Firmman ….. Nice day for a run on the beach?

Firmman ….. Nice day for a run on the beach?

Firmman Half Ironman is a race that is somewhat special to me. I did my first and my fastest Half here in Narragansett, RI. The location is absolutely stunning. Narragansett has one of the nicest beaches in the Northeast. The weather in early September is typically in the 70’s to 80’s. The one problem with a ocean triathlon in early September is the odds that a Hurricane/Tropical storm will be cranking up the Atlantic and stirring up the swim (hence the above photo). 50 percent of the time that I have done this race we have had to deal with some pretty nasty waves. On a perfect day in early 2000 I managed to crank out my fastest half ever 4:36:37. Aside from that day ……… Half’s have always been my achilles heal, something always goes wrong with 1 of the 3 events or Im fighting some kind of running injury that allows everyone to hurt me on the run.

This year was different. I had nothing to prove. I spent the winter and spring building a new house. My training suffered big time. Over the winter I did not swim or bike at all. I ran to stay somewhat in shape, but the building process consumed all my time. Part of my problem is that I can’t do anything part time. It’s ALL or NOTHING ………… the house got 100 percent of my focus. The end of June came and the house was complete.

Since July 1st I have lost 10 pounds (Mark made me fat). It’s convenient to have grinders, donuts, Big macs, etc…. while working long hours on a house. Again …….. if I go off the diet …….. I go WAY OFF. My training went from so so to Let’s GO. I went from 50 mile rides to 100 milers overnight. A month later I did the Providence 70.3 and had a pretty good race considering that I had just over a month of solid training (I somehow pulled off a 4:54). From that point on decided to sign up for the 2012 Ironman in Lake Placid. This also helped me kick my training up another notch. So, it made sense to do a late season half ironman this year. With most races being sold out ………. Firmman was the best choice.

We arrived in Naragansett on Saturday just before lunch and spent the afternoon on the beach. The waves were insane, Tropical storm Katia was out to sea making some angry waters. Not the worst, but it won’t be an easy swim. During the day the nauts started to show up. From the team we had Rich, Fran, Derek, Steve and Carla. The FIRM crew notified me that there was some road construction going on. GREAT ………. Rough swim, Rough Bike. At this point I am thinking that it would be awesome if I could break 4:50. I would be thrilled with a 4:45 based on my current fitness and the fact that the bike is going to be tricky with the grooved pavement and the strong winds because of that B!tch (Katia). I still take the race seriously and I eat the correct foods as the day goes on. The only No No I did was the pint of Guinness for Supper. Kelly gave me a puzzled look and said “you never have a beer before a big race”. My response was “This isn’t my A race”. I have been training hard, but I didn’t taper for this. I want to race hard, but Im wiling to deal with the fact that I could crack on the run.

Sunday Morning:

4AM alarm goes off and Derek and I down our breakfast (Derek bunked with us). Then it was time to pack up and meet the crew in the parking lot. We heading down to the beach and it is pitch black (similar to our morning swims at Russell). We head to transition and then it’s off to check the surf. It’s better, but it’s not gonna be easy. My swim start was supposed to be 1 minute after the Elite’s. But, because there are only about 5 Elite’s they have decided to combine our waves and the 40 and over men will be in the first wave.

The horn blows and we are off. The way out is the tricky part with the crazy surf. Every time a wave hits you are pushed back towards shore. It feels like forever, but I make it through the waves and I round the buoy. Now it is a mile plus swim that is parallel to the beach. Sighting is almost impossible because of the swells. Plan B …….. just swim with the yellow caps. My thought is that they all can’t be wrong. I continue pushing along and it feels fast at times. We had a nice tail wind and the current was helping us move along. I see what I think is the final buoy and notice that Im not as close to the coast guard house as we usually are. So I stop for a minute and notice that people aren’t turning. Then I see that there is another buoy several hundred yards further. I swim to that buoy and make the turn back to the beach. From here you have to swim at a angle to get to the finish cute. This is easy on a normal day ……… but the waves are to strong and they are pushing me straight in. HOLD ON ……… If I swim straight, Im gonna end up in a pool of sea weed (it is pilling up against the sea wall). Fortunately sea weed doesn’t bother me. I swim into the sea weed pit and it is insane. It was so thick, it went from my chest to the ground and the waves were making it hard to walk in. I managed to sludge through it and run along the beach back to the timing mat. Swim time? No watch …………….. and I forgot to look at the clock.


My plan is to bike semi-hard for the first 40 and push slightly harder for the remainder. So, off I go. My pace feels good and Im picking people off one at a time. A few miles in I round a corner and a spectator is yelling out the place that we are in. He tells me that I am 17th. Cool ……….. it helps to have something to shoot for. As the miles click by I am slowly picking people off. They have decided to repave Rt. 1 and some off the bridges have some big holes. I make it through the land mines without issues. By mile 30 Im in 10th and I am doing well on the hilly section and feeling real good (weird). The last 10 miles of the bike had the added challenge of grooved pavement. I pushed the pace hard and somehow pulled off a 2:29 bike.

I start the run and Im now in 5th. Only 2 Elite guys and 3 relays are ahead of me. The plan is to run as hard as I think I can maintain for 12 miles (the last 1.1  will be run on pure will). I also have the added motivation of being able to win my division. As the miles click by I get passed by a few guys …. but they all have team on their calf (relays). My pace is good and I seem to be moving along (I won’t look at my watch, because I don’t want to be manipulated by the numbers). I continue onto the first out and back and I seem to have a good lead on most of the age groupers. I continue to push and Im off to the final out and back. The turn around is at mile 8.5 and it’s home sweet home from here. Aside from the relays, nobody seems to be gaining on me. I see Fran and Rich and they both look real good. By mile 10 I decide to look at the watch and it shows that I have been running for just over an hour and 11 plus minutes (just over 7:10 pace) this has me pumped and I pick it up a notch and I go for broke (even if I crack a sub 1:40 that would be sweet). The final 5k of a half iron is the point you find out if you are the hammer or if you are the nail. the last few miles fly by and I high five Carla as she heads out for her 13.1 (it helps having 5 other Cyclonauts in the race to keep you focused). I get to the beach and I feel like a million bucks as I do the beach run. The beach run is more difficult if your hurting ……… today it feels like I am running on pavement (Today I am the hammer). I run by the beach photographer and give him the double peace sign (see pic below). Nobody is on my tail and I blow through the final tenths with a high five to Kelly/Becky and off I go to the finish chute. I cross the line at 4:36:36 ………….. 1 second faster than 9 years ago.

Quick stats:
This was Derek and Steve’s first Half
never got passed by an age grouper on the bike and run
I have never won my age group in a half ironman
Today I was 1st in my Age group by 15 minutes
8th overall (6th Age grouper)
still 5 pounds heavier than I was at Kona

No coach, slightly fat, back on coffee, back on Jack …………..  how did I pull this one off?