Ironman Steelhead 70.3 – Nick’s Story

IM Steelhead 70.3

It’s been a little over a month and I am just getting around to writing this because . . .

Well, because I didn’t like the result and it was easier to ignore it and hope it went away.  But I feel like I have been pretty honest about everything that goes on with my training here and I am hoping to keep it that way.  So with only a month of ado, here is the report.

Race Weekend – Friday

Bags were packed Thursday so that we didn’t have a lot of delay on Friday.

Transition Bag

Friday at work happened to be a golf tournament for our group and I was playing with a team of co-workers.  It was rainy and the start was delayed by over an hour, so I was worried that I was going to leave late, and alas, I did.  I did leave the tournament early to make sure we had time to get to Benton Harbor that night (or close anyway).  Emily and I left the house around 5 pm, picking up a colleague to drop off in Chicago.  We made really good time on the Illinois highways and dropped him off downtown around 8 pm.  Emily and I continued on, stopping in Indiana for the night.

We ate at Lone Star steak house for dinner and it was pretty good.  The hotel that night treated us well, but it kind of sucked having to take our bikes to the room after 9 pm so that we could turn around and take them back in the morning.

Race Weekend – Saturday
We woke up early and grabbed breakfast at the hotel.  I don’t quite remember what we had, but it was that kind of meal.  We re-loaded the truck and headed on our way.  We had left so that we would make it to check in right when it opened, that was until we got to Michigan and realized that we changed from Central time to Eastern.  That was unexpected.  That meant we were over an hour behind our schedule already.  We parked and walked about a mile to Ironman Village.  The check in process was uneventful.  We were given all of our race stuff and could then head over to transition.

I happened to have a crack on my rear wheel, so I had rented wheels for the weekend.  As we walked to transition, I dropped my bike off to have my wheels put on.  That took about 45 minutes, which gave us enough time to drop off Emily’s bike.  It wasn’t until we had taken her bike into transitiRace Briefing Emilyon that we realized that we couldn’t then take it out until after the race.  That was a bummer because we had planned to ride the run course so that we could get a feel for it, but such is life.

We attended the “mandatory” race briefing and took in all the information for the next day’s race.  Lots of good information.  I am sure that most of this stuff is common place for multiple-time racers, but it was great for us.  It served to calm my nerves a bit.

Afterward, we picked up my bike, I rode it back to the truck to get a feel for the wheels and then back to transition, stopping briefly to have the brakes adjusted on the way there.

After dropping my bike off, Emily picked me up and we left to eat.

The rest of the afternoon is sort of a blur.  We stopped at the grocery to get food and took a nap, then we drove back to the race site and drove the bike course so that we knew what we were in for.  I don’t recall much else from the day.  Kind of a lazy day really.

Bike Course IM Steelhead 70.3

Race Morning
Sunday morning we woke up early and headed to the race.  When we got in the vicinity of the race, traffic got really bad.  Like any race morning, a bathroom couldn’t be close enough and we . . . we were stuck in traffic at 4 am.  It seemed like an endless line to get to a parking spot.  We waited, then moved 10 feet, then waited.  It was endless.

Finally reaching the parking lot, we parked quickly.  We didn’t try to get a close spot.  Anything would be ok.  We grabbed our backs and such and were off to transition.  It was about 300 yards from the car where Emily decided to put on an impromptu acrobatics show.  I’ll let her tell that story, but it ends with us having to find her keys and having another 10 minutes without a bathroom.

After finding those darn keys, we were back on our way.  I finally got to stop at a port a potty just outside of transition.  This was my most favorite part of that morning because I was really stressed out to that point.  After that glorious pit stop, I was back on my way to my bike.

In transition, I was pulling everything out of my bag that I would need that day.  I put it together in a neat pile under my bike’s wheel, then pulled out my wet suit and wandered over to Emily.  She was just finishing up her transition area.  After a few moments we were on our way out to the beach.  But first, and I am sure you have guessed already, another stop at the port a potty.

With pre-race “issues” taken care of we put on wetsuits and meandered to the beach for a quick swim to get used to the water.  It was great.  Water felt pretty good, we were both a little nervous, but ready for the day.  Emily was in an early wave, so we hung out until she got pushed into the chute, and I waited on the beach for my wave.  It was a little nerve racking out there by myself while Em was swimming.  I paced and put my feet in the water for 45 minutes waiting for my wave.

Finally my wave was pushed forward to the water and I waited for the signal to start.

And then, as if the morning hadn’t happened at all, and with no time left to procrastinate, I started.  I swam close to the buoys so that I didn’t add distance to the swim.  I was with my wave and didn’t see too many of them breaking away from me, surely there were some guys that were really fast, but I remember seeing a lot of blue caps around me, that is until around 500 meters when I remember taking a pounding to the face.

I was kicked and it hurt and I was disoriented.  In my mind, I was recovering and moving forward.  It seemed like I was making progress again, but then someone grabbed my arm and I was out of the water.  I was apparently struggling more than I thought I was, to the point that someone saw that it was necessary to pull me out.  Good news, the lifeguards did their job very well and without hesitation.  Bad news, I was done for the day.

They asked me some questions to make sure I was ok, and then took me in.  We waited out there for a few minutes while the guards that pulled me out waited for a relief crew so that someone was out there should anyone else find the same fate as my own.  I hadn’t completely taken in what happened at that point.  It wasn’t until I stepped on the beach that I really figured it out.

I walked the beach disappointed.  My timing chip was taken.  There were many people who offered sympathy and encouragement to try again.  Some told me it had happened to them and it is what motivated them to come back.

Finally, I made my way to the swim finish and waited to catch Emily.  I thought for a while that I had missed her, but then I caught her coming up out of the water.  She’ll tell you about her day, but for me that is where it ended.

Post Race
I started licking my wounds immediately.  Trying to decide if a comeback was within my reach this year, but then decided it wasn’t the best time to make a decision.  So I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out if any amount of preparation could have helped me.  I have a super secret plan now and won’t have that happen again, but if I told you, I’d have to kill you.  Just kidding, I just plan to swim on the outside of the buoys away from the crowd.

This weekend, I made the final decision to make a comeback this year and put Benton Harbor behind me.  I will be racing Austin 70.3 in November and this time nothing is going to stop me from finishing.

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