Monday, December 26, 2011

Member Spotlight: Matt Pokress

by Pat Dwyer

Pat: Okay Matt…tell us a little about your athletic background and how you got involved with triathlon.

Matt: I swam competitively until tenth grade. That is when I started rowing. I was nothing special in either sport, but I graduated from high school intent on making a mark in intercollegiate athletics. My freshman year was the first time I ever made a "first" boat. We had a perfect season, and I figured we were positioned for three more years of that. That did not pan out and those failures still motivate me. Still, rowing dominated my life for those four years. Even my girlfriend at the time, "Fun Crawford", was a rower (Ed. Note: FP=FC).

I stopped rowing after my club four got a complete drubbing at the '96 Olympic trials. I was married and already working with a startup. In short, I was not committed enough to see a clear path to the next level.
Flash forward to 2001 and I got a half-baked scheme to do Firmman. Shay had done Danskin the previous year. It was clearly out of the question for me to be one-upped by her. Danskin denied me entry, so I went looking for something that was hard to finish. A half iron seemed to fit the bill. I had started running a little bit with Ellie in the Baby Jogger. The two of us ran 10 miles once or twice before the race. Suffering through the end of the run apparently did not dampen my enthusiasm.

After Firmman I ran into former BTT member Drew Gronewold. We had known each other from rowing at Cornell and he suggested I join what was, at the time, the Wheelworks Triathlon Team. Despite their obvious reservations about me, Maggie and the rest of the EC saw fit to accept me.

Pat: I’m sure there’s more than a few people that want to know the answer to the next question, how do you train for ironman with 3 kids?

Matt: I will divulge some secrets - but only because you have been plying me with gimlets. To be honest, it is getting easier. The kids are older (12, 8, and 4) and much more reasonable. Eating dinner together is critically important, and I would rather stay up late than wake up early. That means I go to the pool, or to the pain cave, or out for a run after the younger kids have gone to bed. Most American adults are wasting several hours every evening watching TV. I choose to spend that time training.

Avoiding the TV probably frees up two thirds of the time I need for training. The balance comes from pockets of time that are hard to use in any other productive capacity. Some concrete examples of this "opportunistic training" are:

  • It is a 40 minute drive to my office in Westford. I can ride there in an hour. That delivers two hours of training with a net loss of only 40 minutes. Sometimes I get lost on the way home ;)
  • I often run while my kids are at practice. I would lose 30 minutes driving home and then returning to retrieve them. Their two hour sessions at the pool are doing great things for my running mileage. I generally prefer one longer session over two shorter ones because it eliminates one round of preparation and cleanup.

The least disruptive way to get the notorious Sunday "Come to Jebus" rides is to get up early. I can summit Wachusett and still be home by noon. Then I can spend the rest of the day with the family watching the lawn die.

Pat: What do you hope to bring to your position on the EC? Anything we should be looking forward to?

Matt: Well, I obviously want to help everyone step it up a notch. Depending on the athlete, that could mean finally riding a century at Training Weekend, working out five times a week instead of four, going 10 minutes faster at Timberman, or not getting dropped by Austin on the Kanc. In your case, it means riding with me more than six times a year. Our houses aren't even a mile apart! (Ed. Note: Riding with Matt means sitting on his wheel or the wheel of his training prosthesis….[Joe] Kurtz).

I am pleased with the interest in the December challenge. That has me excited to think up something novel for each of the coming months. I am going to stay away from the unimaginative "most yards/miles/hours" type challenges. I will be looking to keep people engaged and competitive across a range of abilities and commitment levels.

Pat: So, for those that weren't there, talk a little about the epic duel that you and I had at IMLP 2010, where we both made the podium. I still have nightmares at night where I'm trying to run you down!

Matt: There was more than a little tension between us leading up to that race. One of us could have knocked the other out of Kona. That would have been a tough outcome.

It ended up unfolding about the way most expected it would. Our swims were roughly the same. I had a stronger ride and a good run. You had a good ride and a stronger run. The better runner usually wins. Neither of us was prepared for how long it would take for you to catch me, though (Ed. Note: Matt had 10 minutes on me off the bike). The end result, for both of us, was a huge helping of hurt in the last few miles.

Joe Kurtz got me a chair just beyond the finish line. Taking another step was out of the question. A little while later, after a weak wave to my family (Shay, kids, and parents), he helped carry me into the med tent. While I was on my second IV bag he reported to me that you had been vomiting in the finishing area and now had a cot of your own in the big white tent. We could not have gotten much closer to the edge.

I really found where the demon lived that day. We were both still feeling it when we went riding over Timberman weekend.

It bothers me that I lost that round, but if I wanted to win every race I could just stay home and race my kids. Those three minutes represent around a 0.5% difference, which is astonishing not just for how close we were, but also for how eager it made me for the rematch (Ed. Note: I’m waiting for the promoter to set up the best deal for me).

Pat: Why do you think you're a "repellant" for attendance at BTT events? Intimidation? :) I know I'm intimidated every time I sit at Helens (which isn't too often) and have to listen to you, [Joe] Kurtz, [Austin] Whitman, and [Chris] Borges talk over my head.

Matt: I have been told we use big words. Sorry about that. You should ask Joe Kurtz about the intimidation. He brought a (650) disc to a recovery ride with me while I was tapering for Kona last year.

Pat: Since this seems to be a popular question, tell us the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you at a race.

Matt: This is no contest. Littleton Appleman, 2009. My wetsuit opened and flooded during the swim. I followed that up by running to the wrong part of transition and failing to immediately find my ride. (It was racked between a pair of hybrid bikes resting on their kickstands. I am not kidding.) Then, despite the fact that the race takes place about three miles from my office, and that I had ridden the course two days earlier on my way home from work, I took a wrong turn and went off course.

The final insult was, of course, an email from you asking why my bike time was so slow.

Pat: Any big racing plans for 2012?

Matt: There are 215 days until LP.

Pat: Okay, speed round....

Pat: Which Cornell boat was more successful? Serious Pokress' boat or Fun Pokress' (aka Crawford’s) boat?

Matt: What I will say is that my friends and I left a lot of opponents shirtless after races. FP and friends took off their shirts and did "topless 10s" out on Lake Cayuga every June. They never told us ahead of time when they were going to do that. We never had binoculars when we needed them. (Ed. Note: Having an Ivy League degree does not mean that you comprehend the phrase “speed round”).

Pat: IMLP or IMH?

Matt: I had the hottest body marker EVER the last time I was in Kona (Ed. Note: This is why he sticks to the long course stuff. No understanding of “speed”).

Pat: Walden or Mystic?

Matt: Walden (Ed. Note: Hooray!)

Pat: UFO or IPA?

Matt: UFO

Pat: Wachusett or the Kanc?

Matt: Kanc

Pat: Felt B2 or Felt DA (sorry, I couldn't resist!)

Matt: I'm going to go with whatever I am on over whatever you are on. (You can't leave me an opening like that.)

Pat: Touche

Pat: Lastly, tell me your favorite part about being on the Blue and Green?

Matt: I would have to say it is the ready supply of post party scapegoats for FP (aka Fun Pokress aka Shay Pokress).

She can fill in the blank:

"This is all ______ fault!"

Monday, December 12, 2011

Member Spotlight: Grace and Tony Felos

By Kim Kaltreider

Kim: Have you started Ian with swim/bike/running yet? What do you anticipate will be his strongest discipline?

Grace: Yes... the kid rides. He doesn't stop running. Ever. But sinks like a rock. Perhaps duathlons will be his race. If he does get the swimming thing down, I think he'll be an XTERRA guy. He much prefers riding his bike over sticks and rocks than staying on the road. It's hard to say what his strongest discipline will be. He has been running longer than biking (he was one of those 'skip walking and just start running' kids), but he's picked up the biking really quickly. He'll have to work hard on those to catch the Aronii out of the water.

Kim: Tony, when would it be an appropriate age to purchase a speedo and bike shorts for Ian?

Tony: It is never too early to have a speedo or bike shorts. I think we need to get him "potty trained" first, but I guess that is not a requirement for triathlon.

Kim: What is your most embarrassing race story?

Grace: Maybe I blocked it out. I can't think of any really embarrassing stories. The one sort of embarrassing story that comes to mind is during a race I started getting passed on the bike by a handful of guys that I knew started in the waves before me. I felt so bad for them because they had to have had such a bad swim to be so far behind me. It wasn't until I was finishing the second loop of the bike that I realized that no, they didn't have bad swims. They weren't just catching up to me. They were, in fact, lapping me.

Tony: I think mine would be the one where I did the entire bike with my goggles in my helmet. I just could not understand why my head hurt so much during the race.

Kim: Have you ever raced in just a swimsuit?

Grace: Hell no. Wouldn't even do it on a dare.

Kim: Tony, didn’t you once race in jorts?

Tony: Not for me either… I just do not have the 6 pack abs for it. I have, however raced in a skirt once, but that was on a bet.

Kim: Do you use body glide? If so, where?

Grace: Interesting question. Pass. :-)

Tony: I use it quite liberally. Basically any place that might even have a chance of rubbing. You all can use your imagination on the rest.

Kim: Favorite distance triathlon?

Grace: I used to think that it was the half, but after the past two seasons I've reconsidered. I stuck to sprints and olympics and am appreciating their "funness". The training is more fun (there's not as much of it), the races are more fun, and the rest of the day is more fun (as I'm not eating like a fatigued fiend). My perfect race is an olympic with a sprint swim.

Tony: I have to go with the half. The ratios of swim to bike and run are much better than that of an olympic. You also get a chance to look around and enjoy the day and not have to give up 6 months of your life. Oh wait ... I forgot I do not train any more for races.

Kim: What is your pre-race breakfast? Are you a 4 cup applesauce kind of gal? How many times do you go to the bathroom?

Grace: I don't care what people say. The applesauce pre-race breakfast works like a charm. There's no need for dishes or silverware. Just drink the sauce from the jar, eat a banana, have a protein shake, and I'm set. I enjoy the day before the race breakfast more, though. Pancakes!

Why do triathlon conversations always end up revolving around poop?

Kim: Tony, do you drink the applesauce koolaid? Do you and Grace have to fight for the bathroom on race mornings?

Tony: I have to admit that the applesauce works great. I love not having to think about what to do on race morning. Just follow the plan. As for the bathroom, I am a 3X guy, without fail.

Kim: True or False: Women become faster after giving birth.

Grace: It's funny. It seems like the women get faster and then men (who did not actually give birth) get slower. What's up with that?

Kim: So Tony, sounds like you lost some speed?!

Tony: Yes getting Chicked has been a thing I am dealing with as of this year. Both Will and I are going to be going to a support group for this. "Hi my name is tony and It has been 5 months since my last chicking…"

Kim: What is that terrible instrument you use during ART that scrapes you until you cry?

Grace: You love it and you know it.

Kim: Tony, does Grace use any painful instruments on you at home?

Tony: that painful instrument makes me want to toss my cookies every time I think about it. The sound of it working is just really gross… oh yeah and the pain, that part is good too.

Kim: If you could change anything about triathlons, what would it be?

Tony: I would have to go with my fitness level.

Grace: I would have to agree with Tony on the fitness level thing. But that would probably require more training which ain't gonna happen.

Kim: Which was more enjoyable: (1) the day Ian became potty trained or (2) chicking Fun Tony at Sharon?

Grace: Well you see, I can only have joy for the potty training event once. But if I'm lucky I can continue chicking Fun Tony over and over again. With that rationale, I'd take the poopy diapers.

Kim: Tony, do you and Grace bet when you race together? Besides the glory and being able to say she chicked you, what does Grace win when she beats you?

Tony: We will bet on almost anything besides races. I love it when Grace kicks butt. It is nice to see her up on the podium. I want to go on the record that I might have gotten chicked at The Sharon Tri, but I did win the Sharon Beer Mile later on that day!!!

Kim: red or white?

Grace: Is there even a question here? Red all the way. That and tequila.

Tony: I have to agree on this one. If it is not red it is not really worth drinking. A full bodied selection from Spain would be my preference. As for tequila… well you should ask Brett how he feels about that particular beverage.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Brenda's Week in Review: December 8, 2011

by Brenda Chroniak

Given the drop in temperature this morning, I'm jealous just typing that this past weekend, Tim Daley, Laurie Damianos, Trish Kelly, and Katie O'Dair packed their bags and headed south for the Key West Triathon and Key West Sprint. I'm even more jealous to report that on a very windy day with a choppy swim, Katie and Laurie both made appearances on the podium-- Laurie took first in the Athena Masters category and Katie won her age group and took second in the Female Masters category overall. And rumor has it she would have been first, had the bike course not been blocked for 4 minutes (read all about it here), giving her opponent time to catch up. Trish and Tim also had great races, finishing 5th and 13th in their respective age groups. Nice job, guys!

Also this past weekend, Maggie O'Toole competed in the "North Face Endurance Challenge" trail race in San Francisco, posting a respectable 4:24 marathon, and back below the Mason-Dixon line, Audrey Perlow saw yet another podium this season, taking first in her age group at the Bread Run 10K. Way to go, ladies!

This coming weekend, most of the team will participate in a 6-ish mile endurance event. Let's just call it "interval training." Results won't be posted, but maybe next week I'll ask one of our rookies to contribute a report.

Until then, have fun this weekend, post your race goals, update your race results, and stay classy, BTT.

Race Report: Key West Triathlon

(This report is in three parts)

By Katie O’Dair

If you're going to do a triathlon in December (or in my case these days, at all), then you might as well pick a "destination" race that focuses as much on the destination as the race. Key West is that kind of place. So Laurie, Trish, Tim, and I (and friends of BTT John and Ali) all raced this past weekend. Full disclosure - Ali and I did the sprint while the others did the Olympic - hey, it's a miracle I did this at all. Anyway, Key West is just about the perfect place for a race and it didn't disappoint. But as we were waiting in line to pick up our numbers there were ominous warnings of 30mph winds the following day which "may cancel the swim" according to some guy waiting in line who, as it turns out, knew absolutely nothing about winds or triathlon swims. But we were worried, especially because for some of us, the swim is the fun part - bring on the wind! We chewed on that all day, then had a drink and watched the sun set in preparation for the race because that's what you do in Key West. After a good meal and some birthday cake for Trish, we settled in at John's place for the big wind storm that we feared would eventually blow in, ruining what was supposed to be a fun time.

But alas, those fears were unfounded. Race day was warm (70 degrees) and windy (18-20 mph, not 30) with some pretty good chop on the water. The Olympic race went off at 7 on the dot. I mean really - there was no waiting for people this morning - half the wave was still warming up when the gun went off. Things may be laid back in Key West, but holy cow, they start races on time. The sprint was a bit delayed because one of the buoys popped, but they hauled another one out and got us going. I was in the fourth wave, which gave me ample time to strategize my swim. It was a long half mile but I love choppy water and had a great swim. The transition was ridiculously far (think longer than Lake Placid) and out of transition I had to stop because mud got in my cleats. No biggie, I thought, if that's the worst thing to happen today, I'm good. Famous last words. In what can only be described as a first, the police actually stopped race traffic for about four minutes halfway through the bike ride. Yep, cars were getting antsy outside of the shopping area and they STOPPED TRAFFIC. I was incredulous. So after they let us go I began to bike madly and had a pretty good ride through the wind. Computer time was 41:26, but official time was 45:11 because of the stoppage. Grrr. The run was flat and windy out along the beach, with a tailwind on the way back. Really, really pretty. But notwithstanding the stoppage, the race was fun and I ended up winning my age group and getting second master's woman overall. Ali (Tim's gf) had a great sprint race and was also happy about the day.

As for the Olympians, as I call them - all did great! Laurie won Athena 40+, Trish and Tim had great races, and John completed his first triathlon ever in 2:42! That's without a wetsuit and without ever having swam in open water before. Nice. I think we have him hooked on the sport.

The best part of all was that the awards were engraved margarita glasses. Yep, even the 10 and under age group got margarita glasses. That's why we love Key West.

We also had a little time to scout out the new BTT yacht which will be ready for next year when we get a large contingent of BTTers to Key West.

By Laurie Damianos

My biggest takeaways from the race were - wind, wind, wind, fighter jets practicing overhead, roosters on the road, the sand finish to the run (threw me!!!), and the wind, wind, wind. Oh yeah, and the fact that the buoys for the Olympic were virtually impossible to see, and there was no marker on the pier where we finished (I had NO IDEA where to go!). Volunteers were abundant and very good. Oh yeah, how can we forget? Chris McCormick did the race and won, of course.

By Tim Daly

I completely agree with Katie on the "destination" and with Laurie on how great the volunteers were on the course (who apparently were all Navy people?). Overall, I thought it was a great race. Obviously, for a second year race, it still has some wrinkles to iron out. For me, it was the registration process (a little more time consuming than needed), and the swim course!

We were told in the course description meeting that the first buoy would be orange for a left turn, and then 2 yellows to mark the back stretch. Well, the first two buoys were orange, but because of the shape of the swim course, we could not see the far orange buoy all the way by the Southernmost point. Approx. 20 swimmers (me included!) swam to the 2nd buoy, and I was approximately 30 yards away from it when told I had to go to the buoy much further right of me, adding another 2 or 300 meters to my swim. Hopefully next year they will add more buoys at shorter intervals to make the course a little easier to navigate. Even Macca ended up swimming to the wrong pier for the swim exit before being directed to the right one.

I thought the bike course was a lot of fun, especially going through the Navy Base with the fighter jets taking off, and no vehicular traffic! The run was awesome along the ocean, but the wind made for a VERY tough day given it was a flat course! Watching Macca cruise by on the run was pretty awesome, too, given he took the time to give a quick wave, and a "what's up?" as he went by. It was also nice to see an e-mail from the race directors today addressing the issue with the Monroe County Sheriff's department (Ali also got stopped for 4 minutes, and one lady she spoke with got stopped once on her way out, and once on her way back), as well as the swim course!

I think this will prove to be a top notch destination race in the next couple of years, especially given the improvements they're already making to the roads!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Brenda's Week in Review: November 30, 2011

by Brenda Chroniak

It's hard to believe tomorrow is December 1 with the glorious weather we've been having! I hope everyone has been taking advantage of it and getting out to run and ride. Have either of our Golden Speedo recipients thawed it out and donned it at Walden yet?

As is tradition for many of us, 16 BTTers (who posted race results) got up and out Thanksgiving morning to run a turkey trot before feasting. Of note, Audrey Perlow took first in her Age Group in the Toys for Tots 5K, and Jeff Aronis dominated the "Dad Pushing Two Kids" division at the Gobble x3.

Further south, this past weekend Jamie Strain and Brett Johnston both had phenomenal days at Ironman Cozumel in spite of the heat, humidity, stinging jellyfish, strong winds, and a tropical downpour (read all about it in Brett's race report here). Jamie went 9:40, finishing 7th in his AG and getting a Kona slot (WooHoo!!), and Brett finished in 10:40 with an amazing 1:34 PR! Way to make us proud, guys! I hope you're both reading this poolside, with a cocktail in hand.

And speaking of Ironmen, Matt Mead has written a great play-by-play from his time at Ironman Arizona on 11/20. Congrats again on a great race, Matt.

Coming up this weekend, Maggie O'Toole will be taking on the North Face Endurance Challenge Marathon Relay and Tim Daley, Laurie Damianos, Trish Kelly, and Katie O'Dair are headed to Florida for the Key West Triathlon and Key West Sprint. And it appears these are the last races for 2011, so if you have anything planned over the next few weeks (Jingle Bell run?) please post it to your race goals and be sure to post your results, too!

Race Report: Ironman Cozumel

by Brett Johnston

Race Report – Ironman Cozumel 2011

I write this report under extreme pool waiter only brought me 1 Pina Colada this morning...instead of two...but I digress.

The family and I flew out from Boston on Thanksgiving morning to Cancun, and then took a bus to Playa Del Carmen, and then a ferry over to Cozumel. All in all, a pretty hassle free travel day. Weather was very hot and very humid, but was glad that I got here Thursday, so I could have a few days to try and acclimate. However, there was a trade-off, as hanging around an all-inclusive resort is not easy for me to do when beer and tequila is flowing freely, but I was able to resist, but honestly by Saturday I was way beyond ready to go.

Friday I went for a practice swim at the course, which was absolutely beautiful. Crystal clear water, with fish swimming all over the place. I then went off to Registration, which was pretty painless. Saturday was bike and gear bag check-in, which again went pretty smoothly, considering that this is a 2 transition race. (You only have to check in your gear at T1, and then they transport your T2 gear to T2). Back to the hotel, and just relaxed for the rest of the day.

Sunday morning, I got up at 4:20...had breakfast, showered, and T and I were off to the start (they had shuttle buses from the hotel to the start).

Got to race start, and weather was beautiful, (hot and humid), but calm and very little wind. Pro athletes went off at 6:40, and then they shuffled the 2300+ age groupers onto the dock, and then into the water. (It is an in-water-start, where you have to jump off the dock, so we were essentially treading water for about 10 minutes before the start. 7 am and the cannon went off, and it was "Go Time." The course is a single lap in a rectangle shape, running parallel to the shore. The first 600 yards are against the current, which you couldn't really tell, as it was just complete mayhem and all style, pacing and form, went out the window. After the 2nd turn, you have a long straight all the way down with the current, although as it was so calm, there was very little current. Things started opening up around here, and I could eventually get into a rhythm. Aaaahhhh the jelly fish.... we were warned about it, but was not sure what to expect. I still don't know what they were or what they looked like, but every once in a while, would feel this sting on my body, which would last for a few seconds and then be gone. I was stung quite a few times, but it was more of an initial shock than any sort of pain. Again, the swim was just beautiful, with great visibility and tropical fish all over the place. They also had scuba divers located at every buoy who were just "hanging out" on the sea floor. Swim was over, collected bag, into changing tent, and onto the bike and out of T1 without incident.

The bike was a 2 3/4 loop (3/4 as you finish at T2, which was in the town center). The bike course is very flat but very windy, and already at 8:30 the heat was really starting to beat down. The first 10 miles out, you have a little bit of a head wind, but it was really congested, which took that out of the equation. There was certainly some drafting here, but not too intentional and I think that even the marshals understood this, as they would drive by just blow their whistle and gesture to people, instead of actually issuing penalties. The next 10 - 15 miles, you are on the open exposed south side of the island, where the wind is extremely brutal, and the reason why disc wheels are banned at the race. It is a constant side wind that is blowing against you the whole way, and you really have to hold on tight to your bike to ensure you are not blown off. After this, you turn left and head back toward town, where you have a decent tail wind, and are able to make up some lost time from the previous section. On the 2nd loop, the headwind picked up quite a bit on the first section. (Or maybe it seemed that way because the field had opened up). On the 2nd section, we went through a brief rain shower, and then cleared by the time we hit the back straight. On the 3rd loop, there was a huge group of drafters that came by, and they were not even trying to hide was crazy. About 5 minutes later, a marshal came by me, and I was hoping that he was gonna penalize them. I could still see them in the distance, and saw him come up behind them. A few minutes later I got to the penalty tent, and there were 6-8 of them that were just checking in. YES...There is justice!! Unfortunately there was one guy (DC Triathlon Club) who was not there, who was drafting virtually the whole race that I could see, and a lot off of me too. (I blew past him within minutes of the run, and saw him walking by the 1st loop...LOSER!)

T2 was quick, got my gear, shoes on, and out onto the run. The run is also a 3 loop out and back course, which is very flat and essentially, goes along the coast through town. On the way back from my first loop, probably around Mile 6, we had an insane tropical downpour that went on for at least the next hour and a half. Shoes were soaked within minutes. Roads were flooded, and each intersection was like a mini river. At one intersection where the flooding was really bad, you actually had to walk, as the water was midway up your shin. I guess I got an early start to trail running season. The downtown area was packed with spectators and crowds going crazy the whole time, even in the rain. They truly are a festive bunch of spectators. I held a good steady pace for most of the marathon, with dropping off in pace over the last 4 miles or so.

Through the finish line, and food and drink, and volunteers were all great. Massages were a very welcome site.


Swim: 1h13:22

T1: 4m47

Bike: 5h33:57

T2: 1m13

Run: 3h47:32

Overall: 10h40:51

All-in-all, this was a fantastic race. I think that the organizers did a great job with logistics in transporting athletes, and getting gear between the 2 transitions.

This is a race I would highly recommend!

Race Report: Ironman Arizona

by Matt Mead


November 16 -22, 2011

Tempe, Arizona


This is my race report for Ironman Arizona 2011. It is a play by play of my race week and race day. The race day was great, a few typical Ironman hiccups along the way. It was a great venue. I hope you enjoy the read.

Jamie, Suzanne, Frank, Heather, and I arrived in Phoenix on Wednesday, November 16th around 10:30am. This was my first IM without family support. Marian, Amalia, and Addison stayed home and would be tracking me online. This was a mental challenge for me on race day, but I had other local support.

We can’t get into the house we rented in Scottsdale until 1:30pm so we decided to have lunch. We find a nice bar named K O’Donnell’s American Bar and sit outside. It is beautiful weather. I have a chicken pesto sandwich and start carb loading with a couple of beers. Texted Joe Milne back home and let him know my carb progress. We get to the house and it is awesome -- a multi-million dollar home. It has four bedrooms and bathrooms, huge kitchen and living space, pool, basketball court, tennis courts, and putting green. Big thanks to Suzanne and Jamie for finding the place. Later that day Dan and his son Cole arrive. Dan’s wife Nichelle is friends with Suzanne and Dan raced St. Croix 70.3 with Jamie and Frank. Dan is a big boy who looks like a pro. He is doing his first IM so I am excited to be a part of that and to help where and when I can in terms of guidance. Jamie convinced him to explore triathlons so we will see how that goes when Dan finishes. Frank leaves to pick up his Mom (Terry) and Dad (Big Frank) and I go to the food store. When everyone arrives back we all sit down for a nice pasta dinner, another beer and some red wine.

Thursday morning Jamie, Dan, Suzanne, and I headed to registration and waited in line for about 30 minutes. Registration was pretty quick and easy. Next we walked around the expo and headed to TriBike transport to check on my bike. They were just setting up and not open until 1:00pm. We decided to head to Old Town Scottsdale for some lunch. We found a great Mexican restaurant with fish tacos. They were good and the margarita was even better. After lunch I headed back to TriBike because I wanted my gear bag and to check on my bike. It was a long line, but I waited and checked in. I left my bike there for race day because it was next to transition. That afternoon Jamie, Suzanne, and I headed to Camelback Mountain. It was crowded and we couldn’t find parking so we left and headed to Phoenix Mountain Recreation Area and Park. We then went for a little hike. It was hillier and tougher than I thought, but it was beautiful. We only walked ¾ of the way up to the summit because we didn’t want to push it and the sun was setting. Jamie took some great photos when we stopped near the bottom to watch the sunset. I practiced my modeling skills so he could get the correct lighting. I’m not sure if those photos will be released. While hiking I found a woman’s license on the mountain and was going to mail it back to her, but found her on LinkedIn and sent her a connection request. She got back to me and was in the area watching a friend compete in IMAZ … small world. When we got back from the mountain Frank and his family was starting to grill. Frank cooked up some nice sausages, burgers, and chicken. Heather made some great potato and pasta salad.

Friday morning had breakfast at the house and decided to go with Frank and his parents to drive the bike course. We stopped by TriBike so Frank could get his gear bag and then headed out to the course. We saw Dan and his son so they followed us. The course had a bigger climb than I expected on the Beeline Highway. Nothing crazy and nothing I haven’t raced or trained on before, but just unexpected. The woman who had lost her license called me while we were driving the course and had a friend at the expo, so I ended up meeting her to return the license. After that we headed back to the house. Frank and family went to meet Heather’s aunt and uncle who were in town, Jamie and Suzanne were in Sedona, and Dan was visiting his family, so I was left on my own Friday afternoon. I watched Wolverine, the X-Men Origins and packed my gear bags. Made a few turkey sandwiches with chips and a beer -- I hope someone is keeping track of my carb loading with the drinks. Friday night Big Frank made two great lasagnas, a veggie and a meat one. I had about four servings and some bread. Everyone joined us for dinner. Jaime’s Mom, Eileen and Suzanne arrived as well. The support crew was intact for race day.

Saturday morning, Jamie, Frank, Big Frank, and I went to check in the gear bags. Dan was already in the area doing the morning practice swim in Tempe Lake. We picked up our bikes from TriBike and met back at the car. We took the bikes for a little spin on the course (approx. 7 miles) to test brakes, shifting, computers, etc. Everything was a go except Dan and Jamie needed to get some quick work done on their bikes. We dropped off the bikes in transition and gear bags in their location. We decided to eat in Tempe and went to Monti’s across from the race site. I had a good grilled turkey sandwich but it went down slowly since the nerves were starting to kick in. We headed back to the house to relax. Had a nice pasta dinner and was in bed by 8:30 – 9:00 pm.

RACE MORNING – I woke up around 4:00 am and had some breakfast. I met Dan in the kitchen and he is nervous and anxious. I explain it wouldn’t be normal if you weren’t, at least for me. Trust your training and it will all come together. Then Frank and Jamie came in. Jamie is so calm but excited that he tries to get us to relax. Big Frank is driving us to the swim. He loves it and we really appreciate it. Thanks again Big Frank. We went to find special needs first and then our bikes. Filled the tires, added water bottles, made some last minute changes, and then off to body marking. Next we checked our gear bags one more time and then went to change. Dropped off the morning clothes bag and headed to the swim entrance.

THE SWIM - It is 6:50 am and we are still not in the water. The pros start and we are standing in the transition area waiting to go across the timing mat. We are not up front so we don’t know what is going on. Finally we start moving and cross the mat and now people are screaming at us to get in the water. We need to jump a railing and dive in. The goggles move so I tread water and adjust them then start heading to the starting line about 150 yards away under two bridges. I am not even at the first bridge and the gun goes off to start the race. No national anthem, unless they did it for the pros, and no Ironman song. There were also people behind me. Oh well, the day begins.

The swim was a 1.2 mile out and back in Tempe Town Lake that looked more like a river (Charles River in a way). The water was cold (61 degrees), but not unbearable once you got moving. The water was also murky and you couldn’t see your hand or the person in front of you. The first 1.2 miles I was clobbered way more than my other IM swims. I am not sure if it was because I swam an extra 150 yards and was in a different pack of swimmers. Anyway I am not a strong swimmer so I just kept moving forward. After a few punches in the face, and I mean closed fist punches (do these people swim with their fists closed?), and people swimming into my side going the opposite direction I decided to move to the outside to have a more comfortable swim. It smoothed out the second half of the first 1.2 miles for me and I made the turn. The 1.2 miles back was going smoothly until I got a very painful calf cramp. I had to stop and tread water to rub it out, and then I was off again. Then about halfway through the 1.2 miles back I cramped again on the same calf. I rubbed it out again and continued. Left the swim and peeled off the wetsuit.

Swim time: 1:20:40, about 5-7 minutes slower than what I was hoping for. No need to panic. I was out of the water.

T1 - You were pulled out of the water and up metal steps at T1. You can’t touch the ground and my shin was smacked on the first step. For those who remember Boston Tri it was similar. Then it was a long run across Tempe Park to the chute to the gear bags and off to the changing tent. It was so crowded I changed outside the tent, had sunscreen applied and went off to my bike. When I got to my row no volunteers were around so I had to grab my bike myself and run the length of transition to exit the bike. The exit chute went through the expo area. I mounted and was off.

T1 time: 8:18 - better than past IMs for me, but I still need to work on that.

THE BIKE – The bike course was three loops, approximately 37 miles each loop. The course was mostly flat except for the end of the Beeline highway where you had gradual incline. It was a false flat as athletes were referring to it. Each loop finished back at transition. I wasn’t a big fan of turning around that close to the finish and covering the same terrain, but it wasn’t that bad and kept moving forward. The first 8.5 miles was flat and fast around Tempe and ASU heading toward the Beeline. Jason Kramer, a friend from Boston and the Alzheimer’s group who now works at ASU and lives in the area, was watching and spotted me right away with the blue and green of Boston Triathlon Team. It was great seeing him briefly and hearing his cheers. Once on the Beeline it was a 10 mile gradual incline with the last 0.5 – 1 mile the steepest. As you turned around and headed back to Tempe it was all downhill and flat. You were flying. I averaged about 21.2 mph after the first loop and I was thinking what a great bike this was going to be. I started the second loop and it was pretty much like the first, but then I hit the Beeline and the wind had changed and it was behind me climbing the hills, which was great. But as soon as I made the turn on the ride back into Tempe I had a headwind the entire 18.5 mile journey. No matter which way I turned the wind was in my face. I averaged about 19.7 mph for the second loop. At the turnaround back in Tempe after the second loop I saw the clan -- Suzanne, Heather, Frank’s mom and dad, Jamie’s mom and Suzanne, Dan’s family, and Heather’s aunt and uncle. What a special treat -- you could hear them from a mile away. They were a great cheering section. The third loop was pretty much like the second with the wind, but I did need to stop and pee. I was pushing through it and started to think if I should pull back with the wind to save energy for the run. I saw groups of six to eight riders drafting with this wind and flying by me. I was so frustrated when I would go by a penalty tent and see it empty. Oh well, it was beyond my control. I fought through the wind and finished the bike strong and dismounted my bike.

Bike time: 5:34:36; 20.08 mph avg.

T2 - was a shorter run to the gear bags and changing tent and a volunteer took my bike, but it was still a run. It was also less crowded and I had a seat out of the sun inside the tent. After a bathroom break and some sunscreen I was off on the run.

T2 time: 6:00

THE RUN – The run course was three loops as well, approximately 8.7 miles each loop. The course was flat with one hill around mile 4 /5, 13/14, and 22/23. The course was a little confusing at first, but well-marked. It was like a figure eight where you ran on one side of Tempe Lake and then crossed over a bridge and ran on the other side back to the bridge you started at and cross back. This short loop was around 2.5 miles and then you continued on this side of the Lake and ran to the next bridge and crossed over and then did a lollipop loop away from the Lake back to the Lake again, down to the same side of the Lake to the bridge you just crossed and cross back again and ran back to the start of the run … do you understand? I said it was confusing! J This second part was about 6.2 miles making the total loop about 8.7 miles. I started the run feeling like I pushed the bike too hard. However I stuck to my plan. My strategy was to run the first half of the marathon around 8:30 per mile and then hold it if possible or slow down to 9:00-9:30 for the second half and come in around 4 hours or just under when finished. The first 11.5 miles went as planned, but then my stomach was acting up and I needed to use the porta-potty. The race slowed down from here. I am not sure if it was because I used it and I upset my stomach more or not. Maybe I could have kept going and see what the result would have been. Oh well it is an Ironman and I made the decision and lived with it. I kept moving forward and had some mile splits like I planned, but then had some slower that involved visiting the potty again. I saw the clan -- Suzanne, Heather, Frank’s mom and dad, Jamie’s mom and Susan, Dan’s family, and Heather’s aunt and uncle as I began the third and final loop. It was awesome just like I experienced on the bike and helped a lot. The entire run I had to pee a lot just like the bike. More than I have in past IM races. I saw the cheering section again before I entered the finish chute, grabbed my cell from Suzanne so I could call the family and headed to the finish line … Victory Lane.

Run time: 4:07:18; 9:26/mile.

I had ups and downs throughout the day, but finished and was happy. Talked to Marian, Amalia, and Addison and they saw me cross the finish line on the computer and that is the best feeling ever hearing their voices.

FINISH TIME 11:16:52

POST RACE - Got a massage, had something to eat, called the family, changed clothes, grabbed the gear bags and dropped off the bike at TriBike, then went back out to the course to cheer on Dan, Jamie, Frank, and other athletes. I missed Dan cross, but eventually saw him. I witnessed Jamie get a personal best and saw Frank pull it together after a tough swim and first half of the bike to run his best IM marathon. Congrats to all of them.

Thanks to everyone who trained with me, gave me their advice, healed me, and supported me. Very special thanks to Marian, Amalia, and Addison for putting up with me and my training for these last 6 months. I could not succeed at any of this without their support.

I hope you enjoyed this race report,

I love you all.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Brenda's Week in Review: November 23, 2011

by Brenda Chroniak

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone enjoys lots of quality time with loved ones this week. And good luck to everyone running a turkey trot tomorrow, whether your goal is to PR or be first in line at the pub afterwards.

Cue "Eye of the Tiger" - This past weekend, BTT represented in Philly as Kelwin Conroy, Eric Lambi, and I tackled 26.2 in the city of brotherly love. Congrats to all on solid races! You can read my race report here.

In Arizona, Matthew Mead also ran a marathon... after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112. He posted a terrific finish time of 11:16:52 and certainly deserves a few extra helpings of everything tomorrow.

John Wozny and Jeff Aronis stayed local this weekend, taking on the Busa Bushwack Trail Race and finishing minutes apart from one another. Great job!

And one late addition-- my post-marathon brain accidentally left out Braden Larmon's awesome 1:27:44 at the Big Sur Half!

Finally, let's all wish Brett Johnston and Jamie Strain safe travels and good luck at Ironman Cozumel this weekend. Go get 'em, boys, and GO BTT!

Race Report: Philadelphia Marathon

by Brenda Chroniak

The night before Philly I had an anxiety dream that I had to do a 4-hour training run—part of which I had to run through Brett and Theresa Johnston’s house—and halfway through this training run my legs just wouldn’t work and I was going in super slow motion, like running through molasses.

Ironically, that’s pretty much how Philly panned out for me (minus running through the Johnston home), so instead of talking about my run, I’ll review the race itself.

The course wasn’t quite as “flat and fast” as running lore has deemed it, but it was awesome. I feel like I covered almost every inch of the city and its surroundings on foot, and got a really neat running tour of Philly. From the downtown start, to the zoo, to the Drexel campus, to the river, you got a little bit of everything and at no point could you describe the course as “boring.” And even though there were plenty of false flats and small hills, at no point would I call it “hilly” and if anything, the climbs and descents saved your muscles from 26.2 of the same repetitive motion.

There were spectators every step of the way and having run Boston, the spectator bar is set pretty high for me, but I really enjoyed the Philly crowds. The Eagles drum line was t

here, the students were enthusiastic, the crowds were all supportive, and the signs people made were some of the most creative I’ve ever seen. Some favorites include:

- You trained longer than Kim Kardashian was married

- Chuck Norris hasn’t run a marathon

- This is still a good idea and you look amazing-ish (this sign was at mile 25 or so)

- Keep going! Don’t stop! (left) That’s what she said! (right)

- The guy behind you just turned into a zombie! Keep running!

- Run now. Cheesesteak later.

Of course, there was the standard “dudes handing out cups of beer to runners” water stop, and on the way out I thought “no effing way” but on the way back I seriously contemplated it. At that point my race was so far in the toilet, a beer would have at least been a tasty break from the pain-fest.

And then there was the guy around mile 23 or so wearing a hooded sweatshirt that said “I Hate Running.” When I passed him I thought “Me too, dude… meee toooo.”

The finisher shoot was non-chaotic, the finisher medal was pretty sweet, and because the entire street was lined with flags from every country, it made meeting friends and family easy (We met under Norway. In hindsight, maybe I should have chosen Kenya…).

All in all, I give Philly two thumbs up (because my thumbs are the only parts of my body that don’t hurt right now). Great race, great crowds, great support, and GREAT food after: We went to the Nodding Head brewery, where I can personally recommend every bite of the Grand Marnier French toast.