Wednesday, March 12, 2008

the hardest race on earth

I arose this morning with a foreboding sense of dread, that could only be overcome by 50+ oz of coffee and a level of sarcasm I usually only unleash on non leap years. I had been a gametime decision due to "family matters", but at 5 last night i started scrounging the town for a road bike to participate in what has been touted as the hardest race.....ever. I have a new name for it, but I will save it to the end. I was to race the B race but after dealing with a rather large pile of fam bullsh*t, I said screw it, I am riding my tri bike and I'll just ride the GRAND FONDUE (which is a misnomer, because i didn't see any seventies swingers or fondue pots at the pre race checkin). I finally said f**k it and packed my sh*t, cussed Mitchell for his scheduling this during the daylight savings time switch and fell fast asleep at 10 or so.
I woke up early to cook up the above mentioned coffee elixir, threw my sh*t in the car and drove over to Mrs. Susan's, the only one who would have me. We packed it up and hit the road. I had no nutritional plan so I spent the morning eating granola bars and some crappy ass pop tart sticks that my kids won't even eat. We stopped and got more coffee and more pop tarts and headed north. I had planned on wearing arm warmers and gloves for the race, but due to the gods it was a balmy 32 inside the mothership. I was balls to toes in lycra and none to happy. Arrival in St. Franny was uneventful.
I hop out and start checking out the scene on my way to the check in. I had officially entered into the HARDEST RACE CHECKIN ON EARTH. I wasn't too hard and I still thought I may have legs for the race. Nice pint glass, and the promise of MSG soaked chicken at the time of my liking and I was out the door. Mitch, one change for next year. I will up my entry to $50 if there are a couple of sh*tters available. Tried to squeeze one out and ran to the starting line unsatisfied with my "pre race routine". I looked like a Nashbar sale threw up on me as every cold weather item i have is held together with safety pins or is bright ass green due to my nighttime riding habits. I didn't catch too much grief and headed to the line in high spirits. Mitch dropped a "Hey you douchebags riding aerobars, stay out the mix," and after 3 (12)minutes we were off.
stay tuned, my kid is denting the door with a yoyo.
I turned onto HWY 61, careful not to mix it up with the dreaded B race. I sat at the back next to the tandem and triple and enjoyed the first mile of the race. First bottle launches 800 yards in, and is gone. Nice. We roll up to 66 and take a left on our way up to sligo. this is the only part of the course i have ever ridden before. There was a little pickup of speed and we moved along. We kept going till Irondale and took a left. I was still chillin out in back with no intention get in the mix, lest i get disqualified from a race that doesn't count. Where in the f**k did this mountain come from. I have never been down Irondale. It wasn't so bad, i just think we must have been close to the top of the 3rd or 4th highest peak in the nation. Somewhere around this time, I look up and John Fell is standing there with a pedal in his hand. I stop and give him a multitool and away goes the B group. I whiz and wait and we are off. ATTENTION B group, i was just about to head up there and mix it up, and possibly win, so you can thank John for saving you from my wrath. We decide at this time to just ride it in (84 more miles to go!). I had no clue where we were so we just followed the well marked course. We pushed, some drafted some ( i learned this is not only legal, but encouraged!!). We pass the first gravel section with no incident. Again, we just roll through mile after mile. We stop after first gravel and I lose 20 lbs of gear. Man am i flying now. We keep catching folks, and hope that they will join us in our quest to mix it up in the B group, but it appears no one wants to team up with COW (crackas on wheels). We catch some poor kid, whose dad or someone he knows is on a motorcycle and he is checkin in on him for about 6 easy wind blocking miles. I figure if i am drafting i am getting behind a deer if it is running up the road. the kid blows up and we turn up a gravel road. it is um steep. (NOTE TO TRIATHLETES: tri bikes ain't so hot for gravel descents..) i get off walk a bit, (SECOND NOTE TO TRIATHLETES-the proper gearing for this race is unknown. What is known is that the incorrect gearing is on my bike.) I slide sideways on the downhills and practically fill the above mentioned lycra with poo. I get through it an think "pff,This is a cakewalk." I stop and get water and accelerade as the COW support team is making sure we got what we need, and a couple miles down the road, i catch up with Mr. Fell. We again, just ride on down the road. we get a group going and then take a left. hmm this is um kind of steep too. we have hit the tunica rd. This mofo is bad ass. I get 2/3 of the way up and walk a little (a lot). Get back on and only have to walk about 25 yards the rest of the way. I pop out and begin my pursuit of head domestique and current leader of the COW franchise, John Fell. He doesn't even wait for me. I am wondering at this point , shouldnt this be about done? the last 20 miles or so hurt a little, but the day has been a blast. I cross the finish line and they immediately announce over the loudspeaker, that the king of the aerobar division has now finished. i think i also won the grand fondue (the race no one was trying to win). I wouldn't know, because Mitchell did not present me with a 70's era fondue pot (i will buy my own and dontate next year if i don't crush the non tryers again!). I sit down and immediately think, i need to walk this off. I walk it off and get ready for the 2 mi ride home (insult to injury).
1. All sh*ttin aside this is a must do race. I commend Mitchell and Darius and all the help for doing a great job.
2. Thanks for Llew, Jeremy, Edge, Rome (who had to have sh*t his pants) Will, SS, Steve, and many others. They were a welcome sight.
3. I can settle this once and for all, Rouge Roubaix is not harder than IM (even though i have never done an IM). It was a great ride (you can't call what i did racing), so i guess I'll never know for sure.

This ride should take after a new race next year and call itself The Heck of the Felicianas.

Thanks Mitchell,

PS that dude pulling down the finish line was classic. I thought mitch was going to rip off his scrote.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

July 4th

Hey everyone,
I can't believe it has been three months since I have posted. I apologize, but to be honest although I have been extremely busy not a ton of interesting stuff has happened. Well a little.
I took 8 weeks for my shoulders to heal completely. Amazingly, I have no pain at all and have been getting in the pool a little. I am slow and out of shape, but it will come. I began riding my bike and running quite a bit after the swim so I didn't lose too much aerobic base that I had built up over the swim months. I have been training for a handful of sprint tri's and will do a half IM in October. I began working with an old friend and coach, Terry Butts, recently. I will see the improvements quickly as he pushes me a ton. I actually like it though. I do not enjoy just doing workouts without goals and if possible i like to use a coach or set program. As I have said before I am coachable and will just about anything that a coach tells me, as long as I belive in the coach.
In May we had a get together with most of the Team at a friend of mine's house. Very nice to see everyone and hang out and talk about the swim a little. My mom made me a really nice scrapbook and framed a news article for me. I enjoyed it a lot. It is funny how on event can draw people so close together and then everyone goes back to there lives the next day. It is kind of a a surreal feeling. I have gotten to train with a few of the "boat people" and one in particular, Jeff Beck, has become a good friend and is getting more involved with Rocketkidz.
FRESH has completely blown up! It has been great. Business is basically double what it was as rocket. Funny how that works. I am planning another store sometime in the next year. The search for the right location has been trying as it truly is all about LOCATION.
Jeff Beck is going to help me get the Rocketkidz Foundation to the next level. I have decided to wait till later this year to do any events on the coast, camps or otherwise, as I do not want to just throw something together. In addition, Jeff and I are looking at many ideas for camps, events, and field days. We are excited and are working towards making this thing pretty big.
Jeanne is training for the second rocketchix tri and my kids are growing like weeds. will keep you posted as things progress and I start racing again. There has been a litttle bit of talk about the English Channel as my next big challenge. YOu have to plan 2-3 years out to get an optimum swimming slot with good tides and water temps. Amazing.

have agreat fourth!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

now what?

the last couple fo weeks have been a whirlwind. reality comes hard and fast. after i rested sunday, i was back to work on monday the 2nd. I spent 2-3 days blogging. i don't feel like i even broke the surface of what this swim was and is to me. i just usually tell people it was awesome. many people who are not athletic just kind of look at me like it is crazy (or i'm crazy). money is still coming in and i am begining to contemplate what is next. i have run a few times and look forward to getting on my bike soon. i will swim for the first time on friday morning. i quit taking celebrex on last monday and have had some pain and creaks since. i wil take it easy for another few days and will contemplate the next move.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Cool Press Coverage

For me this is very cool. Inside Triathlon picked up the stroy and put it on their website.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Satelite Swim Route

This is the swim route from g-map pedometer. It is 31.8 miles, but is straigh lines. I didn't swim straigh much as the boat gps had 34.1 miles. I will try and manipulate this to show different points i spoke about in my story. The 16 mile point is Gulfport Harbor. The Penthouse apartment pier is between the 23 and 24 mile points. The Pass harbor is at the 27 mile point. You can click and drag the map to see different points. To zoom in you need to type in gulfport, ms or another town and then change the zoom level on the right.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Finish Pictures

Cut and paste this link to view pictures of the finish.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007


After the immediate finish there was a sense of elation on the beach that I can’t describe. The best way I can is to imagine the greatest accomplishment of your life, and then imagine that 50 people or so feel the exact same way as you do and are with you to enjoy it. I hugged my team; my family again, shook hands, cried and sat down on the ice chest. Joey and Brother Ronald from St. Stanislaus helped me take off my wetsuit top. Ed and Brady slapped a bag of ice on either shoulder. Besides being a little tired, I felt fine. This was an aerobic effort for me as my heart rate rarely got over 100. I looked at my HRM after and it said my avg for the swim was 74. At one point I stopped and rested on my back and the team asked me where my HR was and it was 34. I am unsure if it tweaked a little bit, but it made sense. I was rolling with the waves trying not to fight it all night. The only thing that makes me think it went a little haywire is that it said I peaked at 232. This is impossible for me as the maximum HR I have ever reached is 178. We took time, reveling in the beautiful day, and the sense of togetherness and relief was awesome. A group from Baton Rouge came over, Ann, Marie, and maybe someone I didn’t see. If so sorry. Friends from my childhood, Martha and Tommy Letard, Missy Alllen and others were there. W, Joie and SJ, I will not list them all, but you get the point. Tom Atkinson, one of the original kayakers was there to shake my hand. I had worried about he and Abe through the night. Brother Ronald and a group of students from St. Stanislaus who had walked down to the beach were there too. Various residents who stopped as they drove by and wondered what was going on this early on a Saturday morning also stopped. We got our stuff together and headed up the street to the home of the Letards, who so graciously offered it for our team to clean up and grab a bite to eat. I ate two bites of a muffin and had a cup of coffee. I wasn’t hungry. Must have been too much salt water. After the rush of adrenaline we all felt after the swim, everyone was starting to decompress and the underlying exhaustion was coming out. I got some first aid on my foot, could have had stitches, but after soaking in the water for 8 hours it was fine…I guess. I got a tetanus shot yesterday to be sure. We rode home and I took a 3-hour nap. Woke up ate some pizza and went to bed early. Shoulders were sore, but nothing permanent. I will be fine sometime this week.

I keep reading and re-reading this to see what I am leaving out. I am leaving out a ton. When I read it the swim sounds surreal. When I add in that I did it in the dark it sounds even more surreal, and when I add in the fact that the only thing that could have made it worse weather-wise was rain, or another hurricane, I laugh. You are making this up. While I was out there, I didn’t think it was any big deal. I know now that it was to others, but to me, it was what I had set out to do. I was completely surprised and unprepared due to the conditions, but I somehow didn’t think that much about it. I was too busy swimming to worry about it. I was more concerned about the Team and how miserable they must be. I was talking to my wife last night and told her that besides the points around Gulfport harbor, I never felt like it was dangerous. I had a great Team and I felt physically I could complete the swim. The reality is that it was probably two parts dangerous, one part stupid and one part what we planned to do. I never discussed the opportunity for bad weather, or what we would do if we thought it was too bad to start. We did not have a second swim date set up. I thought five or six hours in that we might need to stop for the safety of the crew, and then thought to myself, “What are you going to do? Swim to the beach, wait for better weather and start over tomorrow?” Screw it, go until they say they can’t go or you can’t go. The Team never once said they wanted to stop or that the weather was bad enough to stop the swim. They simply flashed lights and said, “Go left. Go right. How you feel?” We never had an exit strategy, which is probably good. The only exit was Bay St. Louis. This was not the safest plan, but a plan that worked. I am leaving out a ton I know, but it feels like I could write forever and never get it all in. Some have said I need to write a book. I might.

I want to add a few more things from the night. They are more like things I thought and things I saw. They are going to be in a kind of free form as they come to mind. They may bore you, but I feel like I need to get them out. My Team may say otherwise but these are some things I remember.

Every time I was to eat Joey would point a light at me and yell, “Dinnertime!” I always thought, “Its too late for dinner.”

Shelly would ask me “How you doing?” I think I said, “Fine,” every single time or “I’m alright.” Even though I probably looked like crap.

Francis always had an ear-to-ear grin and would say “Awesome,” from time to time. This was encouraging.

When I cut my foot, Joey said, “It looks fine.” Francis said, “Oh yeah you did cut your foot.”

In the days before the swim I asked Shelly about how my hands turn out with every stroke, she said, “Do they?” She had told Susan multiple times that she would have changed my stroke earlier in the training but didn’t. Shelly I believed you didn’t notice. Good poker face. I realize now you didn’t want me to change my stroke a week before the swim.

I thought about seeing Styx at the coliseum as we passed it. I also thought about ¾ length concert t-shirts and rednecks.

I had wanted to stop at my old street as I passed by but passed it before I realized where we were. Oh well.

I felt like I was slugging through the water and had no idea about my pace. I went slow as I could as I figured just keep the arms coming over.

In the Biloxi Channel, I actually thought that it might be easy if the waves stayed right behind me. They only remained behind me for 2 hours or so.

I thought we were out much further than the Gulfport harbor. We were not.

I stopped being able to taste the difference between flavors of gels, but egels were the only ones I could keep down. I could tell when they gave me an accel gel instead.

I threw up every single time I ate, but would not tell the team, as I knew they would freak. I just tried to keep as much down as possible.

I started drinking mostly water around the halfway point.

I never lost my mind as some people do when they go that long. I knew what was happening the whole time.

I had confidence the whole time that I would finish. I even started celebrating in my mind multiple times before the finish. This was funny, as I would have 3-4 more periods of “I am done,” after this.

I prayed often and tried to think of prayers etc. I said the serenity prayer and sang the U2 song “40” which is Psalm 40. The funniest thing that kept coming to my mind was a line from the Exorcist, when the priest is splashing the demon girl with holy water and yelling, “The power of Christ compels you.” I thought to myself, is that an okay prayer, and decided, yes, it was.

I tried to think of things that my kids had done or things that reminded me of them, but all I could do was think, “Yeah, you have two kids, Paige and Ian.”

Towards the end I would say the names of my family and every team member with every stroke I took. If I got through all of them it was like 20 strokes.

I tried a couple of times to count strokes. I lost track at 156 or so every time.

It was interesting to me that I had all this time to think, but couldn’t concentrate on anything but swimming and adjusting. I could only concentrate on everything you read above for snippets of time and then back to swimming. I really would have liked to have been able to relax more. Ha!

I wrote the initials of my kids and family on my cap as well as the name of my friend from high school who recently lost both of his parents. I also wrote 32 on each side of the cap.

I remember singing the following songs.
“40” by U2
“Best Thing That You Never Had”
“Don’t Move” both by Butch Walker
“Cold Roses”
“Magnolia Mountain” both by Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
That’s about it thankfully no bad songs got in my head.

The taper that Shelly laid out for me worked. I felt relatively good till about the 12-hour mark. About all you can ask for.

Thank you all, I will post the Team members accounts as I receive them.