2016 Frankfort Half Marathon Race Report

4/30/2016

I’m not even the fastest Old Guy!

I ran the Frankfort, Illinois Half Marathon today and found myself really questioning my sanity. First of all, I am in the middle of training for Ironman Lake Placid, and I usually avoid racing any distance road race to avoid doing something stupid and end up injured. But my training plan tapered this week with the instruction to do an Olympic distance triathlon on Sunday. Seeing that it is April in Illinois, good luck finding one. So I substituted the half marathon on a Saturday to end the week.

Second, this race seems doomed weather-wise. It was 40 degrees and pouring last year (I didn’t run it last year), and this year was predicted to be more of the same. I have never not started a race that I signed up for (and paid good money), and I really didn’t like thinking that I was going to blow it off. Fortunately, the rain held off at the start and I took my spot in Corral A. I found it slightly humorous that I was seeded in the first corral of this little local race.

So the gun went off and I found myself running along the guy holding the 1:30 pace group sign, a sign basically made from a dowel rod, two paper plates, and plenty of clear tape. We chatted for a while, but I knew that I would probably be better off not trying to stay with him. We passed the first mile and he said our split was 6:51! Okay, definitely need to back off the gas a little. I mentioned to him that I was surprised the big guy in green was ahead of us, holding that sub-7 minute per mile pace, but that guy started to slowly pull away. Pacer Guy said he had to pick it up in order to stay on pace. I found this particularly funny, because he basically had no one with him to pace! Maybe he grew tired of me, I don’t know. I do know the 2 hour pacer guy came in a little late and the guy with the microphone was razzing him a little. Maybe 1:30 pacer guy didn’t want to suffer the same indignity! Pacer Guy didn’t have a bib, and wasn’t racing because I asked him. So I let both the Pacer Guy and Green Shirt Guy go and I fell into a more comfortable pace, because I knew what was coming.

After a few minutes I found myself running alone. The Pacer Guy and Green Shirt Guy were at least 100 yards ahead, and there was no one immediately behind me either. I find myself in this situation all the time and it puzzles me. I guess it is a matter of perspective, but I can either say I am the slowest of the faster group or the fastest of the slow group. Maybe mid-packer is what I truly am. But it is tough to be in the mid-pack WHEN YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE! Trivial, I guess. The loneliness of a long distance runner.

I also realized at this point of the race, I was slightly overdressed. I took off the ear wrap and gloves and could feel myself cooling down. I thought about tossing the long sleeve shirt but kept it, because I remembered during my warm up that the wind would be blowing in my face on this out and back run. Glad I kept it on.

Standing in the elite (!) Corral A, I took notice of the competition. There was the typical thin twenty year olds who look like they just finished their college running careers, the backward hat guy, a couple of girls who I could tell had “game”, the guy with some race team singlet, and another guy who clearly didn’t belong in Corral A because his number was 438 or something, and we were all wearing very low numbers. Plus, he kept asking questions about the course. We racers in Corral A never come to Corral A without knowing the course and how to attack it! SMH, dude.

But the most interesting aspect of my fellow competitors in Corral A was that many seemed to be in my age group by the look of their greying hair and fuddy-duddy race outfits. I had looked at last year’s results and figured if I had a good day, I might win an age-group award, but looking at these guys I wasn’t so sure. They had the look of confidence, and well the look of fast, old guys.

Back to the action – At about four miles into the race, we turned off the mostly flat bike trail and headed into the nature preserve. Since I live in this area, I consider this area my home turf. I know every little hill, bump, crack, twist and turn as I have run this trail nearly every run since it opened in 2001 or so. I knew what was coming, about six miles of very difficult hilly terrain. So I paced myself up the hills and flew down the other side, over and over again. At about Mile 5, a group of volunteers were passing out water so I took a cup to wash down the gel I just ate. As I was doing that, the volunteer said “You’re looking good!” I replied, “Lady, I’m not even the fastest old guy!”

And that was true. I hadn’t caught any of the old dudes that had started with me in the race. I had a good idea of where I stood, about 14th overall, when I had the opportunity to count the lead out pack earlier in the race. At the halfway point, I had only been passed by two runners – the two girls with game – and that was it. I also saw Race Team Singlet Guy walking on the side of the trail after getting through Round 1 of the hills. As I hit the turn-around and started back into the fury of hills, I could see that he dropped out. Yes! I made up a position! But I could also see how far the Fast Old Guys were ahead of me. Way ahead of me.

Back into the hills and that’s when the rest of the racers got a view of the awesomeness of the Corral A starters! Out and backs are interesting, as you get to see the lead runners and how far ahead of you they are. I got a little depressed when I saw the leaders already heading back while I still had a half mile to the turn-around. I wonder if the back of the pack runners get that too. They and I shouldn’t, we’re awesome too!

The trail got pretty crowded and I was no longer able to take the straightest line and run the tangents. But I got plenty of “great job’s!” and I returned the complement. I have been running since the late 1980’s, and truthfully I think this is the biggest running boom that I have seen in a long time. Glad to see so many others taking up the sport, especially the longer distance stuff. The lone runner that I actually know personally, Holly, saw me and we exchanged hello’s!

At Mile 9 I caught Green Shirt Guy, and as we continued leaving the hills behind us, he didn’t seem to want to keep up. But I didn’t get to enjoy passing him for too long, because within a mile I got passed by White Shirt Guy. I had dismissed White Shirt Guy earlier because he didn’t look the part of my other Corral A competitors. We were wearing real running shorts and looking every bit the part of running legends, and this guy had a pair of baggy shorts pulled over some tights. And he was wearing earphones! I got to say, I see people wearing head and earphones in races all the time. I never take them seriously because I think its a crutch for them, like they can’t do such a boring activity without music! And if they can’t run without music, my thinking is that they probably aren’t doing intervals and hill repeats either. But maybe I misjudged White Shirt Guy and his earphones.

White Shirt Guy passed me quickly as I was trying to down my second and last gel, but he was panting pretty hard and I felt like I was floating along. My immediate thought was that he is kicking way too early. I grabbed a water from another volunteer and said something that I would quickly regret: “That guy sounds like he’s suffering.” He wasn’t.

We turned on to the path and briefly headed west until a quick turn around and then it’s a 5K or so straight back to the finish. It was then when I saw the pack starting to form behind me, and the lead that White Shirt Guy was building. I figured I better keep pace with White Shirt Guy, and focus on the race ahead instead of what was behind.

The wind was now blowing straight into our faces. It wasn’t that strong, but it was cold and it made me duck my head a little. It had also started to sprinkle just a little. As I crossed Wolf Road one of the ESDA volunteers shouted my name. It was a kid that I had coached and had on my baseball team when he was about 11 or 12. I tell you that really gave me a pick-up! I actually had a little adrenaline flow through me from that. Glad I made an impression on the kid. And I am thankful that he was impressed.

I kept the pace until Mile 11 and started to draw White Shirt Guy in slowly. I could see the big bridge that goes over Route 45 ahead at about 12.5 miles and knew I would pace up it and try to fly down it. I made up some space on him and it was then that I knew I probably had him. As we came upon the 13 Mile marker, he took a quick look over his left shoulder, but I don’t think he saw me as I was running far right. I made my move and passed him quickly. I don’t think he even heard me, because he didn’t make any sort of effort to match my effort. Another reason not to wear earphones in a race! I heard him struggling and finally give an exasperated sigh, and I kicked to the finish line with what I had left. He kicked too damn early. And he wore earphones. I don’t get beat by runners wearing earphones.

I walked to the car and grabbed my sweatshirt and sweatpants to keep warm and then I walked back to the finish and watched quite a few runners finish. The race directors Jim and Bev own the little running store near the finish line. My son worked for them last summer. I spoke with Jim and he reiterated how great of a kid he was. Even though he has told me that once before, I still beam with pride. (Note to my son – use Jim as a reference on your resume!)

Bev walked up and had the current list of finishers and she let me have a look. There it was: 12th place overall. 4th in the 50-54 age group. I finished in the top twelve and didn’t even medal.

I’m not even the fastest Old Guy.

2016 IMLP Training – Week 17

WEEK 17 – April 18, 2016 – April 24, 2016

Good week this week because of…  Taper!  Just as the plan was building to a weekend 4 hour ride and a 1.5 hour run, Fink dialed it back.  I think the next week is set up for another easy week, finishing with an Olympic distance triathlon.  Since it is late April in the suburbs of Chicago, good luck finding a race!  Instead, I signed up for a half-marathon for next Sunday and will do a little biking afterward.

I missed one of the swims this week as the Friday swim fell on my wife’s birthday.  And if I have learned anything about triathlon training, you don’t screw with family obligations!  So I had some things to do birthday-wise, and the swim was skipped.

Cycling went well this week, and I felt really good about the 4 hour long ride/half hour brick run.  It was a little cool at the start, but all things considered a nice day for a ride.  I think I averaged about 17 mph, but was often moving along at over 20 mph.

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Had to yield to a peacock on the bike trail.  That was a first.  

I finally found some time to buy some new running shoes on Sunday.  I haven’t tried them out yet.  My running shoe brand ASICS has been so dependable for me that I almost never even try them on in the store, I just grab my model and size and go.  But last time I bought the new version of the Kayano, the 22 and it’s construction is very different from the 21.  I found it to be stiff and the left shoe seemed to slap the ground, which bugged the heck out of me.  Very disappointed with this version.  So I am trying an experiment and bought a cheap ASICS model, the GEL-EXCITE 3.  While testing them in the store, I found them to be really comfortable and sturdy.  My experience with the cheaper shoes is that they just don’t last as long in respect to cushioning and wear and tear on the sole.  I will keep track and see if they can get to 300 miles.  If so, then that is $50 well spent!

 

WEEK 17 TOTALS:

Swims: 2 total, 2 hours, 6000 yards

Bikes: 4 total, 6.5 hours, 112 (that’s an omen!) miles

Runs: 7 total, 5 hours, 36 miles

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Week 17 – Done!

2016 IMLP Training – Week 16

WEEK 16 – April 11, 2016 – April 17, 2016

The highlight of this week was an awesome group ride in Dixon, Illinois.  It was the first time that I had driven to my long time pal Dave’s house and joined him for a ride.  We were missing one of our teammates who couldn’t join us, and we had one Gunner dealing with a sore back.  We were however, joined by a young man from Germany named Malta, who impressed me with his riding even after traveling the previous couple of days.

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4 of 5 Gunners and one German!  (photo by Carla DeForest)

I almost doomed the ride for myself by forgetting my bike computer, my heart rate strap, my sunscreen, and my little head covering that keeps the sweat off my brow and covers my bald head.  But I had my phone app to record the ride, and all my other stuff that I needed to at least ride and run afterward.

The day was awesome for mid-April.  Mid to upper 70’s, barely any clouds, with a slight wind from the southeast.  I was amazed at the farms and the rolling hills, and upon cresting several hills I would almost want to stop and take in the scenery.  We saw a huge hawk, several horses, some cows, some pigs roaming around, a barking dog who Dave says barks at him every damn time, and a snake sunning himself on the pavement.  Dumb snakes.  Later on the run we even saw a couple of deer.

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About an hour to go.  My new buddy Malta was still hanging with the Gunners!

I loved to fly down the rollers, but I learned quickly that I better be a little more careful riding an unknown route as I launched one of my bottles filled with Gatorade.  Fortunately for me, Jeff decided not to overdo it with his back issue and let me have his for the rest of the ride when he turned back early.  He was also kind enough to pick up my bottle on the way home.  Thanks, Jeff!  I needed every drop of Gatorade from that bottle.

Dave mentioned that we should turn around around 1 hour 25 minutes into the 3 hour ride because it will take us longer riding back home into the wind.  Truthfully, I hadn’t really noticed the wind much, but Dave is pretty keen about those things.  Sure enough, when we turned around the wind was right in our face and it seemed that it was going to take us much longer to get back.  But we kept on moving and got it done.

One thing I noticed about Dave’s route is that it was very much like the Ironman Wisconsin course in terms of rollers and wide open spaces.  Good place to train for Wisconsin or Lake Placid.  No wonder Dave is a cycling god.

I also relearned the same lesson that I always learn when I ride with my buddies.  That lesson is – I SUCK!!!  Okay, that’s being a little harsh on myself, but every time I ride with my buddies I get reminded where I sit in the hierarchy of cycling ability in our group.  And that is low on the totem pole, way off the back.

But it’s kind of unfair to say I suck instead of acknowledging how good my buddy Dave is.  And the kid, Alex, well youth is definitely on his side.  I shouldn’t be comparing myself to someone  31 years younger than me.  He’s also outstanding.

In reality I have improved my cycling a bunch, and I think I am at a much higher level of conditioning on the bike than in the past.

The rest of the week also went well.  I finally got in the three swims this week and felt good about it.  Running was also pretty good.  Ended the week with an 11 mile long run at about 8:12/mile pace.

Glad that summer made an appearance this week, and I hope it sticks around for awhile.

WEEK 16 TOTALS:

Swims: 3 total, 3 hours, 9000 yards

Bikes: 4 total, 5.75 hours, 96 miles

Runs: 7 total, 5 hours, 36 miles

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Great end to Week 16!

2016 IMLP Training – Week 15

WEEK 15 – April 5, 2016 – April 10, 2016

Halfway done with 30 weeks of training!

There are a lot of halfway points in what I do.  Any swim, bike or run there is that point when the halfway mark hits and I realize that I am at the top of the hill heading down.  It is that point when you say there is no more going out, I am now going back.

During my previous Ironman, the two-loop bike is a definite halfway there moment.  And when I reached the halfway mark in the marathon of that Ironman, the turnaround being located right where the faster finishers on their second loop are finishing, there is that moment when you think about being halfway there.  You can either dwell on being ONLY halfway done, or you can say ONLY a half left to go!  I choose to think of what’s left in a positive way.  With every stroke or stride, you just keep getting closer.

SWIM:  Back to the local high school swimming hole this week.  I wondered how I would fare after missing a week, but I was a little surprised that I swam pretty solid.  I forgot to write down the workout for the Thursday swim, so I ended up doing a straight 3000 yard swim at a moderate to strong pace – pushing, but not killing myself.  Did it in 1 hour, 3 minutes, which is about a 2:03 pace per 100 yards.  That’s right in the 1 hour 30 minute Ironman swim range, which is what I did in Wisconsin in 2013, so no surprises there.  I had to skip the Friday swim due to some errands I needed to do.  Not a big deal.

Sunday I enrolled in a swim technique analysis class hosted by a coach of a local triathlon team.  I was hoping to gain some insight into what I did right and what I could improve upon.  What I found was that as a self taught triathlete swimmer, I did a pretty good job.  The drills I kind of crafted for myself were essentially the same that she presented to us.  The biggest tip I got was when we were doing kick drills and how she presented the kick to us.  I saw myself moving through the water a little more efficiently, and I will try to employ that technique going forward.  In reality, swimming is so technical that it is almost overwhelming trying to concentrate on it all.  All of the swimmers were video taped from one end of the pool coming at the camera, and then from the side, showing both the torso and the legs.  The video should be available in a couple weeks with the coach’s comments. So maybe I will gain some more insight then.

BIKE:  The weather was horrible this week, which forced me to do all of my rides on the trainer.  I might have been able to do my long 4 hour ride outside on Saturday, but it was in the 20’s outside in the morning and I was unable to ride later when it had warmed up a little.  It was my daughter’s birthday, so I didn’t want to be away in the afternoon.  One difference this week was I brought my old Trek 7700FX hybrid down to the pain cave and threw it on the trainer instead of my road or tri bike.  The seat and riding position is a little more comfortable, and it allowed me to get through that long ride without too much complaining from my butt.

RUN:  I can tolerate the cold a little better running than cycling, so I did run outside some this week, but the treadmill was also utilized.  I do most of my runs by perceived effort, but I did strap on the heart rate monitor this week and was pleased to see that I managed to stay well within the zone I needed.

So, I am halfway done with the training!  The race will be here before I know it.

WEEK 15 TOTALS:

Swims: 3 total,  2.5 hours,  7500 yards

Bikes: 4 total, 6.5 hours, 91 miles

Runs: 7 total, 4.75 hours, 33 miles

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HALFWAY BABY!

2016 IMLP Training – Week 14

WEEK 14 – March 28, 2016 – April 3, 2016

The bonus to already being an Ironman finisher while training for another race is knowing what to expect and how to adapt.  I had an earlier week this time around where I had to make some adjustments, but it was nothing compared to this week.

First, the school where I swim was closed for spring break, and therefore I couldn’t swim.  At first I was worried about not getting my swims in, and how it would set me back.  But in my previous attempt at Ironman, I lost a week of swimming as well and it really didn’t make much of a difference.  After thinking about that, I put the idea about it negatively affecting me out of my head, and actually enjoyed the swim-free week.

Next was the weird spring weather we are having.  I guess it isn’t so out of the ordinary, but it certainly made me change some plans.  I finally brought my tri bike up from the basement where it has been serving me this winter and spring on the trainer, and took it outside for the first time this year.  I received a FLO full disc aero wheel for Christmas, and I decided to throw it on the bike and take it for an inaugural spin.  Even with the moderate wind that I was somewhat cautious of, I could tell that it was going to be fun to ride.  I even hit 36 mph during one slight downhill stretch that I normally struggle to get to 30 mph on regular cycling wheels.

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Maiden ride with my new full disc wheel.  Crazy fast with this thing.

The next day was much windier, so I opted for using my 60’s, which are also aero wheels.  I thought I was going to get blown off the path.  I never gripped the handle bars so intently before!  Thankfully, I made it back in one piece.

Saturday was my scheduled long ride, calling for 3.5 hours and a 30 minute brick run.  Mother Nature was not cooperating however, and my streak of riding outside turned to a tortuous 4 hours spent indoors.  My butt is still angry with me.  Being inside is just not where I prefer to ride.  It may not have been as strong of a ride as if I had done it outside, but I sucked it up and got through it.

So I adapted this week, cutting some workouts and shortening others. But I know it is a long journey, and there are many quality swims/bikes/runs ahead in the upcoming weeks.

WEEK 14 TOTALS:

Swims: 0 – Zippo – Nada – None

Bikes: 4 total, 5.5 hours, 97 miles

Runs: 7 total, 4:50 hours, 33 miles

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A forgetful Week 14.  Back to normal next week.

 

2016 IMLP Training – Week 13

WEEK 13 – March 21, 2016 – March 27, 2016

I have trained for and completed one other Ironman race, and that one was Ironman Wisconsin. From my researching race reports for Ironman Lake Placid, I am finding a lot of similarities between the two races. Both are well liked and have a strong following. Both races always sell out quickly, although not quite as fast as in recent past years mainly due to a lack of a pro field and the additions of a handful of new Ironman locations taking some of the devotes away. They both also offer a challenging bike course, and each comparing the atmosphere of the bike routes to that of the Tour de France. The volunteers at both are reportedly awesome. And both are favorites of the voice of Ironman – Mike Reilly. He tends to never miss Madison or Lake Placid. Lastly, both boast of awesome finishes, with IMWI having the state capital building in the background and IMLP finishing on the 1932 Olympic oval.

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My two buddies and me at the finish line of IMWI a couple of days before the race in 2013.

But there is one main difference between the two races: the swim. IMWI has always been an in water, mass start. IMLP has changed to a self-seeded start. I can only guess, but I think the size of Mirror Lake at IMLP is somewhat smaller than Lake Monona in Madison, and therefore due to the swim-start initiative that the World Triathlon Corporation has implemented, IMLP moved to a self-seeded, wave start of the two loop course.

I participated at Ironman Muncie 70.3 in 2014, which was a wave start based on age groupings and I found that to be a great swim. The swimmers were spread out well over the 1.2 mile swim, and I chose to swim the inside line of the buoys and had very little contact with other swimmers. I was hoping that IMLP will be very similar.

Then I read the some IMLP race reports from 2015. Many of the authors reported that the swim was “tough,” or “brutal.” Not what I was hoping to read. But I think a good many of those people are strong swimmers, hoping to be 1:15 or quicker, and found that they were swimming among swimmers that possibly self-seeded themselves a little too strongly. I will not make that mistake.

I asked a swimmer from the 2016 IMLP Facebook page what his recommendation for the swim start for a guy like me (slow and dreading the swim). Others pitched in with their comments as well. Most said to seed yourself according to your expected time and be truthful (no problem there!), and to stay wide of the underwater cable or stay to the inside of the buoys. Either of those options were what I was planning anyway. As far as the cable is concerned, it is an underwater cable that lays out the course for the swim. Since Mirror Lake is very clear, it is an easily visible guideline and allows swimmers to swim without having to sight their way out of the water. I think my plan will be to watch where others are swimming and when I get into the water at the start, look for a clear line of swimming, even if it means that I swim a little out of my way. Finishing IMWI’s swim in 1:30 should allow me ample time to swim the two loops at IMLP and not get pummeled.

Anyway, it is way too early to be worrying about the swim in the race. I’ve got things that need to be taken care of before even toeing the line in late July.

This past week went well, but I only got one swim of 3000 yards in due to the school where I swim being closed for and early release on Thursday, closed on Good Friday, and closed for an entire week next week for spring break. I’m sure it shouldn’t be an issue. I missed an entire week of swimming and cycling in 2013 training for IMWI, and had no trouble getting prepared.

The weather was a little better this week, although we are heading into the spring with its out of nowhere storms, and up and down temps. Hopefully soon we will start seeing steady warmer temps. I am looking forward to warmer weather so I can open my own pool and not miss anymore swims.

WEEK 13 TOTALS:

Swims: 1 total, 1 hours, 3000 yards

Bikes: 4 total, 5:20 hours, 83 miles

Runs: 7 total, 4:25 hours, 31 miles

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On to Week 14!

2016 IMLP Training – Week 12

WEEK 12 – March 14, 2016 – March 20, 2016

My ‘What do I do now?’ moment came this week on Tuesday, when with swim backpack slung over my shoulder I trotted into the school office to tell them as usual that I was there to swim and get my hall pass.  What I was told was that there would be no swimming today because the students were testing.  My brain pretty much went off track at that moment.

What was really happening was that I was trying to process too many things after hearing her comment.  My first thought was that I had already missed last Friday’s swim because the school was closed for a teacher institute day, and now I was missing another.  How much was this going to set me back?  I looked at the other lady who usually checks me in and she briefly made eye contact, but I could tell I wasn’t going to be able to appeal to a higher authority.  So I basically stood there in front of two grown women looking like I had just missed the bus for the field trip or something.

There are currently four high schools in our district, each with a pool.  So I took a ride over to East where my daughter goes to school, and would try my luck with them.  As I drove up to the driveway there were cars lined out to the street.  I had forgotten that it was election day.  Even if the pool was open, and the odds were against me because the schools all seem to do the same thing, I wasn’t going to find a spot to park any way.  So that ended my attempt at getting in the water for the day.  I can’t wait until May when I get my own pool opened up.  Sure it’s a lot of turning around, but it’s also so much easier.

Another issue was my rear tire on my road bike.  As I was getting ready for last week’s long ride on Saturday, I thought I would check the air pressure and top it off.  But as I turned the little knurled knob it broke off in my hand.  So much for putting in some air.

As I look back on those two relatively minor issues, I am reminded that sometimes things in training will throw you a curve.  Thankfully, training will prepare you for those little unforeseen issues so that you can deal with them on race day when it really matters.  So, bring it on, training snafus!  I am ready for you.

A cycling note from this week – Enjoyed another long Saturday ride with my friend Todd.  We headed west on the Old Plank Trail to the end and he asked if I’d like to ride through the backroads to get on the Waubonsie Glacier Trail.  I had always thought of trying to find it, but you have to ride in some pretty hairy looking neighborhoods of Joliet to get there.  We decided it was too cold to worry about thugs taking our bikes, and that there was safety in numbers, so off we went.  In reality it was only about a mile or so of riding until we hit the trail, and that trail was only about 3 miles in length until we were back to familiar riding territory.  From there we rode a little on the crushed limestone path until we hit Baker Road, and then scooted back east on the north end of Manhattan.  It was a cold ride, and it started to sprinkle near the end of the 2.5 hours, but we survived.  Sure is nice having a riding partner sometimes.

WEEK 12 TOTALS:

Swims: 2 total, 2:07 hours, 6000 yards

Bikes: 4 total, 4:45 hours, 73.25 miles

Runs: 7 total, 3:45 hours, 26.25 miles

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Week 12 ended with the 1st day of Spring!  Yes!