's note: you stayed on the owner's couch for a couple months; that's a little more than "a relationship"; let's rethink this passage), I determined it would be a good idea to activate on the sponsorship at mile 1 of the run course.

note: can we edit Jamie to be female?

For what it's worth, Rising Tide brews what is considered the Best Beer in Maine: Maine Island Trail Ale, which makes for phenomenal racing hand-ups, as evidenced by the above Tweets.

To answer some hand-picked questions from the media:

Why would I want to join up with what was originally a parody Twitter account? 
Because, well, triathlon needs to be more fun. Working in the running and multisport industry for as long as I have, there's one thing I've learned: there are a lot of people who take this far too seriously for what is our hobby.

Also, The Real Starky and I have done battle before:

Broken Thoracic Spine. Guess that's close enough.
Creative environments tend to have some volatility to them; by having strong voices that push one another, you wind up with a better end result rather than a bunch of lemming yes-men in the same circle. How do we think the current handling of WTC got to where it is?

Also, I do indeed dress like a champion with my TRS Shirt (blatant plug to buy yours here).

So, what do you mean by triathlon as more fun?
More trash talk before the race. More trash talk during the race. And then getting done, laughing about it, drinking a beer or four, and generally just having fun.

Look, there's a reason why Brooks has been successful in the run space. Hint: it's not by taking themselves seriously. Their tagline is "Run Happy!" We need more of that in triathlon. That's what TRS stands for.

What else can you offer The Real Starky?
Plenty of beer from Maine, of course. Also, we have Sugarloaf up here, and that mountain kicks all kinds of ass. So, a ski vacation for fellow team members.

Also, well, I'm prone to doing some relatively silly things:


Whaddya know? It's a male tree.
How're your race results?
Exceptionally, painfully average.

What do you expect out of TRS, if selected?
Good times, an opportunity to laugh.

Oh, and hopefully a bike. I need a new one after the whole crashing thing.

Anyone else? No? Good. It's Portland Beer Week. Time to grab a drink. (Ed.: God, he sounds like a drunkard.)

Cheers! (Yep, definitely now.)


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Service Available: Triathlon Bike and Run Shoe Recommendations

In the market for a new bike, but don't know what will fit you? Fell in love with an old running shoe that was discontinued five years ago and are still struggling to find that new shoe that you love? You've come to the right place.

Let's get the obvious out of the way: here's what I don't do:

  • I won't attempt to re-fit you on the bike. Instead, we will be trying to find the most optimal bike to work with your current position (or slight variations of it). This theory will also not guarantee one single bike to be best; instead, there will be a range of options presented to you based on price range and flexibility of the bike to evolve with your fit.
  • I won't be doing run assessments. I have a doctorate degree, but it is not in the medical field, and therefore it isn't my job to tell you how to run. I want you to just be able to run, and to enjoy every stride while you're out pounding the pavement.
Here's what I will do:

  • Provide detailed recommendations of bikes and shoes to try, along with respective sizes.
  • Provide feedback on local shops to you to be able to purchase these items from.
  • Analyze Retul, Guru, etc. fit files, as well as photos on board of the bike to analyze potential positional errors as well as providing additional feedback on these recommendations.
  • If preferred, Skype consultation to talk about the analysis and feedback.
About Me:

  • A decade of experience in the specialty run and triathlon marketplace, working at multiple Top 50 Running Stores in America (presented by Competitor) as well as with Revolution3 Triathlon
  • Good Form Running certified
  • Worked with dozens of medical practitioners to provide best shoe fit for their clients
  • Self-proclaimed repository of useless information, shoe geek, and athlete
  • Comprehensive knowledge of FIST-method of triathlon bike fitting and how frames and component choices complement one another to provide the best overall fit for a consumer
  • Hundreds of success stories from customers in the run and bike marketplace (such as this):

Pricing for these services:

  • $40 for bike recommendations
  • $20 for shoe recommendations
  • $50 for both
Contact me via e-mail here to set up your consultation.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Shoe Review: Skechers Performance Division GoMeb Speed 2

Editor's Note: I received this pair of shoes from Skechers Performance Division for the purposes of review. I was instructed to be honest. No financial considerations were offered nor would they ever be accepted.

I think I speak for a lot of people in terms of my initial reaction to Skechers launching a running shoe product line:

Skechers? REALLY? The folks who put out Shape Ups? Are you kidding me?

Yep. That was my initial attitude in the summer of 2012 as I saw the product line for the first time. I was seeded (read as: given a free pair of shoes; it is a common thing for a brand to do in the industry as hey, if you don't believe in it, you won't sell it) a pair of the GoRun Ride's.

And what do you know, they are actually pretty comfortable. Not great for me (a little too spongy underfoot, not quite moving with my foot) but a hell of a lot better than a lot of other things on the wall.

Fast forward to April of this year, and getting to see the big marketing push as Skechers segmented out the running shoe line in the new Skechers Performance Division at the Boston Marathon.

And then Meb won.

Then they signed Kara Goucher.

It was a sign of a brand that said, "We are committed to performance. We are committed to running." And now, starting in the spring, shoes will be exclusively committed to the specialty running channel. That's more than a lot of "traditional running brands" can say.

So with that in mind, I took a look at the product line, and asked if I could take the GoMeb Speed out for some testing. I figured it would be the ultimate test for the brand. At the end of the day, product is king. If your product sucks, it doesn't matter what elites are running in your shoes or how much you're trying to do for the industry. Your product better damn well be good.

The Tech Babble
Skechers Performance Division (think like the old Bowerman line in Nike running shoes; if it's not Skechers Performance Division or Bowerman in Nike-speak, odds are you're not looking at technical running product) started out introducing a line-up based on "M-Strike Technology." The "natural running" movement had really taken off, with the Saucony Kinvara, the Brooks PureProject, and New Balance Minimus product line really moving.

That being said, SPD took the tack of trying to offer more than just a "minimal" shoe. They would offer more of a range than simply going after the lightweight/minimal end of the market.

There are multiple shoes in the product line; this is their order from least to most cushioning: the GoMeb Speed, the GoRun Bionic, the GoRun, the GoRun Ride, and the GoRun Ultra. There will be more shoes launched throughout. They also range in offset from 0 to 8 millimeters.

The focus of this test, the Speed, features a 4 millimeter offset. This is similar to one of my favorite flats, the Saucony Fastwitch. The Speed features a mid foot shank of Hytrel, which gives the shoe some beef under the mid foot. A lot of times in racing shoes, the flexibility results in a shoe that gives up platform stability and efficiency. In theory, this is not the case here.

SPD, much like Pearl Izumi, does not use a "secondary" cushioning system like Air, Gel, or DNA. Instead, they rely on their blend of foam. In this case, SPD calls theirs Resalyte. Resalyte is an injection-molded compound, which according to SPD provides "memory retention [to] help absorb impacts." The beauty of foams, like the one SPD uses, is that each brand can spec different durometers, different air volume in the compound matrix, etc. that provides a unique ride.

The upper is seamless on the inner, with most overlays either printed or heat-molded onto the shoe. This in theory reduces the chances of blistering, as there are fewer places for the foot to really rub against a firm section on the interior. I wound up wearing the black-and-gold edition seen above.

The Speed weighs in at 6.8 ounces in a men's size 9. To put that in perspective, it's .9 ounces lighter than a comparable Saucony Kinvara. Versus my go-to flat, the Saucony Fastwitch, it is .1 ounces lighter. As an aside, the Speed ran large, and so I wore a 12.5. This will not give a true comparison on weight to a Fastwitch, as I wear a 13 in it, so I won't try to argue the merits. Besides, it's .1 ounces. I would never be able to tell the difference.

Enough Babble. How was the run?
In a word: brilliant.

I received these shoes on a Wednesday. That following weekend, I went down to Connecticut to tackle the Revolution at Rev3 Quassy, where I would be racing an Olympic on Saturday and a Half on Sunday.

I had made the decision that Saturday was my "race" day. My Fastwitch's were somewhere in my storage unit (I had just moved back from VA to ME), and I figured what better way to give a shoe a test than to slap 'em on and go racin'.

You put the shoe on and immediately notice...nothing. This is the best compliment you can give a shoe, in my opinion. The last thing you ever want to do when running is be worried about something on your feet. I slipped them on and just felt like the shoe and my foot were united in their job to propel me from Point A to Point B as quickly as my body could go.

Starting to stride, the shoe has a very snappy feel to it. You're going from impact to toe-off in a smooth, quick fashion. It wants to get up and play. That being said, it is incredibly well-cushioned. It felt as soft as some of my daily trainers in a much, much lighter package.

The mid foot shank works. As I started to fatigue, I could feel the shoe helping provide a stable platform for my foot to land on. It's secure and just lets you focus on turnover, breathing, and nutrition. In other words, again: you're not thinking about the shoe on your foot.

I crossed the finish line Saturday and faced a dilemma: the Speed felt so damn good, would I wear it again tomorrow on thrashed legs? For a half?

Answer: yes, yes I did.

And what do you know, it felt even better than the day before. The cushioning is incredible for a lightweight flat. It's the fastest I've ever run the half course at Quassy, and I can honestly say I ran every step of that run course for the first time. The shoe helped. It just let me go.

Would I wear this for a marathon? I was scheduled to find out the day that I broke my spine. I would guess that it would be close for me, personally, especially coming off the bike. But I can't honestly answer that question yet.

In sum, this shoe supplanted the Fastwitch as my go-to race flat. Of all of the things I'm looking forward to in my recovery, slapping these bad boys on for another race is towards the top of the list.

Skechers Performance Division GoMeb Speed 2
MSRP: $114.99
Available: Now

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Oops I Broke My Spine.

WARNING: Some of the images below are not for the faint of heart. If you're not interested in seeing what it looks like for a human to go from 23 MPH to 0 in .8 seconds using their helmeted head, shoulder, and handlebars of their bike as the braking mechanism,  DO NOT SCROLL ONWARD.

There are two kinds of cyclists: those that have crashed, and those who will.

Although I'd been brushed by a car back in 2011, and had the occasional stoplight mishap when adjusting to new cleats...I had never truly crashed.

That all changed last Sunday.

As you all know, I had been training for Rev3 Cedar Point. Hard. I had DNFed here last year. I had put all my eggs into the basket for this race. I was committed to giving this race 100%. Training has been spectacular (hence the lack of updates). Swimming faster than ever. Good efforts on the bike. Runs were a little lackluster, but I was really looking forward to dialing it in over the last couple weeks heading into the event.

Hence the workout on Sunday: 100 miles on the bike at race effort, then 8 mile effort starting conservatively and then picking up the pace so that the total effort would average out to race pace as well. There were 3 of us starting the ride, then we would pick up a 4th along the route and keep chugging along.

We were coming into our turnaround point of North Berwick. Two of us had put in about a 40 second gap on the other duo. I got dropped from the front guy and so we rolled in towards town. As it was unfamiliar territory, I immediately got myself out of aero and onto the base bar.

To paint the scene, there was the guy in front. About 50 yards behind him was a car. 50 yards back of that was me. We were turning left and got into the left turn lane. There was a car oncoming that did not have traffic behind it. Guy up front signals the left turn. Oncoming car signals turning right. Stalemate ensues. Car behind brake checks hard. I go to brake.

I don't know what action put me on the ground. After review, there was a bump in the road there. Maybe I hit it while not balanced well. Maybe I just hit too much front brake. I can't honestly say. And I can't say I know how I flew through the air, etc. I just know I went very fast from being upright to being on the ground.

I could feel that my helmet had hit hard. I was flat out on my back. I tried to take stock of the situation. I went to get up, and a crushing pain in my chest stopped me. I couldn't take a deep breath.

My inner monologue: oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck what did I do oh fuck.

I couldn't get out of the road. I was worried I'd get run over. I was worried I'd really hurt myself badly. And I was worried that my little hobby had really just fucked things up royally.

My fellow riders came back upon me. One stabilized my neck. The other two helped direct traffic and the scene. Luckily, I suppose, I'd crashed about 200 meters from the fire station.

Here's what things looked like about five minutes after the accident.
*WARNING: Graphic.*

Shameless plug for Road ID: their product saved my bacon here. It allowed people to get in contact with Hannah as well as let them know that I'm allergic to morphine (which is what they wanted to give me for pain ASAP).

We got stabilized, neck collar, strapped to a board (experience I don't ever care to relive. I'd done it once for my brother as part of his EMT certification and I panicked then. You can imagine how this went now.) As they were loading me up, my wits returned: how's the bike? Priorities, people. Priorities.

We got into the ambulance, and the EMTs were good guys. Really kind, asking me questions, keeping me positive. The worst was I immediately cramped in my quad and because I was strapped to the board, there wasn't a damn thing they could do for me in terms of stretching it out. One of my buddies had ridden along and uttered the joke, "First time in an ambulance and you can't be bothered to be hurt enough for them to turn on the lights and sirens. I feel cheated." I returned my first of many middle fingers of the day. EMTs laughed. I tried to laugh, but it hurt too much.

I earned an express ticket to New Hampshire, as Wentworth-Douglas in Dover was the closest open trauma center. I was the priority patient of the day (hooray, I think?) and immediately got into imaging. The thought was that I had landed on my handlebars with my sternum, and so they wanted to ensure I didn't have internal injuries as well as checking my sternum. While they were at it, they also scanned the totality of my spine. They reviewed the cervical spine first, which allowed them to unstrap me from the backboard as well as the neck collar. I felt relieved.

And then they told me I'd fractured my spine.

That's an anterior lateral body compression fracture of T5 at the arrow.

This is me following the diagnosis:
I was told that my fracture was relatively stable (whatever the fuck a fracture of your spine as "stable" means), and to follow up with my orthopedist. I'd also earned whiplash, a mild concussion, road rash on my face and shoulder, an MRI needed for my shoulder (possible rotator cuff injury), and a whole lot of other assorted bumps and bruises.

I was lucky enough to get into the orthopedist on Wednesday. Hannah and I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy beforehand to kill sometime as I was going stir-crazy at home. Went over to Orthopedic Associates in Portland (these guys are good!) and saw my new spine specialist, Dr. Totta. For what it's worth, I highly recommend him. Excellent bedside manner, takes care, explains everything...I really, really like him.

Anyways, during the course of review, he revealed that I also had a compression fracture of T6. Basically, T5/T6 are located just about even with your shoulder blades. On the lucky side, this part of the body is pretty stable. On the negative side, that means the impact was phenomenal in order to wind up with a fracture there.

He wanted me in a brace and described the non-impact stuff I would be allowed to do in the near future for exercise. Stationary bike, elliptical, stair-stepper. Walking, of course. But only so long as it didn't hurt. I was told that my days of driving stick are over for a good long while between the shoulder and the fractures in my spine.

I went over to Atlantic ProCare the following day, to be told that my brace had to be custom-made due to the location and nature of the fractures. He called back over to OA, talked to the doctor, who agreed. And away we went.

So this is what my 16 hour a day companion looks like:
So long as I'm not lying down or taking a shower...this sucker is on for the foreseeable future.

On the plus side, my back pain is alleviated greatly. On the negative, I feel completely and utterly helpless while wearing it.

I'm trying to take small things and make them huge. I can wiggle my toes. I can take the dog out for a walk using a waist leash. I can walk around. I was able to go without narcotics yesterday for the first time since the accident.

My recovery is not going to be easy. I have a lot of physical therapy to do once I get out of this thing. There is still the question of how badly I screwed up my shoulder. I'm hopeful that most of my concussion symptoms have abated.

Then there's the question of bills. We started a GoFundMe page here. I am lucky enough to have health insurance that will cover a lot of the bills. However, I do have significant out-of-pocket costs (e.g., my brace was $2500+ that, because I had not hit my deductible, is completely out-of-pocket). Some places are willing to work on payment schedules. Others are not. We're working on a vehicle solution. Additionally, we don't know what working is like. I'm in constant need of morning help to get myself together. I'm worried about not just medical bills, but just our day-to-day needs like food and rent. I'm unsure of how to make it all work. I'm trying to stay focused on just my recovery, but with so much time to kill on a daily basis...

I'm incredibly lucky and grateful to have such a loving and supportive wife, family, and friends. Thanks for helping make this easier to bear.

Next up: August 21st ortho appointment.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Hook Brings You Back: 171 Miles of Racing in 8 Days Report

So desperately I sing to thee
Of love
Sure, but also of rage and hate and pain and fear of self
And I can't keep those feelings on the shelf
I've tried, well no in fact, I've lied
Could be financial suicide but I've got too much pride inside
To hide or slide
I'll do as I'll decide and let it ride till I've died
And only then shall I abide this tide...

I've made a lot of terrifically dumb decisions in my 28 years on this planet. And I'm sure I'll make many more along the way.

The past two weeks probably enter the top realm of idiocy. What kind of moron decides to race an incredibly challenging half the day after an extremely tough Olympic? And then, on a whim, decides, "Sure, you know what? I'm going to go do the dumbest, hardest race I have ever done AGAIN."

It's the hook, you see. The infectious drug of camaraderie, of competition, of the drive to make oneself and your fellow athletes better. There's something about triathlon that, during the course of racing, you're laying yourself out there to bare. You're as much of yourself out there as you are anywhere else. There's no place to hide. There's no excuses. It's you against the course, the clock, and your competitors. And you get to see where your work puts you amongst your peers.

Without further adieu...

Revolution3 Quassy
I drove down Friday after work to hit up the course and toss the race wheels onto Sam Eagle.

Sam Eagle, you ask? Well, naturally, it's another year, so it's another new bike:

I'm forever grateful to Brian Richards and the team over at MyBikeShop for the help getting on board this Speed Concept.

As we all know at this point, my bike names come after things that my late father-in-law enjoyed. So we had Kermit, Wallace, and Oddjob.

I felt compelled to go back to the Muppets. Also, with the blue-and-white paint and knowing Trek's commitment to building bikes in the US (yes, I know mine was merely "designed" here...), this came to mind:

Ah...Muppets.

So after a brief visit with Hannah, Alex, and the entire Rev3 crew, it was time to get my food in, packet picked-up, and away we went.

Rev3 Quassy Olympic
Quick Hits: 2:33:21 (67th OA)
26:02/2:55/1:17:38/1:15/45:30

Realized that I was Bib #2 for this race. Uh-oh. Guess that means I'd better go fast. However, I knew that I would not be meeting my goal of beating my bib number in the overall standings.

The day dawned cool. Perfect conditions for a guy like me. I generate a fair amount of heat and so being able to keep the temperatures down was perfect.

All of us doing the Revolution (aka double-dipping in the Olympic and the Half) were racked together. We made a fair number of jokes, and also got everyone's assessment on how we were going to try to attack the day. The majority were here to cruise today and then try to race the following day. One guy was here to crush both. There were two of us that were going to try and race our guts out on Saturday and then use Sunday effectively as a catered workout. (Note: sign you are messed up--70.3 miles is justifiable as a "catered workout.")

Waltzed on down to the water's edge and get myself into the wetsuit. I was wearing a blueseventy Reaction for this event; I'm simply not good enough for a Helix. At least, not to take advantage of a Helix.

We got into the water and did a couple of swim start efforts to warm-up. Back on the beach and we're ready to roll.

I lined up left at the swim start. I knew the gong show would be on the inside right as people jockeyed to stay right on the buoy line. I figured it'd be much clearer water for the first little bit and then start cutting the diagonal to the turn buoy.

The horn sounds. We sprint off. The super-swimmers are off the front fast. I settle in and find some feet that I'm pretty happy being on; about 15th guy back, inside edge of this front group that is starting to form. We're the chase; there's a group of 10 or so on the inside buoy line that are simply flying.

We start doing some work and we're at the first sight buoy in no time. I can tell that I've been out of the pool a little more than I wanted to be heading into this race, but we're starting to feel comfortable. I lift my head to sight and notice that the feet I'm following are going WAY left. I make the decision: get off these feet, move back towards the buoy.

I think I made four strokes before I get kicked so hard in the ribs I had to come to a full-stop and roll onto my back. Dude is just all over the place thrashing about and nailed me. It happens...and I put myself in that position. Still...getting kicked in the ribs sucks.

I roll back over and get going again. I've missed my feet, and now I'm going to have to try to work around this guy. I get close and his feet get wide again. I took a very indirect route up and around.

Finally, make it to the turn buoy...and directly into the sun. I can't see anything. (Note to all swim directors: maybe it's time we considered having some different colored buoys based on light conditions? Like, say, something more contrasted for bright sunny days? Save the yellow for when it's cloudier?) I just charge ahead and pray I'm on the right path. A yank on my foot tells me that's someone on my feet. I go to breathe again, same yank underwater. A third: same.

Now, I don't mind my swim's being a little...aggressive. But if you grab my foot three times in a row, and I don't get to breathe for triple my normal breath range...you are going to get introduced to my foot. Hard.

After that, it was pretty smooth sailing. I got up and out of the water and:

25:XX

F***!

I run right up the hill to transition. I get to my spot, get down to the ankles with the wetsuit and realize that I forgot to TriSlide my calves.

F***! You moron!

As you can tell by the above T1 number, I could've eaten a picnic lunch up there. I was furious with myself.

Finally, time to get on board the bike and ride. I knew this course was supremely hilly, and so I wanted to open a little more conservatively through the first 10 miles and then flip the switch to turbo.

We started climbing. And climbing. And climbing some more. I had a couple of the 35-39 crowd start to pass me at this point as I debated whether or not to chase them. I decided to stick to my guns. In retrospect, I probably should've attacked here. But having never raced an Olympic distance event before and really wanting to make sure I charged the run, I went with the more conservative of the options.

We finally started making some turns and I started to reel in a couple of guys that had blown up early. I kept moving at my relatively decent pace (I never actually looked at the numbers until later.) I hit mile 10 and started to lay on a little bit more power. I felt like it was a good effort, but not like I was redlining. Again, in retrospect...too conservative.

I made up some good time from miles 15 to 20 as we hauled ass down Hard Hill Road (aka the Big Hill from the Half course). Fastest time down it ever! As we started to climb back towards transition, I again opted for the spin technique, rather than putting in a little bit more effort.

We cruised back into the chute. The guy in front of me completely locked everything up and was all over the road. I wound up coming in way hotter than I wanted to, having to bail right. My options were as follows:

1.) Lock up the brakes and take the mount/dismount penalty;
2.) Bail right into the rock wall, or;
3.) Skid as much speed as I could, jump off, and hope that I could sprint fast enough to not die.

I went with option 3. It wasn't pretty, but everyone applauded me pulling it out of my ass.

Now for the run. I pulled on my Skechers GoMeb Speeds and took off like a bat out of hell.

I flew out of transition, knowing the first two miles were going to be key to a great run split here. They needed to be hard, but not so charging that you were all blown up by the hills. I got through mile 1.5 and Team Rev3er Chris Garges went by me like I was going backwards. I yelled at him: "I HATE YOUR RUN!" He yelled back "Don't worry, I hate it too when I get to the hills!"

This course features three big hills: one at mile 2.5, one at mile 3.5, and one at mile 5.5. I hit the first one...and didn't feel great. This was more of a steepness thing than anything else. Got to the top and was able to open my stride back up.

On this next hill, I realized the guy in front of me was in my age-group. I decided to charge after him on this hill. He was hurting. I was in agony. I just kept pushing. I knew that if I could crest the hill before him, there was no way he was going to come back. Psychologically, I had to break him.

So I charged past at a completely unsustainable pace on the hill, muttering "Good job, keep it up" as I went past. I crested, looked back, and his shoulders were slumped; the stride had shortened; he had broken.

I flew down this next downhill and caught up with the guy in front of me. We were both moving at a great clip and decided we'd try and work together to hold off a hard-charging group behind us. We worked the next mile hard, trying to really push the pace. Yet these guys were just flat out faster. They caught us. We both lifted our efforts to try and stay with them. I was the first out the back; the guy I was with held on for the next half-mile.

We made the turn for home and the evil hill; it's a half-mile, it's the steepest hill on the course, it gets steeper as you make the turn, you can hear the finish line, and it just does not ever seem to end. I saw Eric, the race director, who immediately looked at his watch and went "Hurry it up!" I couldn't help but shrug and smile; my race had pretty much been decided at that point. I went hard up the hill. I couldn't lose position at this point, nor could I gain it, so as we rounded the corner for home I went with "tempo effort" into the finish.

Now, three years ago, this would've been my second-fastest 10K ever. So, to run that off the bike I'm pretty thrilled, particularly on a course as hard as that. As always, though, I'm not truly satisfied; I felt like I was way more conservative than I should have been. Then again...I only had this to do the following day...

Revolution3 Quassy HalfRev
70.3 Miles
Quick Hits: 35:55/3:10:21/1:52:19
5:42:42

Race morning dawned, and I got my breakfast on. I opted to wear the Pearl Izumi Octane Tri Suit for the second day. I was completely undecided on shoes. I had loved the GoMebs the day before. I also had my Mizuno Sayonara's that I had rocked in the Charleston Marathon this year. I just couldn't make up my mind. I left both in transition for the morning.

I readied the nutrition for the day. Working with Christine Lynch this off-season was the best decision I have ever made, as it helped me uncover some serious nutritional issues as well as dial in my sports nutrition. For this race, I would start with the following:

1 x EFS Liquid Shot Kona Mocha 4 oz flask (for electrolyte and calories)
1 x 26 oz bottle with 2 packets Skratch Labs Apple Cinnamon Drink Mix and 3 x Huma Gel Apple Cinnamon (for calories and light electrolyte).
1 x 22 oz bottle water

I would start off nursing the slurry 26 oz bottle with water, and then transition to the EFS bottle. This was to try and front load calories on the ride when it was easier to digest, and then transition to the simpler EFS fuel. Also, as the day started to warm, I would be able to replenish more electrolytes. I knew my body tolerated all of this fuel well, so I was excited to see how it would stand up in a race environment.

I made the decision that I would try and push the swim harder than the day before because I was so irritated with my result from Saturday. I would then try to get to Thomaston on the bike (the town where you start the massive climbs for this race) as conservatively as possible. I would then see how the legs responded. If they had pace, then pace. If they did not, then it was spin-city time. And then I was running every step of this run course because of how last year went.

Into the wetsuit, into the water, and time to get my ass in gear. And away...we...go.

I lined up left again, and this time had much better folks to work with. We were on the straight path to the buoy and had a good clear sight of the lead group. This is what good swimming is supposed to feel like! We had a great time out to the first buoy, rounding it at the 10 minute mark...

...and was staring directly into the sun.

I have never had to stop before to sight. But we as a group flat out could not see. Everybody picked their heads up to try and find the line. Finally, two of the group spotted the buoy, and the sprint was back on. In previous years, my age-group has been a little bit later, so we could just follow the line-up of splashing. But as the second group, we just could not see where to go. Would a different goggle have helped? Who knows. But before I knew it, I was spit out the back of my group. I have good diesel speed; efficient over the long course. But I need to do more explosive work (sprints) to be able to hang with the fish over the short haul.

At any rate, chugging along, and wound up WAY inside the buoy line. Wound up having to cut way back out to the left across the forthcoming swim caps. Still, I felt like I was in pretty good shape.

We rounded the far buoy and headed back in towards shore. This year they added a final turn buoy to make sure that nobody would hit the dock on the inside edge of the line to shore. (That was the shortest path in from the former last turn buoy.) I charged ahead, feeling like I could get out of the water around 32 and change, the same as last year. I had just felt like I settled in again, went to sight...and I was way too far right again.

Dammit.

At this point, I lost my cool a little bit and wound up having a pretty craptastic remainder of the swim. I got out of the water, saw 34:5X and just swore under my breath for having wasted a pretty good first half of the swim.

Up the hill we went. This time, I'd remembered to put a gallon of TriSlide on my calves. The suit came off easily.

Off and onto the bike. Two out of four years here, I have charged the first 20 miles so hard that I was completely and utterly useless getting back into town. The other two years, I reminded myself to be patient. Attack a little bit on the shorter climbs so long as it felt like a controlled effort, but otherwise get to Thomaston as easily as possible.

Well, off we go...and I really try to even control the effort on the climbs here. I really was trying to be as patient as possible. I let three guys in my age-group speed off ahead, figuring "I'll see you boys on the run. Have you RACED here?"

It was the most fun I've had in a race in a while. I passed a few athletes, wishing them luck on their days. I got passed, asked whether or not they had beer hand-ups available. Joked with a few folks that "dammit, I think Eric finds a way to add elevation to this course every year." And so on. I ignored the time on my watch, figuring that if we were going to start worrying about that, it would start on the climb from Thomaston.

I absolutely hauled ass down the descent to Thomaston. It's the fastest I've ever gone on that stretch of road. Some of that has come from the confidence in riding in groups on descents (note to triathletes: yes, do group rides, and learn how to be able to slow yourself down without having to touch your brakes...) and some of that was the confidence in the positioning and handling aboard Sam Eagle there.

Finally, we make the dual left turns that marks the start of 7 miles of relentless uphill. It starts off innocently and then gradually ramps its way up. The first sign of trouble was getting dropped on the first sign of uphill. The second sign was when I went to start putting in some power...and my body responded with "uh, excuse me, sir, but there is none of that available here." I asked again. "Nope. Fresh out. Try again later." Well then.

So I sat up and spun. I tried everything in the book to jumpstart the system, but as John had warned me the day before: if you raced the Olympic well, you'll have nothing but base fitness for tomorrow. Well, whaddya know: the coach was right!

Further up the climb I got a high-five from the awesome Jamie Bull and his lovely wife Sam. I pressed onward, but started to get really negative about the way things had gone. Malaika Homo, who I'd told the day before, "see you on the climb from Thomaston," had blown my doors off about five minutes before. I was just not in the right spot...and then I dropped my chain.

Conveniently, it was at the second aid station. Last year, I muffed the bottle exchange here and paid the price dearly for it. I stopped to deal with the locked chain. In the interim, I also decided to hit the port-o-john and regroup on fluids. I figured that if we were in that spot at this point anyways, it couldn't hurt to just re-focus and re-group on the things that I could control.

After my pit stop, I rode with renewed vigor. My legs came right around with some calories, fluids, and the couple minutes of recuperation. Suddenly I felt tremendous. We got to Litchfield and made the sharp descent...

...and I hit a pothole...and a bottle ejects...with the USAT official next to me.

Now, the rule states you're supposed to stop and pick this up whenever. Obviously, that doesn't happen (have you SEEN the amount of litter after an event?) frequently. With the official right there and the knowledge of what kind of effort it takes to clean this course, I stopped, found my bottle, and hopped back on.

Now I'm fueled by anger. And we all know that you can not just be pissed off, but pissed off for greatness So I rode. Angry. Hard. Probably too hard. But I didn't care. I'd found the tunnel and was staying in it. Somehow I rode the last 28 miles of that course 20+ minutes faster than I rode the first.

Time to hop off the bike and head into transition. Much neater than the day before. I rolled in and had a decision to make: do I wear the Sayonaras, that I know have worked well for me over distance? Or do I wear the Meb's, which I had run in for the first time the day before? My body screamed "whatever is lighter" and so the Meb won.

I tore ass out of transition, slapped hands with Christine and Eric, and went on my merry way. I found a couple of people in really rough shape heading on down out of the hill, knowing that they were in for a long day on the baking hills of Quassy. I clipped off 5 before the first aid station. The last guy I passed was very much not happy to be passed by someone who had raced the day before. I smiled a little and told him to come chase me down.

I made the turn to head up to the spot where I passed out last year. It was the same aid station folks as the year before. I made sure to thank them profusely for pulling my ass out of the road and helping me out so much; they commented how much better I looked upright. Smartasses. Excellent retort, too.

First three miles down. 10 to go. 10 very hilly miles to go. I started on the uphill and just kept plugging. I promised myself that I was running every single step of this run this year whether it killed me. (Note: yeah, I sound a little morbid during my races. It's the willingness to dig as far and as deep as you can possibly ask out of yourself on a given day that draws me to it...so naturally, you get pretty far down the rabbit hole in your head.) I kept clipping off runners who had been slowed to a power-hike by the relentless Quassy hills.

We hit the run out-and-back and I caught my first glimpse of fellow Mainer Eric Oberg. Dude is a great family guy and really genuine. Highly recommend getting to know him if you're from up here. Anyways, he looked like he was a hurting unit. I had told him out of transition that I was coming for him; now, I'd run his 5 minute lead down to nothing in 5 miles. Now, that said, he was also 10 minutes ahead of me on the course (he started two waves later). But still, it's those things that you find to motivate yourself.

I caught him at the next mile. I tried to get him to run with me, but he muttered something about "negative split" and went on his way. (Don't worry, we'll see him again.) Mile 7-8 is probably the hardest part of the course, in my opinion. You are done with the out and back, but have this long, steep grind to the aid station. I slowed my pace a bit here, trying to conserve my legs for the speedy miles ahead. I loaded up at the aid station and tried to find my fast legs again...but they weren't coming.

Well, that's OK, I said, because now we've got the downhill to find Christian Road, which is across the street from the finish line. That picks up your cadence well, and now we can just truck onward. I felt OK, not as fast as I wanted but still running reasonably well. I took the next turn and looked back...and there's Oberg. Figured he'd make a comeback!

He passed me in the course of the next mile, looking strong. I was getting close to gassed from the weekend's worth of work. My stomach started to get a little haywire, so I slowed a bit more to just get it to calm down. I wanted to make sure I'd give my best effort on the final climb of the day. It's the best I've ever run the last out-and-back, which isn't saying much.

Finally: 1 mile to go. You can hear Sean making announcements, you can hear the music. And you're staring at this massively dumb climb under this bridge, which marks only halfway to the top, because it gets steeper when you get around the corner. I love to hate this course. I dug as far down into the well as I had. I looked behind me and realized I had plenty of gap; nobody was catching me today, so I was going to enjoy this finish chute.

Salt much?
I was done. I proceeded to enjoy the ice bath, as well as a lovely Rising Tide Maine Island Trail Ale while in said ice bath. It was tremendous.

Overall, a hell of a weekend. An absolute blast for those that are gluttons for punishment. Quassy is magical.

White Mountains
So I get razzed a little bit while in Connecticut from Rev3 staffer Bob Balfour, who does some work at White Mountains. He, too, had raced the event last year. I told him after Quassy there was exactly a 0.0 percent chance of me going to do the race. He agreed.

Fast forward to Saturday morning and he puts up a beautiful picture from Franconia Notch, touting the race. I put out a "don't tempt me" on Facebook. He messages me back that he has a spot for me if I want it.

Oh, boy.

I texted Hannah first, who said "go for it; why not?" I then texted John, who I'm sure looked at his phone in utter bewilderment and thought "this guy is f'n nuts." And that's how I wound up doing White Mountains.

I drove over the night before, got a fitful nights sleep, and then headed to Cannon. Had a nice race morning panic attack as a tire had blown on the rear wheel. Fixed in short order. I then spotted nemesis Bob Turner coming up the hill in his truck, whom I had told there was absofnlutely no way I was doing this event. I pointed straight at him in the old-school Hulk Hogan "YOU!!!" mannerism. I'm pretty sure he broke a rib laughing.

We chatted, I put beers in his cooler, and away we went.

I don't have nearly as much to say about this event because, well, it was really more like a training day than anything else. I did swim better than either day at Quassy, coming out of the water and onto the beach in 33:XX. I then opted to shoot for the King of the Mountains award on the bike; a really hard climb up to the campground. I finished 2nd, based on the results I've seen; I got curb-stomped by the guy who won the jersey and the cash so no worries there!

I had two mechanical issues on the bike, both with the chain again. Turns out the limit screw was out of place as well as a stretched chain, leading to dropping it when throwing to the small ring and trying to do any shifting in the rear. Rode OK, but knew that the run was going to be a long day at the office.

This run course makes Quassy seem pancake flat. Just unrelenting. It was not nearly as nice of a run this year versus last, in my opinion. I got through about 8 miles and my stomach simply had had enough; I had stopped sweating. So I loaded up on ice, grabbed some water and pretzels, and just started walking until I could run again. It's the second slowest half I've ever done, but dammit it was done.

And just like that, you've got 171 miles of racing in 8 days.

I can't say I'll be doing that again...we are deep into the build for Cedar Point now and we're following the plan. Each day is a constant step forward towards a hell of a race in September. Time to enjoy the ride.

Next up on the blog: a full review of the Skechers GoMeb Speed 2.

Edited to add: this post can also be found over on the Rev3 website here--http://rev3tri.com/2014/06/24/hook-brings-back-171-miles-racing-8-days-report/

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Shipping Up to (North of) Boston...

This space has gone dormant over the past few months for a multitude of reasons. Some comes from my depression following an injury-plagued six weeks post-Charleston Marathon. Some comes from being homesick. And some others, well, elsewhere.

At any rate, things being what they were, I've been given a fantastic opportunity. So I'm proud to say that I'll be moving back to Maine at the end of the month to work for Vont Performance Digital Marketing. Hannah will follow later this summer. For the interim, I'll be couch surfing. So...if you have some space in the Portland area...can I spend a week or two at your place?

It's bittersweet to be leaving after investing so much of myself into Rev3. That said, I'm not really leaving so much as relocating. I'll be helping out with some of the races and being a brand ambassador. So you'll still see me at selected Rev3 races (Knoxville, Quassy, Maine, and Cedar Point...with who knows what else). I'll also be working a little with Maine Running Company.

There are countless people to thank here: Charlie, Carole, Alex, Tim, Ashley, Alison, Lisa, Mark, Mike, Greg, Tommy, Lenny, Senior, Debbie and the rest of the extended Rev3 family for their support over the past few years; all of the Rev3 team members (yeah, you count in the above but you all are some of the best people I've ever met); Ted, Tom and the VONT team for giving me the current opportunity; Hannah, for putting up with me and supporting me...

I'm sad, but I'm excited. Onward and upward...