As I was cleaning up some icons on my computer I noticed an IMMT Race Report file and opened it up. I had never finished writing it until today.
The Green Swim Cap – 8/16/15
I hadn’t planned on writing a race report, but after reading Mike Armini’s, I felt like I owed it myself, and more importantly the people that supported me.
On August 18, 2012 I lost a dear friend to a tragic accident. Rich Angelo died while competing in the Age Group Nationals in Burlington, VT. His loss has had a profound effect on me and almost ended my triathlon “career”. The only thing that kept me participating in the sport of Triathlon was the lesson I felt I needed to teach my children, which is also a lesson Rich taught his own family: “Greatness is not in never falling, but in rising after the fall.” I needed to teach Noella and Millie that we are going to get knocked down in life, we are going to fall, but our ONLY option is to get back up. I’ve spent 3 years getting back up. During those 3 years I have physically competed, but I checked-out mentally. There was no “heart” in my racing. My heart was broken. I put on a good face, I trained, I even did ok, but I lacked desire.
I knew it was bad after I did the Marblehead JCC Tri last year(2014) and had a bad accident. I was coming into transition when a volunteer yelled for me to get off the bike. There wasn’t a clear dismount area, so I didn’t realize I was in the transition zone. As I prepared for a flying dismount, riding on one side of my bike where I would then jump off and run, another volunteer stepped in front of me. I went from 20 mph to 0 in a split second. I hit my head hard, had body rash of which I still have scars from and worse of all my Father Vinny, watched it all happen. My only option was to pick myself off the ground and finish the race. Afterwards I asked myself, “What the hell are you doing this for?”. I was really losing hope. I’ve had many great moments in Triathlon, from watching my brother Vince race in Nahant, to his first Ironman, to completing Ironman Lake Placid together in 2010, watching and racing with clients and more. It had slipped away after Rich died and it was fading even faster.
At some point in 2014, Vince suggested that we do another Ironman. I wasn’t really excited about it. I thought it might be what I might needed, but wasn’t really “all-in”. I told my brother that if he was serious then I would do it with him. As the Spring came and went and summer arrived we kept talking about it and I knew he was serious. He was planning to go to Mont Tremblant to watch a few clients and sign up for the race in person. I, on the other hand, was going to be signing up online. We were in! Let the year of training begin. A year of doubt. A year of questions. A year of Why? A year of growth. A year of dedication. A year of growing. A year of living. A year of rising… A year that ended better than I could have ever imagined.
During the year Rich was on my mind constantly. Every swim, bike and run I thought of him. I asked for support, I asked if it was the right decision, I asked him to keep me safe. If he was busy then I knew my mom would help me. In any event I felt like I needed this. I needed to prove to myself that I could get back on the horse. I needed to get my heart and my mind back into it, not for anyone else, but for me. I also felt like I needed to honor Rich in some way.
Back in the Spring I met with Rich’s Family to choose the winners of the scholarship that is in his name. I told them, reluctantly, that I was training for an IM. While they were/are so supportive it’s hard to talk with them about triathlon. Rich loved the sport, but it also took him from them. I told Rich’s wife that I would like to somehow bring Rich’s number from Age Group Nationals with me to Canada. Without hesitation Cheryl went to her car and brought in a brown paper bag which held a green swim cap, the exact green swim cap Rich had been wearing when he passed. She handed to me and said make sure I bring it back to her. I knew at that point that I had a tremendous responsibility.
Fast Forward – Race Day
Since Rich died I haven’t had a swim without thinking of him. I hadn’t gone swimming in Stiles in almost 3 years. I wasn’t scared of the swim and I’m still not scared, it just makes me wonder. My goal for the swim was safety first. My wave, 40-44 was the biggest of all and I didn’t want to get crushed. Lake Placid reminded me of a piece of steak in a piranha tank and I didn’t want that again. I thought my strategy was going to be to hang back and let people go, but then decided that wasn’t going to be a good plan. I didn’t want to get stuck. I decided to go to the front, but stay to the left of the dock. The cannon boomed and we were off. I easily walked into water and made my way left out of the way. Soon enough I was on my way with clear open water. The pace is very easy, almost too relaxed. You know you can go faster, but you resist…if you’re racing correctly. As I made my way I noticed that I was pretty far away from the buoys, but no one was really swimming between them. I made my move towards the buoys and settled in. Along the way I drafted off some faster swimmers only to realize they were taking me off course. In any event I finished safely in 01:11:04
The run from the water was somewhat long, but filled with cheering spectators. It’s just awesome. I took my time as I searched for my family… Keri-Ann, Noella, Millie, my Dad, Nicole, Anna, Vincenzo and Dean and his family. I saw them all! Some high-fives, hugs and onto the changing tent. I asked if Vin passed me as he was starting in the wave after me and he hadn’t. I started worrying. He’s faster in all 3 sports, so I expected that he’d pass me in the swim. As I made my way into the transition area I used the porta-pottie and went into the tent to change. As I was getting my stuff together there comes Vin! He smiled, we hugged and laughed like two little kids…like brothers. I’m usually pretty fast in transition, but not that day. He ran out and I was behind him. See you on the bike.
I saw my family and I was off. I had my target power and that’s all that mattered….oh, and be safe. As I made my way through the bike people were passing me left and right. It was starting to get warm and the morning clouds wore off. I knew we’d be baking soon. I also knew that many of the people who passed me would be in for a day off suffering. I stuck to my power, took my nutrition and focused on my race.
March 31, 2017…
I was cleaning off my desktop and came across my unfinished race report. The race is still so fresh in my mind that I decided to finish it today.
The Bike Continued:
I really liked the course. You basically head out of transition, ride down the street and make your way to the highway. Yes, you ride on the highway! It was so cool… as you drive in a car you can see the long hills coming your way, but you don’t feel them. On a bike you climb them, fly down them and feel them. If you go too hard on the first loop, you suffer on them the second. Thankfully the bike was pretty routine. I just focused on me. The toughest part of the bike course is back by transition. You fly by, wave to the family and then you’re into an unforgiving climb. All you can hope for is that you have the right gears and don’t go too above your power. I did the best my I could and headed back out for the second loop. I do remember around the 80 mile mark I thought back to Lake Place where I started falling apart. This time was different! As a matter of fact I felt amazing and started to really fly past people. Based on Dean’s calculations my anticipated bike split was around 6 hours. I nailed it at 6:00:24.
After making my way through the second loop I was into transition and ready to run.
My friend and business partner, Dean Phillips, is a genius. He coached me through IMMT and I couldn’t be happier with the plan and the result. One of the things we really focused on was running with Heart Rate. I never really focused on that, so all of my runs were based on keeping my HR down around 140 bpm and making sure I didn’t go much higher. As I left transition I saw Keri-Ann and the family… I was running and it felt great. Now keep in mind that I’d only been running for about one minute at the time, but I could feel my legs turning over. Hugs, kisses and on… As I mentioned the clouds wore off and the sun was beating down on us. The temperature landed in the low 90’s and it was a scorch-ah as we say in Boston. I knew I was going to be in for a long day. As I rounded out of transition and passed the first water stop I was trying to think about getting ice to put on my head. Instead I decided to stuff my arm sleeves with ice. To this day it was the best race-day decision I ever made. As I passed the stop Dean was out there cheering me on, encouraging me and telling me how great I looked. I told him I felt great and I was now off on the first loop. What I realized at that moment was that there were a lot of people already walking. The heat was insane. I focused on my HR and at EVERY water stop I had them stuff ice into my sleeves. At one point I was even cold. The carnage was everywhere and I kept running while others were stopped, walking or shuffling. I remember singing to myself and I’m sure I annoyed some people, but I felt unbelievable. I grabbed Coke and ice at every stop with the occasional water and ran. I saw a bunch of people along the way, cheered them on, and focused on my HR. As I made my way around the halfway point I saw Dean again and just smiled. He said, “You look amazing!”. I told him I hadn’t even started running yet, that’s how good I felt.
Certainly the highlights on the run were seeing people I knew, especially my brother. He looked so great out there and I’m so proud of him. As I made my way through the Village on the first loop, the crowds cheering us on from the bars, the music playing and seeing my family.
There was one thing that weighed on me during the run. The Green Swim Cap. I decided that I would carry Rich with me the entire run. I took the Green Swim Cap from my bag in transition and carried it as if I had a tremendous responsibility. I had a tremendous responsibility. I held it tightly so I didn’t lose it. I drew upon it for strength and encouragement and shared stories about my times with Rich to myself.
I focused on bringing Rich across the finish line one more time. As I made my way back to the Village, crowds cheering, hoping to see my family and friends, I put the Green Cap on my hand and raised it to the sky as I crossed the line. It was even captured at the 8:24 mark in the 2015 Ironman Mont Tremblant Race Day Video Recap
We did it…. 11:52:08…
A PR by about 33 minutes. As I finish this race report a year and half later it gives me the opportunity to look back and see what IMMT meant for me. I have tremendous love, support, and encouragement from my wife Keri-Ann and my girls Noella and Millie. To this day Noella and Millie tell me how much fun they had in Canada. When they look up at me and say, “My dad is an Ironman” it fills me with such great happiness and pride. I Wouldn’t want to do this without them. Dean is such a great, knowledgeable coach, but a better person and friend. Whatever he tells me to do out there I just go and do it. The rest just works out.
I truly don’t work… I love what I do and I’m blessed to do what I love for a living. I tend to care about other’s success more than my own. Seeing clients on that course, cheering them on, being cheered, is something that reaches me. My big brother, my best man, my friend… Vin. I will always look up to you and truly don’t want to do another one without you. To my Dad… FORTE! Thank you for your support… We know it’s not easy on you, because you worry. But we are so thankful that you are with us. Loss is never easy. Falling is never easy. Rising is the only option. To everyone carrying their own Green Cap my hope is that the memories give you strength, you’ll smile more as time passes, you’ll cross that finish line, look to the sky and thank them for the strength to rise.
My Very Best,