A personal campaign sponsored by Barry Klein
A few months ago, my friend Drew Walker called me to tell me he was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinsons Disease. He also posted the following note on Facebook:
"Well, my 2014 New Year's resolution is to reduce stress, and there is one stressful topic I've been holding in for 5 years. On January 1, 2009, Ann Alves Walker and I were playing Rock Band on Nintendo Wii when I noticed a twitch in my left hand. Nine months, multiple tests, & 4 doctors later, I received the diagnosis... Early Onset Parkinson's Disease. :-\ Later in 2009,though, we received much better news, we were expecting Logan! :-) Since then, my PD symptoms have progressed, but I rather define my life than allow PD to do so. With the continued support of family, friends, and colleagues that already knew, and those just learning about it from this post, I plan to have many great years ahead & I hope you can all be a part of it. G-d bless."
When I heard about Drew's illness, I wanted to help. I'm dedicating my upcoming triathlon to Parkinson's research in support of Drew. It's no easy feat (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run) but neither is Drew's brave fight. Please support my efforts by making a donation.
Well, it’s done. I finished and we raised $2,800 including my company’s matching donation! Thanks to everyone for the support – especially to my wife Rachel who put up for my crazy training schedule. I’ve spoke to some of you, but figured you might be interested in some details from the race so here it goes. Also, see a few of the pictures that I attached from the race weekend.
Pre-Race – After about 9 months of training, the race date was fast approaching. For a couple weeks leading up to the race I was tapering off my training, so I would be at full strength come race day. I was eating healthy, even limiting (though not eliminating) the amount of fries I stole from the kids at restaurants.
The race weekend finally came. Saturday morning began with a bagel breakfast, some playing with the kids, and then the drive down to Princeton with my training buddy James Agro. The plan was to limit the time on our feet and to get a good night’s sleep. So of course, we were on our feet for a couple hours, waiting on lines during the registration process, bringing our bikes to the transition area, and checking out the goodies in the Ironman village. The weirdest sight among the healthy athletes in the village was a vendor selling fried Oreos and funnel cakes. I’m not sure how much business he was thinking he’d drum up among this group the day before a race.
The most imposing scene came at the waterfront. I’d trained extensively for the swim. I was comfortable swimming 1.2 miles in a pool, which is the equivalent of 90 laps or so. However, when you see that distance in the water (in a straight line) it looks much longer. Think of 90 pools laid out end-to-end…pretty scary. But you know what they say – courage means being afraid to do something, but still doing it.
After that, we walked back to the car, grabbed a pasta dinner and went to the hotel. We killed the time with stretching, discussing strategies, calling our families and watching Seinfeld. We set the alarm for 4:30 and called it a night at about 9.
Race Day – Remember what I said about a good night’s sleep…scratch that. I was so pumped for the race and anxious to start the swim, that I probably didn’t get to sleep until 11 or 12. I woke up at 4, as I was nervous that something would go wrong with our 2 alarm clocks AND the hotel wake-up call. When the alarms finally went off, I turned on some mood music – Bodies by Drowning Pool. A little heavy metal to start the day seemed appropriate. We followed that up with a motivation video that Rachel sent me the night prior, and then left the hotel at about 5AM. There was unusually heavy traffic (for 5AM) at the hotel exit as many other athletes were on our schedule. We picked up a couple bagels with peanut butter and headed to the race.
There was a 4-mile traffic jam heading into the park entrance. Instead of having 30-45 minutes to set up our transition area, we had about 10 minutes. The transition area closed at 6:45 and the race started at 7. About 2,000 athletes entered the race, so the Ironman has a “wave start” for the swim. Therefore, despite the race starting at 7AM, I didn’t start until 7:54.
During the 54 minute wait between the official race start and my wave start, I began to think – why am I doing this again? I guess it can be summed up like something I heard once – a ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.
The day was cool, a little humid, but overall not a bad day to race…though I probably would’ve said the same even if it was 40 degrees or 100 degrees.
Actual Race – I was most nervous about the swim, especially after seeing the lake the night prior. The water was cold, but not numbingly cold and the wetsuit helped a lot. My wave was probably well over a hundred people, with everyone jockeying for position after the starting gun. My strategy was to listen to the gun, take 3-4 deep breaths and swim to the outside. I knew this would cost me a minute or so in the race, but I figured over 6-7 hours…who really cares?!? The swim went better than I thought. I was completely in-the-zone. There was no fear or anxiety, no thoughts about the subsequent two events, and no outside thoughts at all…just swimming, breathing and sighting (i.e. making sure I’m going straight). I got out of the water in about 40 minutes, a bit better than my goal of 45-50 minutes.
As I exited the water, volunteers were on-hand to help you take off your wetsuit. Basically, you take off the top, sit on the ground and they snag off the legs of your suit. From there, I walked to my bike, rinsed my feet and got dressed for the bike. On the way out of transition, I gave a yell to the crowd and away I went. Only 69.1 miles to go…wait, what?
On the bike, I was going a bit faster than I thought I would, but it wasn’t too much of a struggle so I didn’t worry about it. I was drinking every 10 minutes or so and had a power gel every 40 minutes, according to my game plan. Along the route, there were very few spectators. Many of the roads were closed, so family and friends couldn’t really get to any spots along the course. Occasionally, there were a few locals who were they to cheer us on, but most of the ride was silent with the exception of bike chains and riders passing – “on your left.” Several bikers had nasty spills on tight turns or had flats that needed fixing. I resolved not to have either – I took turns slowly and hoped that I didn’t get a flat (nothing else that I could really do, but both strategies worked). Surprisingly, there are a lot more cornfields in central Jersey than you may have envisioned, as it felt like that’s all we rode past. As I approached the park for transition I had two thoughts – 1) why does my GPS watch say I rode 58 miles, when the course is only supposed to be 56 miles, and 2) I’m glad I didn’t have to use the bathroom on the ride. I finished in 3 hours and 19 minutes, better than my goal of 3:30-3:45.
In the second transition, my body was feeling strong (as strong as could be imagined after swimming and biking for four hours), but my stomach was a little iffy. I didn’t get too worried, because the last leg of the race was the run which is my strongest event of the 3.
I started the run strong. I was feeling good enough that I didn’t worry about running the first 2 miles at a 7:30 pace. I was trying to settle my stomach by stopping at the fuel areas for pretzels and water. It didn’t work so well and by mile 4 or 5 I was getting nauseous, had a cramp and it was a struggle to even get down water from that point forward. I knew I needed the fuel so I forced down a power gel at mile 7. Halfway through the run, it was getting difficult. I couldn’t eat and was trying to get down as much water as possible, which wasn’t a lot. I knew I had to keep running and not give in. I thought – an hour of pain, a lifetime of satisfaction. Physically, I knew I wouldn’t do any lasting damage. Mentally, I was nervous about walking, because I thought once I started walking it would be easier to stop. In my weakened state, I didn’t want to give myself that option. As Dolvett from the Biggest Loser says, “when you want to give up, you better pick it up!” I was able to keep up a pace of ~9 minutes/mile during the latter stages of the run and for stretches I was able to go a little faster. I saw Rachel, the kids and some friends at mile 12 and that gave me a little extra push. When I began to lose the adrenaline from seeing everyone, the finish line was in sight and I picked it up a little bit more.
I finished the race and heard my name over the loud speaker. I finished the 13.1 mile run in 1 hour, 51 minutes and finished the race in 6 hours, 7 minutes – well better than my goal of 6.5 to 7 hours. I was super excited about my time, which put me in the top half overall. However, my place didn’t matter as I was thinking the whole day about the quote “I race not to outdo others, but to outdo myself.”
With the emotion of completing 70.3 miles, my big push to finish, the lack of fuel and my stomach issues, I didn’t feel so great after the race. A headache, nausea and muscle soreness are the three more things to worry about after completing the previous three events – swim, bike and run. Over the balance of the day, those issues would mostly subside and instead be replaced with pride.
I couldn’t finish the story without a few quotes from the kids after the race.
David: “Daddy, you lied to me. You said it would take you as long as a school day. A school day is 7 hours and you finished in only 6 hours.” I told him that I’d slow down next time.
Maya: “Daddy, why did you take the peanut butter? Mommy had to make me a soy butter sandwich and I like peanut butter more.” I apologized for ruining her day.
Thanks again for everyone’s support before, during and after the race. It was very gratifying not just to finish the race but also to see how much money we raised to fight Parkinson’s Disease.
See you soon,