Race Report: The 2009 Montauk Mightyman Half-Ironman

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“Hey Peter – Do you have a time goal for the half-ironman?” “Same day would be nice.” Shiny ball ADD Version: I finished my first ever half-ironman, it hurt like hell, my time was 6:58:22. Long story: I’d heard about the Mightyman from several friends, and when a woman I knew, Carin Fox, told me she was doing it, that sort of tipped me over the edge. I’d been training to do one for a while, with my most recent Triathlon the Olympic distance Triathlon in NYC back in July, I figured if I kept upping my bike and run training, I’d be ready for this one. I guess I was. Keep reading. Montauk is on the very tip of Long Island – it’s possibly the eastern most point in the United States – I don’t know. But either way, it’s a hike, on the Long Island Expressway till, well, the end, then another 45 miles on a nightmare of a two-lane highway. It’s a quaint town, Billy Joel and other celebrities have houses in the expensive parts, and it has some awesome state parks. It also has hills the likes of which I’ve never encountered in my life. A few days before, a friend of mine from my Triathlon club, Andre, asked if he could hitch a ride with me and my parents to Montauk to run the race. He’d decided to do it as an additional training race, since he’s doing his first full Ironman this coming November in Arizona. (Freak.) Arriving on Saturday morning, October 3rd, in the pouring monsooning rain, we dropped our bikes at the house (thanks to my parents having friends with a house in Montauk, we had a giant private house a mile from the start) we headed over to race check-in where we got our first glimpse of what would become the ultimate in mud – a soggy, muddy, soaked field, where all our transitions would occur. After picking up our race numbers (295 for me) we started to drive back to the house, when we saw the lake. And by “we saw the lake,” I mean “I audibly gasped at the size of this damn body of water.”

Fort Lake, Montauk, Long Island

Fort Lake, Montauk, Long Island

This was a long-ass lake. Getting back to the house, I tried desperately to think about anything else. That didn’t work. We finally made dinner around 6pm, (more Pasta, I don’t ever need to see Pasta for like, three months) and we were all in various beds in the house by 7:30pm. Well, let me rephrase – Carin came over and stayed for dinner, and I offered her a place to crash. She took the second bedroom, relegating Andre to the basement, and me to the couch. You’re WELCOME, Carin. 4am came early, as 4am is wont to do. I, of course, had been up since three, totally not being able to sleep, and having the weirdest dream about a Geek Factory employee I use to have, Aaron Rabinowitz – For some reason, he was a helicopter pilot, and he was flying me all over the city – I’ve got NO idea what that meant. Took a shower, had a bottle of Ensure (totally great for athletes – gives you calories, vitamins, electrolytes, etc… Ironic that the doctors made my 97-year-old Grandma drink it, as well…) Chowed on some oatmeal, racked the bikes on the car, (BIG props to Thule Racks for sending me a sweet bike rack for my car) and we were off to drive the mile to the start line. Arriving at the start line, we got our bikes ready, and headed over to the mud-puddle that was the transition area.

Unracking the Bike from the Car and putting the wheel back on

Unracking the Bike from the Car and putting the wheel back on

People mocked me for bringing ten huge garbage bags – but hey – I stayed dry while setting up, as did my sneakers, bike shoes, socks, towels, etc. So “ha!” I say. Got myself squeezed into my wetsuit, checked my bag, put my swimcap on, reached for my goggles, and couldn’t find them. Crap. Crap crap crap. Keep in mind, it’s still pitch black in the transition area. Would have killed the organizers to rent some generators and lights? Sheesh. I tear apart my transition area looking for them, no luck. I run back to my checked bag, tear apart my bag, no luck. I get back to my area, ask one of the race marshals if they have extras, while he goes to look, I look at my handlebars of my bike with my goggles hanging from them. Sometimes, it is a very short bus that I do indeed ride. Making my way over to the swim start, I pat myself on the back for remembering to take my Mack’s Ear Plugs. These are, hands down, the best ear plugs in the free world. Drop one into each ear, and no water gets in, and all I hear is my breathing and my heart-rate. Greatest. Ear plugs. Ever. Standing at the water, I come across my parents, who surprisingly, get a pretty decent photo of me. You gotta understand – A wetsuit is constricting – it’s body-hugging. You’ve seen photos of me. I don’t do well in anything that has the words “body-hugging” in it, and I know that. I also know that spandex, or anything similar, is a privilege, not a right. I’ve accepted that. So wearing a wetsuit really kind of makes the whole “no pictures” rule take full effect. But hey, I challenge you to stop a Jewish mother from taking a photo of her only son attempting something that could easily kill him. Stopping my mom from taking photos of me at that point would have been harder than the half-ironman itself, so I let it go.

About to head into the water...

About to head into the water…

Finally, wave four goes in. The Clydesdales (FAT-ASSES: REPRESENT!) are in wave five. We waddle into the lake. They had told us the lake would be about 70 degrees or so. By “they,” I mean the event organizers, the weathermen, anyone who’s ever even heard of Long Island. They. Are. All. Lying. Bastards. The water was COLD. Damn cold. Cold like when Doc Brown touched the DeLorean the first time it traveled through time. (More on that reference later.) And of course, I chose to wear my sleeveless wetsuit, so I would have more mobility and less to pack. Dumbass. The Swim: 1.2 miles: Completed in 47:23. Apart from the water being cold, I was also shocked at my time! I’m an ok swimmer – I’m not great. But I took a few lessons with the SBR (my Tri team) coach, and tried to implement his tips as much as possible. I’ll be damned, they worked! I was expecting around 52:00-55:00, so I was psyched as hell with 47:23.

Exiting the Lake after the swim - note my mom on the right, thrilled/surprised I'm alive

Exiting the Lake after the swim – note my mom on the right, thrilled/surprised I’m alive

Swim to Bike Transition: 4:54. This made me happy – Over four minutes less than my Nautica NYC swim-to bike. Practice works. Getting out of the lake, I made my way to the transition area. Here’s where being in the 5th wave of 6 waves sucks: I got there, and there were MAYBE 30 bikes left out of 350. Which meant that 320 people were already on the bike course. Now let’s understand – I know it shouldn’t bother me. I know that you run your own race. You run the race you run, and you don’t care how other people do. You’re competing against yourself. I know that. Seeing 30 bikes left out of 350 still sucks regardless. Plopping down to get out of my wetsuit (my image of me trying to get out of my wetsuit still applies, a greased up Manatee on a country road) I take it off, dry off, and realize my fingers are so cold, they’re not totally working right. So I have to struggle to put on my long sleeve shirt, my race number, my GPS (which by the way, worked perfectly – it’s a device called My Athlete Shadow, that sends real-time updates of where you are to anyone with a web browser) and to shove Power bars into my pockets.

Hopping on for a long ride...

Hopping on for a long ride…

Bike Ride: 3:22:27 Getting out on the bike, the longest mileage portion had begun – 56.2 miles, twice around a long, winding, and in some cases, completely pointless course. 28 miles twice. The only way I could handle that was to break it into manageable chunks. Not unlike how I eat an entire pizza. Six mile blocks, or 1 central park loop, times just under 10. I could do that. As long as I didn’t get discouraged by seeing the leader finish the first 28 miles when I was at mile 2 or something. I totally didn’t. I saw the leader finishing the first 28 miles at my mile 3. That, to be honest, was a bit discouraging. And of course, behind him, starting coming all the leaders, then the people in earlier waves, then others, then a few grandmothers out for a weekend ride… You get the idea. I tried to ignore it, and focus on the ride. Which should have been easy, but sadly, unlike my training rides, I was music-less. No iPods allowed at any part of the course. I had no tunes. So… What else could I do to pass the time? I could look at the scenery. That was nice. For about three minutes. One lighthouse, one ocean view, and one tree was about all my ADHD-addled brain could handle. So I tuned that out. What else? I didn’t want to sing, I needed that for the run. Wait – I got it! “Tardy slip for you, Ms. Parker, and one for you, McFly, I believe that makes five in a row. Now let me give you a nickel’s worth of free advice young man. Dr. Emmet Brown is dangerous. He’s a menace…” Yes, I passed the first 28 miles of the bike ride by reading, from TOTAL MEMORY, the entire script of Back to the Future. I kid you not. I got to the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance scene before I had to stop. There’s something to be said for shouting to no one in particular, “Jesus Christ, Doc! You disintegrated Einstein!” while having six people turn around to look. You do what you have to do to survive, you know? At the end of the first lap, we were told that there’d be a water-bottle exchange. Figure the first lap ends at mile 28. Mile 28 comes and goes, and we’re not back at transition to start lap 2. Same with 29. Mile 30.4 comes up, and finally we’re even back. Mind you, I’m counting mileage based on my bike computer, which has never been wrong before. So as we start out for the second lap, I start thinking – so wait – we’ve got 56 miles total to go. We just did 30. The second lap is going to be the same as the first, right? How is that possible? That makes it a sixty mile course! How can it be a 60 mile course? It’s supposed to be a 28 mile course x2… After thinking about this for all of 15 miles – the abject horror hits me – Either my bike computer is off, or the course is long. Either way, we’re doing the exact same course, which means I’ve got another two miles more than I thought I did. Talk about demoralizing. By mile 40, I was hurting. By mile 45, my legs were crying. But I stayed with it, and totally aced my nutrition as a bonus. Thanks to Andre’s recommendation, I decided to go with one powerbar every 12 miles, and to drink every five miles. It really seemed to do the trick. I got off the bike at the end, and had enough energy to start the run. Bike to Run Transition: 3:12 I came in at the end of the bike at 3:22:27, ran my bike into transition, and sat down to take off my bike shoes. I heard “I’m gonna go have a beer” over the loudspeaker, and looked up to see the WINNER of the Half-Ironman being interviewed. Which means that he won, finished, toweled off, got his medal, and got interviewed. And I had thirteen point one miles of running still in front of me. FML. Got out of there in 3:12, really, really pleased with my transitions – A few seconds more than NYC, but the ground was still soaked, and I had to take off my shoes, dry my feet, etc. And then… the half-marathon began. Half-Marathon: 2:40:28

Dear My Triathlon Team: Please order shirts that don't accentuate my man-boobs. Thank you.

Dear Team SBR: Please order team shirts that don’t accentuate my man-boobs. Thank you.

I was surprised – Unlike NYC, the start of this run was really strong. I wasn’t fast, but I was strong – I felt really good, without any of the “I just did 56 miles on the bike” pain that I normally have. Which was kinda cool! The first loop was fine. Slow, but fine, as I watched a bunch of people on their second lap pass me towards their finish… I settled into a comfortable pace, and was fine until around mile four, when we actually hit what’s called “Murder Hill.” I was all like, “Oh, this is marketing. This is just a ploy to get more people to register. There’s no hill that bad, I run Harlem Hill in NYC for chrissakes!” It wasn’t marketing. It was that bad. It went up, and just kept. Freaking. Going. Up. Would level for a few feet, then go up some more! And I had to do it twice! Ugh. At the halfway point, everyone gets a blue bracelet to show that they’re on the second lap. I was joking “Betcha they’re gonna run out of blue bracelets by the time we get there.” Sure enough, I got some piddly-ass clear bracelet, as they’d run out of blue bracelets. Really? Bad form, Mightyman Half-Ironman. Almost as bad as you running out of water, and food after the finish line. WHICH YOU DID. You know, not for nothing, but if you’re trying to improve the sport of Ironman and get more people to do it, it might be a good idea to order enough for EVERYONE WHO FINISHES. I don’t care if there are only 50 of us left – You make sure you have your shit together for EVERYONE who crosses the finish line, not just the sub-six hour people. Call it a lesson in marketing. Because to be honest, those two flubs are probably going to prevent me from running Mightyman again. Anyhow… I started on the second lap, ran into a few new people, made some friends, walked the hill the second time… Until, with about a mile to go, the “it’s almost over” endorphins kicked in – I ran the last mile in roughly 7:30 – I haven’t run a 7:30 mile since 2006. You can tell how psyched I was.

The last few feet of a looooong day.

The last few feet of a looooong day.

I crossed the finish line with a total time of 6:58:22. Sub-seven hour Half-Ironman Triathlon, my first one.

Crossing the finish line from Peter Shankman on Vimeo.

Immediately upon finishing, I was congratulated by Cameron, one of the fastest SBR team members currently active. And of course, like any junkie will do, he was instantly telling me “well, you know, if you can get through the half, you can get through a full Ironman!” Typical junkie. But yes… He’s right… And… well… Maybe I can. I don’t know. Yet.

Crossed the finish line! One of the slowest team members being congratulated by one of the fastest,

Crossed the finish line! One of the slowest team members being congratulated by one of the fastest

And that was it. Grabbed my gear, headed back to the house, showered, got in the car, stopped at Burger King for a Triple Whopper with Cheese and Extra-Large fries, and headed back into the city. As always, thank you to mom and dad for being my support team… Thanks to Andre for coming with me, kicking my ass and teaching me how to take in my nutrition – It helped. Thanks to Ken Helman for taking the train out to watch me and get that sweet finishing video above. Thanks to everyone in the HARO family who wished me luck, gave me advice, etc. Thanks to Thule for the car rack, thanks to Tifosi Optics for the sweet sunglasses I’m wearing in the photo of me on my run, and thanks to My Athlete Shadow, for the GPS unit to play with. Tech is fun! And of course, thanks to the awesome Meagan for putting up with my neurosis about this race for the past three months. And of course, big props to Lara, who came out of nowhere to make sure that I was well fed and hydrated prior to my leaving NYC, and upon my returning. Essentially, she treated me like a treasured Ficus. Much appreciated.

Thanks, Mom and Dad for cheering the loudest!

Thanks, Mom and Dad for cheering the loudest!

I can’t believe I’ve completed a Half-Ironman. Wow. If nothing else, I’m having a drink now.

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