Pumpkinman Half Iron - by Chris Muncie
Pumpkinman Half Race Report
My anxiety began to become noticeable around the 2nd week of August. This was the race that I began training for in January and the reason I decided to hire a coach. I had never done a tri before I began training and I had only done two sprints before this race. My parents were flying up from Maryland and my daughter and significant other were also going to be in attendance. I asked my folks if they wanted to come up to help ensure I followed through with it. Thus, it began to feel like the ascent to a roller coaster; you are strapped in and can’t get out so you might as well hold on and try to enjoy the ride. The race was held on a Sunday and the week before the race, I decided to sleep in another room in the house because I am a light sleeper and desperately needed some sleep that week. For some reason I agreed to present at a conference on the Friday before the race and was up considerably later than I had hoped on Thursday night. So much for my sleep. I rented three hotel rooms in Dover, NH and planned to get there on Saturday afternoon to go to the race site to pick up my race packet and check out the lake where the swim was being held. I managed to pack without forgetting any gear, except a towel which I don’t use anyway, and my daughter and I got to the hotel on Saturday where I met up with my parents. Packet pick-up was easy and as I was walking down to the lake I met another SE athlete, Carina. Carina was taking pictures and checking out the venue and we chatted for a bit but in all honesty I can’t recall the conversation for I was looking toward the lake the whole time. The lake was nice and calm but the buoys looked really far away. I am not a fan of the swim and had been most nervous about this portion of the race, fearing that somehow I would get pulled from the water for taking too long.
That night my daughter and I ate at a nearby restaurant where I ordered plain pasta with chicken. I purchased a six pack of beer figuring I would have one or two as I watched the Michigan football game hoping for a sleep that did not come. I literally slept 45 minutes and got out of bed at 430A to have a bagel with honey, coffee, a banana and Perform. I got my stuff in the car, said my goodbyes to my daughter and parents and headed to the race site.
I got my stuff setup without a hassle and saw Kelly near the transition area. Time was drawing short so I put on my wet suit and headed down to the lake for a warm up. The water was warm, I felt good swimming, got out, and began to listen to the pre-race instructions. I have no recall of what was said. I took a gel and began to congregate with my swim wave that was scheduled to go 6th.
Swim 1.2 miles - 41:17 : Pace 1:58/100 yds
The waves were spread out about 5 min a piece and I went out in the 6th wave. I went out somewhat in the back of the pack and after the first few minutes of a bottleneck found relatively open water and got into a decent flow. I did not have any anxiety or breathing issues to start and did not receive any knocks to my body from other swimmers that I had feared. The swim was two loops around a triangular course. I managed the first loop in pretty good shape and rounded the first turn buoy on the second loop without any problem. However, as I made my way to the second turn buoy, I totally lost my navigational bearings. I did not realize this until a boat came out and blared its horn to point me in the right direction. Beside the shock and embarrassment of this warning, I then became mildly panicked. Fearing that I had lost so much time swimming off course, I began to frantically swim back to where I thought I should be going. The rest of the way back to the shore I had to stop and look up to sight to make sure I knew where I was going. Needless to say that when I discovered my final swim time, I was quite pleased. I think I need to get contacts because on longer courses, the swim buoys are harder to see. My goggles are also tinted, which perhaps was not ideal because the sun was behind dark clouds in the morning.
Mini Run 1:50
After the swim, there is a relatively long hill with a steep grade that the athletes must run up. They even hold a separate competition to see who can do it the fastest. I took off my wetsuit before going up the hill per the advice of Kelly and kind of walked/jogged it up the hill.
Kelly was at the side of the transition area shouting words of encouragement and taking pictures. I was still aghast at my navigational blunder and thought I had totally screwed up my swim time. So I think I may have responded with a friendly gesture, at least I hoped that it was taken that way, while I put on my helmet. Took a sip of Perform, got my bike and ran out. My shoes were attached to my pedals and I was able to do a modified flying mount. There was no flying. As soon as you leave the transition area there is a sharp turn so I had to quickly get my feet in my shoes. I apologize to the volunteers who were waving their flags at me pointing me in the direction I had to go – but I really did have it covered.
Bike 56 miles – 2:41:50 Pace 20.8mph.
The bike was a piece of cake. I really biked a lot to prepare for this race and the area where I ride is pretty hilly. Based on my training rides, I hoped to be around 3 hours and, perhaps, average around 20 mph, but I really had no idea what the course was going to be like. I did not go out too hard and kept my heart rate in the appropriate zones. I passed tons of people and after an hour or so I actually permitted myself to entertain the possibility of reaching my goal. The roads were in pretty good shape and there were really no significant hills of which to speak. It became quite windy about 1:30 into the bike but it did not appear to affect things too much. It was around that time that I had my first opportunity to grab a new bottle of Gatorade Endurance at an aid station. I grabbed the bottle without slowing too much, which was pretty cool because I had never done that before. However, I did not think of tossing my empty bottle first. As such, getting the new bottle into place proved somewhat challenging to do as I tried to figure out how to hold the Gatorade and toss the bottle without wrecking. I tried holding the bottle in my mouth, but the bottle has a wide neck. So, that did not work. I can’t recall how I did it, but I did without wrecking. I stuck to my nutrition and actually eased up toward the end as I began to think about the run. I made a point to thank all the volunteers and most of the other athletes were nice. I passed someone and said “on your left,” who commented, “it’s not like I haven’t heard that before.” That made me chuckle. There were a couple of folks I passed who would later pass me. Oddly, I would catch up to them without trying only to have them pass me later again. There were times in which they seemed to slow down right after they passed me. This became somewhat annoying and I wasn’t sure how to handle the situation. Do I slow my pace to see if they speed up or do I gun it for a while and see if I lose them? The only downside to the bike was the fact that I got a really annoying song stuck in my head that, despite my best efforts, constantly kept creeping into my conscious awareness. I really cannot fathom what it would be like to be on the bike for 112 miles, as who knows what would get stuck in my head. As I approached the race site, I got my feet out of my shoes to prepare for my dismount. I did this without scaring the volunteers.
My flying dismount was way better than my mount. Racked my bike no problem and I saw my parents, daughter, and significant other and smiled and waved. I put on my sockless shoes, which are great by the way, sunglasses, and ran off while putting on my belt. Legs felt fine.
Run 13.1 miles 1:50:35 (8:27 pace)
I was stoked. Almost done. Legs felt good. I made a point of thanking every volunteer I could. The course, however, was a lot hillier than I anticipated. It was after I got to the halfway point and realized that I had to do this again that my smile left. The turnaround was in a neighborhood where people put up signs and had music playing. That was kind of cool. I saw Kelly a few times on the run who shouted kind words of encouragement. I stayed in my appropriate heart rate zones, drank when I should, and my pace remained consistent. There were spots on the run where they handed out sponges. I was not particularly hot but grabbed some to sponge myself off because it seemed like a cool thing to do. When in Rome, right? The women’s winner was a woman named Amanda to whom Kelly introduced me before the swim. She passed me as I was heading out and she was coming back in on the run and said something along the lines of “looking good Sonic.” That was nice of her. Thanks Amanda. It was around mile 10 that my legs began to feel less than happy, especially because the last three miles were basically uphill and Kelly told me to forget my heart rate and let it fly. Yeah, okay. The last mile before the chute was a tough climb, but, I made it to the race area and was told by a kind volunteer that it’s all downhill now. Did he mean the run or my racing career? Running the chute area was awesome. Finishing was better.
Total – 5:18:32
My goal was to finish under 6 hours. Kelly believed that this would happen. I think she may have mentioned a goal time of 5:45 or something like that but I can’t recall. So, I was so happy when I found out what my time was. I was greeted by my family and Kelly. After the requisite pictures, I hobbled over to the food area. I, however, discovered that I did not want a thing to eat. Weird. This had never ever happened to me before. I did, however, want a beer or two- and managed them with a bite of turkey and half of a whoopee pie. That is disappointing because they put out a good post-race spread. Everyone left to drive back to Portland while I remained for a bit with my daughter, as I was still in shock of what I had just done. The drive back was long and a blur. It wasn’t until two days later that I regained my appetite. I did not anticipate how sore my legs would be. Someone should have told me that walking down stairs would be treacherous.
The Pumpkinman is a great race and was a great race for my first half. It was well run and the volunteers and overall atmosphere was great. Many thanks to my family who came to cheer and who supported me these many months. And, of course, many thanks to Kelly who helped me get to a place where I had difficulty imagining that I could.