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Fat to Fit: Make 2014 The Year of the Do

I’ve been watching the interwebs and all of the people that are making resolutions for 2014. There are some determined people making some life changing goals out there. I’m inspired. I even have a few of my own.

I only have one thing to add to the conversation.

The fundamental difference between those who will succeed in their resolutions and those who won’t comes down to one simple thing.

It’s not what you think, believe, or feel that will determine your success at change in 2014.

It’s what you DO.

We had two Blue Ocean Ideas brides and one groom in 2013. And each one stood at the front of a church and said the same two, tiny, powerful words:

I DO.

No one stood up and said “I think” or “I believe” or “I feel.”

Make 2014 the year of the do.

Go DO it.

Keep moving forward,

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Fat to Fit: The Thank Yous

I woke up early this morning. Woke up, made coffee, lit a fire, and started writing. There’s just enough snow on the ground in Garrett County to make it a beautiful morning to sit inside by a fire looking out over Deep Creek Lake.

I set out to write a recap of 2013 races and events. I couldn’t do that without reflecting on the year. And the more I reflected on the year, the more I realized I couldn’t write about 2013 results without writing something else first. So 2013 results will have to wait.

If I count correctly, I raced 17 events this year. That’s one out of three weekends on average. Some of these races are short and close by. Most were long and involved a drive of 5 hours or more (12 hours was the longest drive). Most required the better part of a weekend traveling somewhere.

I trained 613 hours in 2013, according to Strava. That’s 12 hours per week on average.

That doesn’t happen without a lot of support, encouragement, guidance, grace, and inspiration. There are a lot of people to thank in my life for 2013. And while I HATE the idea of forgetting someone,which I will, it’s is only fitting that I thank some people in my life for their help in 2013. Other than the first two, there is no priority in this list. I’m grateful for all of them alike.

20131129-Rittler Family Christmas 2013-2Elise

There is an ancient scripture that describes wives:

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.

Elise and I celebrated 22 years of marriage last week. I couldn’t be more thankful for someone in my life than I am for Elise. It hasn’t always been easy. Marriage has been more work than I ever could have imagined. But the reward has been remarkable in every way.

Elise has been my biggest champion, fan, encourager, challenger, and catalyst. She has taken many of my very sharp edges and softened them, and sharpened edges that were too soft.

I am blessed beyond measure.

Caleb Josh Riley Seth RittlerCaleb, Josh, Riley, Seth

I get a fair amount of eye rolling around my house. Usually in response to making some joke about bikes, my athletic “career”, or food I’m eating or not eating because of [name race I did] or [name race I'm going to do]. They give me a hard time.

But my kids have been both a tremendous support and a huge inspiration for my journey as an athlete. They have cheered me on at many finish lines. They have given me time and space to workout. They are flexible when I say, “Let me just go for a quick run before we go do that.” They have been proud of my accomplishments. Josh is the first to text me at the end of every race: “Congrats!” or “How’d it go!” or “Way to go pops!” Riley regularly tells me how proud of me she is for getting healthy. Seth wears his Ironman t-shirt (the one with my name along with all the other finishers of Lake Placid on it) and tells his friends about my races. Caleb teases me for always trying to “drop weight,” often unsuccessfully.

I couldn’t be more proud of my kids. To know the feeling is mutual is priceless.

Joe Traill Joe's Bike ShopJoe Traill & Joe’s Bike Shop

I walked into Joe’s bike shop in May with a broken down bike that I needed for a race in a few days. I was hoping they would say they could get my bike ready for the race. Instead, Ethan asked me if I had 20 minutes (which I did) and then fixed my bike on the spot. I’ve been in Joe’s 50 times since then. Joe’s is a great place.

And Joe is a great guy. I chase Joe around the woods on Wednesday mornings. Joe has wicked skills on a mountain bike.

I heard a story about Joe from one of my friends. My friend’s son was in Joe’s mountain bike camp as a kid. A few years later, he was in an accident while riding on the road. When Joe heard he jumped on his bike and rode to the hospital to make sure he was ok and  see if there was anything he could do.

If you know Joe that doesn’t surprise you. Joe’s just that kind of guy.

Chris Newell Coach

Chris Newell

Chris Newell has been my coach since May. At the time, I was trying to figure out how to train for endurance mountain biking, Ironman Lake Placid, running events, and Ultimate each week. I was a training nightmare for most coaches. I was trading quality for quantity. I was not prioritizing my training by what I claimed to be my most important events. I didn’t know what structure in training looked like.

I liked Chris from our first meeting. What stuck me the most was his individual approach. Chris doesn’t have a training plan for a particular discipline that he simply copies and pastes for each athlete in Training Peaks (the software he uses for coaching each athlete). Nor does Chris say, “this is how I did it so this is how you have to do it.”

Instead Chris takes a highly individual approach. He looks at each athlete and watches them over time. Learning how they tick, what they like, how their body (and mind and spirit) respond to training. Then he guides them to maximize their performance.

Multiple times during the last seven months I’ve asked for a significant change in my training schedule. Chris’s response is usually “let’s give it a try and see what happens, we are still learning what works for you.” Occasionally he says, “You can do that but it’s going to hurt your performance in an event.” And then rarely he will say, “don’t do that and here’s why.” I trust Chris implicitly with my training.

Chris has guided me far beyond where I would have gotten on my own. I was as prepared for Ironman Lake Placid as anyone on the course. I was physically and mentally ready for the hardest athletic challenge of my life.

Ironman Lake Placid was followed by a progression of races where I made leaps and bounds of progress. I steadily improved my National Ultra Endurance race results from the back of the pack to the top third including a 12th place overall finish at Fools’ Gold 100 hundred in Georgia. I placed 16th in my age group at Ironcross in Pennsylvania. Then I had a personal record 3:25 marathon at the Baltimore Running Festival.

I’m not the fastest guy out there, but Chris’s coaching led me to results beyond what I could have anticipated at the beginning of the year. I can’t wait for 2014. I want to maximize my potential and push my limits.

Blue Ocean Ideas 2013Brody & Blue Ocean Ideas

Brody Bond is my business partner and one of my closest friends. I spend more time with Brody than anyone else in life.

I regularly tell friends asking for business starting advice to avoid partnerships. Especially with good friends. It’s a good way to ruin a great friendship.

But somehow Brody and I have continued to grown and thrive together at Blue Ocean Ideas and as friends. I am gifted with the most talented creative and strategic mind I know as a business partner. And even more gifted with a friend that encourages, leads, admonishes at times, and generally makes work a place that I love to go and do what I do.

The entire team at Blue Ocean Ideas is a gift. I share with them every year around the holidays how much I appreciate each one of them (they remind me that I give the same speech every year). It goes like this:

Each of us has a most precious commodity in life: time. You’ve chosen to share yours with Brody and I. We’ve chosen to share ours with you. I’ve been around long enough to know that work should be a place where people can enjoy being together, accomplish huge tasks, and thrive as a team. You all enable us to do that and each of you is imperative to our success.

Thanks to Anna Grace, Chris, Maggie, and Brian for giving your time and talent to us and to our clients.

Chris Beck MTB RacingChris Beck

I first started stalking Chris Beck in 2012 when I would scope out his mountain bike ride at Loch Raven so I knew where to ride. I would download one of Chris’s rides on to my Garmin and use it to navigate trails that I had never been on before. No one knows the trails better than Chris. Chris is a local legend.

Recently he has taken up trail running. Not long ago Chris beat me while running on the trails. No surprise there except I was chasing him on a bike. Chris is a gifted athlete.

Chris has won many of the races that I compete in. Chris has fielded more of my bizarre race preparation questions than anyone else. I don’t personally know anyone that understands how to prepare for and race endurance mountain bike races better than Chris. I’ve added a WWCD (What would Chris do?) thought pattern to my life as I prepare for and race National Ultra Endurance races.

I fuel the way Chris fuels, I prepare my bike the way Chris prepares his bike, I race the way Chris would race (only a LOT slower). Chris is an excellent coach and race strategist.

Chris is also a good friend and behind his UBER competitive personality he is a kind and generous person that regularly inspires me.

Andrew Dunlap MTB RacingAndrew Dunlap

In 2013, I logged more training hours with Andrew than anyone else. I estimate that we rode about 150 hours together in 2013. Andrew and I share a “get out and ride as much as you can” insanity that makes riding together often work.

20 degrees? Andrew will ride. Pitch black? Andrew will ride. Raining? Andrew will ride. 5am? Andrew will ride. Snowing? Andrew will ride.

Andrew is one of the most encouraging people I know. Riding with Andrew is like bringing a bottle of emotional performance enhancing drugs on a ride with you. I get a “Way to go Rittler” or “dude you crushed that hill” as I huff and puff after a serious effort. Andrew is always encouraging those around him.

Andrew is in a different class of rider from me altogether.  Our relationship benefits me far more than him as I chase. He pulls me to a much higher performance.

Jeff Dudley Baltimore Running Festival Corrigan SportsJeff Dudley

Jeff Dudley is my most frequent running companion. When I began running seriously in 2011, Jeff was the guy that I said “I want to learn to run like that guy.” Jeff has been my frequent running partner ever since.

Like Andrew, Jeff is always up for the run. We’ve done rain, snow, ice, heat, wee hours, etc.

Running with Jeff is like getting a spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional boost all in one experience. Jeff is a mentor and friend in all aspects of life.

He’s fast too. Jeff paced me for the first half of the Baltimore Marathon which lead to a personal record, 3:25. I still have yet to catch any of Jeff’s times for any race distances that I have done.

Pat Blair Stoopid 50Pat Blair

Pat Blair was one of my first inspirations on the bike. He is the co founder of my team, Adventures for the Cure, and one of the most inspiring people I have met.

No one I know works as hard as Pat on the bike. And Pat has a long list of impressive race results to show for it.

Pat Blair was my coach for the first third of 2013 until he realized he couldn’t talk me out of running and doing the Ironman. At which point, he kindly suggested I might not be the best fit for his cycling focused training. No one understands singular focus and the benefits from making tough choices like Pat.

I owe a lot to Pat. Not the least of which is his role in leading Adventures for the Cure.

AFC TeamAdventures for the Cure

Adventures for the Cure is to blame for most of my racing madness as I try to be the most fit 42 year old that I can be. When I joined the team I had no intention of racing at all. I just joined to be a part of a group of folks that loved being healthy and challenging themselves.

About a month after joining AFC, Pat encouraged me to try a mountain bike race. Five minutes into the race, I was hooked. The challenge factor, speed, camaraderie, battle. I love all of those aspects of racing.

I also found in AFC the spirit of “coopertition” that I admire most in the athletes that I want to be like. There are some SERIOUSLY  competitive team members on AFC that are also the kindest and most encouraging people I’ve met.

Thanks to everyone on the AFC team for encouraging me in my pursuits and giving me the opportunity to be a part of a a great group of people doing great things in the world.

Gratia GratefulGratia

I’m regularly reminded as I look at my calf to be grateful. Grateful for life. Grateful to God. Grateful for Grace.

And I’m grateful for people. People are the essence of life. It’s all about people. I’ve been surrounded by some stellar people.

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Fat to Fit: Never Forget

Greg Rittler sick in hospitalSome days change your life. Most days are forgettable. But some I won’t forget.

December 14, 2010 was a life changer.

It was routine surgery for a bad gallbladder that has been bothering me for years. It should be 45 minutes, a little recovery, then home. No big deal.

Facebook post:

Fat Greg Rittler Facebook

Four hours later I woke up. It wasn’t routine. It was a big deal.

I woke up laboring for breath. They called Elise in. When she got there I knew something was wrong. My body was a mess. The outward manifestation of my health matched my insides.

I won’t forget that day. It was the beginning of a journey.

The journey continues. Three years later, today was a different day.

Today, Elise and I woke up and ran one of my favorite events in Baltimore, the Celtic Solstice. It was a great day to race in Baltimore. Like the Baltimore Marathon and the St. Patrick’s Day 5k, The Celtic Solstice is Baltimore running at it’s best.

Today, I chased a few of my super fast Adventures for the Cure (AFC) teammates as hard as I could. They are much faster than me, but I was pulled along for a great race. I was 98th overall out of 2878 people. Not too shabby. 33:37 was a new personal record (PR) for a five mile race.

Celtic Solstice Baltimore Race

Today, Elise and I went to breakfast at Johnny’s. We celebrated our fun accomplishment together. We love being together and that’s a gift. It’s even more of a gift to be healthy and enjoy being together.

Today I rode my bike in the wood with my friends from Joe’s Bike Shop. In the snow. With an obese bike (they are really called fat bikes but I think it’s cruel to call a bike fat).

In the middle of the ride it started snowing. It was beautiful. It was storybook. I’ll remember that ride for a long time.

Joe's Bike Shop Team Snow Riding

Today, I coached seven 11-12 years olds in basketball. They lost. I’m not that great of a coach. But we had a good time and they worked hard. I was able to be with my youngest gift and watch him play basketball.

My life is far from perfect. I’ve wrestled with some problems for years. Some of them I’ll wrestle with for years to come, I’m sure.

But today I’m reminded to remember.

I won’t forget December 14, 2010. And I won’t forget today for a long time.

Keep moving forward,

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Race Report: 2013 Baltimore Marathon

Baltimore Marathon 2013 Race ReportI love Baltimore. It’s my hometown. It’s filled with great places. And great people.

I love the Baltimore Marathon. It brings my hometown, the great places, and the great people together. The 2011 Baltimore marathon was my first marathon. I STRUGGLED through my first marathon. It was war. But the next morning I was looking for the date of the next Baltimore marathon. Baltimore was my first sub 4:00 marathon. And honestly I didn’t think I would ever run under 4:00 in a marathon.

The Baltimore Marathon is also right around my birthday. My first year (2011) it was 2 days after my 40th birthday. Last year it was on my 41st birthday. This year it was the day before my 42nd birthday.

So the Baltimore Marathon is like the Superbowl of running for me. When I think about my running race schedule it’s the first on the list and then I start thinking about others.

And like the Superbowl, some games are fantastic and some are terrible.  This year my Superbowl of running was pretty great.

I woke up about 3 hours pre race. Went through a pretty standard getting ready routine: eat, coffee, poop, chill, dress, leave. I was out the door by 6:35 for a 8:00 start. Every year I’ve parked in the same lot southwest of Ravens stadium and this year was the same. That lot makes it easy to get out once the race is over. You are outside of all the event activities and the course itself.

My friend, teammate, and most frequent running partner, Jeff Dudley, was planning on running the “Dudley Half.” Jeff was going to run the first half for fun and then peel off. So we met at the start line. Jeff being Jeff he wanted to line up in the 3:15 pace group. I went along and figured we would just get passed for a while once the gun went off.

Baltimore Marathon Hills 2013

It meant a lot to me to run with Jeff. When I first started wanting to be a more competitive runner Jeff was my inspiration. In fact, 2 weeks prior to my first marathon I said to myself, “someday I want to be able to keep up with Jeff.” Jeff’s been helping me speed up ever since and is a great training partner. It was a blast to be able to put in the first 13.1 with him.

The gun went off and we started running. In retrospect it was great to start with the 3:15 group. We were in less traffic and were able to ease in to a nice pace.

Just around the corner from the start I saw my cousin Lauren with my aunt and uncle. Every year my uncle charts the “race within the race” and plans 4-5 stops to cheer for various family members that are running. We’ve had marathoners, half marathoners, 5kers and relay folks. Sometimes all in the same year. This year my cousin Linda was running the half, Heidi was running the relay, and I was running the full. It was great to see them at the start.

My friend Bob Villanueva came flying by right after the start. Bob was running strong and I knew better than to try and keep up with him. He had a great race.

We passed some Team ASA (Athletes Serving Athletes) friends including Ty Goehringer who was running his first marathon. I love ASA and what they do for Athletes to help them compete. Every time I saw an ASA chair being pushed by a wingman I tried to scream out some encouragement.

Right after the start we ran into our Adventures for the Cure teammate, Fran Interlandi. I’d never met Fran before but we had seen each others race reports. Fran’s a veteran marathoner, ultra runner, and triathlete. He was fresh off a PR at the Half Full last weekend. Jeff, Fran, and I cruised along for a while talking. It helped me to be running with my teammates. Jeff and Fran were obviously ready to run faster, but I reigned myself in. Eventually Fran took off and Jeff and I continued on.

When we dropped back into downtown around mile eight we were having fun. I saw my cousin, aunt and uncle again entering downtown. Along Light Street I saw a group of my fellow Young Life leaders who cheered me on. Running through the Inner Harbor, Federal Hill, Tide Point, Harbor East, Fells Point, Canton, and Patterson Park is always a blast. Some of our best neighborhoods with great people cheering.

Greg Rittler Baltimore Marathon 2013I passed my cousin, Linda, who was getting ready to start the Half on my way past Harborplace. Soon after Jeff dropped off at the halfway point near Harbor East. I was on my own. I was feeling strong at the halfway point. My stated goals for the day was a sub 3:40 time. My real “don’t tell other people goal” was 3:30. I was easily on track for the 3:30 if I was able to keep my pace from dropping off much.

I did a mental check at the halfway point: legs felt good, head was straight, nutrition felt fine. All systems were good. I just needed to run another good half marathon.

I train and race with Infinit nutrition. I may be their biggest fan. Infinit is a custom blend nutrition solution. You can actually adjust the amount of electolytes, calories, carbohydrates, protein, caffeine, flavor etc. to make a formula that works for you. I’ve had great success with two custom formulas (one for two hour events or shorter and one for longer than two hour events). I haven’t had to think about nutrition since early in the season because of Infinit. I just bring the right formula and drink a bottle per hour. [SIDENOTE: if you want to try infinit hit me up. I can have some samples for you and connect you with them. GREAT organization.]

In the case of the marathon I was debating whether I would run with my own bottle or just rely on the drink they have on course. I opted to save the weight and rely on the course nutrition. I did drink a bottle of Infinit Jet Fuel prior to the race to get me topped off and prime the engine. So along the course I drank two cups of sports drink at every water station with two exceptions: I skipped the first because they didn’t have sports drink and somehow I missed the station at Lake Montabello. Otherwise it was grab two cups, drink, and run. Worked like a charm. No additional food needed.

With nutrition set and all systems go I was ready to race to the finish.

Leaving downtown and Patterson Park you start the long climb up to Lake Montebello. We also were joined next to the park by the half marathoners. That added some energy to the crowd and pulled me along for a while. My pace up the hills to Lake Montebello stayed at 8:00 minute miles or faster so by the time I crested the hill on Hillen at mile 19.5 I was feeling great and I started picking up the pace.

My friends Shawn Downing and Rob Zeigler cheered a bit while running around Lake Montebello. Rob actually jumped in and ran with me for 1/2 a mile which was awesome. The loop around Montebello was quick. I had one more hill to go.

Greg Rittler Baltimore Marathon Elise RittlerBy the time I got to mile 22 on 33rd Street I knew 3:30 was in the bag and was trying to see if I could run 3:25. It was downhill from here and I knew I had a great finish in me.

My last 3 miles were 7:43, 7:39, and 7:05. I was thinking if I ran a 7:00 final mile I might be able to squeeze in under 3:25. I waved at my cousin, aunt and uncle at mile 25 and was telling them I was going to finish right around 3:25.

I was moving so fast I almost blew by Elise and Seth who were cheering for me about 1/4 mile from the finish. I turned and waved but kept moving.

I crossed the line at 3:25:54. I couldn’t have been happier. Another PR (I knocked 20 minutes off my previous best marathon time). I was 19th out of 249 in my division and 170th out of 3093 marathon runners.

There’s nothing better than greeting Elise and Seth at the finish. They are my biggest fans. We met up with Linda to congratulate her on a great race before we headed out. I missed Heidi at the finish but heard she had a great race.

The 2014 Baltimore Marathon is on my calendar already (October 18). Get it on yours! There is a race for everyone. I have something special planned for next years marathon.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

p.s. here’s the strava file for any of you data geeks out there like me.

Baltimore Marathon 2013 Ravens Stadium

 

 

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Race Report: 2013 Shenandoah 100

2013 Shenandoah 100I’ve heard since I started mountain bike racing about the epic Shenandoah 100 race put on by Chris Scott and Shenandoah Mountain Touring. Shenandoah was the 13th race of the National Ultra Endurance Series (NUE) and my 5th series race this year. The Shenandoah area is beautiful and being able to race around those mountains sounded like a blast.

Shenandoah was my first NUE race on full suspension bike. I ordered a new bike a month ago but it won’t be in for a couple of weeks so Joe’s Bike Shop arranged for me to ride a Scott Genius 910. Knowing the terrain of Shenandoah from hiking and backpacking there I knew it would be rocky and technically challenging. After taking a beating on the downhills in the Hampshire 100 two weeks ago I was looking forward to riding full suspension for Shenandoah.

2013 Shenandoah 100

Elise and I headed out to Deep Creek on Friday with Riley and Seth to spend the weekend with my parents and family. I read somewhere that Jeremiah Bishop eats ice cream the night before National Ultra Endurance Series races so I’ve adopted the practice. We headed to Lakeside Creamery  with my folks, sibs, and cousins. The chocolate, peanut butter, & banana waffle cone was fantastic.

2013 Shenandoah 100 PreparationMy race day was starting at 2 a.m. so I was in bed at 10 p.m. to get 4 hours of sleep. In the wee hours I loaded up on coffee, breakfast, and my bottles for the race and hit the road by 2:45 a.m. Race day driving through Western Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia was a “dodge a deer” competition driving from 2:45 a.m. to Stokesville, Virginia where the race was held.

I arrived at 5:40 a.m. for a 6:30 a.m. start. I met up with Andrew Dunlap, Ethan Frey, Patrick Traill, and Jeff Brown at the venue and we prepared for the day ahead. With 650 racers this was the largest NUE event of the year. The Stokesville Campground was packed.

Ethan and Andrew are the speedy guys so they lined up near the front. Patrick, Jeff and I started a little ways back near one of my teammates, John Stavlas. The start was pretty chill with a short road loop out of the campground and looping around on roads until the first fire road. I saw another teammate, Esther Schaftel, on the roads and wished her well. It’s always great to see the Adventures for the Cure dots out there.

The first 15 miles of the race were very tame with a moderate fire road climb and a sweet flowy single track descent that felt more like a pump track than wilderness single track. It was fun and spirits were high. Aid station #1 was around mile 12 but I didn’t need anything so I buzzed through it. Around mile 18 you started the first real climb of the day: Briery Branch Climb (1200’). Unfortunately, because of where I was in the pack this was a line of people walking for most of 2 miles. That wasn’t fun. But after the climb there was another super fast flowy section of single track down the mountain.

Aid station #2 was at mile 33 and I swapped out two bottles of my custom Inifinit blend that were pre mixed and ready to go (Thank you Andrew for dropping off my drop bags the night before). I was in and out of the aid station within about 30 seconds. After aid #2 there was a short road section and then the 2nd big climb of the day. The 2nd climb was a 5.4 mile 1800 foot climb on fire road up the mountain then becomes single track climbing up along the ridge. This was my favorite climb of the day because I could actually ride it and still felt good. The views at the top were spectacular and the downhill was a blast.

We spent a coupe of miles on the road heading to aid #3. I passed my teammate, Jason Manger, who had been injured in a wreck at Patapsco earlier in the week so he was sitting out this year’s race. He cheered me on and I cruised ahead on someone’s wheel for the road section.

I rolled through aid #3 at mile 47 and headed for the 3rd big climb of the day: the 1300’ Shenandoah Mountain Road climb. This was my least favorite part of the day. It started raining as we approached the climb which made the already technical rocks and roots slippery and even tougher than they would be normally. I was on the bike, off the bike, on the bike, off the bike for most of the two mile steep section. It was demoralizing in the middle of the race to spend this much time walk/riding. I was watching my 10 hour time goal go out the window with each step I was walking.

After summiting the climb we started what should have been a very fast and fun descent but with the mud and narrow trails I was getting passed by a few riders. This was discouraging because generally I’m doing the passing on the descents. I’m usually confidant and aggressive going downhill but when things get muddy I get much more conservative (read: I don’t have the skill developed yet). At the bottom of the descent we spent a couple of miles in rideable but very muddy trails going past Braley’s Pond before landing at aid #4 at mile 59.

At aid #4 I traded Infinit bottles again and rolled quickly. I made one significant nutritional mistake during the race. I let myself get a little behind on my liquid intake. While I was calorically good at about 250 per hour, by the time I got to Aid #4 I was very thirsty. I should have grabbed an extra bottle of water there before hitting the road but in my head I figured two bottles was enough. About three miles away from the aid station I knew I had made a mistake. I had already drained one bottle and was starting the second. I had the famed thirteen mile “Death Climb” ahead. I was going to be in trouble.

I passed cheering Jason again on the road and began the long slow climb up to aid station #5. This climb is long fire road up to Reddish Knob. Normally, I wouldn’t have minded it so much but feeling thirsty for an hour and forty minutes wasn’t fun. I was grinding it out slowly but most of the time I was just hanging on and keeping the pedals moving. For the second time of the day I was kissing my goal goodbye. At that point, I was wondering if I could even get in under eleven hours.

Aid station #5 finally appeared at mile 77. I guzzled two cups of coke and refilled two bottles with Inifnit powder I had brought with me. One of those bottles was gone within twenty minutes of leaving the aid station. But we were almost done the death climb and I knew I would be fine getting to aid #6. My body felt good again after getting enough liquid. The climbing continued and eventually we reached the top and headed downhill.

At this point in the race the downhills hurt. The early downhills were smooth and flowy like a roller coaster. These were rocky and steep like falling down a flight of stairs. I was incredibly thankful for Joe’s Bike Shop’s loaner Scott Genius. The travel on the shock took away a huge amount of the pounding from the rocks on the descent. I was cruising in autopilot at this point. We were at mile 85 or so and I was ready to get finished. I had a bit of a second wind so I just let the bike go.

I cruised through Aid #6 at mile 90 grabbing two bottles of whatever they were offering and took off for the final climb of the day and the finish line. Leaving the aid station it started raining for the second time. Earlier it had rained moderately. This was a downpour. At this point in a 100 mile MTB you just laugh and keep going. It adds to the challenge factor and you simply endure.

In my head the last climb seemed “easy” compared to the others at only 900 feet and at a moderate grade. But by this time of the day it was a drag. I put the bike in the granny gear and left it there until the top. Occasionally I would stand up for 10-15 seconds to stretch the legs but most of the climb was sitting and grinding.

At mile 95 I reached the top and started descending. I was 10 hours 35 minutes into the 2013 Shenandoah 100 and I was hell bent on getting through the last 5 miles to get across the finish before 11 hours. I took the descent as fast as I knew how occasionally losing my rear end around the corners. I just wanted to be finished.

I crossed the line right around 10:50 (I haven’t seen the official results). Fifty minutes past my goal time but I was happy to be done. I caught up with Ethan and Patrick. Ethan crushed the course in 8:24. Pretty incredible for a rookie NUE race. Patrick had gone off course and wasn’t feeling great so he bailed around the mid point. Jeff finished 15 minutes or so after I did. Andrew had already left but did a very respectable 8:50 time.

Shenandoah was a TOUGH race. I was in peak condition for it and it still took more mentally to get to the finish line than any of the other NUE races I’ve done this year. It’s a beautiful course and Chris Scott puts on a fantastic race.

I cleaned up quickly and hopped in the car for the ride back to the lake. I spotted one black bear on the way home and enjoyed some spectacular views crossing Shenandoah mountain. I got back 19 hours after leaving. Ate about 5,000 calories and hit the sack.

Here’s the full event on Strava.

I’ve got 6 days to rest for the last NUE race of the year: Fool’s Gold in Dahlonega, Georgia this coming Saturday.

Keep moving forward,

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Race Report: Hampshire 100 (National Ultra Endurance Series)

 

Adventures for the Cure Hampshire 100

Last weekend I headed north for my 4th National Ultra Endurance Series mountain bike race: Hampshire 100.

After going it alone for Wildcat and Mohican I was very excited to have my AFC teammate and good friend Jerry Jackson doing the race as well. Jerry had a great race at Wilderness 101 three weeks prior and I was coming off of Ironman Lake Placid so I knew we would would both be in good shape for Hampshire. We left at 6am for the 7 hour trek to Greenfield, New Hampshire.

We arrived around 2pm and setup camp at Greenfeild State Park. After checking in, leaving our drop bags for the race, and otherwise obsessing about details we had already obsessed about for days, we went and pre rode part of the course with a small group of riders.

I could tell immediately we were in for an awesome day on Sunday. The course was soft, flowy, fast, and the weather was perfect. After freezing at Cohutta, the Wildcat Mudfest, and rain the night before Mohican, it was very nice to have a picture perfect forecast for race day. Included in the weekend festivities was a cyclocross race, a short track mtb race, the NUE 100 mile race, a 100k mtb race, and a 100k trail run. There was something for everyone and there were over 400 participants total.

National Ultra Endurance Series

After our pre-ride we changed and got ready for the pasta dinner. Post dinner we got on our bikes and rode into Greenfield (about 1 1/2 miles) to get ice cream at the New Harvester Market. I read somewhere that Jeremiah Bishop eats ice cream the night before National Ultra Endurance races so I do the same. I saw him at the store where we were eating ice cream. He was on his way out or I would have offered to buy the ice cream.

After the ride back we had a brief rider meeting where the race director gave us a briefing on the course then we headed to bed. Jerry had brought a family sized tent with inflatable mattresses so we slept like kings. It was probably the longest night of sleep I had gotten since Ironman.

We woke up at 5am to get ready for the race. There was coffee and breakfast ready for us. I followed my race morning prep (eat, coffee, poop, suit up, ride).

The start was unlike the other NUE series races that I have done. We went off at 6:45am sharp and had a very fast downhill start for the first number of miles. About 5 miles into the race 90% of the riders were still in one pack, including the leaders. Things broke up when we had a mandatory dismount for some railroad tracks and then a single file trail next to the rail bed.

Hampshire 100 National Ultra Endurance Prep

Jerry and I were together until the end of the railbed when I happened to jump on my bike a little faster than he did and got in front by a couple of spots. Jerry is typically quite a bit faster than I am so I knew I would see him again soon.  I didn’t see him for quite a while which surprised me but eventually he caught and passed me. He had a flat tire that he needed to re-inflate so he had lost some time.

Hampshire 100 was a beautiful course. It was by far the most single track in any NUE race I’ve done so far. We spent very little time on roads. Most of the day was on single track, double track, and some back woods fire roads. This made the day go very quickly for me.

I caught and passed Jerry at the 2nd aid station (around mile 50). I made one significant change going into Hampshire. I stopped using a camelback and began using bottles for my nutrition. My friend Chris Beck has told me for a while to give up the camelback so I finally listened (I’m a slow learner sometimes). Chris has about 100x more experience than I do so I should listen to him more quickly.

Bottles made my day much easier. I had 2 bottles of Infinit in my drop bags every 25 miles or so. I would roll into the aid station, swap out bottles, and roll out. The bottle combined with Infinit for nutrition meant that I spent less than a minute in each aid station.

I surprised Jerry with how quickly I rolled through the aid while he was still filling his camelback. He caught me ten minutes later giving me a friendly hard time for making him work so hard to catch up. I followed him for a couple of miles but eventually his stronger legs won over and he dropped me.

Just before the aid, Grant Matthews from Toasted Head racing, had caught me and we spent an hour or so talking and catching up. He was coming off of a very strong top 25 finish at Wilderness 101 and was looking forward to another great performance at Hampshire. Unfortunately the cable for his rear derailleur broke and he was stuck with only one speed plus his granny gear. We joked he was now in the duo speed category. Grant and I rode a good part of Mohican together so it was good to see him again.

After I lost Jerry I entered the dark place of the race for me. I seem to always have a dark place in each race. Miles 55-60 were lonely and felt slow. I saw a rider or two but for the most part it was just me slugging away.

At some point in almost every race I hear the same things in my head:

Why do you do these stupid events? This is really dumb. I’m never doing this again. I’m just going to stop when I get to mile 64 and we loop back by the start/finish.

Around mile 60 we hit a water stop and this turned my head around. I had ridden the next 4 miles back to the start finish on our pre ride and knew it was fast and fun single track. The fun trails got me motivated again.

At the start/finish area the course went right past our campsite so I took one minute to do two things quickly: I changed gloves because my hands were getting a little raw on my palms and I lubed my chain and transmission. Both served me well for the last miles of the race.

At the start of the second lap I was refreshed after the sweet single track and was looking to finish strong. 36 miles to go and I knew the first 15 of those would be very quick. Grant had passed me while I was lubing my chain but I caught him quickly. Since he was now riding a “duo speed” he couldn’t keep up.

Hampshire 100 Mountain Bike Race

A few miles later I caught a Canadian rider, Tom Hanrahan, that was teammates with Chris Bryce whom I had ridden most of the 2nd half of Mohican with. Chris passed us at one of the water stops which gave Tom a huge boost in motivation to catch him on a flat rail bed section of the course. I would have gladly pulled some but Tom kept hammering away so I tucked in and enjoyed the ride. We caught Chris and then the three of us rode together for about 10 miles. We got lost a time or two but backtracked to get on course. It cost us a few minutes but nothing major.

Around mile 85 we started catching the slower 100k riders that were still on the course. Mentally it was a big boost. Even if you are a solid mid packer like I am, having folks to catch and pass is motivating. They would move over and tell us we were doing a great job. One guy just kept yelling “respect!” as I went by him. It was another pick me up.

At the final water stop I filled one bottle with Inifnit and one half full with coke and took off. This section of the course was the same as the finish of the first lap: fast, flowy, tight, up and down single track. It was great. I was flying through the last section. I didn’t think there was much of a chance of catching Jerry but you never know so I gave it everything I had. I was able to pull away from Tom and Chris and pass another rider or two in the last few miles. It was a great finish. I love feeling good at the end of a race. Something usually kicks in when I can smell the finish. In spite of the pain I can push the mind and body into high gear.

I crossed the line in 10:16. Turns out I was six minutes behind Jerry who had finished right in front of me. Jerry and I were 32nd & 33rd respectively out of the 100+ racers in our class.

I had a great race. Nutrition was spot on thanks to my custom Infinit formula. My bike was in GREAT shape thanks to Joe’s Bike Shop (Nate got it tuned up perfectly). My legs felt good. The weather was perfect.

Jerry and I ate the post race dinner, packed up, drove to the campground showers, and headed home. We made a 2nd dinner stop along the way at Gobi Mongolian Grill on the way home. We took in about 6,000 calories each and then drove the rest of the way for a 3am arrival back home.

I get this question a lot:

Aren’t you exhausted after these events?

I am at times. But there is also a sweet contentment that settles in post race. The body is tired and needs rest. The mind and spirit are renewed and refreshed. I was able to ride my bike through the woods all day long. How great is that?

Keep moving forward,

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Thanks Joe

Joe Traill Joe's Bike Shop

Meet Joe.

I owe a lot to Joe. I owe a lot to Joe’s. Joe’s Bike Shop.

I’ve raced my bikes for thousands of miles this year. I’ve trained for another few thousand. I’m hard on bikes. You can’t do long endurance mountain bike racing without being hard on bikes. You can’t put in the kind of time you need to train for Ironman without putting a lot of wear on your bike.

Joe's Bike Shop Truck

Most of my first year of riding I neglected my bikes. I rode and rode and rode and did very little to take care of my bikes. So I had problems. My first couple races of the year were a little rough because of mechanical problems. I was halfway through my first National Ultra Endurance Series (NUE) race when my shifting went haywire. A mechanic at an aid station told me I was going to lose my ability to shift soon.

That hurt. You don’t want to drive 10 hours and race 5 hours to break down in the middle of the Cohutta 100 and have the dreaded DNF (“Did Not Finish”). My bike neglect had caught up with me.

Joe's Bike Shop Fells Point

Then I stumbled into Joe’s. My friend Ethan worked there and so I stopped in and was crying about my bike and my DNF. Ethan said,

Before every race get your bike over here and we’ll make sure your bike is ready to race.

I haven’t had a single problem since. My last 5 races my bike has been perfect.

My favorite part of Joes? Everyone rides. Everyone in the shop. Joe’s understands people who ride bikes because the people at Joe’s are people who ride bikes.

I ordered a new bike a couple of weeks ago. My body takes a beating riding 100 miles on a mountain bike. I decided I could use a full suspension bike to save some energy, go a little faster, and spare my body wear and tear. But my bike won’t be in for a month and I have endurance races three out of the next four weeks. I was a little bummed that the new bike wasn’t going to be here for these races.

Then Joe offered me a loaner until my bike was in. So today I pedaled through the woods training on a Scott Genius 910 with some sweet Enve wheels on it. I felt like a pro zipping along the single track as fast as I could. It was comfy AND fast. I can’t wait to race on it next weekend at Shenandoah 100. And then two weeks later at Fool’s Gold 100.

Joe's Bike Shop Mount Washington

I was in Joe’s last week getting my bike ready for the Hampshire 100 MTB race and Joe showed me his new sign. One of his clients made him a new sign out of granite or some heavy stone. It’s awesome. I asked Joe why the guy made it. He said:

I’m not sure. I think he’s just a fan of the shop.

I could understand that. I’m a fan of the shop as well.

I feel like I get special treatment at Joe’s. But then I got to hang out at Joe’s last week and steal his wifi while I was waiting for something to get tweaked on one of my bikes. I was there working on the couch for about an hour and I had a realization as I listened to Joe, Ethan, and Nate deal with customers: everyone gets special treatment at Joe’s. It’s not just me. It’s just the way Joe does business.

Joe gets to know people. Joe likes people. Joe knows bikes. Joe likes bikes. It’s a pretty good combination.

Thanks Joe.

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Fat to Fit: Why I Race

Racing Marine Corp Marathon

It sometimes seems ridiculous that at almost 42 I will spend 15 weekends this year racing. In the past 12 months I’ve raced cross country mountain bike, American Ultra Cross, National Ultra Endurance mountain bike, cyclocross, marathon, half Ironman, and of course Ironman.

Hurling yourself down a hill on a mountain bike at 40 miles per hour isn’t the “normal” plan for a middle aged husband, father, friend, and business owner.

So why do I race so much? There are dozens of reasons I could list. Here’s the top ten:
Reasons to race Patapsco 100

10. I’m competitive.

Let’s get this out of the way up front. Yes I like to compete. There’s something deep in my spirit that likes to contend, put it out there, see what I have, and go after it.

It’s not about winning. It is likely that I will never win any race. But that doesn’t stop me from competing. Any race, any distance, any activity, I like to give it my all to the finish.

Reasons to race NUE series

9. Racing Adds Variety

I know people that do the same exercise the same way in the same frequency every week. For those that can do that and get the results they want: more power to them. For years I ran 3-5 times per week at a slow pace and I couldn’t stay fit.

I’m easily bored and love to mix up my activities. That’s why I run, ride, swim, play ultimate, do crossfit, etc. It’s not that I NEED to do all those things to stay fit. I just find myself more consistent in my workout schedule if I do. Racing adds yet another element to the variety of activities that I do.

Reasons to race cyclocross

8. You Learn So Much Racing

There are lessons you can’t learn until you are at mile 20 of a marathon. There are lessons you can’t learn until you try to run your fastest 5k. You learn from doing well at a race. You learn from doing poorly at a race. You learn when things really don’t go your way at a race. You learn when you have the perfect race.

Racing is learning. And the lessons you learn translate into every other area of life.

Reasons to race a marathon

7. Racing Marks Progress

My first marathon was 4:57. My next marathon was 3:59. Then 3:49. Then 3:46. I keep making progress.

Racing is the single easiest way to mark progress. Ironman at 13:13 was a great start. But I can do better. I know now that if I improve on my swim and let myself ride a little faster I might be able to shave 30-60 minutes off of that time.

It doesn’t have to be about distance and huge events like marathons and Ironman. My cousin Christy is taking 2013 and setting personal records at shorter distances. August 3rd she knocked off her 5 mile record. Earlier this year I ran with her in DC when she knocked off her 10 mile record.

It’s about progress.

Mountain bike reasons to race

6. Racing Is The Reward

If you’re committed to being fit then you are training no matter what. You may not call it that but that’s what it is. You put miles in, you go to the gym, you watch what you eat, you wake up at ungodly hours.

Racing is just the dessert. It’s where you get to appreciate and enjoy the benefits of training.

Racing for the passion of it

5. Racing Takes You Places

Who knew that New Paltz, New York was such a quaint little town? I had no idea that Lake Placid has produced a winter olympian for every winter olympics from a town of only 4500 people. That’s impressive. Eastern Ohio has a lot of amish people. Ducktown Tennessee might be the smallest feeling place I’ve ever been.

Even at home racing leads me great places. Running a marathon through my home town gave me new appreciation of how awesome Baltimore is. Riding the Patapsco 100 course opened up an entirely new area of riding for me that I’ve been enjoying ever since.

Racing with friends

4. Every Race Is An Adventure

I had no idea what to expect when I got in the water at Ironman. Was my body going to feel good? Was I going to fall apart? Can I even finish one of these insane events?

Every race is a fresh adventure. I’ve got stories from every race. The 2011 Celtic Soltice was the hardest race I had done to date. I had to dig DEEP for the last 2 miles. Wildcat Epic was a mudfest that was downright funny by the end. The 2012 Turkey Trot was the first race my son Seth did. The feeling the last 9 miles of Ironman was endorphin laden euphoria I’ve never experienced before.

Racing for fun

3. It’s All About The People

The first morning in Lake Placid I met Howard Glass. Howard is 72. At 68 he decided to try his first sprint triathlon after not working out for years. He said it was awful. But Howard kept going and by the time I met Howard, July 25, 2013, he was about to complete Ironman #7.

Every race I meet new people with great stories. Some are stories of overcoming challenges (my story is a dime a dozen in Lake Placid). Some are stories of huge accomplishment, like Mark Yost who I met in Lake Placid and qualifies for Kona year after year. Some are stories in the making, like my friend Brandon who wants to qualify for the Boston Marathon to raise money so he can adopt another child from the Congo.

Like most things in life: it’s all about the people.

Reasons to Race

2. Racing Is My Favorite Motivator

The single best way for me to stay motivated is to look at a calendar and see what race is coming up. Ironman kept me motivated for an entire year. It’s a simple reminder when I need one to get out of bed. It’s easy to run in the rain when you know it might rain on race day so you may as well get some practice in. Riding my bike in the heat is easier when I think: “it might be really hot at Mohican 100 next weekend, I should practice in the heat.”

If you want a good reason to up your fitness level pick a new challenge and get registered. It will get you moving.

10 Reasons for Racing

1. Racing Is Fun

The secret behind racing for me: it’s really, really, really, fun. There’s a feeling you have when you finish a race that is hard to describe unless you do it. Whether you are just trying to finish your first 5k or set a record at an Ironman the emotions that go with crossing the line are intense. I don’t get those feelings lying on the couch. I don’t get them even going out for a run.

But when you cross a line, any line, for any event, there’s a very special moment. And you know, in that moment, that it was worth the price it took to get there.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

Reasons to race and Ironman

 

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Fat to Fit: GRATIA – The Tattoo

Ironman Tattoo Design Calf

I never thought I’d be the tattoo type. I don’t have anything against tattoos. In fact, I often like them on other people. I just never saw one on me.

The honest truth is there has never been anything that I’ve wanted to have on my body for the rest of my life.

That changed when I crossed the finish line at Ironman Lake Placid eleven days ago. Really it changed while running mile 25 of the the Ironman run with tears streaming down my face.

I didn’t want to forget that moment.

Have Fun Be Lucky Tattoos Hampden

Two times in the last seven days a friend of mine said:

You deserve it.

One of those times it was about something I bought post Ironman. The other was about my tattoo.

I knew what he meant. He meant that I had earned things from all the efforts I had put in. And he was encouraging me. He’s good that way. It’s one of my favorite things about him.

But I know better. I didn’t earn anything. I’ve worked hard to become the athlete I have. I’ve trained literally thousands of hours the past few of years. I’ve put my time in.

But while I’ve put in a lot of effort, I know that what I’ve done is very specifically attributable to something outside of me:

GRATIA. Grace.

Ironman Tattoo Process

One of my heroes, Dallas Willard, says:

Grace is God working in my life to accomplish that which I cannot accomplish alone.

  • Grace enabled me to wakeup and realize I needed to make drastic changes in my life.
  • Grace has given me a wife and family that are my biggest fans.
  • Grace surrounded me with people that have supported, coached, and encouraged me along this journey.
  • Grace fuels my body every day.
  • Grace enables me to wakeup each morning.
  • Grace enables me to do that which I cannot do alone.
  • Grace gives strength when weary.
  • By Grace I take the next breath.

Running down Mirror Lake Drive in Lake Placid I was filled with gratitude. I was fueled not by my own power but by Grace. I thought of every Grace filled moment that had carried me from dying to the Ironman finish line.

I didn’t earn that. I don’t deserve that.

That was GRATIA.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

Ironman Lake Placid Tattoo Reward

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Race Report: Ironman Lake Placid

Ironman Lake Placid Race Report

The Morning

I woke up with a sore throat. Not a “you’re getting sick” sore throat just a nagging sore throat. I performed my morning rituals (eat/coffee/bathroom/dress) and by the time I had a few sips of coffee it had subsided.

My race morning prep went well. In transition I prepared my bike, added bottles to my transition and special needs bags, and left my glasses in my bike bag (I added this to my checklist. I hadn’t accounted for it before). My pump became the pump for about 15 people and eventually I just said to the last guy that had it “leave the pump at the end of one of the aisles.” I wasn’t sure I’d get it back but I found it after the race.

The only thing I would change next time is leaving for transition 20 minutes earlier than I did. I had plenty of time but it would have been nice to have a few more minutes to reduce stress.

The Swim

Mark Twain said:

If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.

My big frog was the swim. I’m a challenged swimmer. I can cover the distance but it is ugly.

I started in the back of the pack thinking it would give me some room to get into a groove. It didn’t. Most of the experienced athletes I’ve talked to post race felt like the wave start was as violent as any other year when they did a mass start.

I don’t know if that’s true but it was awful for me.

I panicked in the water almost immediately. I just could not get settled and started to hyperventilate. I thought my race was going to be over after five minutes. I prayed a lot. I also gave myself a talking to: shut up, put your face in the water, breath, let people hit you, but whatever you do you are not getting fished out of the water.

Thankfully I was able to pull it together. By the end of the first leg, about 1/4 of the swim, I was starting to feel settled. Unfortunately because of the wave start by the time I felt settled the fast swimmers were lapping us. They were having to claw through all of us back of the pack swimmers so the end of the 2nd leg felt just as rough. Numerous times I had people grabbing my feet or arms. I felt bad for them and bad for us.

The second lap thinned out considerably. There’s a cable under the water that all of the course markers are attached to called “the line.” I literally swam on top of the line for my entire second lap. It was much more comfortable than the first lap. Slow but comfortable.

Ironman Lake Placid Swim

The big frog was eaten. Thank God.

  • Swim time: 1:45
  • Goal: 1:30

Transition 1

T1 went well. My wetsuit was stripped coming out of the water by a few volunteers then I trotted slowly to the transition area. Elise was there on the way (she was as relieved as I was that I was out of the water). I grabbed my bike bag, went to the tent, dumped out my bag contents and got ready. This was so rehearsed in my brain that it was an easy process. I grabbed my bike from a volunteer and trotted to the start line.

  • T1 time: 10:21
  • T1 goal: 15:00

The Bike

I love to ride a bike. My favorite tshirt in the world says: I want to ride my bike. The bike was smooth and consistent. I didn’t let myself go too hard because I knew I would want it for the run but I also didn’t chill completely. My hear rate was typically pegged in the middle of zone 3. All day pace.

I had two minor challenges on the bike. They were annoyances really.

The first was a gel flask mishap. At mile 25 I pulled out my gel flask and tried to open it with my teeth. The entire cap came off dumping gel all over me. Imagine nine ounces of maple syrup being poured down your chin and you get the experience. I tried to touch as little as possible for the next 7 miles and at the next aid station I took a bottle of water and tried to wash face, chest, thighs and bike off as much as possible. This worked ok but it also moved the gel from the front of my legs to the back of my legs so now under my knees was super sticky.

The second bike annoyance was a flat around mile 33. Fortunately there was a guy on a motorcycle providing course support that was also a cyclist and he helped me change it. I probably lost five to ten minutes.

These were minor annoyances. In a 12-14 hour race you’ve got to expect problems and I was hoping that between my swim panic, gel mess, and flat I had gotten my share of race problems out of the way.

Ironman Lake Placid Bike

I pedaled on. My first loop was 15 minutes longer than I wanted (3:45). Second loop was right on pace (3:15). All things considered my bike was great. I’d heard a lot about the hills on the course and how challenging it was. I guess if you do a lot of triathlons and are used to flat courses that is true. I ride hills all the time, train on very tough hills in Western Maryland, and race endurance mountain bike events. I didn’t really notice the hills.

  • Bike time: 6:45
  • Goal: 6:30

Transition 2

T2 was as smooth as T1. I grabbed my bag, dumped the contents, got my shoes and socks on, lubed up, put on my race belt, grabbed my visor and trotted out the door. I made one game day decision in transition that turned out well. I was planning on taking a bottle of Infinit Jet Fuel and a gel flask with me for my run. My body felt very good at this point. I decided it would be nice to not carry anything on the run. I had trained with Ironman Perform and Roctane gel and hadn’t had any issues so I left my nutrition in transition and decided to rely on the course support.

  • T2 time: 6:22
  • Goal: 10:00

The Run

I felt good leaving transition. Elise and the kids were there and I stopped and gave each one of them a big kiss. My support crew rocked all day and I wanted them to feel loved in it. It’s our Ironman not just mine.

I stuck with my race plan and didn’t let myself go out too fast. I averaged 9:20’s for my first 3 miles. 9:50’s for the next 5. Then things got tough. Miles 8-17 were just a drag. I was moving ok but it was mentally challenging. There are also two big hills on the course. Both are in this section. Normally I love hills and accelerate up them. These took everything I could to shuffle up.

The run was the strangest part of my day. In a marathon I usually feel very strong until about mile 18 or so and then know I have 8 miles to hang on and endure. I didn’t know what to expect in an Ironman but I thought the pattern would be similar: feel good for a while and then endure. Having a rough spot so early on was mentally tough. I was not looking forward to enduring for 18 miles. I was close enough to my goal that I wanted to run strong and finish close to my goal.

There are times in races that things just click and you go along without thinking about the pain you are feeling. It’s a strange, awesome, magical thing. It’s the zone. I was incredibly thankful that I was in the zone from mile 18 through the finish. I just went. No thinking. No struggle. Just step after step pushing forward.

Mentally I could just smell the finish. I knew it was close. My miles got faster. I switched to coke, maybe that helped. Whatever it was it was awesome. If you could bottle that you could make millions. But you can’t, you have to put yourself out there to experience the zone.

The Finish

I finished the last hill and had two miles left to go. I saw Elise and the kids at the turn toward mirror lake and I just screamed to Seth “I’m almost finished!” The best part of my day was seeing them every lap of the bike and the run. I would just scan the crowd in town looking for them. They usually saw me first and were waving their arms wildly. They had a great day also. Ironman is a fantastic spectator event (at least according to Elise and the kids).

The crowds were awesome. Your name is on your running bib so people are chanting as you go by: Greg, Greg, Greg. At one point a guy pointed at me and said, “I don’t know what’s gotten into Greg but he’s running strong!” I was. I knew it. I could feel it every breath. Every step felt awesome.

I didn’t feel any pain the last few miles. It was unbelievable. I sometimes get a kick at the end of races but this was over the top. My last two miles were 9:09 and 8:40. My last quarter mile was at a 6:32 pace. I just kept running.

Ironman Lake Placid Run

I cried early and not at the finish for this event. After making the turn on mirror lake drive I spend the next half mile with tears streaming down my face. I knew I had done it. Conquered something that I couldn’t have imagined two years ago. I was thanking God for every step. Thankful for Elise, my kids, for all the friendships I’ve made in pursuit of insane events, for bodies that can do nutty things and thrive, for every person that helped along the way. I started visualizing all of those people.

I’d list them here but I can’t stand the idea of forgetting someone. There are too many.

20130728-untitled shoot-15

I crossed the line and heard my name:

Greg Rittler YOU are an Ironman

Unbelievable.

  • Ironman Goal: 12:55
  • Time: 13:13

Keep moving forward,

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