22 July 2009

It's official—I am half an Ironman. The weeks leading up to Musselman were absolutely crazy. I was in the middle of fielding —what seemed like thousands of emails—from Arts Triathlon participants, and my creative team members. There was so many loose ends to tie up, but having served as co-Artistic Director for Vision of Sound and the Heidelberg New Music festival, I was confident that we would get it all done.

The Thursday evening of race week, I had a gig at the College at Brockport until 9 p.m.. Friday morning, I drove down to Geneva (about an hour and twenty minute drive for me) to arrive at 7:30, had some coffee and met my team at the Smith Opera House to unload a P.A. and mentally prepare. Around noon I was feeling a little anxious about the race, so I went out to the car to change out of my jeans and dress shirt and put on my running shorts—I had to get in a quick run. Watching all those dancers move and knowing that I was going to have to have some lunch soon, motivated me to get out and put in a good 25 minutes. On the way back into the parking lot I heard someone yell my name. It was my friends Chris Reba and Otto Muller who had driven the day before from Connecticut. Ironically, the whole time I was thinking "please don't let anyone see me running out here without my shirt on." At the end of the evening, I cleaned up some of the stuff in the house and went out for a beer and some grub at a local joint named the Red Dove Tavern. Around midnight, I was feeling pretty dehydrated (even though I tried to remain conscious of hydration throughout the day) and I ventured out into the desolate streets of Geneva N.Y. in search of a pharmacy where I might find some Gatorade. Nothing. I don't know the town that well, and I did not want to venture too far. I managed to get into bed at the guest house I was staying in on the campus of Hobart and William and Smith around 12:30.

Morning. I got up, went downtown to a little coffee shop appropriately named, The Coffee House. Go figure. Around 8:45, six or seven really lean, muscular looking, late twenty, early thirty-something looking women walk in. The triathlete alarm went off. Even if I was not sure they were triathletes, the Muskoga 70.3 t-shirt one had on was a dead giveaway. Far be it from me to not make these ladies feel uncomfortable here in this new town by not saying hello. "Are you guys here for the race,?" I ask. Of course she was. She asked if I was too, and I told her that I was. She asked me about the bike course. As I started telling her about it, all of her friends gathered around me as I was seated on my chair sipping coffee. They were listening to every detail of the bike course I could remember—having done it in once in training. I felt like I was giving a fireside chat. We wished each other luck and I packed up my gear and went up to pick up my race packet. This was exciting. Walking into the Spalding Center on the campus of Hobart I could see all the athletes out with their precision tri bikes. It was real now. I had my swim cap, my race bib, my Musselman shampoo and conditioner. No turning back now. I was in the airplane with the parachute on—I am going down no matter what.

I went to the earlier 12:30 mandatory race meeting, because I had to go back to Rochester to play a gig at the for the Wilmont Cancer Center (I told you this was a crazy weekend!) After the gig, I got in my car and drove back to Geneva (did I mention it was a 1hr 20 minutes?) I met my friend Manuel in Geneva who was also running the Musselman. We went to the grocery store and picked up some bananas, gatorade, water, and my pre-race soft pretzels—I eat two the night before a race. I got to bed fairly early and slept way more before my first half-ironman the before my first sprint—at least a solid 5 and half hours.

Race Morning. I had some gatorade and water, a banana, and soft pretzel. I was feeling pretty confident I was going to perform well. I did all the training, almost following my plan to the letter. My swim wave was the first at 7 a.m.. As I was putting on my wetsuit, I saw the race organizer, Jeff Henderson, who remembered me from my one meeting with him about the Arts Triathlon. He remembered my name. I was very impressed. He told me he went down to the Smith and caught a little bit of Trio East. Pretty impressive considering he had just finished saw the last mini-Mussel participants stroll in that morning. Okay.. good energy. I went out into the water my friend Kelly Jepson Covert to warm up. The water was warm, but really shallow. I was tentative at first because it felt like I could hit my hands on the bottom and cut them on the dreaded zebra mussel for which this triathlon is named for.

The loudspeaker announces that white caps have are to enter the swim area. We all corral in there like a bunch of cattle and head out to the swim start. The horn goes off and I can hear everyone cheer before I plunge my head into the water and start paddling away. I felt great on the swim. If I could only learn how to swim a straight line, I would be so much faster: 0:37:29

When I got out of the water my friend and training parter Adam Groom was cheering me on, "Good job Marco... you're doing good. Get on that bike and go." It was so awesome that he found me. Another friend of mine, John Bowerman was also there cheering me on. I had no idea he was going to be there, but it was additional positive energy for the bike. I got on and the first ten miles were brutal. We were heading south, uphill into a nasty headwind. I was lucky when I was pushing 17 mph. I kept reminding myself... patience, pacing, slow and steady. When we finally turned around and headed back north, I was having great fun pushing 23-29 mph., but I could tell I was getting dehydrated and nutrition was going to be a real problem. You see, being in such a hurry to just get to bed and get some rest the night before the race, that I did not adequately prepare my fluids for the bike. I forgot to water down my gatorade and it was I was drinking molasses with a little bit of sugar, mixed with honey. Try to eat a Powerbar when your mouth is dry—not good. I had every intention of watering down my Gatorade and taking a GU at the 20 mile aid station, but the young girl dropped the water bottle she was trying to hand me, and even though I was tired and thirsty, I did not want to go back. I got some water at the 30 mile station and inhaled it like I had been trekking through the Serengeti for days. I finished the bike in 2:58:29 with an 18.9 average.

The run was brutal. I was actually looking forward to it, but because my nutrition had been so poor on the bike, the lactic acid in my legs were making me cramp. I did a combination of running, jogging, walking, stopping. The aid stations were great. My friend Mike Hall, a Musselman alum, told me that the eats on the run were great. Sure enough, he was right. I drank a half gallon or more of water on the run, shot blocks, Clif bars, pretzels, animal crackers, endurolytes. Final run time: 2:18:11. Woah baby! My final time was 5:58:30. I wanted to break six hours and I did—barely—but a win is a win. I learned a lot and I am excited about having another opportunity to race smarter.

Congratulations to my friends Kelly Jepson Covert, Scott Casella (who finished despite three flat tires!), and Manuel Pacheco who can now claim the half-Ironman status as well.

21 July 2009

A Busy Mussel Weekend

Well, it was a very busy weekend for me. On 17 July 2009 I helped coordinate the inaugural Musselman Arts Triathlon—a twelve hour arts performance at the historic Smith Opera House in Geneva N.Y. Musicians, dancers, painters and audience members shared the stage collaborating in the creation of new works.

The creative team included my colleagues: choreographer/dancer Donna Davenport, visual artist Cherry Rahn and lighting designer Mark Wunderlich. Throughout the day, musicians and dancers performed non-stop. The dancers performed choreographed essays during parts of the concert, and at other times, improvised to the music. Visual artists worked throughout the day painting a 18X24 backdrop on the back of the Smith Opera House stage—which will be donated to the Geneva Boys and Girls Club.

Ensembles performing at the Smith included Trio East—comprised of Eastman School of Music faculty member Clay Jenkins, Jeff Capmbell and Rich Thompson. Together they performed with the Hillside Children's Movement Choir. Another Eastman ensemble, Fracas Quartet, performed works by Elizabeth Kelly, Marc Mellits and Loius Andriessen. The works were scored for the ensemble's unique lineup of saxophone, electric guitar, percussion and piano.

The dancing was equally eclectic. Missy Pfhol Smith's BioDance, Ann Harris-Wilcox's group Present Tense Dance, Juanita Suarez, Donna Davenport, and dance students from Hobart and William Smith and Brockport Colleges were just some of the artists who performed throughout the day.

A rather unique performance was that of Syracuse composer Edward Ruchalski who brought a multitude of homemade sound sculptures fashioned from various metals that he invited children and audience members to come on stage and play.

One of the highlights of the evening was a concert that premiered 33 miniatures in approximately 45 minutes. The composers represented a wide range of aesthetic approaches from Mark Radice's neo-Impressionistic work The Pavillions of Zhanshan Si—written during the composers recent trip to China—to the graphic score Not Open for Debate by Christopher Reba. The ensemble was comprised of Kelly Jepson Covert on flute, Anna Ruguero on clarinet, Cristina Bucui and Sara Mastrengelo on violin and Meg Ruby on piano. Almost all of the composers were in attendance at the premiere.

Pianists Nicola Melville, Daniela Mineva and Catarina Catarina Domenici all contributed amazing solo concerts throughout the day with music varying from Bach's Musical Offering to Doug Opel's Eine Kinda Bachmusik Pt. 2. Brockport dance alums Danielle Selby, Sophia Roberts and Caitlyn Bowers danced an improvised concert performed by clarinetist Stefan Van Sant whose selections included Shulamit Rahn's For an Actor: Monologue for Clarinet and Mozart's Clarinet Concerto.

With an ensemble comprised of my friends Otto Muller on Rhodes, Christopher Reba on electric bass, Dennis Mariano on drums, Aaron Hyzen and Paul McCartel on electric guitar and me on piano—we played an improvised set inspired by Miles Davis' Bitches Brew for the concluding "Unveiling Concert." The artists removed the stage curtain, allowing the audience and artists to see the canvas that the painters had worked on for twelve straight hours. The result was nothing short of extraordinary. The audience and artists cheered with the unveiling. Geneva artists, Cherry Rahn, oversaw the entire creative process.

Thanks to everyone who donated their time and artistry in making this a truly extraordinary event!

20 July 2009

I started this blog to share the experiences, trials and tribulations of a triathlete father of five. I am using this space as an opportunity to say thank you to all the people along the way that have helped me transform my life through triathlon —most of all, my wife and children. I want to share experiences that have helped me become a smarter, more efficient triathlete, while being around enough to invest in what really matters—my family.

It is a balancing act, but with a little self-determination, (and a lot of 5:30 training sessions) very possible.