Sunday, October 29, 2006

SC Half Ironman - Engagement Proposal - Oct. 1, 2006

The 2006 SC Half Ironman was my year all squeezed into one race – big excitement and a little mishap that almost got in the way! I had BIG plans for this race! It is a special race for my girlfriend, Anna, and me. Three years ago, just a few days after our first date, I convinced her to get up before sunrise and come watch me do this race, a guy she barely knew and a sport she knew even less! Soooo…this year I had a big surprise! I was going to propose to her at this race where it all began! Not only “at” the race, but “during” the race! I had the diamond engagement ring tucked snuggly in my running shoe in transition, waiting on me to finish the swim and bike, with plans to give it to her sometime during the 13.1 half marathon.

The swim was uneventful and I exited the water feeling great. I hit the bike hard as always and quickly moved up the field until I was in the top 20 of 500 in the race with about 4 miles to go on the 56 mile bike. So now I’m thinking about the ring. “It better still be in my shoe…I wonder how far I’m going to have to run with it before I see her? What words should I use? I want to make this memorable..." (as if proposing in the middle of a Half Ironman isn’t already). Then it happened. I’m all alone riding about 25 mph, lost in my proposal plans, drifted a little too close to the edge of the road, hit a patch of sand – WHAM! Bike slid right from under me. Suddenly I’m sliding down the asphalt on my back! Ooooouuuuch!!!!!

I stopped sliding and lay in the road for a
minute, stunned. But a quick inventory of body parts didn’t reveal any broken bones, but blood was everywhere! My back, legs and hands were pretty scarred by the asphalt. My bike was banged up but I was able to ride in the final 4 miles to transition.

I was a bloody mess in transition (see photo). I grabbed the ring box and started the run, stopping at aid stations to pour water over my screaming bloody wounds. (See photo with ring box in my left hand.) About mile 7 I finally spotted Anna in the crowd and with a big hug I gave her a bloody ring box and slid the diamond on her finger. The crowd seemed to like it and made a lot of noise, but they may have just been horrified by my bloody body rather than the proposal.

Anna started to hyperventilate and I think she managed a “yes” between gulps. I said “great! I’ve gotta run a little more but I’ll see you in a little bit” and then I ran the final six miles to the finish! We’ll definitely never forget our proposal!

P.S. I was fine. Despite all that crashing, stopping and proposing, I managed to finish 38th out of 500. Just a little post-race cleaning of my wounds and a brief trip to the ER that night to patch things up and I was good as new!

Joslin Diabetes Center Weekend - Sept. 28-29

I was honored to be invited to participate in a fantastic event for the Joslin Diabetes Center. Joslin is the leading diabetes research and treatment facility in the world, located in Boston. Check it out at I was honored to be a part of Joslin's annual celebrity event to raise awareness and funds for the center, 2 days in Newport, RI of golf, a beautiful gala dinner auction in a Victorian mansion and regatta on America's cup racing yatchs! Check it out at I've included a few pictures of my beautiful fiance Anna and me at the events!

In 2007 I will be a part of this amazing diabetes center at Joslin in many ways, including the Joslin diabetes camp and speaking at Joslin events. Contact Joslin TODAY and let them know I told you! See you there!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tugaloo Olympic Triathlon Race Report - September 16, 2006

I raced the 10th annual Tugaloo Olympic distance triathlon September 16. Fantastic weather on a hilly course in Lavonia, Ga. just across the SC state line. This race is run extremely well and very popular with the gazillion triathletes from Atlanta and all over Georgia. The race operates out of the Tugaloo State Park just a few miles off I-85 on the Georgia side of Lake Hartwell so it's just a short drive from Greenville on race morning. But don't let that proximity to civilization fool you. This ain't a city race! North Georgia country roads are dark at 6:00 am, and I even had to travel a dirt road - I didn't know they still had those! - but finally found the long line of cars entering the park. After you park, you still have to hike a little trail through the woods, over a stream to the transition area. Hilarious.

This year the race was full at 500. I did this race in 2002 when I was just starting to race and it only had a few hundred back then. Triathlons are definitely getting popular. The swim was non-wetsuit with a time trial start, 3 athletes every 10 seconds based on estimated swim finish times you provide at registration. Since my shoulder surgery (broken clavicle) in March, my swimming has been slow to recover so I estimated a swim time about 5 minutes slower than what I would do. That put me starting in 215th place! Time trial and wave starts make it hard to gage your place as the race develops, so I just go all-out all-the-time since I never know where I stand. It's a fun way to race! Besides I'm an Ironman racer so these short course races (sprint and Olympic) seem so short that I go all out start to finish. I don't have the top end sprinter speed for these races but they are great for speed work.

I finished the swim about 2 minutes faster than my estimate so I was pleased with that. The run to transition was about 100 yards. Speedy transitions are more in important in short races than Ironman, but I always have to take a little longer to check my blood sugar (I'm type 1 diabetic). T1 was 2:37. Very slow. But the bike is my favorite and I was really looking forward to this one. Tugaloo is hilly. Really hilly for such a short bike - 26 miles. A few long 1/2 mile climbs and a dozen short quad burners. I loved it. My goal was to break 1:10 which I figured would put me a the top of my 35-39 age group but still save a little for the run. I biked 1:09:50 (made it by by 10 seconds!) which was good for 3rd out of 74 in my age group. On to the run.

Checked my blood sugar again in T2 (I prick my finger and put a drop of blood on my One Touch blood sugar meter.) I was troubled to find it very high, over 250 mg/dl, which is almost 3 times what it should be (normal is 80 to 120). This is less of a problem in short races because its over before I begin to really feel the effects. High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) causes sluggishness, fatigue, nausea and eventually dehydration - feels like you ate a giant meal with the flu and a tequila hangover (not that I would know what that feels like). Now go race. I could have injected myself with insulin but that was risky and could lead to a sudden blood sugar drop and dangerous low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), besides I would be finished this 10k run before the insulin really would take effect. Blood sugar extremes are more of a challenge in Ironman because I can't eat when it's too high (will make it go higher) but eating is necessary to avoid the dreaded "bonk." Low blood sugar makes you disoriented, weak, shaky and numerous other progressively worse symptoms. Pulling out a syringe and taking an injection in transition is not what you normally see in a triathlon, but I've done it in Ironman. But who cares, this is why we race, to prove that we can, right?

I took off on the run and tried to hold 7 minute miles. My run fitness has been slow to come around since I could not run for 4 months while my arm was in a sling and I raced RAAM in June. Tugaloo's run is up and down, up and down through the park on asphalt roads. I was pleased to able to hold that pace fairly comfortably, finishing in 44:13 for a 7:08 pace. I finished in 2:26 which was 9th out of 74 in my age group and 49th out of 500 overall. Not my best but I was happy with it. Best was that I could have gone another few hours at that pace so my training is coming around for Ironman Florida on November 4th and the Long Course Worlds in Australia November 19th. Next for me is the South Carolina Half Ironman October 1. See you then!

Monday, September 11, 2006

US Pro Cycling Championship - September 3, 2006

The US Pro Cycling Road Race Championship was in my hometown of Greenville, S.C. Labor Day weekend. I was pleased to host my RAAM teammates from Team Type 1, Phil Southerland and Joe Eldridge. The night before the race we had a great dinner with former Tour de France rider Jonathan Vaughters, now manager of the TIAA-CREF cycling team, comparing notes and stories about racing the Tour and RAAM, and diabetes. Sunday we watched my friend and fellow Greenvillian George Hincapie win the US National Championship in our hometown. Levi Leipheimer set a killer pace climbing Paris Mtn., shreding 3/4 of the field off the back in the first 10 miles of the race. Only 20 riders out of 100 finished the race and George held on for the win. See my picture above and more from the race and the weekend.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ironman Lake Placid Race Report July 23, 2006

Ironman Lake Placid, July 23, 2006, the 11th of my career, was different for a lot of reasons. For the first time in my career, I was not in proper form on race day. I broke my right clavicle in a cycling race in late February and had surgery March 1. I spent March and April in a sling, so no swimming or running for 2 months. When I got out of the sling in early May I could not even touch the top of my head with my right hand! I spent May in physical therapy 3 days a week, still no swimming or running, but cycling almost every day to get ready for the Race Across America (RAAM) in mid June. I spent 2 weeks in June traveling and racing RAAM, an amazing experience, cycling 3,043 miles from San Diego to Atlantic City in just over 5 days! But when I returned home June 22, I had only 1 month until IM Lake Placid! Still lots of physical therapy, then my health club closed my pool the month of July for renovations! Augh!

So I had less than adequate training for this Ironman. I still only had about 60% flexibility and strength in my shoulder and had swum only a few times, and run barely 10 times since February. My longest run was only 12 miles! So I headed into Lake Placid with an unusual race strategy – see if I my shoulder could complete the swim without too much pain, ride the bike as hard as I could, and see if I could run the marathon. No pressure, just a fun, long catered training day!

The first race day surprise occurred when I arrived at my bike in transition. My front tire was flat! Fortunately I had brought a spare (call it racer’s intuition that morning) so I did not have to rip the spare off my bike. I stripped off the old tire but quickly discovered that my spare did not have enough glue to adhere to the very wet wheel rim. After about 15 minutes of standing in line, I managed to get a few pieces of rim tape from mechanics in transition, but time was running out! I changed it just as transition closed and I was virtually alone, still with several blocks to walk to the swim start and get into my wetsuit! In transition when it closed? – another first for me! The changed job was less than perfect, the tire was not centered on the rim, but it would have to do. I’d just have to see what happened when I starter riding. No worries, this was supposed to be a training race anyway!

The swim at Lake Placid is always crowded, 2200 athletes in a narrow lake. It’s a water start so I drifted to the far side knowing I would not be contending. I couldn’t fight the battle with only one good arm anyway. After about 20 minutes on the first lap, my shoulder finally warmed up and I slogged through the rest of the swim. At one point I even stopped and rotated on my side to rest my shoulder. It’s amazing how quiet and peaceful it was in the middle of that pack of over 2000, only the sound of soft splashes all around me. I exited the water 12-15 minutes behind my normal swim time, firmly in the middle of the field. Man it was crowded! I’ve never been surrounded by so many people exiting the swim! The transition tent was packed, not a seat anywhere. It was chilly in the mid 50’s and light rain, so I spent more time putting on arm warmers and a vest in addition to my usual routine of checking blood sugar, cycling socks and shoes, etc. I even took the time to change the lens on my sunglasses! Clearly I was in no hurry!

I was very skeptical of my front tire so I watched it closely the first couple of miles in the slick rain. It seemed okay so I pushed the pace. I spent the first half of the bike passing every person I saw. I felt a little awkward blowing by them, almost as if I should apologize and explain my poor swim and shoulder. I finished the first loop in a fairly conservative 2 hours, 45 minutes, but my blood sugar at the mid-point was almost 300, a problem I frequently have in Ironman bike segments even though I rarely eat much. I need to eat during the bike, but doing that and keep my blood sugar down is a challenge. I took a quick injection of 3 units of Humalog insulin, knowing that I would both be working hard but eating and drinking regularly on the 2nd lap. I was hoping to finish in around 5 hours, 30 minutes, which now required an even split, and I felt very strong for lap two, still passing everyone I saw. But after about 90 miles, my legs suddenly gave out. I was not passing people like before, just holding the same pace.

I hit the final climb up Whiteface Mountain, the last 15 miles, feeling weak and sluggish, losing lots of time. I finished the bike feeling drained, suspecting low blood sugar. A quick check on my One Touch Ultra meter confirmed it – blood sugar 60. Way too low. I sat in the transition tent, sipping my carbohydrate drink in no particular hurry. I had passed over 750 athletes on the bike, but a few hundred were already out on the marathon.

I started the marathon still feeling weak and slightly nauseous, trying to get my blood sugar up, running with a bottle of high carb sport drink and a flask of Clif Shot gel. I know I had not eaten enough during the bike, worried about overloading my blood sugar. Now I was paying for the lack of calories and carbs in my system. I’d also been careful to drink heavily, but my stomach pains told me I was dehydrated as well. Add that to my lack of run training and my marathon was not going to be fun. I pushed it as hard as I could for the first 6 miles out passed the giant ski jumps, but with each mile my stomach felt worse until I was reduced a slow jog and walk. Returning to town after the first half of the marathon I felt it was best that I withdraw and save my body the abuse just to finish. I’d gotten everything I hoped for out of this training race, a post-injury swim test, a good bike workout, and a little running.

I’ll be spending the summer getting ready for Ironman Florida Nov. 5 and the ITU Long Course Triathlon World Championships in Australia Nov. 19. See you then!