Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ride to Montauk Recap!

Game day! Finally! I don't think I have ever been so anxious than I was the 24-48 hours leading up to the ride. I could have used to vallium to calm my nerves down!  It was a 4:30am wake up call, since check in started at 6am for me, and there would be some travel time to get to Babylon. I went through with my usual race day nutrition routine, which was a bagel, banana and 20oz. of water. Packed up all the gear and loaded up the car and we were headed off to Babylon train station.

It was a cool (almost chilly) sunny morning. We arrive to Babylon around 6:30am to find it rather buzzing with activity already. I check-in my bag, grab a route sheet, and use the port-o-potty. Change into my bike shoes, and I'm about ready to roll. Still debating on whether I wanted to join the escorted ride, I finally decided against it, said good-bye to my loving wife, and rolled out with a few other members of Team Viscardi.

This first leg was from Babylon to the Blue Point Brewery in Patchogue, which would be a little over 20 miles. For some reason I thought it would be closer to 30. It was a pretty uneventful 20 or so miles, just had more lights and intersections than I would have liked (because that meant having to stop, and still being a "newbie" to bike shoes that clip in, each stop was a small adventure!). Toward the end of this section, the competitive, i-cant-do-anything-just-for-fun part of me takes over and I decide to pull away from the group. Surprisingly, another Team Viscardi member I was rolling with decided to follow me. And since I thought this section was longer, I was very surprised when I arrived at the Blue Point Brewery (around 8:30am) much sooner than anticipated. My original plan, before ride day, was to spend AT MOST 10 minutes at each rest stop. I quickly realized that was not going to happen. Between people hanging out, grabbing food, and the lines for everything (food, water, gatorade, potty), my desired 10 minute max became a 30 minute stop.

This second leg, from the Brewery to Westhampton Church would be about 30 miles, just around the midway point for the 100-milers. A large group of Team Viscardi decides to roll out together, now 9:00am, so we are out in full force! I try to hang around for about the first 5 minutes, then again, that i-cant-do-anything-just-for-fun side takes over and I decide to just break away from them, otherwise, I probably wouldnt finish until after 7pm! So I'm keeping it around a 16-17mph pace, when conditions allowed of course, and I couldnt help but start to think, will this catch up with me later? But I didnt care, I just wanted to keep going. Nearing the 50 mile mark, and close to the next rest stop, I'm really starting to feel it. I'm starting to get tired, my legs are burning, and worst of all, my butt hurt!  I was able to ignore it knowing the rest stop was near.  So as I approach the rest stop, around 11am, my original plan of "no more than 10 minutes" at the rest stop was out the window. I knew I had to stay a while, let my legs recover and get some fuel in me. So I pulled in, set my bike down, and just shook my legs out and stretched out for a bit. Took my bottles to refill and grabbed a banana. I really didnt want anything else to eat, fearing it my come back to haunt me. I found a bench to just relax on, just to recover a little.

So, from here would be another 25-ish miles to the Water Mill, the next rest stop. Now around 11:30am, as soon as I leave the rest stop, I feel a tightness in my right leg, almost like it was about to cramp. I try my best to pedal and stretch at the same time (I'm sure it was a site to others). I also downed some water and gatorade. It does finally subside and all was well, UNTIL....the WIND. This next section was, in one word, HELL.  There was a slight headwind all day, but this stretch on Dune Rd, for about 5, 6 miles, were the worst. I was literally going about 6, 7 mph. My legs were so on fire, that I stopped to stretch out and rest. This is where I started thinking the worst, that the fast start was catching up to me and that I may have to be SAG-ed to the end! So we finally turn onto Ponquogue Bridge to catch a nice break with the wind at our backs, and a nice downhill on the second half of the bridge. From here, it wasn't all bad, very scenic, then around 1:30pm, I arrived at the Water Mill. This was the imfamous stop with PIE. PIE!! I badly wanted some, but again, knew that it would come back to haunt me later. Refilled my water and gatorade, used the facilities, laid down for a bit, and most importantly, downed a small packet of salt. Money.

Around 2pm, I was back on the road, and it would be another 30 miles to the finish. I knew since I made it this far, no amount of pain or soreness would stop me from getting to the end. I'm not even caring about how nice the scenery was around me was at this point. It was, lets get the heck to Montauk!! And that is what I did. Trying to keep it around 15mph where I could, and if my legs let me, I was finally got to the final 15 mile stretch that led to the lighthouse. Here, is where it got fun. The first 5 were fine, but the final 10?  Lets just say there were a couple of hills. A couple of Cadillac mountain type hills!! At the END!! That was just wrong. So I push through the first one, levels out, I'm tired, I slow a bit....get to the next one. Same thing. Finally, not far from the end, is the biggest one. Fortunately, there was a big downhill just before it, so I was at least able to gain some momentum up this last one. It carried me to about 1/3 of the way up, before I was in my lowest gear already. As I'm going up this hill, I couldnt help but think that I'd rather just get off the bike and run!! Too bad I only had the bike shoes. Then the next thought, that as soon as I get to the lighthouse, I was going to just chuck the bike and not want to see it for a while (too bad I have a Tri in less than 2 weeks!). So, finally, over the hill, I see the line of cars, trying to enter the park. I know I'm close. You start to see the crowd, they're cheering. I'm getting emotional. Yes, emotional. Nearly choked up!! I'm rolling through and I see Ahmee, Lillian and David cheering me on as I roll by. I made it. 108 miles, and 9.5 hours since I left Babylon, I made it to the lighthouse in Montauk!!!

I was completely spent. I'm not sure I've ever felt that kind of fatigue before. That kind of burn in my legs. It was still settling in that I did that. I biked over 100 miles. And all for a great cause! Montauk....THE END.

Thanks for your support!

Just a quick and warm "Thank You" to those of you who contributed to Team Viscardi's Ride to Montauk!

It was a hard fought and might I even say brutal 108 mile ride from Babylon to the lighthouse at Montauk, but was well worth it to support a great school and a great cause. Although completing the ride was no easy task, neither are the lives of these children who attend Henry Viscardi School.

If you've been meaning to support but haven't, there is still time. The School's fiscal year ends on June 29, so you can still contribute until then.  You can do so in the following ways:

(1) "pledge" to support me on the ride (choose this option so I know that you contributed!). You will receive and "invoice" in the mail: http://www.abilitiesonline.org/pledgeform.aspx

(2) make a general donation to the Henry Viscardi School (**be sure to select “Team Viscardi/Ride to Montauk” on the Restricted Gifts drop down menu**): https://npo1.networkforgood.org/Donate/Donate.aspx?npoSubscriptionId=5560

To learn more about Team Viscardi, Henry Viscardi School, or Abilities!, please go here:

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me: benjamin.c.huang@gmail.com

Click here for a full recap of the ride!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

JPM Corporate Challenge Recap

This post is brought to you by Team Viscardi's Ride to Montauk! We are TWO days away from GAME DAY. You can still support the team. To learn more, click here.  I'm going 100 (actually, its 108 now) miles.

So last night was the annual (36th apparently) JP Morgan Corporate Challenge. It was my 4th year doing it, and it seems there are improvements every year. I must say, they finally got it right this year. Not only was it corralled (which they started last year, I believe), but they ENFORCED it. I mean, really enforced it. On top of that, they wave started, so that there was about a minute between corrals being released. This resulted in a well spaced out, not very crowded race. Never did I really feel impeded by runners ahead of me. Dont get me wrong, there was still a little elbowing in the beginning (normal for all races), but the one thing missing this year? WALKERS. Every year, without fail, there would be walkers in front of the runners, no matter how much they tell the walkers to start in the back. Kudos to the organizers this year. And to top it all off- Tech shirts!

So, it was a 7pm start, and we get to the park around 6:20pm. Drop our stuff off, get a quick drink and off to the start corrals. After a very lively 20 minute wait, which included a cheery warm up routine led by some instructors from Equinox, the starting horn went off for the Red and Green corrals (1st and 2nd). I was in the yellow corral, which was next (now, I will shamefully admit I "fibbed" my estimated finish time as to start in a better corral). My pace as of late has been in the mid-9min/mi, so my best guess is that I was mixed in with -8-ish min/mi people, maybe even slightly faster.  The horn goes off for my corral and off we go. Immediately I see that this group is pacing faster, obviously. And I said, what the heck, let me pace with them. I'm actually doing pretty well through the first mile, which included the 2 biggest hills (though not big in general) of the course. It was a humid night, so within the first mile, sweat was already starting to pour off of me. Lovely, right?  Half way through is where the faster start affected me. There was a water station, so I wisely took some.  I back off for about the next mile. I was glad to see that I wasnt the only one who "fibbed"! Others had already started walking. So I'm just pushing myself to just get to Cat Hill (going down!), to regain some energy before the final kick. I've never been so happy to get to the top of Cat hill. Finally go down, allowing gravity to do its thing and reach the boathouse, then the turn back onto the 72nd transverse. I see the finish line, and then a fellow teammate about to pass me. I go into a full out sprint (as does he) and we both dash through the finish line. My final time was 32:56, for a 9:25 pace, improving from my 34:12 (9:46) last year.

Overall, good race, good company, and most of all- well organized. Never thought I'd say that about this race!

Pre-race photo (don't ask me why Matthieu is "hiding" behind the pole)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Celebrate Israel Run Recap

Roughly two days removed from the Wall Street Run, it was time for another one- The Celebrate Israel Run, a 4 miler through Central Park.  I did the inaugural race last year and thought I'd do it again, mainly because it was my big PR and what earned me my 9:19 bibs. Was I able to achieve it again?

Another 8am start means up at the crack of dawn at 5am. Completely "unprepared" this time around, I didnt have my bagel, bread anything. Had to settle for 2 nutri-grain bars that were lying around the house as my pre-race nutrition. Seeminly not good already. So I take the 6am train into Penn, and after a lengthy wait for an A train, finally get to the park just before 7am. It was a cool crisp morning, with temps in the upper 50s and plenty of sunshine.

So after waiting about an hour, the race finally is under way. I sort of told myself that since I biked about 20 miles the previous day and did the Wall Street Run on Thur, I was going to take this one easy and not push too hard. But who am I kidding, I dont know the meaning of "taking it easy", plus, this was my PR race last year, I wasn't about to give up the opportunity of trying to do that again! Moving along, all is well, course is not too crowded, and overall uneventful. Approach the water station around the midpoint, and had thought about grabbing some, but ultimately decided against it to save time.

Get to the last mile, and admittedly, I'm lumbering. Definitely feeling the previous day's biking taking its toll, but still, I'm trying to push through. Just trying to pick people to follow and focus on a this point, so I dont slow too much. Made the turn back on to the 72nd transverse, and it was time to kick it up. A swift sprint to the finish and that was it. Did I PR? Sadly, no, final time of 38:11 (9:32 pace). Finished last year in 37:19 (9:19). But the peculiar part? 38:11 is the exact finish time for Japan Day run just 3 weeks ago!  Now, if thats not interesting enough, it wasn't until I went to update my Race Results that I noticed: Not only was this result the same as Japan Day, my time for Wall Street this year was IDENTICAL to my finish at last year's! So I guess if anything, I'm consistent. I got a kick out of this, as I dont think anyone could do this if they tried!

So we're only 11 days away from the Ride to Montauk. Theres still time to contribute, go here. 100 miles. I hope I survive. Following that will be the NYRR Sprint Tri on June 30. Then it'll be quiet until the big event, the olympic distance Rev3 Tri in Maine. 'Til next time!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Wall Street Run Recap

Last night was the American Heart Association's Wall Street Run. A 3 miler through the financial district in downtown NYC. This was my second time doing this race, and I must say this year seemed to be better than last. Overall, a good, fun race, with picturesque views of the water during twilight. And great weather to boot, 76 degrees and clear, and most importantly, low humidity.

With a 7pm start, we arrived at the starting "corrals" at around 6:30pm. I put corrals in quotes because it was really just a starting area, and does not have the traditional corrals of other races, which separate you by your bib number. But this year (I dont believe they did it last year), they did place signs so that you can line up where your estimated pace is. That worked well, as I noticed I was not impeded as much as last year, and did not seem as chaotic.

The start is delayed a few minutes, I believe they were still clearing the roads. The start of this one is interesting because we make an immediate right turn, and if you get caught on the inside, well, you're slowed to a crawl. I tried to stay near the middle but somehow got caught in the crawl anyway. Out of the jam and was on my way. It was pretty uneventful from there. I was really thirsty though, since we were standing around for about 30 min, and I really did try to curb my water intake an hour or 2 before, so avoid having to go to the port-o-potty! There was only one water station, so I patiently waited for the 1.5 mile marker for that. I'm trying to take in the views of downtown, when I nearly roll my ankle due to the uneven streets. So from then on, as much as I wanted to admire the views, I kept my focus on the road in front of me, to avoid anything that will seriously kill my ankle. Thankfully nothing did for the remainder of the race.

So we arrive at the esplanade so I know the end is near. Its still fairly crowded at this point as the route narrows and I'm trying to plan my kick to the finish. Unfortunately, with too many people in my way, I was not able to go into a full sprint, so I just cruise through the finish. Final time of 28:50 (9:37 pace), I was hoping for closer to 28:30 (and would have if I could have gone into my kick!), and really WANTED closer to 28:00. But seems my pace has been pretty consistent for these shorter distances. Still trying to come close to my 9:19 PR from last year. Well, I'll have another shot this Sunday at Celebrate Israel. Until then!

A quick post-race photo