I realized on the Friday night before Timberman while packing that… I LOVE packing for triathlons! You put all the run stuff here and then all the bike stuff goes there, it’s all quite simple.
I was very excited for Timberman as the swim is in Lake Winnipesaukee, a crystal clear body of water 5 hours north of here. I am used to racing in dirty Hudson River-esque places, so this was going to be a treat!
Dougie popped over at 7AM Saturday, we loaded the gear and blasted out of the city error free. We had a fun road trip up to New Hampshire, stopping at Breugers Bagels and communicating with Van2 (Kate, Allison, Tara and Ryan) who were an hour behind us… slackers!
We arrived 5 hours later, grabbed our bibs and then headed over to bike check-in at the lake. We quickly set up our gear then high tailed it back to the car as we wanted to go for a swim in the lake. It was hot as hell and the clear water in the afternoon looked so inviting.
I could see all the way to the bottom as I swam out. It was great! There were buoys already set up and I said to Doug, “This does not look like it s that far at all.” ‘Of course not Baker you fool, that is the Sprint course from earlier in the day’ is what I would tell myself in the morning as I saw the real course markers. Dougie and I got in a solid 800 meters before calling it a day.
Van2 had just arrived. So had a crazy thunderstorm. They ran their bikes over to transition and then we all high tailed it outta there toward dinner.
We had reservations at CC Tomatoes down by Concord. Dougie and I got there an hour before Van2 and so we posted up at the bar for a few beers. It was a local italian restaurant where everyone knew each other. I immediately loved it. Cassie the bartender served us up some drinks and then the guy next to us, Tim, swung around asking where we were from. Clearly we stood out.
We hung out with Tim for the next hour discussing the area we were racing in, which happened to be where he grew up. We chatted about local ski resorts and hiking, it was great. The girls and Ryan showed up and we introduced them to our new friend Tim before sitting to eat. As we walked away Tim said farewell and noted that the Lobster Fettuccine was awesome. Sold.
We carbed up with salads and pasta chatting about race strategy. It was Kate, Allison and Tara’s first Half Ironman. I was excited for them, although we all knew conditions were going to be rough with the heat wave that was in place.
I asked for the check as it was getting late and our server noted that a man at the bar had already paid it! Dougie and I looked at each other and simultaneously said “Tim!” I tried to catch him as he ran out the door. I yelled, “Tim, did you buy us dinner?” He smiled, “Maybe. Have a great race tomorrow!” and with that he was gone. Thanks Tim, where ever you are. You restored a few city slickers faith in humanity.
Up at the lovely hour of 4:45 and on the road by 5. It’s always weird going to bed and waking up when it is dark out. We had learned that Van2 woke up at 3, drove to transition and were sleeping in the car.
Dougie and I are both All World Athletes this year so our bike rack was right next to the Pros. It was kind of cool and intimidating at the same time as things were a touch more ‘serious’ by us.
We found Tara, Allison and Kate after they had set up transition and we all headed over to the lake to watch the wave starts. We had to race too, so that would be a good place to hang.
It was an absolutely gorgeous sunrise on the lake. It was a bit of a double edged sword though… with the beautiful sun comes heat.
We sent off Kate and then as our wave was getting ready bid farewell to Allison and Tara. Time for battle.
As Dougie and I waded into the water I broke my very own rule. I normally suggest to weaker swimmers to hang back and on one of the flanks. I was so excited to be in this damn lake that I got right in front. I was even jumping around a bit to the music playing. I may as well have been at a concert. The surrounding competitors were not feeling my vibe with their serious faces on.
The gun went off and I went out hard. I have done this enough that fear of getting punched or kicked doesn’t register, it has just become normal. It’s like the subway at rush hour, but in water.
I think around 500 meters in I had trouble breathing. I was having a bit of a panic attack I think. It’s happened to me once before on an open water swim in the middle of the Hudson river and it’s not a good time. I started breast stroking and thinking that this was the end of my race, game over. I even looked back to see what my exit strategy would be. Who am I? This is not me.
I stopped and was just bobbing around. It’s an interesting experience to just stop in the middle of the swim, the sound of others rushing past quietly. A voice called out to me. It was a woman in a kayak 10 feet away. “Hi. Are you okay? You are allowed to hang onto my kayak for a minute if you need to.” I swam over feeling very defeated and hung onto the front with one hand. “I don’t know what’s going on, I have done this many times.” I reassured her. “This is a very daunting task. You are also breathing very fast, slow your breathing down okay?” She was right. I slowed my breathing down and just chilled for a minute taking it all in. I looked off toward the distant turn buoy in the middle of the lake then back at her. “Thank you very much for all of your help miss.” and with that I plunged back into the soup and swam off, feeling normal.
Back in the groove I was swimming with ease and really enjoying myself wondering how I let it get so out of hand earlier. I focused on my form and plugged away. I got bopped in the face a few times and of course people were tickling my feet, but thats standard practice. As I rounded the final turn buoy I noticed how not tired I was and thought about all the open water lake swims we had been doing at Aunt Margie and Uncle John’s house. It was really paying off.
I exited the swim with excitement and ran over to one of the many wetsuit strippers. I love wetsuit strippers, mainly because they knock 1 minute off my T1 time.
My bike was one of the only ones left on the All World Athlete rack which made me think ‘Womp womp’ in my head. No matter… we will just play a game called catch up.
I jump on my ride and noticed that my legs were totally ready to ride immediately. I put my head down and started digging in. It was gorgeous out with a bit of a breeze, a breeze that would turn into ‘wind’ on the return trip but for now, it was at our back.
Around mile 5 I caught up to Kate and chilled with her for a second asking how she was doing. All was well so I hit the road, pressing forward steadily.
At mile 10 I caught up to Dougie and we rode together for the next 5-10 miles chatting away. We were moving at a good clip and passing people. We had to climb this monster hill. While doing so the Pros were ripping back down the hill on the return ride. It was awesome seeing bikes move that fast and I looked forward to dropping it down once I was on that hill.
At some point I lost Dougie and was just movin’ along. I played leapfrog with this Canadian gal Caron Pare for most of the ride. I was also moving a a very quick pace, averaging 24mph.
Mile 20 hit and I decided to have a bite of my Clif Bar. I needed the solids.
Mile 25 hit and I realized I had dropped my only Clif Bar.
It didn’t matter. I felt great and was crushing it. I had enough EFS formula and a few Gus to propel me home. What I didn’t know was that as we made the turn around we were confronted with a headwind. I hate wind. You can’t see it. It’s like an invisible foe pushing you here and there, mocking you.
The miles clicked by. I saw Allison on the other side of the road making her way to the turnaround and so I yelled hello to her. My inspiration was the big hill. Get to the big hill.
And the big hill came. I was going 6mph when I was climbing the hill, now I was rocketing like a bat out of hell topping out at 47.5mph on the descent! I honestly don’t know if I have ever gone that fast on a bike before, it was sick. I had no idea of my speed at the time because to look down at my Garmin would most likely mean a fiery death. I just tucked in and let me legs rest… I may have even been maniacally laughing.
Coming out of warp speed, I still had a solid 30 minutes of riding left. Our A Race is Ironman Louisville so heart rate training has been in full effect. I felt really great at this point in the race and I have no doubt in my mind that it is due to that style of training.
As we approached T2 I saw people out on the run course and got jazzed up.
A quick shoe swap, smear myself with 50SPF sunblock, grab my visor and I was off to the run.
The run course is a double out-n-back. I was looking forward to seeing the crew… a lot of times. I felt pretty good going into it. The legs were moving and I had some energy and I was focused on getting my HR to equalize.
Did I mention that it was crazy hot out? Why was it that all 3 triathlons I was racing this year were like 90+ degrees out? I mentally decided that I was going to stop at every aid station and pour water on my head. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. Looking back, once I had seen my final time I would wish that I had given it a bit more push.
The rolling hills and shade didn’t bother me too much until we got toward the turnaround and had to deal with the half mile on open highway. It was horrible. All I could think about was having to do it 3 more times.
We hit the return and I blasted forward, excited to see my friends.
I saw Dougie and shortly after Allison, who was having a great race.
The turnaround by the Finish is a bit of a mindfuck as you run right past the end, but you have to do another loop! The ‘good’ thing about having to do another loop is that you know the course. I blasted forward, the only dread in my head was the highway scene that was to take place at mile 10.
I was Dougie again, followed by Allison followed by Tara followed by Kate who yelled, “I’m confused why did I see Allison and now you?” Clearly Kate wasn’t aware of the ‘2 loops’.
I was still hosing myself down with water at every chance I had. Once more Dougie passed by followed by Allison at which point I yelled to her “Kate is confused at the 2 loop curse. Help her?”
At this stage in the game one of us were thinking straight.
I had also caught up to my friend Caron Pare (remember her from the bike?) and gave a peace sign as I passed.
I finished the race with a good punch but knew my time was sub par. I was happy for my bike splits though and the idea of just finishing the race. What if I had stopped on the swim?
I went to the food tent after and waited for Dougie. We ate some real crap pizza and then went to change and wait for the gals. They all finished with glorious first time Half Ironman times and should be proud of themselves. It’s always a battle and never easy.
Doug and I hung out in the parking lot drinking beers, reflecting on our race. The gals and Ryan eventually found us and did the same. We all laughed and basked in our own personal glory as the summer sun set on the lake. It was perfect.
This is a race I will do again. The course and the people rock.
This race also goes to show you that no matter how many times you do something you can always get thrown a curve ball. Were it not for my guardian angel in the kayak would I have finished this race?
I tell my athletes this all the time, stick to the plan. Something one of my mentors taught me years ago. I diverted from my plan and went out hard, almost costing me a DNF. Stick to the plan.
Tim of ‘Tim’berman. You are the man and thank you for buying us dinner. You have restored our faith in humanity.
To the gals of GCR… nice work. You even made it into the race report.