Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New York City US paratriathlon Championships

Last Sunday I found myself wetsuited up sitting on a pontoon strapped to Ryan, getting ready to jump into the Hudson River. I can honestly say I never thought I would swim in the Hudson. It is a combination of murky and a little salty. Cleaner than I was expecting.

Now the major benefit of swimming in the hudson is that there is a lot of current.

The few days before the start were hectic. We drove down on friday and got in late after sitting in traffic trying to get on the island. We were tired and the nerves were a little frayed from the New York traffic.

Saturday was registration day. We sat through the PC briefing and went and got our kits. We were staying at the official hotel which was probably 4km from transition. This was a bit tough as we had a long tandem bike. We were not confident enough to ride in NYC traffic so we had to walk down to transition. Because of the location of the transition zone noone was allowed to stop their cars and drop off their stuff. A large hastle for us. As a result this took us the majority of the day. We got back in time for dinner and took a bus tour in the evening.

Sunday morning was early. Transition closed at 5:45 when the pro's started. We managed to get there with just enough time to finish setting up. We were racked next to Aaron Scheidies. The world's fastest paratriathlete. He has a similar visual condition to Ryan so they are natural competitors. He is a super cool kid. I suggest googleing him to see what he is about.

There was over a 1500m walk to the swim start. The para triathletes were situated in the pro tent which is cool. Just simplifies things.

We got the call to head to the pontoon. We ended up sitting there for a while as they were leaving a gap before the second group of racers went.

We were given a 30sec warning and were told to jump in and grap a rope. The current was super strong. The gun sounded and we were off. We knew that we would be amongst the faster swimmers in this wave so we pushed from the start. The swim is a straight shot downstream so sighting is a none issue. We were alone pretty much the whole time. Out of the water in around 17:00. That demonstrates the powerr of the current.

The bike starts out with a short downhill serction with two sharp rights followed by a steep hill up to the expressway. This was super technical for a tandem but we managed it well. We were now free to fly. I haf decided that I was going to bury myself on the bike as I knew that is where I could help the most. We caught up to the wave infront of us pretty much right away. We were flyinh by these slower cyclists. It was quite busy out there. It was a neat bike course as the closed the expressway on the west coast for us to race on. It was a hilly course, but fast. I was hoarse by the end from constantly yelling "on your left".

Into T2 I was a little torched from the effort. We changed quickly and climbed the hill out of the transition area. Ryan was pushing hard at this point. It took my body a while to come around. I actually felt pretty crappy for the whole run. It took a lot more effort this time to stay on Ryans shoulder.

The run through Central Park was cool(actually very very humid) this played havoc with my digestion. We continued to pass a ton of people. Only one person caught us from the wave that started after us. Ryan was flying, and I was surviving. I was going to bury myself before I slowed him down. We got to the finshing chute (which was crowded) and crossed the line in 2:18,second in his category. We acheived all of his goals so this was a very successful outing.

It was a fun race to do, but I won't do it again. Logostically it is too hard.

I would like to thanks Ryan and Mindy for giving me the opportunity to race in NYC with Ryan. It is a really neat experience, and I look forward to what the future holds!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ryan's Peterborough Report (from swimbikerunryan.blogspot.com)

Mission Accomplished--"Hey isn't that cheating?"

"Hey, isn't that cheating?"

"No fair..."

"Oh man, 4 legs, you guys look great.."

"Hey, that's drafting..."

All of the above were utterances during my first paratriathlon last Sunday in Peterborough. ALL were said in joking fashion and great supportive manner, by fellow athletes. All were said on the bike as we rolled, seemingly "cheatinginly easy" past them up and down the steep rollers of the Peterborough 1/2 Ironman. A 2 km swim, followed by a 85 km bike ride (which is supposed to be 90), followed by a hilly 21.1km half marathon run. This was my 5th half Ironman of my career, my third time back to Peterborough, but my first paratriathlon--a new beginning.

Today i want to give you a brief (hopefully) recap of the days events; last week i gave you a taste of what the mood surrounding the event was like. The fact that i was a beginner, for the second time... As mentioned this was my third time back to this race, but standing race morning on the shore with 500 other athletes, tethered to my guide Syd...this felt much different. All pre-race buildup and preparation was much the same as any other race i've done, but as i said, standing tethered with our 4 foot bungee cord between us--Syd and I were embarking on something very new to both of us. Syd standing 2 inches taller then me, is a imposing figure, and made me feel that he gave the air of "stay out of our way" to the rest of the gang. This was comforting, heading into the water which was the most stressful for me. Swimming is not usually stressful, i love the beat and bang and push and shove of an open water swim; but not this day when i was very worried that i would snag somebody in our line, injure, drown or in a mild case just REALLY tick them off. Therefore the 2km swim i must admit was the most stressful swim i have ever done in my entire life, far trumping any Ironman mass start with 4 times as many people. My stress and fears were unfounded though, as we never snagged a single person, Syd was a perfect body guard as he is an amazing swimmer, and we managed out effort in a slow and uncomfortable 38:45. Uncomfortable because i can swim a good bit faster, and Syd must've been taking a nap, as this was far below his pace...but safety was the key.

Through transition and onto the bike---we had ridden the previous week together, and i trusted Syd had a handle literally and figuratively on the bike situation, so i was relieved and comforted to get out in my element (the bike) even if it was on the back of our Griffen tandem rocket!
Rolling smoothly and to much crowd support, out of T1, dressed in our matching Rudy Project helmets and matching TEAM RUNNING FREE uniforms (an awesome running store in the GTA that become my newest sponsor, and has been sponsoring Syd and his wife for a while).. Syd and i settled into a easy pace. Our goal was to take it slow until halfway then drop the hammer. We kept a methodical pace until the halfway point, passing everyone in sight (see above for comments recieved along the way). To my surprise the support was amazing, and truth be told i did feel guilty passing people with such ease, as this would not happen quite so smoothly if i were riding on my own. However, we rolled past a couple hundred people and made our way to the pointy end of the field. By half way, we were both feeling ok, but our "undersides" and my lower back, were both feeling the harshness that is a tandem bike ride. You feel ever bump, and every vibration--and we are riding probably the nicest tandem bike ever made! On that way back, we found ourselves quite alone...the leaders were ahead, but most others were behind, and we just rolled along, more in silence due to our upped effort. We were both relieved to get off the bike at the end, giving our bodies a break from the slightly uncomfortable ride. 2:29:00 later, with an average of 34 km/h, we arrived to a fairly empty T2.

Not having been totally trained for this event, and suffering a bit of an injury, my goal was to run as much of the half marathon as possible, and just see how it went. I really didn't have any specific time goals for the whole day, so it was just a matter of plugging away. During the first very shady section, Syd ran in front of me (where the pictures were taken), and i followed along like a good little puppy dog:) When out onto the open road, we ran side by side, Syd pointing out any road flaws, pylons, etc. This will take some more practice, but really all went well. I am pleased to say i managed to run the entire 21km (only impressive due to the fact the hills were killing me)...it is so hard running hills when you don't run them around here. We pushed harder the last 4-6 km, i was suffering, and Syd was cruising. He lives and trains on those hills, so this was simple for him. Pushing really hard the last 2km, we turned into the park, Syd and i grabbed hands, turned the final corner to the finish where Syd raised our hands in victory, saw the clock read 5:11:xx (which was my second fastest half Ironman ever), i dropped, rolled for ALS....and that was that.

Even thought the bike course was short, it was still a fast enough race for me..i was very pleased with the effort and very thankful to Syd for his help. This guy lives and breathes triathlon (even more then I), and his presence and help that day really helped me out. Our next adventure is in two weeks in New York City, with an Olympic distance triathlin which happens to be the USA National Paraytriathlon Championships. This will give me a good idea of where i stand in terms of others in my category (as I was the only visually impaired athlete in Peterborough). I am looking forward to the new experience and the new tandem career. It isn't the same as going alone, but it is still suprisingly, familiarly, satisfying.
A huge congratulations to local fellow C-K athletes Jason Ramboer who absolutely hammered his first half Ironman in a 4:41 time, Brennan his brother in the half Duathlon, Helen Robertson of Chatham in a very respectable time, and Helen's daughter Helinka who also had a solid day.

So off to training i go, getting ready for the fast and furious NYC triathlon! Thanks to Running Free for the great gear, Rudy Project, Syd, my wife, Smith's Cycle, and everyone who's help got me to the starting line of my new career. And thanks CKDP for letting me tell my story, my hope for Sunday was to turn some heads, and get some people thinking.....No matter what your abilities, set that goal, and go for it, and NEVER underestimate somebody based on their age, sex, religion, disability or athletic ability; for as soon as you do this, is the time they will leave you in a cloud of dust.

Peterborough 1/2 as a guide.

I participated in the peterborough 1/2 IM this year as a guide for Ryan Van Praet a PC (physically challenged - blind) athlete from Chattam.

This was an exciting opportunity for me.  I have done many things in this sport of triathlon and nothing quite like this.  It was a true team effort.

Ryan has competed in triathlon for many years and has raced at all distance including a couple attempts at IM.  This was his first race as a PC athlete.  His vision has gotten to a point where he can't race by himself.

We had practiced on the tandem a few times, but we had yet to swim or run together.

The morning of peterborough we got set up in transition.  The OAT and subaru guys were excellent at helping us get set up in transition.  They had to make a whole new category for him to race in.  

The swim was going to be interesting as we were tethered together and it was a mass start.  We took a concervative line and waited for the majority of the field to go.  I think this was a bit of a mistake as we then had to pass a ton of slow swimmers.  This was difficult.  The swimmers in the middle/back of the pack have trouble swimming straight.  So I ended up acting as a bodyguard for most of the swim.  We probably took a few extra minutes because of this.  It ended up ok though.  It was an interesting practice.  I think in NYC we will be more aggressive.

We got out of the water and took our wetsuits off.  The run to transition is a little long so it was tough navigating our way there.  An easy transition and we were off on the bike.  Having a relatively slow swim, but both of us being good cyclists meant that we were moving quite a lot faster than the rest of the riders around us.  We were flying.  The tandem is an interesting experience.  You really need to learn how to communicate well.  I needed to vocalize everything, from bumps in the road, to turns, to when either of us wanted to coast.  

Things were feeling good on the tough bike course.  We were getting lots of interesting comments and stares as we flew by many cyclists.  

The biggest problem with the tandem is that it is a rough ride.  Your butt gets really sore.  We ended up coasting a lot on hills on the way back to try and relieve some pressure on our rears.  

We finished up the bike a lot closer to the front of the pack than we started.  We had passed atleast a hundred athletes.

T2 was a bit faster.  We headed out on the run.  It heads through the park and soccer fields.  This was a challenging section for Ryan as he can't see anything in low light.  I really had to let him know about every dip on the course.  Once we were onto the roads it was easier.  They are smoother and we were able to pick up the pace.  This was a challenging course for Ryan as he is from the flattest part of this province.  Peterborough is a hilly course on the bike and run.  I live in this terrain so it is second nature to me.  He did really well considering this.

We managed to pick a solid pace and hold it.  Ryan told me not to tell him splits or where we were on the run course.  This was fun, because I knew that we were way in front of our goal of going 5:30.  He didn't.  He thought we were on pace for the goal.  I said nothing until we hit the finishing straight when I told him the time.  Ryan did a roll accross the finish line in honour of his father who passed from ALS and in support of the Blazeman foundation which he is very active with.

We finished in 5:11.  This was a great time for us and way infront of our goal.  We were very conservative early on so this is a great confidence builder going into the PC champs in NYC.  

I had a blast, and am really looking forward to racing in New York and next year possibly at the Ironman distance.