I checked in my bike Friday afternoon at Wellington State Part cautiously optimistic that things would work out for the best. I was suspicious that I would run into a lot of "M dot arrogance" at the park but was pleasantly surprised at how great everyone was. I had a super chat at the Felt Bikes tent and scored a bunch of free stickers and a t-shirt! I ogled numerous sets of Zipp 404s and 808s and wondered how much faster The Vulture would be with a set of wind cheating carbon wonders. I had a great spot in the transition and reluctantly left The Vulture for the night. I was assured by multiple racers that my ride would be safe at the park for the night with around the clock security.
Saturday morning I was up at 4:00 with what seemed like a very restless night of sleep. My sore throat seemed to be showing some signs of improvement but looking back I think I was just trying to talk myself into a good performance. What really sounded alarm bells as I was downing some coffee was the temperature. It was a mere 42 degrees in Ashland and I was not confident that it would be a whole lot warmer by the lake at 7:30 for the start. As most of you know I am the least dressed athlete at most gatherings so obviously I was not prepared for the conditions. I threw on one of Paul's sweat shirts and a wool cap before rushing off to the race. Triathlons are so different in so many ways. The pre-race atmosphere is so different from what I am used to at road races. Bikers are biking to warm-up, swimmers are swimming, and the few runners in the crowd are hitting the road. After getting inked up on every extremity and hitting the bathroom I was off for a couple of miles on the road. I was not feeling 100% but I really thought that could string something together and still have a top five finish. I got on my wetsuit and headed to the start amongst the five hundred or so participants. I was in the first wave so I made sure to do some swimming and stretching to get my self ready. The water was fifty-nine degrees which was cold but manageable. However, getting out of the water into the cool air led to an instant chill to the bone. I positioned myself on the front line and was set to be very aggressive but as relaxed as possible on the swim.
When the cannon sounded I was jolted into reality and plunged into my best underwater dolphin kick for the initial sprint. When I came up I was in a world of chaos full of arms and feet hitting me from every direction. I instantly relaxed and went to work knowing that things would sort out rather quickly. As all these thoughts were passing a fifteen inch large mouth bass swam right under me! The next time I looked up things had sorted out and I appeared to be somewhere in the top fifteen. Much to my surprise I felt great on the swim. Obviously with more work I will see dramatic improvement but in the moment I was just excited to be feeling ok! Everything was great until the last 200-meters when suddenly my right calf cramped extremely bad. I haven't swam over 1200 yds. yet so this may have been inevitable with the cold water. As I beached and went to run out of the water the calf locked and I took a huge face plant in front of everyone. This is a microcosm of the rest of the race if your still reading. Into the transition the calf loosened a little but my feet were very numb. When I put my helmet on it felt so foreign that I was convinced that it was on backwards. I took it off to check and to my surprise it was on right. My head was just so numb from the cold water that the nerves were sending some off network messages. I was psyched with my swim and was looking forward to riding down the fifteen or so people that were in front of me and then blowing things wide open on the run. What a perfect day, right, wrong!
Turning out of the park two things happened almost at once. One, I was freezing! Two, it was immediately apparent that my legs were not making any power! Not good! Within the first mile two guys on Cervelo P2s with 404s and discs went flashing by and I had absolutely no answer. At that point the shivers started which would become the theme for the first fifteen miles of the bike leg. I looked down at my arms a couple of times and they were turning a pale shade of blue. I was convinced that I was going to become hypothermic and seriously contemplated dropping out. I could not bear the thought of quitting so I did my best to manage. I did not pedal on any of the downhills which must have cost me tons of time. I just could not afford to be any colder! I was so cold that my jaw as locked and I could not get any of my gels or nutrition down the tube, this is a serious problem in a two plus hour race. At fifteen miles the bike course turns into a three mile gradual claim in the sun. When I made the turn I decided to try my best to hammer. I still was not making any power but at least I was not going to freeze to death. Near the end of the climb things go worse when my water bottle slipped out of my hand. Now I was out of food and drink with ten miles to ride and a 10k on the horizon. Somewhere at this time I started dry heaving which was to become an unfortunate theme for the rest of the race. On the next climb another P2 with 404s caught me and I had had enough. I was going to hold this guy off no matter what. Finally I was warm and was coming into the latter part of the course where I knew that I could take some risks on the down hills. I ignored every caution flag the rest of the way an managed to re-gap the lat P2. Heading into the transition I felt like a bag of trash. I am positive that my recon ride on The Soloist a few weeks ago was faster.
On the dismount I immediately realized that my feet were still lacking some serious circulation. Once The Vulture was racked I set to getting my shoes on and out on the run as fast as possible. My lack of fueling reared its ugly head and my legs and feet cramped badly as I bent over to get my shoes on. Heading out of the transition the most awful types of alarm bells were going off in the inner recesses on my body. Within thirty seconds the dry heaving began. As crippling and terrifying as dry heaving can be in the confines of your on home it increases tenfold when it is on display for all to see. When you're running and your abdominal muscles spasm at full forces your body instantly bends and you stumble for a few strides. This continued every hundred yards for the first two and a half miles of the run. This led to a terrible display of distance running that is shameful on my part. Finally just before three miles the floodgates opened and I threw up all over the center line of the road. Once the wounded animal psyche passed I somehow managed to feel ready to get to work. As is the nature of out and back courses you can see everyone that is taking it to you on a bad day. Once the gremlins had left the building I was suddenly awestruck at some of the people that were in front of me. At the turn around I went to work trying to salvage some sort of vague idea of self satisfaction on the day. Out of the blue and much to my surprise I was running low five minute pace and moving down everyone in sight. I will stake my entire reputation on this claim but I am positive that my last three miles was significantly faster than anyone! Into the park I felt strong but chaos was still erupting under the surface. Across the line I was completely and utterly crestfallen. I made my way back to the lake to try to somehow process what had just happened. I've had bad races but nothing even remotely close to this disaster.
I felt very emotional for twenty minutes thinking about all of the training that led into this race and how it seemingly all went for naught. I kept circling around on a few points to ease the severity of the blow. This was in fact only my third triathlon and obviously I still have a million things to learn. I need to swim more and do drills to become more efficient. I know I can be a great swimmer if I can swim three times all year and still be fourteenth out of the water. If it's cold I need to take time to dry off and maybe layer. I am just to skinny to loose that much heat. I NEED TO FUEL BETTER! I maybe took in thirty calories all race, unacceptable! FUEL FUEL FUEL!!! The feeling I settled on the most was determination. I did not decide to try something new because I thought it was going to be easy. The very nature of a challenge is that it is going to be difficult and there will be ups and downs. Humble pie is a dish that needs to be on every athletes plate and I got a massive helping on Saturday. Without question this is going to be a huge undertaking and if I want to become the best there is going to be a huge learning component running parallel to the hours of hard work.
I guess when you think of the mission statement of this blog you have to remember that evolution does not happen overnight. Trial and error along with adaptation, patience, and determination are the path to my own personal evolution.