The Re-Bucket List

 

Back in 2008, I decided to cross off a some of my bucket list items.  First, I wanted to run a marathon.  Secondly, I wanted to do an Ironman.  And so I did.

My first marathon was along the Atlantic shore here in Jacksonville as part of the “26.2 with Donna – the National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer”.  That particular race (which still runs every February) was a fantastic initial marathon.  Pancake flat.  A couple of miles on the beach.  Great crowd support.  Amazing women and men who had beat (or were in the process of beating) breast cancer.  My finishing time was not great (and really isn’t important)…but I was successful in crossing that item off my list.  Incidentally, back in 2010, I did a “Ten Questions With…” interview with Donna Deegan – the founder of the race.  Click HERE to read that interview.

JPS

On the run course at IMFL in 2009

Following that marathon experience, I signed up to race Ironman Kentucky, in Louisville.  I was severely underprepared for that race.  I tried to train without a real plan.  I didn’t think that the hills would be all that rough.  I didn’t devote as much time as I should have to training.  As a result, the race was a disaster!

I got into the swim expecting to have some downstream current.  There wasn’t any.  I sort of freaked out mid-swim and ended up having to do some backstroke and breaststroke.  I finished the swim in close to 1:40 and then headed out on the bike.  So….in case you were wondering….Louisville is NOT FLAT.  I was seemingly going up or down the entire time.  I tried to take my time and pace myself, but by the end of the bike, I was completely gassed.  I started out on the run and very quickly determined that that leg of the race would be a combination of running and walking.  By the time I got through 13 miles, it was more walking than anything.  I made it through 18 miles and got pulled off the course.

Upon returning to the transition area – completely devastated about my performance – I called home to speak with my wife.  Believe it or not, she had already signed me up for Ironman Florida – in just about six weeks’ time!  She really wanted me to cross off that bucket list item!

And so, in November 2009, I toed the line in Panama City Beach for IMFL.  The swim was much better than in Louisville – even despite the Gulf being seriously choppy.  The bike was great – much more along the lines of what I was accustomed to.  I did a modified Galloway approach on the run – running 3 or 5 minutes and then walking 1.  And best of all, I finished!  The time was not great (15 hours and change), but…..I FINISHED!

Cross that baby off the list!

Except that baby is back on my list again.

See, for the last couple of years, I’ve been thinking about doing an iron distance race again.  Sometimes when I’m in a rough spot on a run, I call up a mental picture of crossing the finish line at IMFL or remember that feeling of accomplishment.  But, I’ve held off on actually doing another race.

Things started to get serious last year – my friend and I were talking about doing a full.  It was on his bucket list, after all.  Plus, he wanted to do one before he turned 50, and time was running out.

We had our eyes set on doing Beach to Battleship in November 2016.  This Wilmington, NC, race had developed a fantastic reputation for being a super-high quality independent iron distance race.  The price point was much lower than Ironman, the swim was current aided (and crazy fast), and the rest of the terrain was similar to northeast Florida.  Plus, the November timing was perfect.

And then, B2B decided to sell out to Ironman.  While I certainly am open to racing an Ironman event, to me it was difficult to reconcile spending $300 or so more on race entry fees for substantially the same race – just because of a name change.

Enter Rev3 Triathlon and their race at Cedar Point!

Cedar Point

See, I’ve been on the Rev3 age group team for a bunch of years, but have never raced at Cedar Point.  Honestly, I’m not sure why – other than the fact that Sandusky, OH, is about 17 weeks away by car and not super-easy to fly to, either.  I do love roller coasters, though, and by all accounts the course is quite similar to what I’m used to.

So….Rev3 Cedar Point is now on my 2016 bucket list!  The race is September 11th this year, and I’ll be ready to race.

And this time, it’s not just about completing the distance and crossing off a bucket list item.  This time, instead of “Complete an Ironman”, the bucket list item is “Race Rev3 Cedar Point”.  There’s a real, tangible difference there.

 

A Triathlon Marriage Made in Heaven

Rev3-th

About a week ago, Rev 3 Triathlon and Challenge Family Triathlon announced that they would merge and create an even stronger North American race series than the two could have created independently.

Social media exploded.

In fact, I think the news might have broken the internet.

OK – perhaps that didn’t happen, but there was an overwhelming response to the announcement.  Across the board, people were excited, hopeful for great things, and appreciative.  And those were just the M-Dot clones.  The die-hard Rev3 fans shared some bitter-sweetness regarding the loss of the Rev3 brand, but really excited about the merger and the potential the merger brings to the long course triathlon scene.

What do I think?

Honestly, I’m pretty stoked about this.  Now, I’ve never done a Challenge race before.  While they have put on races here in North America (notably Atlantic City, Rancho Cordova, CA, and more), historically, Challenge has been concentrated internationally.  They are super well known for a bunch of races – perhaps best known for their race in Roth, Germany.  Everything I’ve heard about Challenge is that their approach to triathlon and Rev3’s approach to triathlon are highly aligned.

We are Triathlon!” is Challenge’s tag line.  When you read their website, it’s really evident that the “we” in their tag line is not just the company.  It’s the athletes.  The families.  The spectators.  The vendors.  The volunteers.  Everyone associated with a race.

What an awesome concept – and how true.  We as triathletes aren’t the only ones involved in this sport.  Our spouses support us.  Our kids put up with us talking incessantly about training.  Heck, even our pets train with us some.

Challenge brings the term “family friendly” to home, because, well….they ARE a family.  Literally.  The company is family owned (not some huge private equity firm).  And while I know that a company’s core values are often just words on a page, I’m really impressed with some of Challenge’s core values:

  • Authentic
  • Excitement
  • Connected to athletes and partners
  • Relationships
  • Passion

These aren’t all of their core values.  Certainly their other values are no less important, but what stands out to me is that each of the above values is so focused on celebrating our sport, the athletes, and the hard work that each of us puts in.

get these values.  More than that, these are the values that I want from a race company.

So am I excited about this merger?  Heck yes, I am.  It seems to me that Challenge and Rev3 are a perfect match for each other.  100% compatible.  It’s like they were destined to find each other.

Sure seems like this new merger is a match made in Heaven!

A Wanna-Be Hill Slayer

Hills.  I have a love-hate relationship with hills.

Hills are pretty to look at.  They are fun to hike on.  I enjoy riding my bike down them.  I do have, on the other hand, issues with riding my bike up them.

See, I live in a part of our country that is essentially as flat as your bathtub.  The only hills in Northeast Florida are the man-made varieties that traverse interstate highways, rivers and such.  To be painfully obvious, the only hills that I see with any amount of regularity are bridges.

Throughout the tenure of my hobby in triathlon, hills have been a constant thorn in my side.  I’ve had some of my worst race performances on hilly tracts.  I’ve suffered the most on hilly courses.  The really sad reality?  The races that I call hilly don’t even register a blip on the register of hilly courses like Rev3’s Quassy.

Well, I’ve saddled up to take on a hilly race again.  And frankly, I’m SUPER excited about it!

My “A-race” for the year is the Half Rev at Rev3 South Carolina, which will be held on October 12th in beautiful Anderson, SC.

Anderson sits in what South Carolinians call the “Upstate” – a portion of the state that is probably technically considered the Piedmont – or maybe the fringe of the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.  From my flat-landed perspective, however, I’d call Anderson the edge of the Himalayas.  The terrain is rolling, the landscape is beautiful, and in October, the temperatures will be divine.

I’m tremendously excited about returning to Anderson this year.  This race venue is where in 2012 I earned my personal best finish in a 70.3 distance event, and I’m eager to go out and improve upon that time.  I love the idea of pushing myself to my limit and beyond both training for and then racing upon the hills.  I’m super excited to visit an area of the country that I love.

>Rev3 Knoxville Race Report

Me recovering after climbing a hill on the Rev3 Knoxville course in 2012

But first, I must prepare.  I’ll ride countless numbers of bridge repeats this summer to try to approximate what it will be like to climb.  I’ll push harder gears on flats than I might otherwise so I can get a sense of the lingering burn I know I’ll encounter.  I’ll do the almost unthinkable and put my bike on a trainer and jack my front wheel up on a bunch of books some this summer so that I can feel what it’s like to have gravity pull on my backside some.

I will be ready for the hills.  I’ll turn my love-hate relationship into a love-love relationship this summer.  I vow to enjoy climbing as much as I enjoy descending.  The Half Rev at Rev3 South Carolina is calling me.  The hills are whispering my name, urging me to come and ride.

I’ll be there.  Will you?  Come join me and let’s go slay some hills.

Front of Pack to Back of Pack Comparison

Last week, I read a really fantastic blog post by former Team Rev3 member Heather Gannoe about an experience she had at a recent running race where she observed first-hand for the first time what a back-of-the-pack racer experiences.  It’s a real eye-opener post – and depicts an environment that a whole lot of us athletes never get to experience.  Heather’s post is a must-read.  Take a few moments to read the comments as well, as they are really remarkable.  You can find Heather’s post (HERE).

Reading Heather’s post reminded me of a blog I wrote a couple of years ago after racing Rev3’s South Carolina race.

I was coming off a really good performance (for me).  In fact, I earned a really significant personal best at the race – and felt really stoked about how I did at the race.  Honestly, I was no where near the pointy end of the race, but I wasn’t the last place finisher either.  Clearly, I was a back of the mid-pack runner.  I wanted to compare my race with that of the professionals who actually won the race that year.

The results blew me away (honestly, so did the pros)!  Ever wonder just how fast a professional triathlete is?  Click (HERE) for my article and a pretty snazzy (if I say so myself) graphical representation of just how slow I was …. er…. just how fast they were!