Ever since 2005, Mooseman has signaled the beginning of tri season in New Hampshire for me. Normally, the ice is just barely gone and all you hear is people asking constantly what the water temperature is, which is usually in the low 50's only to warm up just barely enough by race day for us all not to freeze to death. I think the biggest irony of the weekend was the fact that the water in Newfound Lake was by far the warmest it's ever been for Mooseman, and yet this time the swim gets canceled. But I'll get to that...
On Friday afternoon I headed over to Wellington State Park to pick up my race number for the international distance race. This was the first time I've ever not done the half, and I must say that I don't really like doing the shorter of two races. It's no secret that the longer the race, the better I do. Actually, I should start considering double or triple ironmans, to be honest. But it was too soon after St. George to really be ready for the half, so the short version it was for me this time.
This was the first year that WTC, or the official Ironman people have owned and run Mooseman. I am going to have to say that the difference was clear immediately. I can't even really pinpoint what it was right away, but it just wasn't the same. The big "official" Ironman gear merchandise tent, the huge flatbed trucks taking up the parking lot they used to let the athletes park in, the 6 different tables you had to stop by in the registration tent to pick up various pieces of your packet, the lack of almost anything in the goodie bags... yep, it's not my race anymore. It's funny, when Ironman took over Timberman it didn't really bother me because that has always been a really big event and that's what I expect, so nothing really seems different. But Mooseman always felt like a smaller local race even though it was at least a little bigger than your typical little race, and I liked it that way. A lot of us liked it that way. It's not that way anymore.
But anyway, I got a shirt in my bag, and once again, thanks for mentioning that the shirts are women specific for the first time in the history of my racing and not letting me exchange it for one that might actually fit. It's actually a pretty cool shirt, too. Anyway... then I was back at home to rest for the remainder of the afternoon. One nice thing is being within 30 minutes of the race venue and still getting to sleep in my own bed. My friends and teammates Michelle and Trent stayed at the house with me, so we had a little pasta dinner on the porch and then went to bed early.
Race morning came awfully early. I was having a dream that I was watching a thunderstorm across a field and there was some nasty lightning. Then I woke up and found out I was dreaming that because there was, in fact, a nasty thunderstorm going on outside. Well, there's an interesting way for race morning to start. I admit I'm a bit obnoxious when it comes to race morning, and in a big race that I have to drive to and park, I want to be there right when the parking lot opens just to get that part out of the way. So we headed out at about 5am for the supposed 5:30 parking lot opening. It was pouring when we left Squam Lake, but not so bad when we got over to Newfound.
In years past when I have arrived at Mooseman upon the opening of the parking lot, I have gotten a great spot right in the park so that I can stumble over to the transition area in about 90 seconds. Well, thanks for mentioning that NONE of us were going to get to park there, but rather were all diverted to what used to be the late-comers parking in some field a mile down the road. A muddy field at that, which left me wondering if I was going to be able to get my car out later. So that irritated me a bit unreasonably. Apparently they never let anyone park at the Wellington lot the entire weekend. Not to pick up your numbers, not for the athlete's meeting, not for anything. I'm sorry, but a little warning might've been nice on that one, and it seems ridiculous to make everyone park so far away when LOTS of cars used to be able to park right there. Not only is it bad for athletes, but it's terrible for spectators as well. And had I known I'd be stuck parking that far away anyway, I would've left an hour later.
But then again, I shouldn't complain too much, because as soon as I walked my bike to the road I saw a friend of mine driving through - who shall remain nameless in spite of his awesomeness so nobody is aware of how good he is at simply pretending he is allowed to do anything so that the police don't make him park far away - and I jumped in his car and he drove me up to the park and very easily talked his way into a parking spot right next to the transition area without any actual credentials. He reminded me that he has taught me these tricks before and I should learn to listen better, but I'm just too much of a rule-follower, I guess, and obviously got the advantage of his tactics anyway.
So, upon my arrival, it was, of course, raining. It wasn't cold at least, and incredibly humid. I got body-marked and racked my bike then decided to go use the porta-potty since it was early, there weren't a lot of people there yet and there was no line. The second I got in there, it started pouring. I briefly wondered if maybe I should just hang out in there for a while and hide from the rain, but, well, I guess I'd rather be in the rain than sit in a porta-potty for an extended period of time. Call me crazy. So once I was back out and exposed to the elements it became apparent by the loudness of the thunder, the brightness of the lightning and the closeness of the time between the two that the thunderstorm was pretty much right on top of us. It is this kind of situation in which I would've normally just gone back to my nice little car, parked 100 yards away. But instead, I walked over toward the finish chute where QT2 had a tent set up. On my way over there, as I meandered under the tall trees and saw maybe two or three other people walking around that one particular bolt of lightning struck what appeared to be maybe half a mile away, and judging by the loud crack of thunder that followed almost immediately afterward, I'd say that it finally dawned on me how dangerous it was for me to be walking around in the woods during a ridiculous thunderstorm. But really, how often are you trapped outside in a thunderstorm? I had nowhere else to go, so I found my way to the tent and fortunately there was a picnic table under it.
There were very few people around at that point, and I could faintly hear the announcer asking people to go under the merchandise tent or into a vehicle (again, everyone's cars were parked a mile away!) So essentially, the transition area was evacuated. What fun. I sat on that picnic table for a very long time while a pond formed on the ground around us and made me happy to have flip flops on. It didn't take that long for me to feel as though my life was no longer in danger, but the rain was persistent. Slowly but surely, more and more of my teammates trickled in and we all waited out the storm and waited to hear what the heck was going to happen with the race. If we had a deck of cards I'm sure we would've utilized them. It was a weird morning.
Finally we heard the verdict: the swim was canceled (duh, there were never even any swim buoys set up) and the bike would be shortened to 17 miles and the run would be the same. Yeah, that's just what I need, make the bike SHORTER but not the run. I knew I was done right there. The new race would start at 9 in time trial fashion, going out by race number. A rather large number of people just picked up their bikes and left. I mean, come on, the hardest part of race morning is waking up early and getting there, you might as well do at least a little bit of what you paid for. It was probably only 7:30 in the morning when that announcement was made, so we had even more time to kill.
Eventually, we made our way back to transition and set up a very modified little transition area and looked at all of the empty rack space from people who had gone home. The funny thing was, by then the sky was clearing, the water was dead calm and nice and warm, and there was no wind at all. Right before the first racers went off, the sun even came out. It was certainly a weird morning. Since the bike was shortened, it now became a contest in simply going as hard as humanly possible. That is not really a gear I possess, but at least I'm a bit better at it on the bike than the run. So one at a time, off we went. I set off about 22 minutes after the first athlete, and learned very quickly that I need to prep my bike for this kind of start and have the right pedal down, how I like to start, instead of up because I got all thrown off and had a spectacularly bad mount.
It was tough in the beginning between the no shoulder road and the cones on the yellow line to pass everyone I needed to pass, but it didn't take long for the road to open up a bit. I started hard enough that when I got to the top of some of the first few hills, I was fairly certain I was going to have to throw up. Fortunately, I kept things down, but I was also a little unsure of how to tackle fueling for this modified effort. I had a couple of gels, but I thought I'd hurl them right back up if I tried to eat them. So on a few downhills I at least tried to drink.
Of course 17 miles goes by awfully fast, and I was mostly just thinking about how sunny and nice it had turned out... and how incredibly humid it was. Sweat was raining off my helmet into my face. Then it was into T2, where I really, really had to pee. Sure, a few weeks ago I raced for almost 14 hours and never had to pee (didn't actually go until about midnight that night) and yet I was 40-something minutes into this race and I had to go. I guess that's what happens when you don't get that last-minute pee in the wetsuit right before the race start.
Anyway, then it was time to hit the run course. For about 10 seconds I wondered if maybe that would finally be the day where I'd finish the run feeling good about myself. I spent the remainder of the time mostly wondering when someone was finally going to pull me aside and break the news that really, enough is enough and I need to move on with my life. Or if I'd get kicked off my team, and thinking about how once upon a time I ran a 1:32 half marathon on that course. Where did that go? Has someone been slipping me performance DE-hancing drugs? Basically, to put it simply, I very quickly gave up. I got passed by old people, fat people, old fat people, fat old people, 16-year old kids who would sprint and then walk up the hills, only to repeat. I'm getting pretty sick of this, and I don't know what to do about it anymore. It doesn't light a fire under me and make me angry and determined, it's essentially just sucking the life out of me.
So it felt like an eternity to get to the turn around, the second-longest 3 miles of my life, next to basically any 3-mile stretch during the St. George marathon. So I ran, sort of, whatever you call the thing I do that is a little faster than walking, and eventually I crossed the finish line. I'm pretty sick of getting asked how my races go and not being able to say anything positive. Um, I didn't crash or throw up? I may have come in ahead of at least a couple of AARP members?
Good news though is that as usual, several of my teammates did well, including two athletes that I coach, one of whom won his age group. So I was very happy about that. The day was long from over though. After more running and watching the maple syrup get handed out, a few of us headed back to Chrissie's parents' house down the road so we could go bike for three hours. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am not a fan of doing more training after the race is over. I was also convinced that we were going to get caught in a thunderstorm and rain again, but thankfully that held off. So Jesse, Cait, Michelle, Pat and I headed off in the humid sun to do a little ride. For some reason Jesse decided we should ride the new Mooseman 70.3 course which included a new hill, 1000' gained in 3 miles. I realize that the race we did wasn't exactly strenuous, especially considering the fact that I didn't even "race" the run, but my legs were not prepared to handle that much sustained climbing. It did, however, make me very, very glad that I was not doing that course in the race the following day.
After some time our little group got further and further apart, Cait and Jesse went off, Pat decided to find the flattest stretch of road possible and ride back and forth for the final hour, and Michelle and I went a little further down the road before turning around to do one final out-and-back to finish out our 3 hours. I was definitely ready for that ride to be over. After getting cleaned up we headed over to the BHOP (Bristol House of Pizza) for a huge team dinner. I was tired and starved out of my mind, which of course meant that my salad and Michelle's were the last items to be delivered to the table, about an hour after we had gotten there and I stared at people eating dinner rolls.
We finally arrived back at the house at about 8 after what was obviously a very, very long day. My own mother, who was at a wedding that day and had looked at the race results online, made fun of my run. So that was my first altered race due to conditions. Of all the races I've ever done, I must say I didn't so much mind that that one was changed. I would've liked to have done the whole thing, but I wasn't annoyed and I understood the decision. I'm glad that they were able to at least give us something to do that day. I'm telling you, that morning it did not look good! It left me wondering a lot about what might happen the next day, when the forecast was pretty similar.
Michelle had gone home so the next day Trent and I were going over to watch the half. This time we did not bother getting there really early, although for some reason I was awake at about 4:30 anyway, even though this time there was no thunderstorm. We didn't leave until after 6 when we parked way down the road and rode our bikes to the park. It wasn't raining on the drive over, but it started raining the minute we parked the cars pretty much.
The moment we pulled into the park we heard the cannon fire and knew the race had started. What good timing. This was the first time I'd be spectating at a half Ironman, and I will say that it was nicer on Mooseman weekend to be spectating AFTER my race instead of before, so I didn't have to worry about being on my feet or eating or drinking enough. Basically, it just rained harder and harder as the day went along. It reminded me an awful lot of Lake Placid in 2008, where it would look like maybe it was going to let up, but then it would just rain harder instead. I saw a ton of people I knew, which was fun of course, and I was convinced that there would be some bike accidents on the steep descent but was glad to learn later that there wasn't.
It was a long wait while the athletes were out biking, and it was very nice to have our QT2 tent to sit under while it just kept raining and raining and raining. It was also a lot colder Sunday than it was on Saturday. Eventually we went over and watched the run out on a trail and had a great vantage point. Again, this just made me think again about how Mooseman and the big, "Ironman" feel just don't go together. I'm telling you, it was just plain weird seeing people like Kate Major and Sam McGlone running our little race. I mean, come on, even I've come in third overall at that race. (I can't believe it either. Again, what the heck happened?)
But, we saw lots of friends, went back to the finish chute to watch people run and slip in the mud and get their foil blankets at the finish and had seen lots and lots of people shivering like crazy as they came off their bikes. It was a pretty epic day, that's for sure. Mooseman is always either cold and rainy or ridiculously hot and sunny, but never something mild and in between. I guess that's just what makes it Mooseman.
Finally, we decided we had had enough sitting around in the rain. You know how everyone has their limit to how long they can hold out and be a real trooper? Yeah, you can stand around in wet clothes and pruned fingers and toes for a while and ignore the weather and stick it out for a while, but eventually, you come to the realization that you've been standing around in the rain for what feels like two days straight and you've finally had enough. I felt bad, knowing that the day could've been a lot more pleasant if the weather was nicer, but enough was enough. So I rode my bike in my flip flops through the rain and the mud trail from the cars leaving the muddy field parking lot and left Bristol for the last time.
So Mooseman has come and gone once again. It has been the sight of several great season kick-offs for me, including the first time I broke 5 hours in a half, the first time I ever came in top 3 overall, my half IM PR and my half marathon PR... although admittedly it's pretty universally accepted that the course is short, but I'll take it. Also, last year it was the first race where I felt like I was really, really getting close to being "back." None of those things happened this time around, although it was admittedly less demoralizing than 2008 when it was my first triathlon back after injury and excessive weight gain and it was 90 degrees out and I had my worst half ironman finish in years and years (a few months later I went nearly an hour worse at Timberman, so I'm getting really good at doing really bad) But I did get to see a lot of other people have great races, so that was nice.
Why are you still reading this? I just went on for like 3 hours for a ridiculous non-triathlon and a lot of whining about standing around in rain and thunderstorms.
PS: It didn't rain at all today.