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Mill City Triathlon: The Best Race for First Time Triathletes

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Wednesday, April 13, 2016
in Triathlons

Are you a new triathlete? Have you always wanted to finish a triathlon? Is completing a triathlon on your “bucket list”? The Mill City Triathlon in Lowell, Massachusetts on June 26, 2016 may be the perfect race for you.

The Mill City Triathlon Sprint Event is Perfect for Your First Triathlon

Why do I say this? 

First off I have completed almost 100 multi-sport events from the sprint distance to the Ironman distance and well over 400 races in total. I know a thing or two about what it takes to complete an event. As new race director of the Mill City Triathlon my goal is to put on a safe and fun event that challenges veteran triathletes and allows new or first time triathletes an enjoyable race experience.

Top five reasons to add the Mill City Triathlon to your race schedule this summer:

  1. 1) Swim course: For most first timers the swim is the most intimidating. The sprint course swim at the Mill City Triathlon has a low intimidation factor. The course has been shortened to only a quarter mile and is an out and back. We have small swim waves and a very friendly group. You will not be intimidated!

  2. 2) Bike and Run Courses: Both the bike and run courses are one loop. We have added course videos for both courses so you will have plenty of opportunity to view the race course prior to race day. Both courses are mostly flat and have all right hand turns. Check out the course videos on our website: millcitytriathlon.com. Remember to View The Race Before You Do The Race!
     
  3. 3) Early start time: Summer is usually hot!  We start at 7 AM to take advantage of hopefully cooler morning temperatures.

  4. 4) Amenities: We offer a safe and friendly environment, impressive post-race refreshments, finisher medals, bike support, and a few surprises to help commemorate your event finish.

  5. 5) Price: At only $59 until May 1st you will be hard pressed to beat this price. If you ever considered tackling your first triathlon why break the bank?

Check out our website (millcitytriathlon.com) and feel free to contact me if you have any questions about our event. We also have an Olympic distance race, Aquabike, and relay options for both our sprint and olympic distances. 

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Christmas in New York City

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Tuesday, December 15, 2015
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Last weekend I traveled to NYC to see all of the Christmas decorations, Rockefeller Center, and the famous NYC Christmas Tree. As an added bonus I also was able to visit with my daughter who attends school in New York. Based on the crowds I was not the only one with this idea. It was tough going anywhere near Rockefeller Center. This didn’t bother me because I knew I would have full view of what the city had to offer the next morning during my Sunday run.

Many times in the past I have enjoyed sightseeing while running. I have written a few blogs about this in the past (Washington DC, Bahamas). Not only can this be a convenient way to see a city but it also can be very fun. These are no pressure runs where you set up an 8-12 mile run (or more) and tour the sites of a city. I usually bring a camera (my phone) and will stop frequently to take in the sites. (monument, tourist attraction, etc). These runs can also be one way if the sites are spread too far apart. Taking a subway or cab back to the hotel works just fine.

Last Sunday I completed one of these fun runs in NYC. I ran through Rockefeller Center, Central Park, and down Fifth Avenue. The weather was absolutely incredible. I woke up and it was 60 degrees and sunny on December 13th! I wore a short sleeve shirt and shorts and was very comfortable. Maybe even a little hot. Unless you are a runner you really can’t understand how good it feels to be running effortlessly on a beautiful day in a great location. It was an incredible 9 mile run!

I am thankful I am able to enjoy the simple pleasure of running and never take it for granted. All of the training miles, track workouts, and races are fun but at the end of the day the simple joy of seeing a city while running can’t be beat. 

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Chicago Marathon…26.2 Miles is a Long Way!

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Thursday, October 15, 2015
in Road Races

Earlier this year I was looking for motivation and decided to enter me and my wife in the Chicago Marathon lottery. This race has always been on our bucket list and I was sure that if we were picked we would be highly motivated to train for this event. As luck would have it at the end of April we were both selected to run. Great news!

Fast forward five months and unfortunately the summer training did not go as planned. I never stopped running but never seemed to be able to ramp up my mileage to marathon training levels. I was only able to get a couple of 16 mile runs completed and had a terrible 15 mile “long” run 2 weeks before Chicago. Other than that I basically did four workouts of 5-6 miles each week. Not even close to enough training. In addition part of my goal was to eliminate the 15 pounds I have gained since my Ironman finish in 2012. I knew this was essential to running a successful marathon. Unfortunately I did not accomplish this goal either.

I arrived in Chicago last weekend under trained and overweight. My last hope was that experience would get me through the event. Chicago would be my 10th marathon. At the end of the day it was only a marathon, right?

Obviously I didn’t take my training seriously enough and I continued this trend in my pre-race preparations. After picking up my race packet on Saturday, I visited several Chicago establishments and enjoyed Shepard’s pie, spaghetti and meatballs, and a 6 pack of beer. Carbo loading at its finest! I did get to bed early and was ready to go.

Race morning I woke feeling great and again was counting on my experience to carry me through. I really was not nervous at all. Getting to the start line in Chicago was chaotic. If you run in this event make sure you leave early. It took forever shuffle stepping with thousands of other runners to get into your assigned corral. I got to the gate to enter the corrals for Wave 1 and it took me almost 30 minutes to get into  Corral B. Here is a little tip…I was in corral B and there were about 25 open porta potties just outside the corral. Next time just wait until you get to your corral to take advantage of one last comfort stop.

The race started and I was ready to go. Weather was almost perfect (maybe a little warm) and I decided to bring nothing to the event. No watch, no fuel belt, no phone.

If I wasn’t going to attempt to break my PR why bring a watch?

 Fuel belt?  There would be plenty of aid stations.

Phone?   Why?  I guess I could have taken pictures but didn’t want to risk dropping it.

I ran by feel for the first 10 miles and really couldn’t figure out my time due to a lengthy stagger before I crossed the start line due to the crowds.  I was feeling OK until about mile 11 when my legs started to complain a bit. I knew this was a bad sign. I ran the first half in 1:53 which was probably a good marathon pace for me but unfortunately my legs were starting to feel dead. Based on my training, I was really only good for about 13-16 miles and that reality was hitting home. I started walking soon after mile 16. At around mile 18 I felt someone pat my butt, looked to my left, and saw my wife. She had started in Corral D and had caught up to me. Ouch!  We walked together for about a minute and then she ran ahead. My legs were dead and it took a big effort to walk/run the last 8 miles. The crowds were awesome and definitely helped as I trudged along the streets of Chicago.

I did do something I have never done during a marathon. At around mile 21 I heard someone yelling, “Anyone want a beer”!  My ears perked up and I saw a few guys offering runners Dixie cups filled with ice cold PBR. I helped myself to two cups and continued on my way. Thanks guys! A marathon is a long way! I finished the race in 4:49:59.  My slowest marathon to date. My wife finished in 4:19.

Excuses? Yes, I have plenty but I am a true believer that if you really want to do something you can find a way to get it done. I basically have been enjoying life and couldn’t fully commit to marathon training. I am still happy I completed the event and was able to experience the Chicago Marathon. Crazy as it sounds I still finished around the middle of the pack. Approximately 20,000 people finished after me. Wow!

As I write this post I am severely sore and probably will not be able to run for at least a week to ten days. The marathon distance must be respected. It is a long way!

What’s next? If I can ever get serious again I may enter another challenging event in 2016. I have a couple ideas but still trying to figure a few things out. In case it isn’t obvious, experience will only get you so far. You can “fake” your way through 5k/10k or maybe even a half marathon but more than that and lack of training will really show. 

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Running the Noland Trail

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Friday, April 03, 2015
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Last weekend I was filming a race in Newport News, VA and took the opportunity to run in a couple of cool spots. I filmed Race 13.1 Newport News (video not available yet) and the course passed by the Noland Trail. This looked like a great place to check out so I decided to run the trail.

The Noland Trail is a 5 mile loop that completely circles Lake Maury. The course is well marked with mileage posts every half mile. The trail starts/finishes at the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News. The surface of the trail is hard pack dirt with railroad ties spread out along the way. The course is rolling and due to the large amount of railroad ties you frequently have to take short hops to get over them. You definitely don’t want to zone out on this run and trip on one of these jumps.

The trail has numerous bridges that cross parts of Lake Maury. This allows for some nice views of the lake. At one point the trail runs along the James River and this offers even better views along the shore. Race 13.1 Newport News runs along the river at this point as well. This is a great part of that course and I highly recommend checking out that event if you want a fast time in the half.

Another area I ran in was Newport News Park. This is a great park with a 5.3 mile well marked trail through the woods. Unlike the Noland Trail you are very secluded for almost the entire loop. I only saw a few people for the entire run. This park has 30 miles of trails over its 8000 acres and is one of the largest city run parks in the United States. I ran the trail and also explored several other areas of the park and ended up with 7.1 miles.

Being a runner is all about being able to explore new areas. Next time you are on vacation or on a business trip check out the local area and treat yourself to an interesting run in a new place. You will be glad you did!

 

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NYC Half Marathon 2015 Race Report

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Tuesday, March 17, 2015
in Road Races

On Sunday I ran in the NYC Half Marathon. This is a huge event with almost 20,000 finishers. Registration is done by lottery and I was lucky enough to get picked. The race features a point to point course that starts in Central Park and finishes near Wall Street. (sorry no course video) The race has several tough hills during the first 5 miles in Central Park but the remainder of the race is almost completely flat. If you are looking for a spring half marathon I would highly recommend this race. A few highlights of the course include Central Park, Times Square, Freedom Tower, and the Battery Park Tunnel.

Race Day

Due to the terrible New England winter I had only ran outside 3x this year prior to running in this half marathon. That has to be a record for me. I have been putting in some decent mileage on the treadmill this season but it is hard to tell how your body will react to running outside after such a long period indoors.

After a rainy Saturday I woke on Sunday to a nice 42 degrees and dry weather. Perfect for long sleeve T and shorts for me. Since this race is such a large event runners are assigned corrals where runners are staged by projected pace before the start. This whole process was well organized and I had no issues at all getting to my corral and the start.

The race starts uphill and the first few miles have rolling terrain. Central Park is hilly and the first 6 miles are in the park. I knew hills would be an issue (haven’t seen one in months) but I paced myself properly and survived Central Park intact. I will mention that right after the 5k mark there is a really tough uphill. This one hurt a bit. The key to this race is to really stay comfortable the first 6 miles and then hopefully pick up the pace the 2nd half of the race.

After you leave the park you have a great view of Times Square as you run down Seventh Avenue. It is incredible to run right down the middle of 7th Avenue thru Times Square with no traffic. This put a smile on my face. I turned to a runner beside me and said “It doesn’t get any better than this!”

After turning on 42nd Street I was still running strong with a nice slight downhill on the way to the West Side Highway. The remainder of the race is almost entirely on the West Side Highway. This section is completely flat. If you are having a great day this could be a part of the race where you can really make up time or hold your pace. Unfortunately the wheels started to come off for me around mile 9. My pace dropped about 30 seconds a mile and I couldn’t get it back. I didn’t completely blow up and was at least able to manage 8 minute miles on the way in.

One really cool part of the course is running thru the Battery Park Tunnel. This comes just after mile 12. The tunnel is slightly downhill so I tried one last effort to throw in a speed burst and capitalize on the downhill. My strategy worked but ***Runner Beware*** As you exit the tunnel there is a short but tough uphill. After trying to run hard thru the tunnel this was an unwelcome surprise and my legs blew up. There is only a little more than a half mile remaining in the race after this hill but my legs were toast. I struggled to the finish and ended my day in 1:40:34.

Was this a good time for me? Based on this past winter I would say this a fine place to start my season. Too many times runners complain and make excuses after every event. You can’t run a PR every time you race. I ran a great race and had a great time. I think this is a great event and I will try to get in again next year.

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Winter Running Safety: Where Can I Run?

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Monday, February 09, 2015
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Running in the winter can be challenging. I live in New England so during a “good winter” dealing with freezing temperatures and a time period of snow covered roads is a seasonal reality. This winter was incredible until about three weeks ago. We had received barely any snow and I could still see my grass. Since then winter has returned full force and we are now breaking records for snowfall totals. Running on the roads is now impossible.

Some runners insist on running on the roads despite the impossible conditions. Now maybe you don’t understand what I mean by impossible road conditions. Take a look at the picture below. The white line of the road and sidewalk are completely buried in snow. Running on a road like this would be equivalent to running in the middle of the road in the summer. In addition vehicles are now driving on snow/ice and also have limited visibility due to the snow banks.

So why would any runner insist on risking their life to run on main roads? Good question. Running outside in these conditions does not prove that you are tough or some kind of iron runner. It is just plain stupid. Not only are you putting yourself in extreme risk but you also force drivers into impossible situations as they try to avoid hitting you. Please..Please..Please..do not run on these roads until conditions improve.

So where can I run safely?

1)      Treadmill- Most runners hate the treadmill but at certain times of the year it is the best or only option. Join a gym or buy one for your home. Even when winter conditions don’t prevent you from running outside it is not fun to run in sub-zero temperatures or in the darkness all winter. Mixing in a few treadmill runs in shorts and a t-shirt is great when it is dark and 10 degrees outside. Not to mention the risk of slipping on black ice. Embrace the treadmill and many times you can get a much better workout than slipping and sliding outside.

2)      Run in a quiet neighborhood- Once the roads are plowed many people can find a quiet neighborhood where they can repeat small loops without much danger from vehicles. This is fine as long as the neighborhood is virtually traffic free. These type of runs are also boring as you usually have to repeat the same loop numerous times but at least you are not on the treadmill.

3)      Snow shoe running- I am not an expert nor have I attempted snow shoe running but many people enjoy this type of running. Just strap on specially designed snow shoes to your running shoes and you are good to go. This is so popular in some areas there are even numerous snow shoe running races during the winter/early spring.

4)      Cross-training- If your only option is the treadmill and the thought of running 4-5 times a week indoors is not something you could possibly do then consider cross-training. Cut back to 2-3 runs a week and mix in 2-3 alternate workouts such as cycling, elliptical, swimming or some other form of exercise. This will mix up your workouts and help get you through the tough winter months. This is also a great time to try out a spin class, yoga, or any other class that looks interesting at your gym.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that if you live in a winter climate there will be times when you need to adjust your running habits. Runners are creatures of habit and this is tough for some of us but please don’t put yourself or others in danger. I have learned over the years that every winter at some point “treadmill season” will begin and it is just a fact of winter living. Be smart this winter and keep running. Just do it safely.

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How Do We Survive the Holidays?

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Thursday, December 18, 2014
in Training

This is a fantastic time of year. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Holiday parties, kids back from college, extended vacation time for many, etc. This time of the year there seems to be a party or get together every week from mid-November until after New Years. Many of these parties include great food, countless desserts, and fine adult beverages. This is a great time to catch up with family and friends and look forward to the New Year.

 

So what is the problem?

The problem is if you are serious about your training this is a very difficult time of the year. For most of us this is the off-season, but we still need to keep up with some base training. The Holidays are geared towards excess in almost every category of our lives with the exception of exercise.  It is tough to keep up with any kind of a training program. After all,  we have every excuse in the book. It is the off-season, Holidays only come once a year, weather is cold and frightful, etc. It is very easy to miss workouts and grab a piece of pie. I am as guilty (or more guilty) than most. If you are guilty of any of the below you probably are already on the wrong road this Holiday season.

1)   How many of you had a piece of pie for breakfast any of the mornings following Thanksgiving?

2)   How many of you had more than one “Thanksgiving dinner” utilizing leftovers?

3)   Is a new part of your routine at work grabbing chocolates out of a dish on someone’s desk?

4)  Are you following the “if I don’t weigh myself I didn’t gain weight” philosophy?

5)  Is it impossible to buy a gift certificate at a restaurant without eating there as well?

6)  Have you missed more than one workout due to staying out too late?

7)  Have you missed more than one workout due to being “over served” at a party?

8)  Have you ordered a donut or muffin in addition to your coffee recently just because it’s the Holidays?

9)  Has a button on your pants mysteriously popped off recently?

10) Worse of all…Have you started to embrace your sedentary lifestyle?

If you are already on the wrong road it is not too late. Don’t write off the last few weeks of this year as a lost cause. Every week lost will take 2-3 weeks to get back. You need to start the long road back to fitness now. Force yourself to get back into a routine of running at least 3-4 days a week. You don’t have to run hard. The key is to get your body moving and start to stem the tide of your Holiday debauchery.

 

Speaking from experience after a few workouts the racing juices will start flowing again. You will probably be disgusted with your weight and your current fitness but that can all be corrected with time. The key is to start now and don’t make everything worse by waiting until after the New Year. If you are reading this and you know you are on the wrong road then get motivated! Make a decision now to run tomorrow…don’t wait! What could possibly be stopping you from running 30-45 minutes 3-4 times a week?

One word of caution…Start running but don’t step on a scale. Since you have lost fitness you may not be able to handle the shock…wait a few weeks and hopefully the number will improve.

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Lowell Thanks 4 Giving 2014 Race Report

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Monday, December 01, 2014
in Road Races

Running a road race has been a part of my Thanksgiving Day tradition 16 times. I ran my hometown Lowell Thanks for Giving 5k race for the 11th time on Thanksgiving Day. Due to the moderate snowstorm we had on Wednesday night the conditions were not the best on Thanksgiving morning. Shoveling out my driveway before heading out to the race is not a chore I would like to add to my Thanksgiving Day.

I am not in great shape at the moment but running this race is more tradition than running a good time. This is a great opportunity to burn a few calories before the big meal and impress your family with your incredible fitness commitment. If you run on Thanksgiving Day I am sure you have heard something like this around the dinner table.

You ran today?   Wow, really? You did a race this morning?   Incredible!

The reality is if you are a runner the Thanksgiving Day 5k/5 miler is kind of fun and really doesn’t take that much commitment. Everyone has the day off and there is always a festive atmosphere in the air.

2014 Thanks 4 Giving 5k Race

This year due to the snowstorm the night before, race officials were challenged with shoveling snow away from the start/finish line and dealing with icy conditions.  It wasn’t extremely cold but the snow made it feel colder. Due to the conditions there seemed to be a lot less people than usual. I checked the results and there were about 400 people less than the previous year.

Every year I attend a Thanksgiving spoiler on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving Day. This year I had a great time…Maybe too good of a time. Take a look at the picture below.

 You would think this would be how I would look after running the race. Unfortunately this was me before the race. Let’s just say I don’t always make things easy on myself to maintain my Thanksgiving Day running tradition.

I quickly decided that due to the conditions I would just enjoy the day and run with my wife. This ended up being a good choice as there was no way I could have run a solid effort. It really is amazing how much easier it is to run a 5k when you are not racing. (Haha!)  We finished around 23:30 and kept the tradition alive.

The Lowell Thanks 4 Giving 5k/10k is a great event with an easy course, good parking, and is well organized. If you do not have a Thanksgiving Day race you attend and are in the Lowell area next year give it a try!

 

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The Importance of Traditions

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Tuesday, September 02, 2014
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Do you have any yearly traditions?   I think it is always interesting to hear how a long time tradition was started. Doing something every year is difficult with this changing world we live in. People are busy, family dynamics change, health/fitness fades, etc. It takes a lot of commitment and determination to keep a tradition alive. I believe traditions are important and can bring people together. It is so easy to let a tradition slide just for convenience.

 


One tradition I have is riding to Newfound Lake with friends every Labor Day. This year was the 8th time we have completed this ride. The ride is just under 100 miles and believe me this is not a tradition everyone necessarily looks forward to each year. No matter how many times we complete this ride, it is still a great feeling when we get to Newfound Lake.

How did this start eight years ago?

Several friends of mine are avid cyclists and mountain bikers.  A friend of mine owns a house on Newfound Lake and we kicked around the idea of cycling to his house on Labor Day weekend 2006. At first it seemed crazy but it didn’t take much convincing to get a few friends together for the attempt. The plan was to ride up on the Friday before Labor Day weekend and then spend the weekend at the lake.

After analyzing a route we determined the easiest roads to travel and found it to be 98 miles. Heading north into NH is very hilly. We tried our best to minimize the hills but still ended up with a tough route. For those familiar with cycling we have 1 cat 5, 1 cat 4, and 1 cat 3 hill on our route.  For our first attempt we had 4 riders and no one made it. We had our first rider drop off around mile 65 and then everyone was done by mile 80. We had our wives drive up ahead of us in case a rider had to drop out. Good thing we did as everyone had to make the call. We ended up with a terribly hot and humid day and no one in the group had done any long distance riding. Not a great plan.

Let me fast forward to 2014. Since our poorly planned first attempt we have done this ride 7 more times and it has become a yearly tradition. A few riders have come and gone but the core group has remained steady for all eight years. I am also happy to say we have completed the ride every time since our failed first attempt. With any 100 mile ride, planning and proper nutrition are mandatory to completing the distance. It is also a big help if the weather cooperates and it is not 90 degrees.

This year we had 4 riders and perfect weather. No one in the group had done a lot of long distance training but that was not much different from years past. The day started with me crashing at the 6 mile mark. I hit a major pothole and crashed on grass/dirt on the side of the road. Luckily I was not hurt and my bike was fine.  I did hear a few comments that perhaps this was a staged crash so I could get out of the ride.   Really?

With temps in the low 70s and minimal humidity we all did great until about mile 80.  This ride is not a race and we try to stay together as long as possible but we are all very competitive. After we hit the 80 mile mark it is understood that the race is on! At that point me and my brother-in-law Mike went ahead and got to the final climb together. Did I mention my friend lives at the top of a category 3 hill?  Mike looked strong all day and luckily for me he bonked on the hill and I made it to the top first by a healthy margin. The other 2 riders in our group struggled but made it about 30 minutes later.

Mission accomplished! The tradition continues!

I have used this ride for Ironman training in the past and finished strong. Other years I was just lucky to finish due to a lack of training. Either way keeping traditions alive is important and should not be easily dissolved. How long will we continue this ride?   You can never predict the future but I can almost guarantee next Labor Day another group will be heading north for the 9th time.

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Wild Cat Sprint Triathlon

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Monday, August 04, 2014
in Triathlons

After a close to two year hiatus from triathlon I finally completed one yesterday. Why? No real reason. I just figured it was time. About mid-week last week I saw that the Wild Cat Sprint Triathlon was on Sunday in Lowell. The race is on my home turf and I know every inch of the course. If I was looking for the perfect race to get back into the sport then this was it. Even though I knew I was not in shape I knew I could get through a sprint and was hoping I could use this as motivation for the remainder of the year. I do not have this race on VTR but the course is almost exactly like the Mill City Triathlon

Prior to last weekend I had not done any swim training. On Saturday I went to the Merrimack River (the site of the swim course) and swam for 10 minutes to see what it would feel like and make sure I wouldn't drown on Sunday. I was slow, but pleasantly surprised all of those years of muscle memory were still there. 

Sunday morning came and I couldn't believe I had not been at the start line of a triathlon since my Ironman finish in 2012. I have to admit it felt good. As I entered the water for my 74th triathlon I felt a lot of fond memories of prior events and training. 

The Race

The swim was a quarter mile in the Merrimack River starting at the Lowell Beach. This beach is just slightly different than my vacation at Huntington Beach two weeks ago. (haha) I decided against a wet suit because the water was warm enough and I was concerned it would take me too long to take it off. I figured I would fly through T1 and make up for my lost swim time. I did several tests a few years ago that showed me without a wet suit I swim like a rock. I ended up swimming 9 minutes for the quarter mile (ouch!) but felt good in the water. My plan seemed to work as I came in 8th overall in T1 with under a minute. In hindsight I probably should have worn a wet suit but at least I felt good.

The bike was an 11 mile loop with only a couple of small hills. I recently sold my tri bike and purchased a road bike and on this course it hurt. The first 5 miles are completely flat on Pawtucket Boulevard and being in the time trial position would have helped a lot. Either way I muscled through the bike course averaging right at 20 MPH. I did mention I was out of shape, right? Either way I felt decent after the ride and it was on to the run.

The run is a perfectly flat 3 miles out and back on Pawtucket Boulevard. Now at least I was in a discipline I have actually been training for of late. I immediately noticed at the start of the run that I was not 100%. Go figure...it is a triathlon not a road race! I was able to maintain decent speed but did not have the legs to do anything special. I finished in 21:45 (7:15 pace) for the run. 

Observations

After two years off there is one important thing I forgot about triathlons...they are hard! This is not a simple 5k I can blast through in 20 minutes and then grab a beer. Even the shortest triathlons are a lot of work when you are undertrained and overweight. 

I have not earned the right to complain about my time. I am just happy I finished without embarrassing myself. I do enjoy triathlons and hopefully this will jump start me to enter a few more events before the season is over.

How did I do:

29th overall in 1:06:57

Check out the full results here.

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Another Irrational Fear

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Wednesday, July 02, 2014
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Runners frequently encounter road hazards of all types.  Other than the obvious road hazards such as uneven pavement, weather conditions, crazy drivers (I have been hit by a car) we often have the opportunity to encounter wild life.

Many of us run in the early mornings during the summer months to escape the heat. This is also one of the best times to see wildlife if you run in a rural or suburban area. If you live in the city you also have a good chance to see wildlife of a different type but that story is for another day.

I transitioned from running in the afternoon to early mornings a few weeks ago.  During this time I have seen rabbits, chipmunks, turtles, and countless birds. Basically everything you would typically see in a nice suburban neighborhood at 5 AM during the summer months. With almost zero vehicle traffic it is quite pleasant to get lost in your thoughts and enjoy nature and the warm summer air.

This morning I was running on the bike path and in the distance saw what looked like a person standing in the middle of the bike path about half a mile ahead. As I got closer it seemed strange that the “person” had not moved. Usually people on the bike path are walking or running. One thought that crossed my mind was that perhaps they were waiting for their dog to come out of the woods. Either way I kept running.

As I got closer suddenly the shape moved broadside and I saw that it was actually a large deer. This is not unusual in my area as about once a month I see deer on my runs. Just last week I saw a doe and two fawns near my house. At this point I was getting very close to the deer and it still had not moved. Finally I was only 30 yards away and I had to stop. The deer was standing broadside blocking the path and still had not moved.  I was thinking this was very strange. I clapped my hands and yelled at the deer. No response. I yelled and clapped again and faked running forward. No response.

At this point my expectation was that the deer would take off into the woods. This did not happen. Instead the deer casually moved a few steps away from me and then quickly turned and charged right at me! After I got over my initial shock (.01 of a second) I ran as fast as I could in the opposite direction. I looked quickly over my shoulder and still saw the deer coming so I ran into the woods and came out behind a Dunkin Donuts. I looked back and the deer was gone. I have been chased by a lot of things on the road such as dogs, birds, turkeys, wild geese, etc. but never a deer.  The deer was a doe (no antlers) but was very big and there was no way I was challenging a deer on a bike path.

I asked a veteran hunter about why this happened. I am told that the most logical cause was there was probably a fawn in the woods just off the path and the doe was protecting the fawn. The doe could not leave and run off due to the fawn and as I got closer and closer the doe went into protection mode.

Either way now I have to add yet another irrational fear to the long list of things that could happen on a run. The next time you see a beautiful deer in the woods watch out…you might be next!

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Do We Need to Stretch?

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Wednesday, June 18, 2014
in Training

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. Just because I do not stretch and cannot touch my toes does not mean that is right for you. Please consult your doctor if you are not sure you should stretch. Also I think yoga can be very difficult and can result in impressive flexibility. No offense intended to any of the yogis out there.

Over the years I have heard so many different things about stretching.  Some runners insist that everyone should stretch and that skipping a pre-run stretch will result in immediate injury. Others say that stretching can cause injury especially when your muscles are tight or cold. Then there are the crazy yoga people who think stretching is a religion. You certainly don’t want to say anything negative about stretching around them.

So who is correct? I have a bad back and my chiropractor has told me for years that gentle stretching will help “warm up” your muscles. Once your muscles are warm, you can then slowly start your workout at an easy pace and gradually work up to normal effort.

This type of stretching does not look anything like the stretches I did before cross country or soccer in high school. These stretches are more gradual and do not force the muscle. I tried this type of stretching for years and it seemed to help. Gently rolling your shoulders, knees to your chest while lying on your back, and easy wall stretches for your calves are all classic moves that when done gently can warm up/cool down your muscles.

 

Personally I do not see any benefit to the dramatic stretching done in yoga for runners. Runners do not need to touch their toes or transform their bodies into a random animal position. I do believe yoga is an interesting way to build strength and flexibility but not sure that I would recommend yoga for a runner. Could someone also explain “Hot Yoga” to me? Usually I try to avoid working out in extreme heat.

One of the good things about running is that you really don’t need to be flexible. Basically good running form is a steady slightly forward position. There is no lateral movement, quick stops and starts, or jumping as is frequent in basketball or soccer. Increased flexibility is not a bad thing but is not necessary to run a fast 5k. Unless you have extremely limited motion I do not believe your run times are affected by flexibility. The only times I have felt an issue with flexibility is when I have had to run with a bad back. Not being able to lean forward will definitely reduce your ability to run hard.

What are your thoughts? Do we need to stretch?

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Good Times Spring Series Award Night 2014

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Wednesday, June 11, 2014
in Road Races

 

 

Last night was the Good Times 5k Spring Series Award night. This series is a 5k road race held on 10 consecutive Tuesday nights in Lowell, Massachusetts. Each week points are awarded to each finisher using a complicated formula based on the overall winner's time. The points are cumulative so showing up for all 10 weeks is mandatory if you want to place in your age group. Weekly prizes are also awarded but the big prize is placing overall in the series. If you are just hearing about this series for the first time check out the course and more info here.

My goal this year and every year is to complete all 10 races and place in my age group. Mission accomplished! Last night I was awarded the Golden Mylie (finishing all 10 races) and a plaque for finishing 2nd in my age group for the series. What made this even more satisfying was that my wife also completed the entire series and placed second as well in her age group. Finishing all 10 races is a commitment. This was especially true this year as I suffered a bad back injury before week 5 and it took a tremendous effort to show up and finish the race. (story here) Everyone who completed all 10 races can look back and remember a week where they almost didn't make it. I am happy I completed my goal but I can honestly say I need a few weeks off from racing on Tuesday nights!

What's next? Well, after a few weeks of rest I plan on re-doubling my training efforts. This might sound crazy but completing a 5k every week actually made me lose some conditioning. I ended up racing on 4 weekends during the series as well and at this point my legs are smoked. I need a few solid weeks of training to get back on track. After that I plan on racing a lot this summer and possibly training for a longer distance event this fall.

In case this series interests you the Good Times Summer Series actually starts next Tuesday night. It is the same format as the Spring Series. Check it out here if you are interested. (Good Times Summer Series)

 

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Bobcat Memorial 5k: Race Win?

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Thursday, May 29, 2014
in Road Races

Memorial Day weekend for me usually means great rides in the Newfound Lake area of New Hampshire. This area is perfect for cycling and running. I always get some great workouts in and then play golf all afternoon each day. As I headed north on Saturday morning unfortunately it rained most of the way. I did not want to ride in the rain so I had to move to an unexpected plan B....The Bobcat Memorial 5k!

I had looked briefly for races in the area the week before and this was the only race I could find. The race did not have a website and very limited information so I had no idea what to expect. The race started at Plymouth High School in Plymouth, NH.

 

I signed up and headed to the start. The race had a small field (50-60 people) and soon after the race began I was running in a small group of 3 runners at the front. The course was rolling and primarily downhill for the first mile and I ran a decent and controlled pace for mile 1. (613) Soon after mile one I noticed that our small group was all alone and there was no one else in sight.

Around the 1.5 mile mark I ran into an issue that I have never experienced in a road race. The two guys I was running with slowed considerably and I went to the front. The issue was I could not run ahead because I had no idea where I was and the race was not marked. This forced me to stay with the other two guys even though our paced slowed to well over 7 minutes per mile.

Finally I figured out where I was and noticed a few signs for the race and decided to go ahead. I quickly dropped the other two guys and was leading the race! Soon after I was faced with a short but tough climb. I made it up and over and started hearing footsteps. To make a long story short I was passed around the 2.5 mile mark and ended up placing 2nd by 30 seconds.

After I crossed the finish line the race director came up to me and asked if I had won the race. I told her I came in second and she informed me that the other runner was in high school so I was the official adult winner. She congratulated me and told me the award was a t-shirt.

Did I win? In my opinion it is clear I came in second and I will take it. It was nice to actually lead a race for a length of time and be competitive right to the end. Regardless of whether the other runner was a student I was still the second runner to cross the line. With a small race like this with no awards or fanfare I guess it really doesn't matter. It was a fun and different experience to start my weekend.

I filmed the race so next year runners can View The Race Before They Do The Race!

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Running is Not Always Easy

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Tuesday, May 20, 2014
in Road Races

Week 7 of the Good Times Spring Series.....In a 10 week series with cumulative points scoring it is mandatory to show up for 10 straight Tuesday nights and run a 5k. If you think you have a chance to place in your age group or want the Golden Mylie Award (finish all 10 races) then you have no choice....Tuesday nights is Good Times night no matter what. This is not always an easy accomplishment.

I have not wrote a post for a few weeks....Here is an update on my series progress.

Unfortunately I hurt my back 2 weeks ago after a bike ride. I completed my ride, got off my bike and immediately felt a sharp pain across my lower back. I had pain and tightness in my lower back for the rest of the day. I woke up Sunday night and could not get out of bed. On Monday I was in extreme pain and could not go to work. I went to the chiropractor and my regular doctor and received pain medication and muscle relaxers. This medication helped a little but I was still in terrible pain.

The bottom line is that after 2 days of extreme pain I was faced with an issue. Tuesday night is Good Times night. How am I going to do the race when I could not get out of bed in the morning??? Now you may consider what I think important as ridiculous but at the moment placing in my age group in the series and getting the Golden Mylie are my top priorities. My plan is to accomplish this goal at all costs.

Why is this so important? Not really sure. The Good Times Spring Series has become an important part of my season for several years. Once I start the series I will not stop.....check out what happened last year on a Tuesday. (2013 Heart Attack Scare)

Back to my story....First a disclaimer. (I am not a doctor nor do I believe anyone should take any medical advice from me nor consider my actions as appropriate.) How did I get it done? I rested my back all day and then took a double dose of pain medication in the afternoon. I then took a hot shower and used a heating pad on my back until right before I left for the race. I walked to the start of the race (no warm-up) and then started much further back at the start. How did I do? After a very slow and painful first mile my back actually warmed up and I finished strong. I ended with a time of 21:08...only about a minute slower than usual.  Success!

My back is slowly getting better but I am still in pain. Last week (week 6) I managed my best time in the series so far (20:00) and this week (week 7) I ran a very uninspired 20:18.

Runners are used to running through physical pain, poor weather conditions, personal issues etc. Non runners don't understand why we choose to suffer. Most people outside of our sport decide to quit the minute they feel slightly uncomfortable. Determination and the ability to ignore being uncomfortable are common traits in runners. This ability is what gets us to the finish line when our body has nothing left. We do not quit or give up....We also may be a little crazy...

 Week 7 results   20:18 12th overall  2nd age group

Current age group place in series:   2nd

On to week 8...three weeks to go!

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Strategy for a Fast 5k

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Wednesday, April 30, 2014
in Road Races

Before the Good Times 5k last night I once again tried to figure out a strategy to run a faster time. You would think after running the Good Times course over 50x I would have a solid game plan. Every week I say I will start with a controlled  pace and then hold that effort for the entire race. That seems like a reasonable game plan.

The problem with the 5k is that it is such a short event there really is no time to "run easy". In order to have a great time you have to hurt the whole way with close to maximum effort. Let's be honest....that is not fun. Don't get me wrong. I love racing and the pain required to push yourself to the max. When competing in a ten week series some weeks you just don't "feel" like killing yourself and look for a way out. You will hear things like...I am tired this week, I will just take it easy...or Don't expect much from me this week. Unfortunately I do not operate this way. Regardless of what I say before the race as soon as the race starts I give 100% effort. I might not be at the top of my game each week but the effort will always be there.

What is my official 5k strategy? 

Mile 1-Close to 100% (but controlled) effort. Depending on the day you will know what kind of "zip" you have in your legs by the mile 1 mark.

Mile 2- Sustain a pace as close to mile 1 as you can...speed will probably slip but try to hold on.

Mile 3-Stay steady until half way through mile 3 and then try to push to the finish. Always sprint to the finish.

Seems pretty simple doesn't it? The biggest problem I see with 5k runners is people running too slow on the first mile. There is no time to settle into a pace. Once the race starts you got to go! Now obviously you do not want to burn out in the first mile but I have found it is better to be close to burn out and try to hold on than to willingly give up 30 seconds on the first mile. More often than not you will never get that time back.

The best way to master your 5k race strategy is to experiment. Enter a ton of 5k's and see what works for you. If you try to avoid pain in a 5k you will never have a good time. You have to train your body to tolerate maximum effort for the entire 3.1 miles. This distance is not for everyone but I like it because in 20 minutes or less the race is done and you can try it again next week.

Good Times 5k Series Week 4 Results

Time: 20:14    11th overall 3rd age group

Really crazy but ended up with the exact same time as last week. The race felt harder and the weather conditions were totally different but the end result was the same.

 

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Another Week at Good Times 5k Series

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Sunday, April 27, 2014
in Road Races

This week was the third week in the 10 week Good Times 5K Series. The interesting part of this week was the race format. For week three women start first and then 2:30 later all of the men start the race. The overall winner of the race receives $100, man or woman. I am not in competition for the $100 but beating my wife in this race is a yearly goal.

 

Although I enjoy the format of this race I do not enjoy the race conditions. The Good Times course is narrow in many places and it is very difficult to navigate through 200 women on the course.

The weather was a balmy 65 degrees and a little muggy. After the women started we waited the 2:30 and then took off. As I expected running along the Riverwalk was extremely difficult and at times I had to almost come to a stop to wait for an opening through the crowd of women runners. Now this week I decided to run without a watch so I do not have any split times but I felt like I had a slow first mile. I struggled a bit over the second mile (third week in a row) and continued to press on. Finally I got on the Aiken Street Bridge and in the distance I saw my wife. Now I knew that even though I was feeling terrible there was no way I wasn't going to catch her. I continued at a steady pace and passed her just before the Tsongas Arena and pushed to the finish.

As I mentioned last week, in a ten week series there are a lot of ups and downs. This week's goal was to 1) Catch my wife; 2) Run a steady time....How did I do? Well, I beat my wife and I ended up running 20:14. That is 2 seconds faster than week two and my fastest time so far in the series. (not that fast)

This is not a misprint...I ran 2 seconds faster than last week but came in the same position overall and in my age group.

20:14  10th overall 2nd in age group...on to week 4.

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Rockbuster Offroad Duathlon

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Monday, April 21, 2014
in Triathlons

I mentioned at the beginning of this year that I wanted to enter a ton of races in 2014. Too many long events over the last few years have prevented me from entering many of the shorter races I used to enjoy. When you are training for long distance events most weekends are filled with long runs/rides. There is really no time to enter a sprint triathlon/duathlon. This year is different for me. I do not have any long distance races planned at the moment and I plan on enjoying as many shorter events as I can squeeze in.

On Saturday I entered the Rockbuster Offroad Duathlon. This race is a 1.8 mile run, 5.5 mile mountain bike, and then finishes with another 1.8 mile run. The entire race is held in Ashland State Park. Now since I do not mountain bike, I recruited my brother-in-law to ride and we entered as a relay team. I figured it would be fun to race as a team and to get a little off-road racing in to mix it up.

The run course was a tough rolling course. The first .75 miles were on pavement and then the last mile was off road on trails. The off road portion I found to be tough. The start of the trail section was mild but soon after there was a short jump over a stream and then a real tough climb. The remainder of the course was rolling with a lot of roots, rocks, and other debris. I managed not to twist an ankle but unfortunately fell pretty hard on the second run. I quickly bounced back up and luckily only got a few cuts on my leg. I did a decent effort on both finishing in 1202 and 1246 for both runs. It was interesting to run and then wait for 28 minutes before running the same course again. I thought I would be tight for the second run but actually felt fine.

The bike course was similar to the run course with an added section that went out to an aqueduct. It was fun watching the mountain bikers negotiate the stream crossing and then carry their bikes up the tough hill. The bike course went up the same tough hill I completed on the run course. Almost all of the riders had to carry their bikes due to the steepness of the short tough hill. It was a loop course that included climbing this hill twice.

How did we do? Well first off I will be honest. There were only a total of two relay teams. We ended up coming in 2nd place. I gave my bother-in-law a 10 second lead after the first run but the cyclist on the other team had the fastest bike split of the day and beat him by 5 minutes. Now I knew there was no chance to catch the other team but I still ran hard on my second run. I do not feel bad about getting our 2nd place medals because we had a decent time and almost certainly would have placed if there were more teams.

This was a fun event and was my third race of the week. Not a bad week.

Our results: Total time 53:21   2nd Relay Team

 

 

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Good Times 5k Spring Series Week Two

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Wednesday, April 16, 2014
in Road Races

Last night was week two of the Good Times 5k Spring Series. After the extremely windy conditions of week one I was hoping for better weather. Despite the wind and rain throughout the day, the weather actually improved slightly by race time. It was still windy but it was a warm 60 degrees with little to no rain for the race.

My goal for week two was to run a steady pace and get close to my time from week one. Even though the weather was a lot better my legs were still tired from my triathlon this past Sunday. I am getting a little old to be racing twice in three days with no effect on my performance.

I started nice and strong running a decent 6:17 for the first mile. I knew right away my legs had no zip but felt OK. As I started the second mile I began to fall apart. I am beginning to think this new second mile for Good Times is a lot tougher than the old course. The hill up to the bridge is longer and the running is awkward with potholes, sewer drains, and jersey barriers in your way. I ended up running 6:41 for mile 2 which was only 7 seconds better than the week before when I almost came down to a walk due to the wind. After mile two my legs gave out and I had to concentrate to avoid losing a ton of time. I ended up with a 6:46 3rd mile. After a sprint to the finish I ended up with 20:16. This was 7 seconds better than last week and the same time I got in the 5k at the triathlon two days earlier.

I have done the Good Times Series many times and it is important to not get too high or too low week to week. Running a 5k for ten weeks straight is not easy.  Many things happen week to week that can effect the way your legs feel. Other races, tough work schedules, sickness, etc. can all have an effect on your body resulting in a poor or mediocre performance. The key is to run as steady as you can and fight through the bad weeks and then really take advantage of the weeks you feel great. You never know how your competition is feeling week to week but assume they are having as many ups and downs as you are.

Good Times rolls on....week 3 next week.

My results week two: 20:16   10th overall   2nd in age group

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Nor'easter Reverse Triathlon

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Monday, April 14, 2014
in Triathlons

On Sunday I did my first triathlon since my Ironman finish in September 2012. The Nor'easter Reverse Sprint Triathlon is held on the campus of the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. What is a reverse triathlon? Basically it is exactly what you would think it would be. Same thing as a normal triathlon except the disciplines are in reverse order. The race is a 5k run-11 mile bike- then a 150 yard swim in the Campus Center pool. I had never completed a reverse triathlon before but it sounded interesting. Not to mention it is the first triathlon of the season within driving distance of my house. 

The Race

I enter a lot of races and I have to say that this race was extremely well run and organized. A ton of volunteers, very clear signage, huge indoor transition area, and easy logistics in and out of the race venue. I left this race knowing I will definitely add this to my schedule next year.

This year unfortunately the weather was not cooperative. The rain started lightly in the morning and then became steady rain for most of the race. In addition the temperature dipped and was freezing. Basically the entire race was 40 degrees and steady rain. Luckily this event is prepared for this and has an indoor transition area. This really was a life saver on this cold and rainy day.

The Course

Remember...this race is a reverse triathlon. The race starts similar to any 5k road race. The course starts in front of the Campus Center at the University of New England. The 5k course was slightly rolling throughout but overall was not that difficult. Dealing with the rain, wind, and cold was not too bad on the run. I did not hold back at all on the run and ended up with a 20:18 5k good for 11th overall. Since the transition area is indoors you actually run to the side entrance of the building and run right into the transition area in the gym.

The bike was cold...I dressed appropriately but was wet from the run and started to feel the cold on the bike. The course was soaked with a lot of puddles but was not a technical course and did not have any tight turns or long descents. I really did not feel unsafe at anytime on the ride. The course is slightly rolling with no big climbs. I had no problem maintaining 20-24 mph for many sections of the course and was in the big ring for the entire race. The training is paying off for me on the bike as I ended up placing 15th on the bike portion of the event. This is huge for me as I usually place high on the run and then give a ton back on the bike...not this time.

After completing the bike I now had my first bike/swim transition. My hands were numb and I was soaking wet. It took forever but I was able to take everything off and then ran to the pool area. Now the race clearly stated that for safety there is no running once you reach the pool area. You have to slow to a walk and there is no passing allowed until you enter the water. The swim is only 150 yards and is one length of each lane. Once exiting the pool you immediately cross a mat and the race is over. I completed the swim without issue. The warm water actually felt great after the freezing ride.

My results: 1:00:58      11th overall and 4th in my age group

Recap

I would definitely do this race again. Great organization, good venue, and a nice and easy early season course make this a great way to get the triathlon juices flowing in April. I was able to film the course the day before the event so look for a course video soon.

The race venue is very close to Old Orchard Beach. I ended up getting a hotel the night before and had a good time in OOB. There are a ton of bars and restaurants with many of them open despite the early season. We ended up checking out a disco band called the Motor Booty Afair at the Brunswick on Grand Avenue. This is a great bar right on the ocean. Lively nightlife on Saturday night and then a great race on Sunday! How can you beat that!

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