Toughman Race Report

Toughman Half
Westchester NY
Sunny, low 80's

Toughman was my last scheduled and focal race of the year so needless to say I wanted to put an exclamation point on the end of this season.

Race morning I parked my car in the train station, which is a mile away from transition, instead of at the race site in fear of being stuck there until the last finisher crossed the line.  In hind sight I could have parked at the race site since they offered a different exit route.

On the shuttle ride over to the race I rehearsed the race in my head and tried to stay focused on me rather than the pole the driver just hit our the fact that I wanted to get to transition quicker than the buses  snail pace.  On the short ride over there something was missing, a feeling, an emotion, that rush of race morning. Then I stepped into transition. Boom.The adrenaline started to flow, my game face was on and I was all business. I took care of the normal transition routine of setting everything up, using the bathroom, reviewing the "ins"and "outs"etc before heading down to the water.  One image that I can't forget from transition was the enormous tree in the middle that was back lit by lights that cast off this awesome shadow and created an ominous silhouette.

I eagerly made my way down to the water with a fellow athlete to get in a solid warm-up when I noticed something odd.  There already was an athlete in the water who was standing a few hundred yards from shore. This wouldn't be a big deal if the water wasn't below his knees!

Before witnessing this my game plan was simple.  Since it was a beach start I wanted to stand right behind the swimmers, chase them into the water, then draft them for as long as possible. After witnessing a man walking on water I had to investigate if my plan was still viable.  The water was less than knee deep at the first buoy and by the second buoy it wasn't even at my waist.  This meant that the first 100 yards was going to be a foot race combined with dolphin diving. Great. Too much running and dolphin diving is a great recipe for a horrible swim. My revised game plan was now to run/skip/high step until the water got above my knees then immediately start swimming. If all went to plan then I would still be with the lead group and be able to draft.

I was the second wave to start, five minutes behind the first wave.  As soon as I entered the corral I positioned myself right up front and behind the swimmers.  The horn sounded and we were off and running.  A few guys really charged into the water with myself and a smaller group right behind. Everyone ran for the first 40 yards, then the next 20 yards was a mixture of dolphin diving and running. When the swim finally truly started everyone was spread out all over the place. There wasn't any feet to jump on to, it was time for  a solo mission.  The next hundred yards our so I constantly was sighting looking for someone to draft off of but there wasn't really any good candidates. As I reached the turn around I felt I was swimming well and had made progress through my wave. Shortly after the turn around the plan was to increase the effort and continue to race the swim. With in a minute or two of the turn around I had caught up to end of the first wave.  For about twenty yards it was like bumper cars.  Athletes running over me, into each other, it was ugly. I even managed to swim right into a "wall".  This guy was seriously a brick house, he didn't budge when I swam into him.  He then knocked me in the face as we started to swim which pushed my right goggle lens practically against my eye. I pictured myself looking like the guy from Clue with the monocle. It bothered me initially but I decided to ignore it and swim on.  In triathlon there is a proverb or expression stating that if something is bothering or irritating you(chafing, running, shoelaces to tight etc) either immediately stop and fix it or forget about it and get back to work. I chose to get back to work.  As I closed in on the beach I was feeling great. My strokes were smooth and strong and my effort was increasing. As soon as my hand hit the sand which was at least 100 yards from the shoreline (remember how shallow the water was) I popped up and started to high step through the water, then dolphin dive a few times then back to high stepping.  As I exited the water I saw the clock and heard Matt's voice at the same time. Did I just really swim under 27 minutes? Did Matt just say, "you crushed it, top ten in your age group?" WTF? I know I swam well but... As I ran up the beach to transition I got fired up by what he said but I knew that the swim had to have been short. My swim had improved since Vineman but I'm certainly not a 27 minute swimmer.
Goal Time: 31 minutes
PR: 32:00
Actual Swim Time: 21 minutes! HAHAHA (remeber that I started 5 minutes after the first wave). There is no way in hell I can say that I PR'd this swim. I'm frustrated with Toughman for having such a short course. I worked really hard on my swim and battled back from a major shoulder injury to race 1.2 miles and I feel cheated that I wasn't able to.

T1 was status quo. Nothing fun, odd or funny to report.

The stripped down version of my bike game plan was to simply increase my effort through out the race. I could tell you specific wattage but that wouldn't translate to anything of valid use. The first loop of the bike went well. I held back at the start and got my legs going pretty quickly thanks to the first long climb right out of transition. The bike loop was roughly 26 miles of rolling hills. Because of the nature of the course there was a ton of pack riding.  I'm not saying that athletes were drafting but we all know the benefits of riding in a pack.  On the second part of the first loop I finally settled in and seemed to yoyo with a small group of riders.   The downhills on this course were fast, and I loved it.  However there in lied the problem for me.  It was hard for me to hit my wattage because it's virtually impossible to put out high/targeted watts going downhill.  So although I was very close to my goal I was finding it hard to nail it. So how could I get my wattage up? I could push harder on the climbs but then I could risk burning too many "matches". I concluded that the risk wasn't worth the reward so my wattage was lower then desired.

Entering the second loop I was focused and confident that I could negative split the bike if not come close to achieving my bike split goal. I pushed slightly more on the long climb and focused on slowly getting to the front of the group of riders I was surrounded by.  For the first half of the second loop I debated on every hill to push it or hold back. Every time I held back and stuck to a low wattage.  Right around miles 35-40 I lost a bit of focus. My mind started to wonder and think versus staying in the present. Then I heard it.....sssssssss. Did I seriously just flat? I won't share what came out of my mouth but just know it was horrible.  I pulled over and saw my group fly by me.  I then reached down and pinched my tire, it was hard as a rock. I then spun the wheel and let my fingers glide over it to feel for any debris, nothing. What is going on here? I then looked down again and realized that a Toughman sticker was stuck between my tire and fork. Seriously?!? I immediately regained focus and set my eyes on catching up with my group. By the final turn around they had about 45 seconds on me. By mile 50 I had had enough of the bike. I was ready to get off.  My legs weren't hurting but they certainly weren't firing at 100%.  Knowing that I still had to run I made the conscious decision to dial it back a bit and up my cadence. A "bad" bike doesn't mean that I have to have a bad race. I could easily run myself back into a good race.  As I entered T2 Matt was there and offered some words of encouragement. We both knew I fell short on the bike but the race wasn't over.  The good news was that my legs felt great running through transition. The feelings in my legs immediately made me forget about my bike split.

Goal time 2:45-2:50
PR 2:56
Actual time 3:00


T2
It's been a long time since Melissa has been to one of my races and to see her at the end of my my rack (which she figured out herself) was just awesome. To see her smiling and cheering gave me such a positive vibe. I love her.

Heading out on the run I was immediately greeted by Matt who gave me words of encouragement. We had a short conversation and before I knew it mile one was complete and my pace was dead on.  The next couple of miles were a steady climb mostly on trails.  The pitch wasn't anything significant but I was certainly not running on flat ground.  Despite the terrain I was still running at my desired pace. I'm going to crush this run.I can't believe I'm going to back up my "blah" bike with a solid run, this is sick.  Mile six was the unofficial end of the elevation gain and mid way point of the race. At this point my splits were expectedly slower but what goes up must come down.  Miles 6-10 were a blur.  I slowed more than desired on the inclines and felt comfortable with letting my legs go on the declines. A huge measuring stick during the run in mile 10. It was at this point in the race where I judge if the run was going to be thee run.  As I reached mile ten I gave myself a quick check. I wasn't hungry, my legs were tiring a bit and my pace had steadily slowed to the outer limit of what I felt was acceptable and I was salty.   This run was going to be a coin flip. Mile ten was pretty much down hill on trail which made life slightly easier.  The last two miles was a mixture of flat and inclines. Starting Mile 11 I was losing stream, quickly. Even though I mentally wanted to run faster my brain could not over power my legs. I was slightly embarrassed on mile 12 and felt frustrated and annoyed a few times. Once again  Matt was there with about a mile to go from the finish and asked me how I was doing. He didn't need or get a response, he knew exactly how I was feeling.  I made my way down the finishing shoot to the finish line where my wife and aunt had there signs and cheers going. Despite not having my ideal race I felt I ran stronger here at Toughman than I did previously at Vineman.
Goal time 1:50
PR 1:56
Actual time 1:58

Overall goal time 5:20
PR 5:32
Actual time 5:27. Yes, this time is my "fastest"so far. Personally I do not consider it a valid time.  I had envisioned reaching my goals and my celebration to be euphoric. I had pictured, rehearsed, trained and planned on the perfect race and it didn't happen.  I'm left with a slightly empty feeling. I got the job done but it wasn't up to my standards or worthy of being called a PR.


As this was my last race of the season I have a lot of people to thank.

First and foremost I would like to thank my wife Melissa. She truly understands my passion and love for the sport. Without her understanding I wouldn't be able to pursue my triathlon dreams.

I knew from the first time I met Matt that I wanted him to be my coach. Things haven't changed and won't change. He has stood by my side through it all and not once gave up on me. His dedication to me as an athlete is unparalleled I plan on following his lead as I begin to pursue my goal of coaching triathletes.

Nutrition always seems to be a mystery to multi sport athletes. There is no mystery when it comes to Ignite Naturals. Shoot out to Ignite for their support this season. I look forward to our continued relationship moving forward.

A standing ovation for my family for all their support through this season.

A HUGE thank you to Tony Corso of Corso Physical Therapy.  He really put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

BIG UP to Alex of Bicycle Playground for taking care of my most prized possession.

Much love and respect to my training crew. HULK SMASH

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