I remember what it feels like to be a triathlete again! I certainly wasn’t successful in terms of what I WANT to do, but I know the opportunity is there. I can certainly claim bits of credit in aiding the return to professional racing in the USA with a smaller scale race at the Bear Lake Brawl, so that’s a huge win for PRO Athletes and a nod to my business sense. And, while that was NEARLY the coldest race I had ever done (I’ll elaborate shortly), IRONMAN 70.3 Cozumel was the mother effing hottest race I’ve ever attempted…it also taught me some incredible lessons. The first one is…STICK TO THE PLAN DUDE!! Also - BOTH of these races went above and beyond in terms of COVID-19 prevention. proving WE CAN DO THIS!
Bear Lake Brawl
What’s that? You’ve never heard of the Bear Lake Brawl? Don’t worry, you wouldn’t have and neither would I…but then COVID happened. Yup, COVID-19 has been canceling races since March 2020 but now we SEEM to be on the upswing, albeit if only for a moment. This small amount of “getting our shit together” has allowed some awesome events to take place! Also, because race directors still love their jobs JUST enough to leave the unemployment line and work their asses off. I took the IRONMAN St. George “postponement” as a giant kick to the face since you know, I live here. Then weeks later I notice a “COVID-19 APPROVED” taking place on the same day (19 Sept) and the rest is history.
My race report is very simple and I certainly missed a valuable opportunity. However, the massive sting which occurred on race day was out of my control and I guess in some way that dulls the pain just enough for me to sleep at night. My first ever race-day flat tire and it was when I needed it the least. Of course, leaning out has many benefits when it comes to run speed and bike aerodynamics but it sucks with body-heat management. The race was about 100% colder than I expected! Given the conditions and while I was in this same position once before at IRONMAN Louisville in 2018 where I also was blue-lipped and seeing Elvis while simultaneously failing all known sobriety tests due to extreme wetness and coldness, I am worse in the cold now more than ever, go figure!
A much bigger and stronger storm front rolled into our small corner of Bear Lake, extending our swim course about 1 mile due to a turn buoy blowing away, throwing positive body temperatures and outlook for warmth in the crapper. While we didn’t get rain immediately, it was still enough to utterly popsicle every athlete. I started 20th in a line of 21 professional men and despite the 3 the most insane swim laps ever, came out in 4th, behind a good pal Big Metz. Without rain and with a massive tailwind we were likely dry within 25 minutes and temps were still in the low 50’s with the sun blocked by layers of angry clouds. After the Matt Hanson locomotive and the Sam Long space ship went by on the bike I noticed a few sprinkles. I noticed them a few minutes later as I was drenched. Cut to 30 minutes later I couldn’t shift gears with my fingers and has to use the palm of my hand and forget trying to grasp a bottle. Shivering and dreading the remaining 20 miles on the bike, I just buried myself trying to keep warm and at mile 45 I noticed I was bringing someone back but also, Big Metz was also bringing me back. As I thankfully approached T2 for a 6 mile out and back “mileage grab” I was right on the heels of Ben Kanute, also suffering in the cold because he usually doesn’t race slower than he starts. Quickly and suddenly, the I had suspension on my tri bike as my front wheel went from bouncy to, oh now I’m riding on the rim. After a massive shivering sigh, I hopped off, which was VERY challenging while shivering uncontrollably with ZERO tensile strength in the hands. Then I kinda died a little, knowing I couldn’t even open my flat kit much less precisely insert a new tube in my tire or…even get hold ON my tire. I was just dead in the water, wondering if I could beg someone to even chance my flat but….of course, no one was even nearby in the pouring cold rain. Luckily a lovely family with a bike rack drove me the 2.3 miles back to T2 where I continued to shiver for the next hour while sulking in my truck. So, there you have it….if you took the time to read this, thanks
IRONMAN 70.3 Cozumel
Moving on! I still knew IRONMAN 70.3 Cozumel was the following weekend and I had to drive 6.5 hours home after Bear Lake, run the next day because…well, DNF’s suck and you have to get back on the horse and quickly pack for a 24-hour travel departure. In retrospect, I’ve raced 100% better off of a 2-day pre-race arrival rather than 6 days. The goal was for some light heat adaptation, recovery, and honestly the chance to travel and hang with my best pals.
Each day in Cozumel was purely about sweat management and how little time we could spend outdoors outside of training. Even after living in Florida for 12 years, it was over 100 on the heat index daily and it sucked. BUT, I felt awesome Monday-Weds in terms of heat and “pep”. We had fun, laughed a LOT, and trained just enough to stay sharp so I was able to arrive fresh-ish on race day. We had awesome weather in terms of no rain and light wind but there were a few race variables I needed to overcome.
First, as there wasn’t any racing as of late, 6 or 7 Mexican ITU athletes were added to the start list and I can say this confidently because it happens EVERY time I race in Mexico…Professional Athlete Draft Packs ARE REAL and this is usually with “officials” riding next to them.
I knew there was a chance I could hang with that group on the swim but with the up-current start, I was still dropped at the turn buoy and just as that 7 dudes got away. The regular fellas I swim with were even still a minute or so back and it was just myself and Tyler Butterfield who came out together.
I immediately settled in, aero as possible, and set a 290-305 watt window until I brought the group back at appx 55 min of riding. This is where I got a bit irritated and was forced to make a choice. Riding up to the pack I could see a direct echelon in the crosswinds, meaning these fellas were close enough to each other to feel WHERE they needed to draft to keep their nose out of the wind…I’m not embellishing. Additionally, I noted the guy on the back sitting up, stretching his back, and generally moving forward without much fervor….also, telling! There was like a 6-8 meter gap between most and since I looked back and saw Tyler and the Sam Long rocket ship coming….I decided to not even mess with this group. I rode around 320-340 watts for 3 minutes and quickly passed that group before we hit the tail-wind section, eventually, Sam came through at the usual “WTF is that pace” and I relegated myself to the 285-296w effort since I was still gradually pulling away from the bunch. I just knew I needed a buffer on the run to keep myself in the top 10. I knew those dudes would have fresh legs and I felt confident I could still run well given my effort and honestly I could have until….The Hanson, Laundry, Butterfield, ITU train rolled back up on me in T2. They apparently knew I wasn’t a threat but when those fellas rode by, they knew they needed to work together. Hindsight being awesome, yea I wish I knew they were only a few minutes down and I would have likely rode 250w solo until I was caught and then could have sat at the LEGAL distance, still saving some watts and mental energy.
Off the bike too hot, then the body was too hot, then I melted on the street and was heartbroken. But, I’m the one to blame this time, no flat tire did me in! I should have just set a heart-rate and pace threshold because holy hell there was NO WAY I should have went out near 5:45 pace when AVG run splits here are like 1h 25m….damn, if only I had just sat in at 10% lower output immediately life would have been different. I wouldn’t have been bonking, shaking my head during some walking, and ultimately, running 7:45 pace with 178 bpm….super frustrating when you’re the biggest problem with your race-day. Anyway, I packed in a 14th place finish off a 2nd place position off the bike, sadly….not the first time I’ve been there. I think when you want something SO badly, you tend to forget some of the previous lessons learned but honestly, I think I just need to make my coach develop some hard-pressed limits when I race in the heat. I keep racing to win when honestly, I need to race with more patience…I’m just not there yet on all 3 disciplines but I’m EFFING close. I can swim in the top 6 most always and I have been top 3 off the bike nearly 8 times so, it’s time to make 2021 my championship year. Otherwise, I’ll like… to lose my mind.
If IRONMAN Arizona and IRONMAN 70.3 Florida happen…. I’m there and I’m coming for top 5’s on both. I suppose you never realize how bad you want something until you continually let it slip through your fingers. Oh and holy shit congrats to Sam Long for a next-level performance and to my pals Jackson, Taylor, Tyler, Kelsey and Flaca for suffering smarter than I did!! They also made this trip incredibly FUN and I’ll still never forget the laughs along the way.