Sunday, March 24, 2019

2018 GORUCK Philly 50 Mile Star Course AAR

We came into the GORUCK Philadelphia 50 mile star course with 2 teams.  

We had a team of 5 and a team of 2, and we planned to keep everybody together.

 First we met in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  We arrived a few hours early to scope out the area and find some parking.

After walking around a little we headed over to the start point (Paines Park), to meet with Cadre Flash and Cadre Rob.  We got through roll call and all the admin stuff.

This is where we were informed on how to post to our Instagram account to show we made it to all the points.  Also we found out about a HQ member (Not sure if they were really for GORUCK HQ or maybe just another GRT) was there for support throughout the night.

Then the clock started and we received our list of points.

First step was to plan our route.  This took us between 30 to 45 minutes.  It was well worth it.  The biggest problem we had was there were more points than Google would accept and we didn't know the area well.  We tried the Road Warrior app but it would not accept all the points either, so we subscribed and that worked great.  We used this for navigation and used Google maps for route planning.

We decided to go to the farthest point first which was the Thomas Mill Covered Bridge.  Google even found us a short cut down a trail.  I was sort of surprised that it was even on Google Maps.

At the bridge we met Cadre Rob and some shadows who offered us some snacks.

This was an out and back, then our next point was the Ben Franklin Statue at College Hall.

At this point it started raining pretty good.  Next point was the Ritten House Square Lion.

Next was the Love Park and the Love statue.

Next was Philadelphia City Hall

Next was Lincoln Financial Field

The next point was Fort Mifflin, this was quite a hall because there was not a good way to get to it other than an elevated bridge that took us much further than we needed to go before we could get off the bridge.  On the way we stopped into a hotel for the restroom, but they were nice enough to allow us to fill out water bladders too.  At Fort Mifflin was Cadre Rob with some more snacks.

After retracing our path we were back into the center of the city and were able to hit a few points quickly.

Geno's Steak

Italian Market

Magic Garden

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Congress Hall

Old City Hall

Elfreths Alley

Firemans Museum

The next point was a little further across the bridge to New Jersey, to see the Battle Ship New Jersey.  We had to wait for the bridge to open, so it's lucky we were messaged this by the HQ member, because we would have tried to go there early and not been allowed across the bridge.

We only made a few stops which were mainly for restrooms, a few quick breaks to fix feet, and one gas station stop for some food.

Our final point was the Eastern State Penitentiary.

Then it was back to the start point to finish up.

We finished in 16:57 and covered 50.19 miles.

99 began the course and 62 finished.  We finished with all 7, so no one quit on either team.


This is a great event, and mixes it up a little from other GORUCK events.  It is basically like a big scavenger hunt.

Here are a few take aways if it is your first star course.

Get a month subscription to Road Warrior for route planning and spend some time in the beginning to get a good plan together.

Train with your gear, this is one of the most important parts.  Remember you don't need tons of food, most events are in cities so there is always places to stop for quick food.

And the most important thing, is keep moving.  No matter what keep moving.

2018 IRONMAN Maryland (My first IRONMAN) Review

It took me a little time to get around to this but I still wanted to put it together, maybe it will help somebody with their first IRONMAN.

Well I kind of signed up for this on a whim.  I always thought it would be cool to do an IRONMAN, but I was never much of a swimmer and didn't feel like spending all the money.  Before signing up I had only ever done one XTERRA sprint, maybe a year or two before that.  I made the decision to sign up during my Run Across Haiti.   I met quite a few awesome people during this trip, and several of them have done an IRONMAN or a few.  I always like to do things out of my comfort zone, so I figured I would give it a try.  I selected IM Maryland, as it was the closest one to me.

After signing up on my last day in Haiti, then returning to the U.S. it was time to start training.  Before this, my longest bike ride was probably around 20 some miles, and I couldn't really do a freestyle stroke further than one length of the pool.  For the XTERRA it was only an 800 meter swim, so I was able to cover that with the breast stroke.

First I needed to figure out how to do the freestyle stroke.  Step one was watching some YouTube. I am almost convinced you can learn anything with YouTube and Google.  Then it was time to take it to the pool.  I got there early in the morning so the audience was a little smaller.  I jumped in and made it across the pool once and was out of breath, and may have been questioning my decision a little.  Then I would swim the breast stroke back to recover.  Also during this I am pretty sure I saw the life guard reach for his buoy a few times just in case.  I did about 1.5 miles that first day alternating between the freestyle stroke and the breast stroke.  After a few more times in the pool and some more YouTube I started to get more comfortable.

After getting a little more comfortable in the pool, I needed to figure out the open water thing and swimming in a wet suit.  I found a local lake and quickly found out I was not very good at swimming straight, because apparently there is no black line in the lake to follow.  It also didn't help that you could only see about a foot in front of you in the lake.  This was my first time in a wet suit, and it didn't help that I decided to first try this out in the middle of summer in a warm lake.  It was quite warm in the suit, but I did find that my times were much faster in the suit.  I am guessing this is because I was wearing an old pair of baggy board shorts in the pool.  I had my daughter along as my coach for the lake swims.

I also needed to figure out what i was going to do about the bike seeing that my longest bike ride was probably around 20 some miles on rails to trails.  Step one was figuring out what bike I would use.  I looked into the tri bikes and nice road bikes and saw they were quite expensive.  I did have a 2016 Diamondback Haanjo Trail gravel bike.  So I decided I was going to use it.  First I found a cheap trainer and gave that a try, seeing as it was still February in PA.

It was working pretty well on the trainer, aside from sounding like an air craft taking off.  I believe this was due to the gravel tires.  I looked into road wheels, but I figured I would give these a try.  Once it started warming up, I started to get it out on the road, and found the tires didn't seem that bad and I could ride on the road and rails to trails with no problem.  My longest ride was 50 miles and I felt pretty good on the bike.  I did finally add a few water bottle holders and something behind the seat to hold an extra tire.  I also got a good deal on a new seat so I gave that a try, other than that the bike was still stock.

One other item I did purchase is a tri suit.  Several friends that do triathlons highly recommended getting one.  This was probably one of my best purchases for the Tri.

Now that I had my gear and some training in it was time.

I was very lucky to have friends near the site of the race, so we were able to stay with them.  This was great because it seemed most of Cambridge, Maryland and the surrounding towns were sold out of places to stay.  So if you need to book lodging, book early.

We arrived in Cambridge on Thursday for packet pickup and the opening ceremony.

This was the 40th year for IRONMAN.

Cambridge, MD is a smaller town so parking for packet pickup was a little hard to find, but we just parked somewhere in town.  I believe there was a parking area somewhere but we just parked the first place we found.

Packet pickup was seamless and very well organized.

After registering you get a wrist band for the weekend, a back pack, your transition bags, and a swim cap.

After getting my gear, I was told to go to the first time IRONMAN tent.  Here they asked if I had any questions, and gave me a first time IRONMAN band and a second swim cap for first timers. They said you didn't have to wear it, but it was just to let everyone know you were a first timer.

Later that afternoon we went to the opening ceremony.  We used the certificate that was in my packet that could be used around town for dinner. The opening ceremony was very well put together.  Mike Reilly (The Voice of IRONMAN) was there.  I didn't really know who he was until they explained it, seeing as I was new to all this, but it was really cool he was there and was going to be at the finish line announcing.

Friday was mostly staging all of your gear. They gave us bags for our transitions, stickers for our gear, our bib, and timing chip.  They were all clearly marked what they each were for.  The bike bag had all my gear for the bike after the swim and the run bag had all my run gear for after the bike.  There was also 2 special needs bags, these could be used part way through the bike and run.  I put very little in mine and never used them, they had plenty of stuff on the course.  After getting my bike and gear staged we headed back to where we were staying for the night and relaxed the rest of the day.

Saturday morning we drove to the school where we parked and took the bus to the start.  It was nice everything was staged and ready the day before.  You were allowed to do a final check of your gear, so I went and took a look at my bike to make sure I didn't have a flat or something.  Then I went with my wife and daughter to wait for the start of the swim.

We got to watch the sunrise over the swim course.  We had a perfect day for the swim, it was a little chilly so it was wetsuit legal.

Another item I was happy I brought was a throw away pair of flip flops, I am not sure where I read to do this but it was smart.  They also go in a bin and get recycled.

The swim was a staggered start so I jumped in the middle somewhere because I was not completely sure what my pace would be.

This was my first brackish water swim, and my first time swimming with people.  The course was a 1 mile square that needed to be completed twice.  The water being brackish was not a big deal, but all the people made the start of the swim interesting.  I started off running into people then I would slow down so I didn't hit the people in front of me and people would then run into me. I was swimming like this for about a quarter mile, and found if I wasn't bumping into people it was usually because I was way off course getting in some bonus mileage because I was not swimming straight.  Mostly this was because I was use to breathing to my right when all the buoys were to my left.  I was also not the best at sighting, but I got by.  The second lap was much better, after falling into my pace group better, there was a lot less bumping around and I was doing better at looking where I was going.

After coming out of the water on the swim, there was people to help you out of your wet suit.  I was not sure how this was going to work, but they really know what they are doing.  Usually it would take a little while for me to struggle out of my wet suit, but it was amazing how fast they got me out of it.  I got to them and they instructed me to lay on my back and two people pulled it right off of me in a second.  I was standing there holding my wetsuit before I knew what happened and I was on my way into the bike transition tent.  The transitions were setup very well, they quickly got your stuff for you and made it easy to transition and drop off your swim gear, using the same bag.

I was off on the bike ride and was very happy.  I just wanted to make it through the swim and get to the bike and run.  My bike was a little different than everybody else, especially the tires. I kept the larger gravel tires on it, and I did pump them up to the max and that seemed to help roll better.  On the course I did get a lot of strange looks, and multiple comments about what tires they are and kudos on doing a full IRONMAN with them on the bike.  They looked a little out of place, but honestly with them maxed out on air pressure they seemed to work very well.

The bike ride was a 2 loop course and pretty flat.  It was also very windy.  If I would have done it again, I might have added a pair of aero bars.  I did notice how many people were much more tucked down than me and I think that might have helped a little with the wind.  I could feel it blowing directly into my chest and felt like it was slowing me down.  I am not sure how much of this was mental, but I am sure it made some difference.  The bike course was very scenic and I really enjoyed it.  They had aid stations that you would ride through and grab some water, Gatorade, and food.  You also had to throw out your trash in a designated spot, so the aid stations were pretty quick, because I didn't feel like stopping.  They had gels, but I wasn't really looking what I was eating, just eating it quick and tossing the trash and moving on.  This was probably not the best plan as one time I grabbed a mocha gel and ate it quick, but I don't like coffee, so I did not like that.  It kind of sucked riding for about 10 miles with that taste in my mouth until I found something else.  After this I at least looked at the pack before gulping it down.

After getting back on the bike I was excited for the run, because that is what I do the most.  The transition went very smoothly, same as the swim to the bike.  After leaving the transition area I was feeling pretty good, other than occasionally burping up a coffee taste.  I was ready to go. I got on the run course and started running.  After I got about a mile in I decided it would be better to take a walk run approach, well, my body decided for me.   The run course was a loop course so you got to see the finish line about 5 times before running across it.  Personally I don't like courses that you run past the same place multiple times but there was advantages to it.  One was that I got to see my wife and daughter a few times and that always gave me a boost of energy.

The aid stations and the volunteers on the run were great.  There were also a lot of spectators every time you got near the finish line, so all the cheering helped.  After looping back and forth through town a few times it was time for the finish.  I have done quite a few different events and nothing has ever compared to the IRONMAN finish line.  There is so much energy and there is nothing like hearing Mike say "You are and IRONMAN"

After finishing, they had volunteers to make sure you were OK, and get you your Finisher hat, shirt, and medal.  They also had a good bit of food for the racers in the festival area, and lots of merchandise.

They also had shirts and gear with all the participants names on it.


Jerry and his team put on an amazing event.  Everything was very well organized and the course was awesome.  I am extremely happy that I picked this race for my first IRONMAN.

This is a great race for your first IRONMAN.  Some other things to remember if this is your first IRONMAN is that you don't need the best equipment out there.  It is more important that you have equipment that you are comfortable with.  Whatever gear you plan to race with is what you should be training with.

Something else I noticed is that it seemed everybody had a trainer, that is all I heard racers talking about what their trainers had them doing and eating.  Maybe a trainer would help, but I can tell you from experience it is possible to do it without one.  All you need to do is practice swimming, biking, and running.  The more you do off each, the better.  YouTube helps too, especially for the swimming.

It is also great to have your family there for support. It might even be a longer day for them than it is for you.  They will do a lot of waiting to see you for a few seconds during the day, but it will be awesome for you to see them.

Thank you, Jessica and Emma for your support.