By Matt Pokress
I delayed publishing this because I didn’t want any premature self-congratulation before LP.
Usually Mooseman involves staying in a hotel room with Joe Kurtz and Pete Jensen. We fall asleep looking lovingly at our respective bikes. I knew several months before this race, however, that Mooseman 2010 would offer new challenges. Shortly after registering I discovered that FP was going to wear her Girl Scout leader hat that same weekend to take Ellie and her troop camping. No problem. I emailed my mom and asked if the other two kids could get dropped off on my way up to the race. She agreed. Then my parents went and scheduled a 40th anniversary trip. Mooseman was right in the middle. I offered to have Nate and Jane fly out to the UK and cruise back on the Queen Mary 2, but my parents were not interested. It was time for a new plan.
Still trying to sort this out, I mentioned my conundrum to no one in particular while at a BTT gathering. Without hesitation, Jess Douglas (a.k.a Miss Jesskeeya) volunteered to watch the kids at the course. What a huge and generous offer this was. I double checked multiple times as race day neared, and she was still game. I sealed the deal by spending two hours installing a Thule rack on her Prius. You would think a pair of elitist Prius-owners would be smart enough to read the manual. Maybe next time.
So the new plan was to drive up with Nate and Jane on Saturday afternoon, check into the cabin (“The Little House” in Jane-speak), and hand them off to Jesskeeya on Sunday morning. My Prius (FP took the big car) was stuffed full of kids, race gear, wheels, linens, luggage, and food. There was no room for a stroller. We drove up, registered, put my bike in transition, and went back to “The Little House” around 3PM. The weather was nice, so we went for a little swim. I made an early dinner, and went off to get some ice cream with them. It was very relaxed, and we had quite a good time. We had lights out by 8PM.
Race morning I was up at 0400. I started fueling, and loading everything into the car. My little troopers were cheerfully awake by 0430, and we were off to the course by 0500. Mercifully, there was still parking available just up the road from the course, so we didn’t have to walk very far. I knew that transition setup needed to be quick and efficient, because I was still dealing with the kids. Jesskeeya wasn’t there yet, but Doug Sherwood watched the kids while I ran in and set up more quickly than ever before. Thanks again, Doug.
We were at the playground when Jess showed up. I gave her the quick rundown, handed off the backpack, and prayed that Jane would not poop until after the race (she made it all the way back to Arlington). I caught up with Mike Hollywood right before the swim start. He asked how I was feeling. My uncharacteristically candid response: “I’m worried about the kids.” Not worried that Jess was incapable of handling them, just worried that something totally unexpected would happen in the next few hours. That wave of uneasiness was buried once the wave went off. The swim went well (0:28:54), although I somehow managed to go a bit too hard. Standing up and moving into transition was a bit shaky.
By the time we hit the bike course the weather had turned into, what I now know to be, my ideal conditions: a cool monsoon. The new Mooseman bike course is markedly more difficult than the old course. It even incorporates a section of my favorite ride, the Training Weekend HP ride. This was my first race with a power meter, although I have been training with one since the end of 2007. Perceived exertion and heart rate can fail you on a hilly course. I kept a good eye on the watts whenever the road pitched up, and I do believe reigning in those efforts kept me strong later in the bike. On the first loop people were hammering away from me on the hills, but I was reeling them back on the flats. On the second loop I saw people walking their bikes on the hills, a first in my triathlon experience. Once again, I failed to go under 2:30 on the bike (2:37:49), but I was 3rd off the bike in the age group.
Any concerns I had about overcooking the bike were allayed early on the run. My pace was better than expected and I knew this was going to be a great run. At this point all the BTT spectators and my kids were under the tent. It is immensely gratifying to see the kids when I am tearing it up. I moved into 2nd at some point in the first half of the run. I kept an eye on some known threats at the turnarounds, but 1st (Tim Tapply) was untouchable. The legs felt great all the way to the line (1:23:18). I think the run course is a little short, but this is still very close to my half-marathon best.
Jess got the kids over to the finish within a couple of minutes. In this case there was a T3 - back to being a dad. There was no time for a massage. I had to check Jane’s diaper and get the three of us some food. That finish area is not equipped to handle soggy families and competitors. It pained me to leave w/o collecting my syrup award, but even in the best of conditions waiting at the course another four hours would have been unreasonable. After a hasty meal we collected all the gear and went to the car. Jane was asleep before my bike was on the back.
The net result was, perhaps, my best “Big Race” finish (2nd AG/5th Amateur/18th OA). Certainly the execution was spot on. Once again, a sub-4:30 1/2 Ironman eluded me (4:33:15). Upon reflection I am most satisfied, though, with how well I was able to plan and manage the weekend. For weeks I iterated through various scenarios. The dad plan was more important than the race plan. As a learning experience, this was great on several levels. First, obsessive planning throughout May ensured that we were well prepared and stress free on race day. Second, a radical reduction in the scope of the race morning rituals had no discernible impact on the race itself. Finally, Nate and Jane are serious troopers. I was especially impressed with Jane. She was not yet three but had the stamina to stay on her feet from 5 AM to 1 PM. She even wanted to go back to the “Little House” after the race. I let her know there was another “Little House” awaiting her in LP in a few weeks, and mommy would be there, too.
Once again, I have to extend a huge thank you to Miss Jesskeeya. She kept the kids happy and safe in extremely wet and challenging conditions. Without her help I would not have had the massive confidence boost from that race to launch me into the final weeks of my LP preparation.