Monday, September 13, 2010


Remember to vote (left hand side) on DUG’s next BIG trip!!

What does 70.3 mean to you? To endurance athletes this number represents an event known as a Half Ironman. The 70.3 is the distance in miles that the athlete will cover during the event, A 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and lastly 13.1 mile run (Half Marathon).

Now I am no endurance athlete, but I do enjoy running marathons, and doing a long bike ride, most of this enjoyment comes from the social aspect and allowing me to stay healthy so I can participate in extreme activities when I travel. As far as swimming, if someone was asked to describe my swimming I think they would say "He is not swimming, he is just trying not to drown!"

A few months ago a friend of mine Dandy Dan Griffin asked me to join him in a Half Ironman. Dandy Dan was turning 50 and thought a Half Ironman would be a great way to celebrate.

The event "Delaware Diamondman" was scheduled for September 12, 2010 in Bear, Delaware. This worked perfectly for me since I had a trip already scheduled to visit my brother's family in Colorado mid September.

From the time I registered for the event to the event was 5 months so I had plenty of time to train. I got my runs up to 20 miles; my longest bike ride was 76 miles, the big issues swimming.

In Botswana there are just a few places to swim especially in the dry season. Most watering holes have creatures that are not that pleasant to swim with like leaches, yes blood sucking leaches. The only real option was swimming in the river, but the current was very strong and I would surely be washed down stream. To help me out the kids in the village built a device out of old bicycle inter tubes and an old elephant harness. They fitted the harness to me (no fat jokes) and then connected the tubes. With a few kids on each side of the river, they held on to the inter tubes so I could swim in place while fighting the river current. It was the kid’s version of an endless pool.

We ended up getting a few more buddies to sign up for the event Crazy Kenny McAlister and Lovely Lou Fancher. Both had done Delaware Diamondman before.

Enough of the history, Margarite decided to join me, I really think she is starting to like me as she has gotten more and more clingy. We flew from Botswana to Dover Air-force base on a military transport. The day before the race was a pre-race meeting. The organization putting on the race is Piranha Sports. During the pre-race meeting they explained all the race logistics, except how the swim start works (more on that later). One disturbing logistics was at the end of the swim (my weakest sport) the transition area was over a quarter mile away and the clock for the swim does not stop until you enter the transition area. So no matter what, my pathetic swim time will be even slower.

Larry, from Eddie / Larry fame, from my trip to the Gran Teton National Park has a house in Wilmington, Delaware and allowed Margarite and I to stay there.

Race day - yes this is a race not a fun run!

The logistics of race day are somewhat complicated there is a transition area that is used to change equipment from one sport to the next. This area is open from 6:00 am to 6:45 am to get your equipment set up. Each athlete (I use the term athlete loosely) gets a wrist band that identifies them and the spot allocated for their equipment. The weather is 65 degrees and a light to moderate rain. I stage my bike; pack my bike shoes and running shoes in large zip lock bags to keep them dry. I took my swim goggles, nose plugs, can of spray pam, and wet suit down to the lake.

You might wonder why spray pam? Wet suits are designed for snug fits, so by spraying your body with pam it allows the wet suit to slide on and off more quickly. I met Lou and Margarite at the start. No sign of Dandy Dan or Crazy Kenny.

Lou had done this race before so I thought I would just follow his lead. For our wave the start was at 7:15 am. There were two waves 5 minutes apart our wave was the first wave. Lou instructed me to start walking out into the lake, I had worn water shoes and had no problem, Lou and most of the others were stumbling on the rocks and debris on the bottom of the lake. I had mentioned the swim start was not explained well at the pre-race meeting; at this point I was clearly confused. I hear the race announcer saying 3 minutes until the start but everybody was already swimming, knowing swimming was my worst sport I figured I better not be left behind so I also started swimming, after what seemed like I had swam half a mile, I stopped to take a bearing, what I found was a little disheartening. I was about 200 meters from the edge of the lake all the other swimmers had stopped and the announcer said 30 seconds to the start. I figured out what was going on, it was an in water start, you swim to the start buoy and then they start the race. If you hate swimming this is not the way to start an event that will last somewhere close to 6 hours.

I had three goals for this race:
Goal one - DO NOT DROWN
Goal two - Have Fun
Goal three - Finish in less than 6 hours.

The swim started and immediately I was sure I would NOT accomplish any of my goals, as I tried swimming, I was sure I would drown, I already hated this race, and at the rate I was swimming if I did happen make it out of the lake alive there was no way I could finish in under 6 hours.

Working hard to keep from panicking I focused on my swim, unlike most swimmers I breathe only to my right side, when I breathe I also check to make sure I an on course. So here is my next issue, problem, challenge, the swim course was a U shape out and back counter clockwise course. So all the buoys are on my left, so as I swam, breathe, and spot, I have no idea of my location relative to the buoys.

As I zigzagged across the lake, once actually crossing the imaginary line the buoys make. Luckily a life guard on a surf board was there to instruct me to back track my route and get to the right of the buoy. If I would have kept on that course I would have been disqualified from the race.

Everybody in my wave had red swim caps the second wave had white swim caps; there were about 100 people in each wave. My guess is I was a quarter mile from the start buoy I was starting to calm down, there were still a few red swim caps behind me while most were far in front. As I crossed the turn-around buoy I was getting comfortable almost enjoying myself and then all of a sudden about 50 people swam right over me. A few of the lead swimmers from the second wave had already passed me, but this was what I would call the pack, they had no idea someone could swim as slow as me, not expecting another swimmer I am sure they just thought they hit something floating in the water, which was somewhat true. Once I recovered from the light beating, I regained my composure and started heading to shore or at least I thought I was. With my terrible sighting I was again zigzagging my way to the beach. About 300 meters from the shore I could hear Margarite yelling “DUG over here. DUG over here.”, so I simple swam to here voice. She said the other spectators where laughing hard as she tried to direct me in.

Fifty-four minutes after the start I walked out of the lake, still alive and starting to enjoy myself. From a time stand point I had a good and bad goal for each event for the swim a good time would have been 40 minutes and a bad time 1 hour. My official time (including the run to the transition area) was 57 minutes and 39 seconds. Very close to my bad goal, the bright side Margarite was convinced with all my zigzagging I really swam 2 miles rather then the required 1.2 miles.

I was 226 out of 236 in the swim so I beat 10 other swimmers and one in my age group. Nothing to write home about, but I was alive.

As I passed Margarite she told me Lovely Lou was 10 minutes ahead, and Crazy Kenny and Dandy Dan switched from the Half Ironman Race to the Sprint Race, it seemed Crazy Kenny did not have time to train with his busy travel schedule, and Dandy Dan realized he was a girl and should not do an event with the word “Man” in it. The sprint was a .6 mile swim, 16 mile bike and 2 mile run. Congratulations to Crazy Kenny for getting third for his age group.

I got into the transition area and it was very easy to find my bike as there were only a few bikes still racked as everybody else was already out riding.

I stripped off my wet suit, put on my biking gear and headed out. My transition time was 5 minutes 45 seconds to put this in perspective the winners makes this change in under a minute. I was 219 out of 236 for the transition so I was moving up, but still in the back of the pack.

I was confident that the bike ride would be fun and I could improve my ranking. The 56 miles was broken up with an 8 mile loop then back past the transition area for a 48 mile out and back ride. My goal was to make up the 10 minutes Lovely Lou had on me from the swim, while at the same time saving something for the run. The bike ride was flat most of my bike training had been on hills so I felt very strong and started out at a 20 miles per hour pace, after the 8 mile loop Margarite let me know I was only 7 minutes behind Lovely Lou, I already had gained 3 minutes.

I knew at this pace I would easily catch him, but was worried about saving something for the run. Though the course was relatively flat there were a couple of rolling hills and one tall bridge that we crossed twice. After the 8 mile loop I decided to slow my pace to 18 miles an hour and push it as fast as I could on any down hills. The rain was still very steady, but with the course mostly flat and straight it was not a hindrance (safety issue) and kept us cool. The one issue Lovely Lou had warned me about was eating and drinking enough. Especially on a cool day it is very easy to forget to drink. During the entire race I would burn 4 - 6 thousand calories. It is important during the bike portion to replace some of those calories. I kept hearing Lovely Lou's voice every few miles say "Drink Eat". So I stayed very well hydrated and feed.

There were two grated bridges where we were required to dismount and walk our bikes. This was done for safety as the race staff felt with the rain the grates might be slick.

The bike ride was much less dramatic then the swim I constantly made up time and past other competitors. Again my goal was to catch Lovely Lou. With 4 miles to go I had not caught him, but I knew I had to be close, I picked my speed up to 22 miles per hour, I was feeling strong and felt I had enough left to run a half marathon. As I approached the transition area I heard Margarite yell "Way to go Lovely Lou", there he was about 20 seconds ahead of me, and I had made up 10 minutes on the bike.

My bike time was 2 hours 55 minutes and 7 second for an average speed of 18.7 miles per hour. My good goal for the bike was 2 hours 48 minutes or 20 miles per hour and my bad goal was 3 hours 30 minutes or 16 miles per hour. I was clearly much closer to my good goal then by bad goal. The race was now fun!

For the bike I was ranked 121 out of 236 far better the 226 out of 236 for the swim.

For the second transition my time was 3 minutes 36 seconds. I had set a goal for the combined transition on the good side, 5 minutes and on the bad side 10 minutes. My combined transition time was 9 minutes 31 seconds clearly very close to my bad goal.

Lovely Lou got out of the transition area a minute or so ahead of me. The run was a mile and a half through the camp ground then about 3/4 of a mile to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal where you ran an out and back, then you follow the same return through the camp ground.

As I exited the transition area Crazy Kenny and Dandy Dan cheered me on. Margarite decided to do the run with me she was waiting at the half mile mark and Lovely Lou was several hundred meters ahead. We caught Lovely Lou at the first mile marker when he stopped to grab some water. Our first mile was 8:32 pace somewhat fast for the first mile of a half marathon after a 1.2 mile swim and a 56 mile bike. As we left the camp ground we saw the winners heading to the finish line. We were starting the last event and they were totally done.

Our second mile was at a 7:58 pace not good to FAST, there was no way I could maintain that pace. Lovely Lou and I decided to slow down. As we headed to the canal we went down a hill about half mile long, Lovely Lou said on the way back that hill will seem like Mount Everest.

Here are the rest of the mile splits:
Mile 3 8:32
Mile 4 8:46
Mile 5 8:48
Mile 6 8:52
Mile 7 8:45
Mile 8 8:23
Mile 9 8:30
Mile 10 8:30
Mile 11 8:39 (included the big hill)
Mile 12 8:13
Mile 13 7:57
The last .1 mile at a 6:54 pace.

As you can see we finished strong. Yes the hill at mile 11 seemed like it would never end, but we all pushed each other. We picked up a few other runners on the way and had a group of 5 when we finished, Margarite was a great cheerleader encouraging us the whole way. Lovely Lou was great inspiration never letting me lose sight of the goal.

We finished the run in 1 hour 50 minutes and 40 seconds with an average pace of 8 minutes 29 seconds per mile. I was ranked 72 out of 236 for the run a huge improvement from the ranking of 226 out of 336 for the swim.

Overall I was 140 out of 236 which means I passed 86 people on the bike and run. My total time was 5 hours 52 minutes and 58 seconds

If I forget about the first half of the swim I have to say this was a great race I hit all my goals, and felt great when I finished.

Off to Colorado for some great hiking and mountain biking.




Anonymous said...

people who have to work seldom are able to do 1/2 ironman races.

Dandy Dan

Anonymous said...

Congrats Dug!

Hope that I get to see you before you head back to Africa.


Jen said...

COngrats Dug! I am glad that you had fun during the last 2/3 of your race! Glad Margaurite was there to run with you...Sorry Dandy Dan broke his toe and couldn't complete the 1/2 with you...

Anonymous said...

Way to go! congrats. Karen