The long road is over. The last 6 months were hard fought, though admittedly more hard since working with a coach, and I have now completed a 70.3. Hopefully you are interested enough to read this long-winded writeup of my weekend and the race.
On Thursday afternoon, we headed to the airport. While we were checking in, I took a conference call and was a little aggravated with it, but I let that go pretty quickly. Once in the terminal, Emily and I walked around a bit and chatted with a few people when we saw a plane out on the runway with several (dozen?) emergency vehicles surrounding it. I didn’t think much about this plane, but we would later find out that this caused the airport to be shut down for 15 minutes. This almost caused our plane to be rerouted to Chicago and would have been a significant delay. As it worked out, our plane ran just a few minutes late, but once in the air had to dodge the storms so a two-hour flight stretched to three.
Our connection in Houston was going to be tough. We would only have 15 or 20 minutes to make it to the plane. We rushed through the airport and made it without any issue. The flight was delayed, though none of the boards showed that. Once we boarded the plane everything was great, right? Wrong. We sat on the runway waiting to take off for a full hour. We landed in San Antonio just before midnight. Our bikes came out at midnight and we met my brother outside for our ride. That night we hung out and talked for a bit, but ultimately went to bed shortly after arriving at my brother’s house.
Friday morning we woke up and hung out with family for a while. My brother left for work and it became time to re-assemble the bikes. I removed everything from my bag and had a relatively easy time getting my bike back together with the exception of the front fork. During its trip, somehow something got knocked around and the bearing had come loose and a cover had gotten stuck. Not being a bike mechanic, I chose the only option I knew. I took the bike to a local (ish) shop. They were able to quickly correct the issue and didn’t charge me an arm and a leg for it. (Thank you to Sergio at Sun and Ski in San Antonio). That evening we hung out and drank some beers, had some hamburgers, and watched a bit of a movie.
Saturday is when everything became more real for me. That morning we woke up and packed the truck my brother was letting us use. After our bags and our bikes were in it, we spent a few minutes with my family before heading up to Austin. The drive was just under two hours, so we had plenty of time to discuss the race and our plans. At this point we were kind of letting out how we were feeling about the race day. On the way our coach called, he was racing also, and he asked if we wanted to get lunch on the way in. We had another friend in town that we were meeting for lunch too, so we found a place and drove there instead of check in.
I have some big nervousness about these races. I get wound up about ridiculous things. In this case, I was totally fine until we showed up at check in. When we got there, I started to freak out. The line was long and the race briefing was about 30 minutes away. I didn’t think we were going to make it, and this race had split transitions. T1 and T2 were in different places and the finish was in yet another location. I needed the race briefing to tell me what to do. The line moved a little at a time and ultimately we made it through quickly and we were able to make the race briefing at 2, which was moved back to accommodate the Ironkids race (really cool of them to put these on and have hundreds of people cheering for the kids).
The race briefing cleared everything up for me and once we were finished we were on our way back to the truck. From there we needed to drop off our bikes, mandatory drop off on Saturday. T1 was especially busy when we got there. Cars were parked everywhere and people were walking down the road since there was nowhere else to walk. We found the first available place to put the truck and parked, unloaded the bikes and headed to transition. IT WAS A MESS! Mud was everywhere and it filled my Crocs when I walked through. Finally, I was at my rack and put my bike up. There wasn’t much else to do, so I met up with Em and walked out.
Now it was time to get moving to a more relaxed spot. We drove to the hotel. We checked in and asked for the closest Walmart, it was just a mile or so down the road so we didn’t take our bags to the room, we just went there. At Walmart, we picked up sweat pants (to battle the cold the following morning), electrical tape (to hold nutrition and tire repair to my bike), water (to fill bottles), and a few apples. Now it was time to get back to the hotel.
In the room, I packed my morning bag (swim stuff to put on when I got there), my bike bag (helmet, shoes, and bike stuff), and my run bag (running shoes, hat, and race belt). I took a shower and put on my race number. I should mention that I purchased my numbers from TriTats and they worked out great. I really liked it. I understand that this costs money and that the Sharpie does the same thing, but this is what I chose and I like it. After all of this was done, we walked to a sushi restaurant for dinner. It was awesome.
Back to the hotel and sleep.
Sunday – Race Day
Rise and shine at 3:45.
Ate some oatmeal and got dressed, then left for the race site.
On site, I checked my run bag. We ran into our coach there and walked with him to the bus for the ride to T1. Once at transition, it was time to set up my bike and get ready. I had pumped my tires the day before, but decided to check the pressure anyway. The little pump we had sucked, but it would work, right? Wrong. I checked the front tires and it was fine. Then I checked the back and put a little air in it. When I unscrewed the presta adapter, it pulled my valve extender out with it and flattened the tire completely. So I screwed it back in and had to start again. The little pump took forever. Then I unscrewed the adapter and, guess what, it pulled the valve extender again. FUCK! (sorry for the profanity). I put the valve extender back in and my coach saw that I was freaking out. He borrowed a pump from someone else and I was able to get it back to pressure with no more issues. At this point I could settle a little. I used the port o potty and then it was time to put on my wetsuit and ditch my morning clothes.
It was 6:45 and my swim wave was scheduled to go off at 8:25. At this point I was going to have to stand around for almost 2 hours just waiting. That’s what we did. We stood around and waited. Freezing, shivering, talking and watching as other athletes went in the water. I ran into a Regis Alum and talked to him for a few minutes. It was really odd. I can’t say that I have ever run into another alum outside of Colorado.
The waiting was coming to an end and Emily was having some nervousness. I’ll let her tell you about that. My nervousness was at a minimum, but definitely there. I just kept telling myself that I had done it before and the swim was nothing to worry about. It worked . . . a little. My coach was in the wave before me so we split up. I got in line with my wave and prepared to get in the water.
Getting in the water and out of the 50 degree weather, it felt warm. But only momentarily. Once I was in the water for a few seconds it started to feel cold. My worry and nervousness was in full swing. I took in the back of the pack and told myself, “just stay at the back and on the outside, you’re fine”. And that is what I did. The horn sounded and we were off. The first 2 hundred yards were tough. I was cold. My arms didn’t want to work. Even the outside was crowded. I ran into a few people. A few people ran into me. By the second buoy though, it had cleared up and I was in the clear. I felt good. I wasn’t looking at my watch, but I didn’t feel like I was making time. I had conversations with myself about it.
“just stop, it’s not worth it if you aren’t going to make the cut off”
“keep going, force them to pull you out”
Ultimately I chose the second and kept going. At the half way point I looked at my watch and I was at 22 minutes. I was ahead of schedule! By the second turn I was feeling strong and knew I was going to finish. I wasn’t going to look at my watch anymore. Just go. With 4 buoys left to go, my left leg cramped, bad. I couldn’t move it. I through my arms up for help and it didn’t come quickly. I freaked out. Another athlete stopped and helped me out. I wish I knew who it was so that I could thank him, it was awesome of him to stop to help. The kayak came over and I held on until I could work the cramp out, then I was on my way again. I got a little off course as the current took me inside the buoys. The volunteers yelled at me to get back on course and I did. As I got to the finish, I knew I had finished the hardest part of the course for me and I was excited to get on the bike.
Swim time – 52:30 (8 minutes slower than I knew I could do, 8 minutes faster than my prediction)
I jog/walked to transition, pulled the top of my wetsuit down and let the wetsuit peelers do the rest.
Once in transition, I stopped to pee. It must have been all the water I drank on the swim. After 3 minutes of that, I was off to the bike. I put on my helmet, arm warmers and shoes and headed out. I stopped ahead of the mount line to take off my cleat covers (I was trying to protected them from the mud). The volunteers yelled at me not to mount my bike, which I wasn’t, but I understand where they were coming from.
I mounted the bike and readied myself for an easy first half. The profile for this race showed a net downhill for the first half of the race, but for the first five miles I felt like I was just going up. Up and Up and Up and never down. I must have misread it, I thought. I just kept going. I wasn’t being passed a whole lot and I wasn’t passing a lot of people. By mile 10 I had convinced myself that I misread the profile and that the back half would be a net downhill. I was hurting bad. I rode near another athlete for a bit who kept riding on the left. I finally passed him and asked him to ride on the right so people could pass him. He caught up to me and asked what I said, so I explained and he seemed to be ok with that.
I tried to eat like I had planned, but I had a hard time chewing and getting the food down. Not sure what to do, I started eating when I felt I could rather than at my planned intervals. (My coach won’t like this.) I kept going and the internal conversation started again. This time though, it was all about how I was going to make them pull me out. Eventually we got some downhills, but every time that we did, we also had a reciprocating uphill. No problem, just build speed on the down and let that carry you for some of the up. It didn’t quite work like that, though. Due to the road conditions, I had to slow down a lot at the base before I could start the up. I was consistently on the small ring and my easiest gear to make it up the hills.
At mile 40 I witnessed another athlete collapse off the bike. I stopped with her. I don’t quite know how long I was there, but eventually there were two of us there and I decided to ride on to find help. 2 miles later, I found an officer with a radio. I stopped and told him what happened and where the athlete was. I was really excited when I saw her on the run later in the day. Glad she was able to walk/ride it off and keep going.
I was in the back half of the ride and thought there was no way there could be any more giant hills. But that would be wrong. My brother has a saying “what goes up . . . can always go up again”. And that is how it felt. I kept going up hills. On the last hill (I didn’t know that at the time), I was going so slow I had to dismount my bike and walk up. That sucked. With just 6 miles to go, I decided that I just needed to keep going.
Finally, I could see transition and my watch said I was at 55.5 miles. But transition was further than a 1/2 mile. It freaked me out. I must have missed a turn. There was another rider with me and I asked him. He said we were on track and the last couple turns were ahead.
Bike Time – 4:17 (this was 45 minutes longer than my prediction and I expended a lot more energy than I wanted to)
Getting to the dismount line, I pulled my feet out of my shoes and kept pedaling. I got off at the dismount line and was off to my run back. When I racked my bike it seemed like I had to have been the last person in. I pulled open my run bag, grabbed my long sleeve shirt (I was still really cold) and my body glide (which I generously used on my arms that felt very chaffed). I pulled on socks and shoes and was off. I ran, too fast.
This is where the race was going poorly. I cooked at the beginning, but I couldn’t keep it up. By mile 2 I was running 1/10 of a mile and walking a 1/4 mile. When I got to the park for the first time, I didn’t think I would make the third loop cut off, but I kept going. My family from San Antonio was supposed to come up, but I hadn’t seen them yet and there was very little support on the course by way of spectators. I came back to the turn around for lap two and I was feeling terrible. The crowds cheered my name and told me to keep going, so I did, but I still didn’t feel well.
I caught my coach during my first lap and he looked good. He yelled at me. I don’t remember what he said, but I recall seeing him.
Every time I ran, my stomach hurt. I wanted to finish and got back to my conversation. MAKE THEM PULL YOU OUT.
At this point, I was coming up a hill for the first lap turn around and my brother yelled my name. I saw him and my niece. I was ecstatic. I was so happy to see someone I knew. He took a few pictures and as I passed I asked him to check on Emily. I couldn’t wait to find out, I needed to keep moving, but I would find out on the second lap.
Re-energized, I kept moving. One lap at a time is what I thought about. Just finish this lap.
At the park again, the volunteers were good. They were playing music and other athletes were encouraging as well. I made my way out of the park and back to the arena on lap two mostly excited to see my family again. When I ran through the crowd, they cheered my name again and made some jokes. It made me feel better. By the time I got to my brother again, the family had grown. It was now my sister-in-law and my nephew as well.
I knew at this point I would finish, it was just a matter of how strong it would be. My brother told me that Emily didn’t have a bike split and I told him to text her. If she dropped or was pulled out, certainly she had her phone by now.
I had one lap left and I was going to push as hard as I could, which wasn’t much at this point. I ran, I walked. I slowed down to talk to another athlete. He told me that he had been missed the swim cut-off, but wanted to finish anyway. I was encouraged that he was motivated to finish even though he wouldn’t get a time for the race. I pushed on. I hit the final aid station. I filled my water bottle and drank most of it.
When I hit the loop for the last time, I got to turn right instead of left. I cruised around the arena and then started inside.
I ran in and made it to the finish line. I saw my wife and my coach near the finish and my brother and his family in the stands. I was done.
My brother brought me a beer and my coach congratulated me, as did Emily. I saw Fireman Rob at the finish line as well, and he congratulated me and I him. While I was very happy to be done for the day, I am also very excited to race again.