Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2014 Austin 70.3 Race Report

So, it's been quite a while since I posted anything here and most bloggers apologize but I'm unrepentant. During this extended bit of radio silence, my lovely wife and I decided to sell most of our possessions, quit our jobs, move across country and travel a lot. With a 3 year old. In a camper.
Not joking. Though the camper bit only lasted a month. So we've been busy but it's been fun. Just not a lot of time for racing, much less writing about it.

I had the crazy notion that I'd try to stay competitive at triathlon despite this lifestyle disruption, so I asked to stay on with the amazing Team Every Man Jack because let's face it, I can't resist the team schwag, seriously.

Now, one might imagine that a team sponsored by a men's grooming products company might be soft, but you'd be wrong. These guys are ace.
No really, like everyone on the team qualifies for the world championships at either the 70.3 or Ironman distance
Not only that, but they look good doing it, and ladies, did I mention the schwag? They all smell amazing too.
Most of the team trains together regularly because apparently that's "motivating" or something, but I say whatever to that. All you need is a 3-year-old behind you yelling "GO FASTER DADDY" (true story, every ride)
...and yelling your crummy swim split times to you from the pool deck as you complete the majority of your swim training in the freezing 17-yard pool at your apartment (made that part up, he can't do math yet, but I really do swim in a 17-yard pool I'm awesome)
So in the absence of any local teammates I completed the majority of my training for the Austin 70.3 either taking my kid to preschool and back or ping-ponging in the tiny pool.

Remote or not, there was one big benefit to the team - pretty much every weekend someone I had met and knew to be just a super nice guy won a race. Rather than think "that's ridiculous, I'll never do that" like I probably should have, I thought "what the heck, someone has to win these things, and apparently it's possible" and I'd get back to doing the work.

Besides a lack of teammates and pretending that swimming wasn't really part of the race and didn't need serious preparation, everything about the build to the race went well except actually achieving race weight or avoiding running injuries

Seriously, how do you people out there that run without injuries do it? I mean it, if you know email me or leave a comment. Because I know the names of more tendons now than when I took biology in college, thanks to running.

Luckily for me, given I'd decided this year I wouldn't care so much about race weight, they changed the bike course from one that was mostly flat to one that was all rolling hills

Combined with a pancake run course this should be easy right?
Okay, so maybe I shouldn't have had such an intense relationship with food the last few months. Regardless, I put together a race plan with my always unflappable coach Jesse Moore, did the math for nutrition and hydration and power targets and numbers of chickens to sacrifice:
(sincerely, I had no idea competitive triathlon could involve so much math) ...packed up and headed out to Decker Lake for a wonderful sunrise with 2500 new friends
...and one dedicated IronSherpa
Things are reasonably predictable after that - there's the part where they start your wave and for a second you think you're swimming like this:
...until you remember that part about only training in 1000-yard sessions in a 17-yard pool, and realize you're actually swimming like this
Plus it probably wasn't such a good idea to do shots before the swim because it really affects the ability to swim straight.
So the swim leg was pretty awesome if big numbers are better, clocking in at a robust 35:19.

Two things worth mentioning - I'm not even joking when I say that I'd be even slower without the wetsuit of champions, and if you're a nerd, it's important to be fiddling with your fancy wrist-based triathlon computer in at least half of your race photos.

Having finished the part of this sport where most of my teammates just see my performance and look down while shaking their heads, it's time to get down to business. That's right. It's sexy helmet time.
So I donned the cycling battle helmet and completed the transition from swimming duffer to cycling superhero all ready to have a ferocious ride, mentally picturing pure power...
In real life it ends up looking a lot more like you're riding on beat up farm roads 20 miles outside of the city limits where people occasionally dump sofas, and strava segments are named things like "Here live angry dogs and brutal men". Yep. So not terribly glamorous but that's just what awesome looks like sometimes.
So the bike leg is rolling along quite nicely. Worth noting, my age group (men's 35-39 year olds) started second to last of all competitors - most everyone started long before me. Which makes this part of the event extra exciting because as a guy with a strong cycling background I'm passing folks with a morale-boosting amount of speed. Kind of like I was the only one taking it seriously
...but I knew that I couldn't be the only striver in the field so I pressed on.

It's at this point I'll briefly mention the famed Fourth Discipline of triathlon. Nutrition. Now, normally I'm a big fan of Infinit :SPEED. Everyone is different, but this stuff does me right for 70.3 races. Today was a different day though, it was hot.

Hot hot hot. And I'd done my math right? I knew I needed so much water and salt that I needed to change things up. I'd try something I hadn't tried since my first (and only) attempt at a full-distance Ironman. I'd go with water in all the cages and put all the nutrition in the frame bottle in the form of the big guns.
Infinit :NAPALM.
Not to be foreboding or anything, but I had major, uhh, "issues" at that one and only ironman attempt. But it'll work this time I'm sure. The math works. And I was sure those issues were because it was a salt water swim and I suck at swimming right? I drank the whole ocean that time.

I hop off the bike, jump in the phone booth and transform into everyone's other favorite spandex clad superhero, Running Man, and set off away from the rodeo arena and into the heat haze.

At this point, my cheering crew arrives but there's a serious lack of race result updates (and if you have ever tried to use the Ironman tracker to follow a friend you KNOW what I mean).

Since the live video feed following the M35-39 age group is mysteriously absent and there's no other results, the cheering crew goes back to watching Star Wars.

With zero feedback on how everyone else is doing, no one anywhere near me that seems to be doing anything but shuffle-walk or stop on the side of the road to stretch cramps out, I was forced to contemplate my existence on this planet and decide that this race really really hurt, the whole idea that I might get a qualifying slot for the 2015 world championships was stupid stupid stupid and I was getting very uncomfortable.

I put on a brave face for the first half of the run

...but if you've ever done a run where you started strong and just started to fade and fade, you know the feeling.

Something is definitely not right. Maybe ingesting a product called :Napalm wasn't a great idea? In fact, it was not. I normally follow all race direction religiously, but this time I not only completely blew past a corner on the bike course and had to double back, I also had to ignore some of the posted signs on the run course.

With sincere apologies to my teammates for not meeting their high standards of conduct and performance, I walked four times on the run course in order to "think things through".

Being a gentleman, I was careful to maintain maximum distance from the brave volunteers working at the aid stations but I have to sincerely apologize to my fellow competitors.

All I can say is that I'm sorry and I won't use :Napalm again on the bike leg, but it was wonderful that we got to know each other so well.

With 5 miles to go in the run, it's put up or shut up time and I'll admit this was a real moment. I'm seriously contemplating folding and just jogging it in when I come to focus on two things. First, my teammates have done harder races, and they've done them faster, and they're human. It must be possible. Second, if I don't go fast enough here I'm just the sort of fool that will try to qualify for the world championships at another race, and all the good options are even hotter (hello Galveston, and Lubbock...).

This line of thought worked. If they can do it, I can do it, and I AM NOT DOING THIS AGAIN (soon).

With my attitude appropriately readjusted, I got going, only walked when absolutely necessary (I am so sorry, fellow competitors) and ran right to the edge of full quad cramps all the way to the line.

Now comes the fun part of Ironman events. My age group had multiple waves so there was another group of people I'm racing against, but they started 5 minute behind me. And online results were messed up most of the day.

The race is done, I'm sitting in the stands with my family, and I have no idea how I did.

My wife, wonderful person that she is, tells me "good job" anyway, but I'm a big nerd and I have fiddled with my watch the whole race so I know I finished in something like 4:37. Frankly, that's not the sort of thing that usually gets you on the podium.

My wife continues to try to get results to come up then she leans over and says "what does 'Division Rank 1' mean?"

"I think it means you won?". Then she took a picture of me

What the actual? We're going to the world championships in Austria?? WOOO

After that, there's the regular thing where you can barely walk but you have to collect all your bags and bike and get changed and everything, but seriously, I'm in shock. I can't believe I actually did this, :Napalm notwithstanding.

Then, on the podium, my kid simply would not be denied and ran up to be with me, which was fun.

And my mom was there to see it:

I got good pics with my main support staff

I've been doing this a while, and if anyone out there is thinking about trying it, or trying to get faster, all I can say is keep putting the work in. Use your mind and use your body, give yourself time, and you get faster. And apparently sometimes lightning strikes and you win one of these things. Crazy.

And now, hello off-season.

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