Hello fellow humans! It’s officially been two and a half weeks since my latest 140.6 mile adventure came to a close, and it was certainly an adventure. I’ve always enjoyed Colorado, and this trip was no exception. Beautiful mountains, wildlife (oh my gosh, four wild moose!), epic tacos, and good times with friends, plus a chance to escape the rigors of reality.
It’s a stressful time flying across the country with bike, bags, and other misc equipment, so it’s always great to make tons of time to relax and unwind. This may be my new favorite way to chill before a race. A picture is worth a thousand words… Gotta love a spouse who likes to keep things fun and play a ridiculous round of charades with friends!
I am suuuper disappointed in how gross the swim was. The reservoir was a dark, murky brown color, not at all representative of what I was expecting, and in addition, strange lake plants got tangled in my wetsuit arms, goggles, and GPS watch as I plowed through the water. The conditions were very, very lukewarm – ick. Lake Tahoe, Alta Lake in Whistler, Canada, and Coeur d’Alene have swim courses that are far superior. Won’t be flying back for those 2.4 miles… I had the 30th fastest swim overall, which is definitely not too shabby beating 2770 people out of the water. Boom. Where is the triathlon with a 5 or 10k swim, people!? After finishing the non-descript, one-loop course, it was time to move on to bigger and better things. The bike.
Definitely the highlight of my day, and even though I didn’t get as much saddle time this season as I wanted, the results were pleasantly surprising. That, and I actually had a ton of fun on this course! That’s pretty refreshing after how miserable Canada was *enter icy rain storm and ill-dressed racers and hypothermia and an angry, charging mama bear*
Here were the highlights:
Mile 1: I enjoy not being in the disgusting reservoir and rejoice that I am 0.024% done with the race. Do the math… Woot! Only 137.2 miles to go!
Mile 24: Enjoyed two sweet potato cakes. Wrote a poem. Drank a Tailwind electrolyte drink. Passed seventeen competitors. Attacked by a bee………… No, seriously. The bee flies inside my race top, stings me, and dies while still inside my singlet. I proceed to spend the next 30 seconds (while still going 23 mph) digging a bee corpse out of my chest, removing the stinger, and pressing on. Needless to say, that was a first for me! Well played bee, well played.
Mile 49: Another kamikaze bee strikes in the same fashion as Dead Bee #1. +3 points for the triathlete, -1 point for the insect. Dead Bee #2 exits stage left. The race continues.
Mile 62: Soon-to-Be-Dead Bee #3 penetrates the outer defenses, leaving behind a third, nasty surprise but I don’t have to dig him out. He seems to have fallen out of my cycling top on his own. What a relief. There is no memorial held for this punk. His memory shall be forgotten faster than Usain Bolt running the 100m.
Mile 67: A fellow competitor doesn’t slow down nearly enough and wipes out on a water bottle lying on the ground. I have a tenth of a second to avoid him but also dodge the oncoming car in the other lane. Yikes.
Mile 78 – 90: A meteor shower of flying insects, formally known as bumblebees, ping off of my helmet one after another after another. The lifeless lumps fell to the ground in a rhythmic pattern reminiscent of a summer’s rain. The bodies pile up higher and higher as the bike portion of the race draws to a blistering close.
Mile 91: I pass my support crew at the bottom of a hill and miss seeing all of them except my friend who is 8 feet tall :D #tunnelvision
Mile 112: The end arrives 6 minutes sooner than I expected (did they measure correctly?). Woot! Time to run…
Total bees slain over 112 miles: seven. Flat tires: zero.
In all seriousness, I was super stoked with my 112 bike ride, although the bee stings did freaking hurt. I still have some scars on my stomach and chest from those horrid creatures. I had an epic PR, (crushed it in 5 hours and 28 minutes = average speed > 20.4 mph compared to 19.4, my previous PR), and I felt great dropping 17 minutes from my previous best. I had such a great time out on that course. It was truly a riot! I even gunned it the last 22 miles (which I may have paid for on the marathon) but I didn’t really care. I was having the ride of my life. I even managed to fight off the “black fog” for five hours, having to deal with it for only 25 minutes or so.
For those of you unfamiliar with the “black fog,” it’s that time in ultra-endurance races where your mind is filled with evil and unhelpful thoughts such as “this isn’t fun,” “I’m starving,” “why did I do this in the first place?,” “you suck at this,” and “now is a really good time to quit.” It results from lack of nutrition/hydration, extremities in weather such as intense heat or unbearable cold, salt deprivation (yes, that is a thing), or hitting the red zone too hard and too early in a race. Lack of the fog meant my hydration and nutrition were almost exactly where they needed to be.
Fortunately, I flew off the 112 mile bike ride feeling absolutely fantastic and confident. Today was going to be a day for PRs!
Ah, my least favorite part of any race. However, right out of the gate I was sure that I could shatter the 11 hour mark that I had been chasing ever since Coeur d’Alene in 2013. At this pace (6 hours and 35ish minutes in) all I had to do was run my exact same 4:14 marathon that I ran before and I was golden. However, it just wasn’t meant to be. The worst part of my race was watching that goal fall apart, slowly at first, and then seeing it disintegrate completely as I ran the worst marathon in my long course career, even slower than Canada where I got rained on for three hours. Blech… that was super disheartening.
At first I only needed to run an 11:00 mile, and then a 10:50, then a 10:42, then a 10:30. As my performance imploded across the coming miles, I ended up needing to run a 7:50 for 8 miles to break my 11 hours. GOOD FREAKING LUCK WITH THAT. It just wasn’t going to happen… with worn out soles and tired feet, I drudged along knowing that my record breaking day was turning into yet another marathon failure.
For the record, I posted a smoking fast 10k at Donner Lake triathlon just two weeks prior (6:50/mile pace) so I was feeling pretty confident in the run, but something was just off. I mean, a marathon is only approximately 20 miles longer than a 10k… And amped up on bee sting extract cordial, who wouldn’t be feeling awesome!? I knocked out the first 10 miles right at my 8:57 pace and finished the next 3 at 9:02. I was right on track for a 4:00:00 marathon, and a 14 minute drop from CDA but sadly, no. DENIED…
Lack of salt (I’ve only now decided), significant sun temperature increase, and not running for more than 2.5 hours in training took its toll, and I hobbled/jogged/walked/longed for those 13 miles to be over. At this point the race became incredibly unfun, although in the grand scheme of things the finish and my wife/friends waited patiently for me to get my act together and finish the bloody race. That was certainly appreciated that they stuck it out.
A few of the run highlights:
- Finishing (obviously)
- Maintaining my pace for at least 50% of the race instead of blowing it all out in the first 6 miles
- Getting a fist bump from my buddy and kiss from my wife at mile 12
- Having no stomach distress! As gross and uncool as this sounds, this was actually a huge accomplishment. Other than salt, I absolutely nailed my bike nutrition, and compared to Canada where I ran for the porta potties every 2-3 miles, and the occasional clump of tress, I only needed rescue once, and that was from ODing on too many fluids. Ah, the sweet smell of success in only a way that triathlon can offer! Haha!
Finally the finish line came into sight as I passed my friends/family for the last time, although I missed high fiving them on the way down the finisher chute, which I will never forgive myself for, but race #4 was under the belt and is now hanging on the wall. Whew.
I’ve spent a lot of my thinking time dealing with my disappointment with my race time. I like to think that I work hard, not just in training, but professionally and from a family perspective too, and it was just different end to the season than I was expecting. How the heck is it possible that my first ever IRONMAN was also my best when I trained less and had poorer levels of endurance!? UGH.
On the flipside, within the past year we got married, bought a house, and have been adjusting to all the other changes in our lives. So really, that’s the more important of the two… plus, I really did have a killer bike ride. And at the end of the day, I have a queen of a woman to come home to who loves and supports me no matter what happens. That’s worth more than gold and rubies and all the precious gems this world has to offer. So in retrospect, it wasn’t such a bad day after all, plus it wasn’t as slow as last year, and we go to see moooooose!!! YES! Grumbling is done. I did have to spend a few days convincing myself that I had nothing to grumble about. Just suck it up and move on :-) It was an epic adventure with wonderful people, and that is all that matters.
At the end of it all, one could say I learned to bee myself (gag) this race season. We’ll see what next year brings. Until then, I’m going to keep sleeping in and unintentionally missing swim practice :(