Have you ever got an idea in your head of
something you want to do and the more you wrap your brain around
it the more you are just dying to do it? It's almost like
intoxication in the fact that you will do anything to make to
make the dream come true and you don't know what you will do if
it doesn't. For me that dream is Ironman. Every stroke in the
pool, every revolution of the wheel on the bike and every foot
strike on the pavement running brings me closer to chasing down
that dream. The TriAmerica Louisiana triathlon would be another
rung on the ladder in my quest for Iron. This is my account of
The course was on the northshore of Lake
Pontchartrain in Mandeville, LA and it would be my first
'almost-a-half-Ironman" triathlon and my longest course distance
to date of my triathlon career. The distances were 1.24 miles
swimming, 38 miles biking and 9.3 miles running. I would finish
dead last at TriAmerica Louisiana. Yes, you read that correctly,
I finished DEAD ASS LAST! And I would finish missing one
sock. (more on the one sock thing later) The most important
thing is that I FINISHED. The difficulty of this race for me
ranked right up there with the Mardi Gras Marathon.
I awoke Sunday morning to my phone ringing at
4:00AM. Beth was calling me to tell me she and the kids were on
their way to my house from Zachary. My gear was packed and I was
ready to go. I had my wetsuit in my gear bag even though I found
out the night before that the water was above 79 degrees.
Wetsuits aren't allowed if the water gets over 79. Not really
that big of a deal. I don't train in a wetsuit and although it
does help me float it also slows me down considerably. Mine fits
me really tight and restricts my breathing a bit. I was
'concerned' about the swim and the distance but I comforted
myself knowing that I've trained really hard for this race.
Lot's of friends and family wished me luck before the race but
luck really wouldn't be playing a factor on Sunday. Finishing
the race will take heart and determination. Heh. If I only knew
WHAT it was gonna take to finish. The funny thing is I wrote
something similar on the Obesity Help message board about Heart
and Determination at 4:15 Sunday morning before we left for
Mandeville as I was waiting for Beth to arrive at my house.
Little did I know how much heart and determination it was going
to take to finish the race.
We arrived at Fontainebleau State Park in
Mandeville just after 6AM. The sun was just starting to peek
over the horizon as we parked and unloaded my bike and gear. As
we were unloading I saw Pat, Hunter, Neal,
Don, Sean and a few
other BRTri guys that I hadn't met yet wheeling their bikes and
gear over to the registration pavilion. BRTri looked like it was
going to have a strong showing at TriAmerica. Heh, a FIRST
(Sean) and a LAST place finisher! (me) BRTri was all over the
map as far as finishers go and most of the guys finished up
front with the exception of me.
quickly went through registration and body marking and then
headed to the transition area to setup everything. After seeing
a few others in previous races bring plastic 5-gallon buckets
into transition I brought my own bucket for this race to have a
'stool' to sit on during my transitions from the swim to the
bike and the bike to the run. As usual I had plenty of overage
equipment in my bloated "Diva" transition station. I've had
limited success with Accelerade during my training for nutrient
supplementation so I diluted 50% water 50% Accelerade in my
bike's water bottles. It has a 4 to 1 carbohydrate to protein
ratio and didn't have as much sugar as some of the other sports
drinks. I also had some Endurolyte tabs and a bundle of toilet
paper (which I desperately hoping I wouldn't have to use) packed
up in one of the pockets of my race belt. I knew it was going be
blazingly hot and I sweat like a pig so I was hoping that the
Endurolyte tabs would do the trick to prevent cramping since I
wouldn't be able to drink much, if any Gatorade on the run
course. After a quick check of all my gear I slipped on my tri
suit, grabbed Beth and kids and we headed to the beach for the
me first say that Fontainebleau State Park is really nice as far
as state parks go. I was impressed with the cleanliness. Even
the beach was clean and nothing like what I would have expected
for a Louisiana beach. Lake Pontchartrain on the other hand...
Sigh... Lake Pontchartrain was a sickly greenish brown and the
water had a weird odor to it as well. As I gazed across the
water, debating that they must have made a mistake placing the
buoys because they were too far out, I could see some 'stuff'
floating on top of the water around 20 yards out. That 'stuff'
turned out to be a ridiculous amount of green filamentous algae
that was growing in the water for the first 200 or so yards
towards the first set of buoys and the deeper water. Now this
algae isn't what I would typically think algae would look or
feel like for that matter. If you could imagine a shag carpet
where each of the fibers were 3 feet long then that would
accurately describe what this algae looked like. My mom and Beth
warned me about the algae growth in the lake they had seen on a
news report but I figured how bad could it actually be? Well it
was bad, nasty and disgusting.
the national anthem and a few introductions the countdown to the
race began. The 'deep water' start was actually a thigh level
start. It looked like we would have to wade out from the start
buoy to the deeper water. The race director shouted go and
everyone started their run / wade to the deeper water. Wading
through the thick algae feeling things bumping my legs was
making me a little anxious to get to the deeper water. I saw one
of the guys in the front doing the dolphin dive into the water
to cover a little more distance than the wading. I thought that
would be a good idea so I tried it too. I
dove into the water and
came back up a moment later hacking and coughing with the algae
covering my bald head like a flowing mane of long, bright green
dreadlocks. I wouldn't try that again as I waded the rest of the
way until the water was deep enough to start swimming. The algae
thinned out but was still there as I made it to the first buoy.
I grabbed hold of the buoy and pulled the green mess from my
goggles, my watch and my road ID and started on my way to the
next buoy. I wasn't tired in the least bit and did freestyle the
majority of the swim only switching to breaststroke to navigate.
At one point during the first lap one of the kayaks had to
direct me back in the right direction because I was going the
wrong way. My goggles were fogging up really bad and filling
with water which made it very difficult to navigate. I got
turned around and was heading back to the buoy I had just
passed. He came over to me and allowed me to grab on to the
kayak for a second while I cleared my goggles. He also gave me a
tip of putting the front of the swim cap over the top of the
goggles to improve the seal. That was a great tip because I
didn't have any problems with water inside the goggles for the
rest of the swim course. As I made my way back from the last
deep water buoy I encountered the green stuff again. I started
to panic when the crap got so thick it hindered my stroke by
grabbing my arms and legs pulling me down. It was so thick that
I was unable to even tread water and for a fleeting moment I
thought I was a goner. I finally was able to work my way through
the mess and touch the nasty,
bottom of the lake. I waded back through the algae beds to the
start of the second loop when the short course was about to
start. No sooner than I reached the start buoy the race director
started the short course. I was way behind and had some ground
to catch up. Some of the faster swimmers were exiting the water
to run to T1 as I started my second loop. Much like the first
loop wading through the water towards the first buoy sucked. I
chuckled as I watched a few guys attempt the dolphin dive only
to come up wearing a cool mane of long algae braids. I could
have sworn that something large poked me on the way to the deep
water during the second lap. I was just hoping it wasn't a gar
or even worse a small shark that I've heard sometimes travel to
the lake. The rest of the swim was pretty easy. My goggles
didn't fog up nearly as much and I had less problems navigation.
The buoys actually seemed to come quicker. I rolled on my back
and stayed as close to the top of the water when I hit the algae
patch on the way back in to the swim finish and that seemed to
do the trick. I didn't struggle with it nearly as much as the
first time other than finding out what green, filamentous algae
tastes like. I'll just say it doesn't taste like chicken. I can
honestly say that with the exception of my bout with the algae
on the way back to the start of lap two I never once really
panicked. I trotted up the beach saying hi to Beth and the kids
on the way to T1. Just as I turned the corner to go into T1 I
saw Philippe and Chris Boggs shouting and cheering for me.
I remember Philippe shouting "Go get 'em
Chad. Now you get to go catch them all on the bike!"
That was partially true because I did pass a
bunch of people but most of the people I passed were on the
got into transition and pulled on my BRTri hot pantz, my Team
464 jersey and slipped on my bike shoes. I snapped my race belt,
grabbed my bike and headed for the mount point. A large portion
of the bike course was on the Tammany Trace which is an old
railroad track that was converted to a bike / running / walking
path. A nice canopy of trees blocked out most of the sun which
was a good thing since the temperature was rapidly approaching
90+ degrees. The miles blurred by as I came to the turn where I
headed right for the long course and the short course guys
turned left to head back to the park and T2. After another 5
miles I was beginning to think that I made a wrong turn because
I hadn't seen another biker or a race
volunteer or even another car
for quite some time. I didn't remember seeing any signs that
said to turn so I reluctantly remained on course. After around
another 10 minutes I finally saw the lead biker heading the
opposite direction. That was good and bad because I knew that I
had a long way to go on this road before I hit the turnaround. I
finally saw another biker WAAAAAY off in the distance in front
of me and made myself a quick goal to catch him before the
turnaround. I increased my pedal cadence and caught him with
only a few hundred yards to spare. I was what I would assume 25
miles into the bike when I really started to feel a bit of
exhaustion. The sun was out in full force and the temperature
was well over 90. I popped a couple of Endurolyte tabs with some
water and hoped they would be able to keep me steady for the
run. The last major portion of the bike was on the trace again.
I passed another four long course bikers on the way back to the
park and knew that I was at least a couple miles ahead of the
last bike. That should be enough time to keep somewhat of a lead
for the run and not finish last right?
unclipped, entered T2 and wheeled my bike to my area as I took
off my helmet and gloves. I took one last swig of my Accelerade
/ water concoction and quickly changed from my bike to running
shoes. Let me just say at this point it was friggin' HOT. The
majority of my training is early in the morning or late in the
afternoon during relatively cool weather. Don't get me wrong,
I've definitely run in the heat before but I've never looked
down 10 miles on the pavement after swimming over a mile and
biking just under 40. I knew when I left T2 and jogged out onto
the run course that I was going to have to dig deep to finish
Beth, Garet and Dylan were all at the exit of
T2 cheering me on. Within another 200 yards or so I passed
Chris, Philippe and all the BRTri guys that finished the short
course. They were all cheering and encouraging me on as I gave
them a quick thumbs up and headed out for my run. The first part
of the run meandered around a tree covered street and then
skirted through the campgrounds. The aid stations were spaced
apart at approximately each mile marker. I got to the first aid
station and dumped a couple of glasses of water over my head and
drank a little Gatorade and a glass of water before shuffling
back onto the course. While in the campground area there were
plenty of public bathrooms to be found. I guess it's my luck
that my first twinges of intestinal discomfort hit me at around
mile two when the course turned onto the part of the course that
was wooded on both sides with no bathrooms to speak of. My
internal emergency alarm went off and I knew that I was 30
seconds from disaster. I can't imagine what the pack of people
behind me thought when I abruptly made a 90 degree turn and ran
into the woods. My arms and legs were all scratched up by the
thorns and bushes as I desperately searched for 'the tree'. I
loaded up my race belt with enough toilet paper for a couple of
emergencies. Surely I wouldn't have 3 gastric distress episodes
would I? Well... Remember when I mentioned that I finished the
race with only 1 sock. I unfortunately
had a third
emergency on the first loop. I had no choice but to sacrifice my
poor sock for the third emergency. Each episode left me a little
less hydrated as well and I was starting to cramp all over. I
was having to stop every 300 yards or so to rub and stretch my
calves similar to what I had to do during the last 6 miles of
the Mardi Gras Marathon. It was so damn hot, I was slowly
becoming dehydrated and at this point I just knew that there was
no way that I would be able to do the second 5 miles. It's funny
how your mind can rationalize things when your body is in pain.
My mind was doing EVERYTHING it could to rationalize quitting.
It all made sense.
"Chad it's time to stop. There is no way you
can go another 5 miles. It's time to pack it in and call it a
day. Hey, you saw a snowball stand on the bike course. You can
go get a snowball! You came this far. That's good enough. You
don't have to finish," my mind was telling me.
I approached the turn towards the finish line
where a few of the race volunteers were directing traffic and
asked them, "How do I quit. I don't think I can do the second
One of the volunteers that was taking
pictures of the event told me, "You just need to pull off your
timing chip and hand it to a race volunteer at the finish
line... But DON'T cross the finish line."
mind was right. I was dehydrating and it was time to call it a
day. As I trotted around the corner, missing one sock and tears
in my eyes I saw Beth and the kids. I told her my predicament
and that I wasn't going to do the second lap and finish the
race. I told her I was quitting.
"You sure?" she asked.
"Yeah, I'm done." I said, choking back the
tears as I pointed towards my sockless, bare foot in my shoe.
"Oh no!" she said, knowing what that meant.
I was running towards the lap 2 start and the
finish line when I saw Will, my triathlon coach.
"You OK?" Will asked.
"Not really. I don't think I can do the
second lap. I hate to do it but how do I quit, do I just give
you my timing chip?" I said.
Will looked at me and offered me the EXACT
bit of advice I needed for that moment.
"Chad you don't have anything to prove to
anyone," he said.
That did it. That was the moment of clarity I
needed. The rational, albeit somewhat denser part of my brain
took over and told me over and over again that "YOU AIN'T NO
QUITTER! FINISH WHAT YOU STARTED!"
I WILL finish the race... even if I finish
last. I passed the volunteers and the guy taking pictures that
told me not to cross the finish line if I was going to quit on
the way back out to the second lap. They all clapped and cheered
me on when they saw that I wasn't gonna quit.
So, I went back out on the second lap of the
course to finish the last 4.7 miles. I wish I could say the
miles were easy. Maybe that I ran the entire way and didn't have
to experience any more gastric distress. Unfortunately that
wasn't the case. The second half of the run course sucked
elephant sized, huge, golden monkey ballz! It ranks right up
there with the last 6 miles of the marathon. I was determined to
finish and there was nothing that was going to stop me.
I apparently stepped on some briars when I
de-shoed to remove my sock during the first course lap and the
thorn was digging into my heel. I stopped to pull it out but the
damage was already done. My toes were also rubbing against the
mesh on my sockless foot creating nasty blisters on two of my
toes. Similar to the last time the gastric distress didn't hit
me until there were no public facilities available. I wasn't
about to sacrifice my other sock so I prepared by loading up my
race belt with a huge ball of toilet paper from one of the
facilities in the campground area.
As I exited the woods for the 5th time I saw
Will ahead of me on his bike.
"How did you get behind me?" he asked.
I shook my head and mustered everything I
could to smile and said, "Gastric distress man. Gastric
was a guy that was around a half mile ahead of me. He had passed
the turnaround and was headed to the finish when we passed each
other. He was walking and even though I was running a few
hundred yards then walking double that there was no way I was
going to catch him. The aid stations were still up but the
volunteers were long gone. I guess they went back to the finish
line. I stopped at each aid station and filled up a cup with
water while dumping it on my head to cool off. The relief was
short lived as the temperatures and humidity were just downright
I started running again within a half mile of
the finish and intended to finish the race at a run. When I was
around 300 yards from the finish line Will came out and ran
alongside of me to the finishing chute. He patted me on the back
and told me "Good job" as I started down the chute to the finish
line. I was the last finisher. I was missing one sock. I
Pwnage of the TriAmerica Louisiana triathlon
will have to come another day. It surely GOT ME but it didn't
get the BEST OF ME. Finishing last was a humbling experience. It
tells me that I have a long, hard road of training to Iron. It
was one step closer though and one step closer that I will
remember for the rest of my life.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed
reading my experience of the TriAmerica Louisiana Triathlon as
much as I enjoyed writing (and living) it.
Best of luck on YOUR life journey!
May you reach all your goals and achieve all your dreams!