A year ago, I made this same trip...but a lot can happen in a year. Since my last visit to Michigan to participate in 70.3 Steelhead I somehow found an amazing woman who loves me, decided to utilize my USAT elite card, sold my house, decided to separate from Air Force active duty and have begun to lay the groundwork for my future. The only devastating news this past year was finding out my aunt is going to be battling cancer. You could imagine my astonishment when she opted to wake up at 3am to drive in and watch me race! We're a family of fighters! I can't express the amount of emotion I felt during this race knowing my whole family would be waiting for me at the finish line (first time ever)!!
The trip, flight, doggy day care (we have 2 dogs) and everything else went super smooth. We arrived 3 days early so we could enjoy my Mom's lake house and relax/mingle. Something about being home brings some calm. Maybe it's because it's sort of a vacation. The training load is less, the stress levels back off and when I'm home....Mom takes care of everything, right?
I remember last year when I raced this course in the age group field, I saw the "P" on some mighty fast fellas while finishing their last lap. I knew then that I wanted to race with a "P" on my calf. Well, for some reason, this is the first race that offered me that opportunity. Mission accomplished baby!
Since every hotel within 200 miles seemed to be booked last year, I jumped at the opportunity to stay with a friend from Team RWB, Caroline Gaynor. Her Dad owns a beautiful home about 30 min south...Perfect! The 3 hour drive across the state wasn't too awesome, but at least I wasn't alone. My sherpa (best girlfriend ever) was on board, navigating the healthy food stops and putting up with my random comments that generally lead no-where and had zero relevance to anything considered a complete thought. I tend to ramble...
We arrived to the race venue, I jumped in the pristine waters of Lake Michigan (65 degrees), quickly dried off and headed to the pro meeting. Being in a room full of such deep talent can be interesting. No one really wants to talk, make eye contact or ask any dumb questions. Luckily I was able to share a few kind words with Justin Metzger, a truly talented yet humble up and comer.
After a delicious meal and what seemed like 5 minutes of sleep, we were up...ready to drive to the race site and execute the morning ritual....and hopefully take advantage of the labeled "pro men/women" port-o-potties.
Race Prep: For a 70.3 I'll grub on some quinoa, almond butter, banana, berries and cinnamon. This takes place right when I wake up. I'll also sip on some coffee to aid the waking-up process...and it'll usually enable a "smooth move". My trusty sherpa was monumental during this portion of the morning. She carried gear, hung out by herself and coordinated meeting my family at the site. Once the bike was racked and what not, it was time to walk a mile down the beach. I forgot how long a mile walk takes in soft sand....definitely a hip workout. Finally, we arrived at swim start where I had to lend Brittany Pierce some body glide since...she usually forgets something (or brings 2 rear wheels to Age Group Worlds in London).
After my favorite wetsuit pre-swim stretch, it was time to line up. This is the last moment of calm. All the waiting around. All the previous days add up to a few slowly ticking seconds...and the star spangled banner. 2 minutes turns to 30 seconds very quickly but that last 10 seconds drip from the clock like cold raw honey. So you can pretty much guess what happens after that right? I swim, bike and then jog (that's how I felt at least). Here's a quick mental recap of how it unfolded.
Swim: "Dang, where did all those guys go"? NEXT: "I've only been swimming 3 minutes. Oh, well...try and swim straight, try and swim straight. (while sighting)....Crap....I'm off course! Get back on course, get back on course..."(this continues for appx 30 min) The current was a bear this year, pulling me to shore and in the opposite direction I wanted to go. I came out further back as usual but was still pumped that there were 6 guys spread out behind me. For future reference, if I have to run a long distance in the sand and through transition, I'm taking off my wetsuit right when I get out of the water!
Bike: This year I was told to hold back a bit to see if we could execute a stronger run. I was happy that an avg of 256 watts gave me a 2:11 bike split...but it still did some damage. I have to give kudos to my Scott Plasma and American Classic wheels though (deep front/rear disc). Last year I was on the Felt DA and Zipp 808's with about 18 watts higher average. Myself and the guy who hung out off my wheel the whole time managed to pass 3 other guys in the last 10 miles, so the consistency paid off. All in all, the course is great for me since it strongly resembles the rollers we have here in Clermont, Florida. I fueled with 2 bottles of OSMO, 2 stinger gels and a stinger waffle...next time I'll add a little more calories.
Run/Jog: So off the bat, I was pretty stiff but I expected after 2 miles I would be able to spread my wings and fly (sorta). Obviously that didn't happen though and many #cramp sensations had taken control of my hamstrings. I started hitting nutrition pretty early on since I felt a little low on energy coming off the bike. After accepting this run would be a matter of survival, I settled in and knew I just needed to get up the sharp, abrupt hills that were on the course. I sorta hit a wall early on but knew finishing would be enough to please my family and couldn't wait to see them in the finish chute. 5 guys passed me on the run, the most ever during any race! BUTTTT on to the next race....I'm pumped to nail a solid run here soon!
I highly recommend this race. I loved the experience and I loved being with my family! Overall, this season has delivered loads of experience, often leaving me with some odd questions. I know for certain, at times I don't feel elite, but it's a decision I've made....plain and simple. I want to race against the best, in the same field, against the same conditions. With a lot of athletes and even with me, patience is often the missing link. I just finished "Iron War" on audio book today on my bike ride and it truly inspired me to really hear the history of this sport. It painted a beautiful picture around my life and the life of those I coach. We're a society of people who suffer together and thrive because normal life isn't good enough. Anyway, thanks for reading....please support my sponsors and more than anything DO MORE!