This race and its travel plans were solidified a few weeks prior, after adding another member to our family; Rinny. While I was away in Salt Lake City prepping for IRONMAN 70.3 St. George, Karen decided our older, 12 year old Dachshund, Rudy, needed a younger, fresher perspective. I will say though, the puppy advertisement fell into her lap, she asked me and I responded “whatever makes you happy”. After the puppy meet was set, I knew I would be coming home to a bigger family! Needless to say, with this past trip being all on the east coast, it made for a perfect family road trip. Soooo here’s the skinny…(or fat)
We left for Santa Rosa Beach on Monday! Loaded my red Jetta Wagon (The Adventure Mobile) to the brim and headed to Karen’s Aunt’s house located right near our wedding destination; Watercolor Resort. Why didn’t we just stay at the amazing resort? Because we have 2 dogs and sadly, no dogs allowed in the 5 star-ish resort. After 7 or so hours on the road with multiple pee breaks and a couple dog stops, we made it! We headed straight to The Bay, the restaurant we plan to use for the rehearsal din din. Despite some GREAT food, we opted to sit outside under a covered patio facing the water and proceeded to get eaten alive by Deer Flies. 7 days later and my welts still itch so bad they hurt…but I can’t stop itching!! The next day (Tuesday) was my mandatory pre race “fat” day. It also happened to fall upon our wedding plan day, cake tasting day and menu tasting day. I ate things I haven’t had in YEARS! Let’s just say, I can’t wait to eat on wedding day. Thankfully, Karen’s parents also came along to help this process along!
From here onward…it’s standard race stuff, but I promise to make it fun!
- Friday – Wake up early, head to Pullen Aquatic Center and try to break of the crusty, tired, tight body that has been cooped up in a car for 2 days. I can’t lie, anything “race” effort felt impossible. Arm speed was garbage, attitude was too relaxed and I definitely knew I had some physiological skills to sharpen up pre-race. I hadn’t though about it until then but the race was sort of an after thought given the weeks activities. Plus, being in the car that long really put some knots in my neck and traps. All in all, I was a bit of an internal whiny biatch. This is probably pretty standard though :/ After the swim I sought after a nice jog but was hit with a sweaty, itchy reality. The flies were in full attack mode in Raleigh and even at 7 am I was in a sauna with 95% humidity. My intervals were longer than expected and were basically sprints to avoid packs of bloodthirsty flies while my hands are spastically waiving around my head like a crazy person attempting to strike one of them dead! Not a great run but another reality that this race would likely be stickier than IRONMAN 70.3 Puerto Rico. After a grocery visit to Whole Foods and some awesome Lebanese dinner, I fell asleep with Karen and Rinny.
- Saturday – Woke up like a normal person. No early, blaring alarm clock with a shuffle straight to the first training session. I woke up, had a normal breakfast and got a freaking haircut! I mean it took me 3 days to finally get a decent barber to cut my hair. What the French? I needed to de-ice my tips a bit, bro! After the haircut we took a 45 minute drive to T1, it’s seriously FAR away. It was again, sweltering and I cut my pre-ride from and hour, to 30 minutes…and didn’t even bother swimming. It’s a weird pattern to break at times, but I’ve been doing my best to do much less the day before the race. It’s why I’m almost always irritated by the Pro-Athlete meeting. I wish we could just do a Pro-Athlete tele-conference. We all meet up in this room, hear the same thing at every race and mainly stalk who actually showed up to race. After the meeting where some athletes complained about the color of the swim buoys and I asked if we could get our bikes out of transition early, we were off! Where to? WHOLE FOODS DINNER! I love having control of my pre-race meal but most importantly I LOVE the variety! I can sample tons of stuff in smaller quantities for 10X the price! So as lame as it sounds, Karen and I (but mainly me) love a Whole Foods dinner around 4pm the night before the race. After dinner, I polished off 4 French macaroons and a dark chocolate toffee bar. Then…in bed by 6:30 for a 3 am wake up.
- Sunday – Race Day – I wake up at 4 am almost daily, so 3 am came without any groans. This pre-race ritual is a bit of a “black out” zone for me as I try and think as little as possible. How am I feeling, what do I want…yada, yada. It really doesn’t matter because in a few hours, I’m showing up to race. The fabled question “are you ready” often makes me cringe. Why? Because it opens the door for excuses. Whether I’m “ready” or not, I’ve done everything I can to get to this race in the best shape possible. And quite frankly, who gives a shit If I’m “ready”…this is my job, it’s not a question…it’s an inevitable driving force. I’ll be as ready as I make myself - BOOM!
- Karen politely wakes up around 4 am so she can drop me off at T1. I’ve already had my breakfast which was, a few sips of coffee, heaps of oatmeal mixed with INFINIT Mud, Collagen Protein powder, Honey and a Banana. From then on it’s sports drink and maybe a bite or two of a bar. I try to get about 600-800 calories in 3.5 to 4 hours out. Plus, what I eat on race morning doesn’t change from what I eat normally pre or post workouts. I actually look forward to finishing 5k swims so I can destroy that same oatmeal concoction!
- I arrived at T1 around 4:20 am quickly dropped off my run gear and headed to the shuttle for a 45 minute ride with a 70 year old driver who had no idea how to use his GPS or navigate in the dark! Getting there on time was a relief…however, I still had about 90 minutes to kill before the race started. I was among the first Pro’s to reunite with their bike, assessing just how much rain we got as I emptied my front hydration reservoir. I saw about 6 Scott Plasma 5’s on the rack…this is a first! It was awesome! As the masses began trickling in, I found a pump, noted a few fast fellas and took note of what everyone was doing. One guy's tire must have exploded over night and about 10 other age-group athletes forgot random items like socks, helmets, more socks, goggles…it was nuts! Luckily, everyone is so giving at these events, everyone managed to get what they needed. After a warm up jog and some drills to open up the hips, it was time to suit up. I opted to go topless under my swim skin as my tri kit has sleeves. It just doesn’t feel good to swim with ¼ sleeves. This decision ultimately cost me about 10 seconds in transition, so no big deal.
- SWIM START – After a 10 minute warm up we were off. As I said before, I prefer not to “think” about how I feel or what might/could bother me…I just try and GO. I started off neck an neck with some faster guys but lost them around 400 meters in. This is pretty normal though, however after 600 meters I gained back that ground. I ended up catching the lead pack with about 3 to 4 min of swimming. 6 of us came out of the water together and headed onto the bike.
- BIKE BIKE BIKE – I have made some conscious notes to try and be very conservative on the first 20 miles, but damnit this fails often. It’s not as easy to do when the group is getting away. I will say, that I let them go after 15 min of hard work, as I was putting out around 320 watts, watching them creep away while going down hill. I knew it was best to get back to my numbers and stay around 290-300. After 60 min or so, they started getting sloppy as more riders got in the group and were faced with a looming referee at all times. On a rolling course with 5 or 6 guys in a line, it’s near impossible to put out steady efforts. Why? As the lead guys bomb downhill and hit the next uphill, we all turn into an accordion and have to sit-up, soft pedal or just BLAST our load and pass the whole group at once. For this reason, a large group on a rolling course is defiantly not ideal. 3 guys would be ideal as there is plenty of breathing room. Also, it’s near impossible to break away. I know we all rode as fair as we possibly could have, never making forward progress if we sensed we got to close, but something needs to be done about how we ride…it’s simply not conducive to a fluid, self paced bike race. This topic is constantly up for debate and I’m sure there are better ways. Around mile 45, it’s pretty certain that it’s a foot race…no one is getting away on the bike unless you’re a super biker and we all know who they are.
- RUN, run, Suffer, Jog…finish - After IRONMAN 70.3 St. George I was confident I could produce a solid run again. However, I didn’t truly account for my sweat rate and salt loss. My HR was about 10-15 bpm higher on the bike than usual and on the run, it was over threshold after mile 2…I was a ticking time bomb. Heat training certainly didn’t make this hot race more manageable. It’s something I know I truly need to work on because It’s defeated me too many times. After getting to 7th place it was very frustrating to know it was slipping away. I’m definitely a mind over matter type of athlete, but I know there wasn’t anything I could do. I worked on form, leg speed, attitude, positive thoughts, tried smiling, tried yelling, more coke, more salt…it just wasn’t happening. That’s just the way it went down.
- Next Week, I’m off to IRONMAN Austria where I’ll be racing my first 140.6 and then 1 month later, my second in Switzerland. Look for pictures as I’ll be a social media whore during that period. Thanks for reading, thanks for the thoughts and support! I truly love you guys!