Monday, July 17, 2017

I took a nap during a Half Ironman: Musselman Recap

The Musselman triathlon was one of the two Half-Ironman distance tris I signed up for last year during a manic moment of "If Meghan and Geoffrey are going to do it, I'm doing it too!" The other was Patriot. And because we're not crazy enough already, we signed up for the DoubleMussel. That's the MiniMussel sprint tri Saturday, and the Half Sunday.

Here's my advice: Don't do two triathlons two days in a row (but I'm glad I did.... once).

The title of this post suggests a wild and rollicking adventure... and it was! But I have to rewind, because this adventure turned out to be way bigger and more amazing than I had expected. And there's about a million photos to share, so prepare to scroll a lot.

Here's a nice photo!

It all started when I learned that one of my favorite people in the world, Jenn, was coming to NY to hang out and cheer us on at Musselman. Which led to many more of my favorite people saying, "I'm coming too!" All of the extra days I took off work to rest and recover suddenly turned into days stuffed with adventure. Jenn is an immensely sweet and adorable person who makes, just, everyone fall desperately in love with her. And when I discovered that she burps, farts, and swears like a beleaguered sailor, it somehow just made her more lovable. And as if that isn't enough, there was: Lois, Curt, Aria, Dawn, John, Chris, Shawn #VHLWarrior, Steve, Sue, Carrie, Geoffrey, Meghan and her daughter, and many many more.

Not even all of the amazing people!

I'm still floating on a high of love and frenetic activity. I gotta pound out all this goodness but I will, as usual, miss three quarters of the good stuff.

Jenn was supposed to arrive on Wednesday in Buffalo and ride down with Dawn to Corning. Instead, she had an absolutely terrible experience at the airport, which led to her spending the night in a motel in Omaha. I don't know anything about Omaha, but if it's like the rest of Nebraska, it just has cows and more cows. And it took her 7.5 hours of zero flying before she could get to that motel. And instead of eating a giant pile of soul-soothing food, she had to scrounge for snacks like a raccoon. And to think she was so excited when her handsome husband, Michael dropped her off at the airport.

Dawn's awesome parking job.
Yes, I took a pic.

She had to sit in a plane on a Tarmac, listening to the captain come on every hour or so to say, "I've got a little more unfortunate news." The passengers finally had to get off the plane when it ran out of fuel. Idling. On the tarmac. And all of the food she desperately looked at afterwards had the same label: "Contains dairy." Dairy makes her blow up like an angry balloon. It sucks for her but it was exciting for me. I spent most of the week trying to get her to eat ice cream or cheese so I could see a real life Epi-pen in action! And when that failed I tried rubbing cheese doodles on her.

Curt burning off ice cream and cheese.

I drove to Lois' on Wednesday. With Aria. And her entire life. See, Aria was moving to Lois' that day. So we arrived there with about 100 pounds of running stuff and a couple toiletries (I imagined... those bins were heavy!). Dawn was stuck in Buffalo waiting for Jenn, but she didn't mind. Her mom was thrilled to have her! My mom is always thrilled to see me. She lives only .8 miles from me, but I'm a terrible son. Lois, Curt, Aria and I grilled dinner and chilled Wednesday evening. That's actually noteworthy, becois Lois is terrible at "chilling" and had to be forced to sit in the same place for more than 5 minutes. She and I are polar opposites on the Type A - Type B spectrum. I'm excellent at chilling.
Four of us. Chilling. My belly is huge from eating.

Thursday morning Curt, Lois and I went swimming at Cowanesque Lake (I can't believe I can spell that without Googling it). They swam within the designated buoy area. I said, "how far do you think the opposite shore is?" They thought I was making idle conversation. And then I swam to the opposite shore and back. It was only half a mile round trip. Later we ran (with John and Sue too) and totally ditched Lois. Speaking of Lois, she had no kitchen and her washing machine was in the dining room. That's all I'm saying about that.

Lois really wanted me to share this pic of
LUNARs meeting for the first time in person.

John arrived later at his AirBNB. It was half a block from Lois'. As far as I know he..... slept there? Oh, he made us a pot of coffee there once and brought it over. I'm sure it was very nice, but I never stepped foot in it.... and he barely did either (the house, not the coffee). At some point around that time we started the running gag about John and his "ten foot pole". There is an entire story behind it that he insisted I share... ya know, for context. But NO. You will just have to wonder. I made sure to bring up his ten foot pole every. chance. I. got.

John, looking very fashionable.

No context. Just, "whoa, don't turn so fast, you almost knocked me over."

"Don't sit so close to the fire, you'll singe your tip."

"I'm surprised you drove. You could've just pole-vaulted here."

"Every time John looks at Dawn's legs, he destroys his pants."

And so on.

Jenn finally got to Buffalo Thursday afternoon. She sucks at dealing with that cr@p. She's a total chicken (her words). Actually, she described herself as a "chicken wallflower." That's the note I have; I didn't actually write down her explanation. Anyway, she had to rebook four times, the whole time dealing with douchy travelers who expected her to solve sh!t for all of them. "Did you fix our plane yet, or are you just worrying about yourself?" Yeah. I would've punched that guy.

A chicken wallflower?

She and Dawn got in around 7. Then we grilled shish kabobs. Then we stayed up really late talking. Aria usually goes to bed in the wee hours of the morning... and we outlasted her. At around 1am Jenn finally said, "well, it's almost midnight, I should go to bed."

Some serious shishkabobs
Photo Cr. Lois

"Um, no. It's 1." Her brand new phone that she doesn't know how to use apparently doesn't update for time zones automatically. Oops! And we had planned to to do a big group run at 7:30am Friday morning. I got.... maybe 6 hours of sleep?

This is how Aria takes selfies.
She is now #Vinaigrette

I was supposed to be tapering. TAPERING. Instead I swam Thursday morning and ran a 10k Thursday evening that turned into a tempo run because Curt is blazingly fast. And here we were doing a 5 mile run at the crack of "I'm still asleep." Oh, and getting enough sleep before the DoubleMussel? Hahaha.
Who has time to sleep when you have
all these amazing people around you!!

Shawn came Friday morning to run with us. He's the stalwart leader of L.U.N.A.R. (Lace Up Now and Run) and a VHL warrior. Despite having his third brain surgery recently, he continues to be a powerful representation of strength and perseverance. It's been a long road to recovery, and he's been attacking it with unparalleled dedication. And he came Friday to run with us! Unbelievable man. John, Dawn, Jenn, Chris (#DD!), and Aria ran as well. Awesome! There was a lot of sweating.

Shawn even let me do this, because
he's the best man in the universe.

Sadly I had to leave after that to go home and get my junk for Musselman and then head to Geneva. The LUNAR folks kept on doing awesome things but I wasn't there for that. The group of us competing at Musselman (Geoffrey, Meghan, her daughter, Steve, Sue, Carrie, Lois, Curt, and I) stayed at a fantastic place called the Gridley Inn. It was owned by a wonderful couple, Madison and Stephanie, who bent over backwards to make our stay amazing. They event got up at 4am Sunday to make us breakfast. Lovely people.

Stay here. You won't regret it.

I got to the Gridley first and checked in. Madison was very talkative. I nodded aggressively, the whole time my bladder bursting at the seams. After that I headed to the expo and met up with Geoffrey and Meghan to get our bibs and a huge pile of swag. That was the first sign of how awesome Musselman is. I got a free foam roller! I don't even know what it's for! Yes, I'm a terrible runner. We went to the Lake Front Park to do an open water swim, but it was cancelled because the ramp washed away in the rain. The same rain that ruined Jenn's flight three days prior. It was a LOT of rain. We ate dinner and crashed hard.

Heiko at the Gridley Inn.

We got to "sleep in" till 6am Saturday because the MiniMussel started at a luxurious 9am. Madison and Stephanie had an awesome breakfast and tons of coffee all ready to go for us. We go to the park by quarter after seven and had plenty of time to set up our transition areas and all the other pre-race things. Everything was extremely well organized. These folks really knew what they were doing, and clearly took a lot of pride in it.

The race was a blast. A half mile swim in the canal, which was crazy fun, a 16 mile bike ride, and a 5k. Meghan, Geoffrey and I had all decided to not push it, because we wanted to save some strength for the next day. Instead, we all pushed it to the max. Hashtag worth it? But we were excited and we were fast and we felt good. Screw you intelligent thinking! And Meghan's daughter podiumed! She got second in her division! She's thirteen! That was really freakin' amazing.

Canal! With boats and everything!

After the race we went to the expo to get our chips for the Half. Then we went to the "mandatory meeting". Among other things I learned that it's called Musselman because of the invasive species of Zebra Mussels that are, basically, destroying the lake. Cool beans. The race director was an awesome dude. And I really should have listened more closely when he told us about the awful hill on the run. Race directors will usually say, "rolling hills," when they mean mountains. But when a race director tells you that it's OK to walk a hill.... That probably means you'll be climbing a sheer cliff. More on that later.
No sheer cliffs for us, thank-you.

The rest of our group showed up that evening. They weren't crazy enough to do the DoubleMussel. Lois, Sue, and Carrie were doing the relay. Steve and Curt were doing the whole thing with us. It was Curt's first Half Ironman ever. It was Steve's first of the year. Tensions were high, but Madison and Stephanie did a magnificent job of relaxing us as much as possible. And the dinner they made for us.... WOW.
At the Gridley. Photo courtesy of Madison.

We were up at 4am the next day. We ate breakfast. We got all our heaps packed up and were at the park by 5:30. By this point I had already gone through so much epic adventure that my mind didn't even register that I was about to do a 70.3. It was just one more thing in a long string of non-stop action. The morning went by in a blur and I was in the water by 7am. Musselman did an amazing job getting such a huge number of people organized and moving through the two-stage corrals. I didn't even have a spare minute to stop and think about what was going on before the horn sounded. I was in the first wave, so it was just in the water and 30 seconds later GO.

Our swim in the Cowanesque was a breeze by comparison.

Suddenly I was swimming. I felt solid on the swim. Then I got halfway and turned directly into the sun. I could see literally nothing. All I could do was follow the swimmers in front of me and hope I didn't get lost. Swimming over half a mile completely blind is a unique experience. Apparently on her swim, Lois befriended a kayaker named Jeremy, but she made it with aplomb. None of us got lost on the swim. I even got a PR! Then I was out of the water running towards transition.

Musselman printed us each a label for our spots in transition,
and it included the motivational quote we had put in our registration!

I tore off my swimsuit, devoured a potato and rice bar that Geoffrey and Meghan had made, hopped on the bike and did that thing. So if you read my race report from Patriot, you may recall that I described it as.... long. After that race I honestly thought halves were too boring for me. But the bike segment of Musselman was FUN. There were two beautiful lakes. There were a ton of other riders, some of whom I played bike hockey with. I was super excited, and I pushed way too hard. Out of the 11 five-mile segments, I had 4 that were around 20mph. Weeeee!

My bike is starting to look like a tri bike.

In the last 15-20 miles, I ended up playing bicycle hockey with this one particular lady in purple. We had a fun banter going every time we passed each other. We teased each other, we egged each other on, and we helped motivate one another to.... bike too hard. There was a gravel road near the end that everyone else hated but I loved. It was like biking off road! The gal in purple almost caught up with me in the last half mile. She said, "are you really going to let me pass you now?!" I said no way and floored it.

I pushed hard on the bike because I take the run portion for granted. I'm a runner after all. I killed the run at Patriot and figured I'd have no problem at Musselman. I was wrong.

Me casually typing out how wrong I was.
Photo Cr. Lois

I jumped off the bike and started running at a good pace. The first three miles were flat. Nice and easy along the lake. Around mile 3 you hit the first hill. Sorry, did I say hill? I meant STAIRS. I am not joking, you had to run up stairs. I stupidly assumed that this was the big hill the race coordinator had alluded to. So I said "no problem!" and flew up the steps. Then there was many more miles of hills. Hills hills hills. All going up. I tried to keep a decent pace but I started to think, "oh oh".

I was def missing my fun easy
runs from earlier in the week.

It was HOT. At every water stop I took two waters, one for my head and one for my mouth. And a gatorade. And a wet sponge. And a cup of ice. And all of that did jack sh!t to keep me hydrated and cool. I vaguely recalled from the meeting that the course went up and then down. As I neared the halfway point, I kept thinking, "ok, this is the last hill. Ok no this one. Ok this one has to be it."

Wrong every time. And then there it was: THE hill. Huge. Long. Awash in blazing sunlight. And it was loose gravel. This massive giant disgusting hill was just sand and pebbles. I thought, "f@#k my ego." And I walked. And I thought I was done with hills. And I was still wrong.

We're OK! Really!

There were hills up until about mile 8. There were a couple of big downhills, but I was too trashed by then to take advantage of them. I got slower and slower. At mile 10 I suddenly felt AWFUL. I was lightheaded, nauseated, blurry-eyed. I was stumbling around like a drunk on Mardi Gras. I was going to die. This is exactly the point when Carrie passed me going the other way (she was the last of the relay: Lois swimming, Sue biking, and Carrie running). She asked, "are you OK?" I must have looked really bad. When she crossed the finish later, the first thing she asked was, "did Peter make it?!"
We all crossed it.... eventually.

Barely. Right after she passed me, I realized I had to stop. I could barely stand. I also really needed to pee. So I walked behind a bush, pulled down my tri kit, and let loose. I was hoping it would be a sufficient break. It was not. I walked a little and found a park bench.

I sat down. I still felt delirious.

I lay down. I still felt delirious.

I closed my eyes. Finally I felt a little better.

And I took a nap.

Just two and a half miles shy of the finish of a Half Ironman, I lay down on a park bench and took a nap.

People ran by and asked if I was OK. I mindlessly gave a thumbs up, which pacified them all. "He gave a thumbs up! He's GREAT!"
He's great! He just needs coffee and nicotine!

There was a volunteer right there who kept checking on me. She was very nice. She offered me water. I didn't want to put her out. She said, "the aide station is right there." It was like 10 feet away. I hadn't even seen it. She got me water. I went back to napping. Finally after about 20 minutes (more? I finally stopped my watch) she came up and woke me up.

"Um, if you stay there, I'm going to have to call someone."

"Guess that means I have to finish the race, huh? Alright." I got up and kept going. I felt a LOT better. I managed a slow jog. Then two miles shy of the finish, Meghan caught up to me. She was also having a brutal day. She said, "come on. You GOT this." I don't know how, but I ran the last two miles at a 10 minute pace, the whole time Meghan next to me. She saved my a$$. We crossed the finish line together. I could not have thought of a better way - or with a better person - to finish the race with. I f@#king love Meghan.

Epic finishers.

And everyone was there. Jenn, Dawn, Chris, John, and Aria had all driven up to watch us. I was on the verge of death, but they reinvigorated me. I ate about 10 pounds of watermelon and a bagel. I hung out with them. We waited for Curt and Steve to finish. They killed their races. All of us did, even me, excluding the, um, napping portion. It was a really fantastic triathlon. Even the near-death experienced just added some "fun" spice to the adventure.

I nearly died and all I got was this t-shirt...
And this metal mussel. And this recycled gear.
OK worth it.

We hugged, took photos, and scattered. I went back to Corning with Aria because heck no was I done partying. I stopped by Wegmans to get Halo Top, and pizza was waiting for me by the time I got to Lois'. I vacuumed up food like it was my last day on earth. Jenn couldn't eat pizza because it would make her use her $650 Epi pen (but dang I was hoping!). Instead she made an epic sandwich out of left over shish kabobs and Marathon bread. She purred with delight as she ate it.

No joke.

Jeff Holbrook, who is the mayor of just everything, showed up. We made a fire in Lois' back yard and chilled for a long time. We talked a lot. I made a huge number of jokes about John's ten foot pole. I was high on endorphins and greasy food and I gave zero $hits about what I said. When we needed more firewood, I smashed massive tree boughs against a large rock. I was insane. It was amazing. We talked late into the night.
Smashin wood.
Photo Cr. Lois

This morning we ran. I ran two miles with Jenn. Then I ran 6 more miles with her, Curt, and Lois. My body was brutally sore but other than that I felt good. Screw rest. Then we had many tearful goodbyes and hugs. Now I'm here. My cat is avoiding me because she's mad at me. And I'm writing this blog. And I'm just.... overflowing with the amount of joy, love, and adventure I experienced in such a densely packed period of time. I can't overstate how incredible it was. For about 5 days I escaped life and just experienced the extremes of all the best things in life, non-stop.

Moments before a tearful goodbye.

Musselman blew me away with how well it was put on. It was exceptionally fun. The volunteers were amazing. Stephanie and Madison of the Gridley Inn were amazing. And the many many many transcendentally lovely friends I got to spend all of that time with.... I didn't think it was possible for me to love them more. But I do.

Just can't even handle how incredible
my friends are. Photo Cr. Lois

Lois said I should write my lessons from the races. Um, taper. Actually taper. Eat lots (I did that). Sleep lots (I didn't do that). Don't do the DoubleMussel (well, maybe once). Don't blow yourself up on the bike. Take nothing for granted. Two salt tablets is not enough. Drink more water than you think you need on the bike. Pay attention to volunteers who tell you slow down because otherwise you will go for another swim in Cayuga Lake. When a race director warns you about a hill.... F@#king open your ears. And most of all have fun. We train hard. We train like lunatics. We're perpetually sore and exhausted. And the night before a race we're stressed as h3ll. But.... remember why you do this.
I don't think we'll forget why we do this any time soon.

And this week reminded me of that. I survived. I ran two tris in a row and I crossed the finish lines both times and I got two medals. And I felt strong (95% of the time). And more importantly, I was surrounded by astonishingly generous, loving, uncouth, inspirational, self-aware, and powerfully driven people, all of whom I met thanks to my training. For those five days, I was ablaze with love and life.

Thank-you for reading.
Seriously. No joke.


  1. I love your style brother!!!!

  2. Another great story loaded with of lots Bad Assery. You have a great way of putting me right there in the action. From meeting great people, to 10 ft pole jokes and potential epi-pen tragedies, this story had it all. I don't blame you for sleeping on that bench. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.