My morning started at 4:30AM – about a half hour later than planned. Thanks to an incompatibility with Apple’s “Do Not Disturb” feature and the clock app I use on my iPhone, my alarm was muted. Thankfully Jennie was up with Nate and able to wake me up. Thankfully I had pretty much packed everything up the night before so it was just a matter of grabbing a quick breakfast (scrambled egg burrito and OJ) before heading out the door. I drove myself to the race and Jennie came later with Nate and Grandma. One of the cool things about this race is the fact that the race site was only 20 minutes from home so it was easy for Jennie to come and go throughout the day.
Once I got to the race site, it was immediately apparent that my head just wasn’t in the game. While pumping up my tires, I realized that not only did I leave my crack pipe adapter for my disc wheel at home, but I also mounted my wheel cover slightly askew and I couldn’t quite access the valve stem. Side note: Where else but a triathlon can you legitimately ask someone to borrow their crack pipe and not get a funny look? Any ways, I first had to fix my wheel cover. Of course, in the process dropped one of plastic screws for mounting it. In the dark. With no flash light. Awesome. If I had brought my toolbox (which also contained my crack pipe), I would have had spares. Luckily I was able to borrow a flashlight and after a few minutes of searching I was able to find it. So, what should have been a quick 5 minute setup of my transition area turned into about a 30 minute ordeal. See. My head was not in the game.
Once I finally had things situated, I caught up with a few friends that were also racing before heading to swim start. On the way to the swim start, I spotted Jennie and Nate.
After a quick hug, kiss, and photo, I headed down to the beach.
The swim is in Versluis Lake and let me tell you, it is one heck of a lake to swim in. They only allow electric boats on the lake so it is super clean. I’m not sure about this year, but last year when it was tested for water quality, it tested safe for drinking. However, for those of you who don’t like seeing things while you are swimming, probably not the lake for you. Because of the cleanliness, the water is very clear.
As is typical with an iron distance event, our race started at 7:00AM as a mass start. There were roughly 140 athletes starting the swim with some doing an aqua bike and others part of a relay team. The course is a continuous (no beach exit/entrance) two loop triangle.
As for my swim, it was miserable. It was actually so bad, that I almost started laughing. I lined up with great positioning and as soon as the horn went off, I took off. Not even 50 yards into the swim, I felt my timing chip slip off my ankle. No one hit me, it just slipped off. I stopped, looked back and saw it floating on the water. I grabbed it and then struggled to wrap it back around my ankle in the middle of the crowd. In no time, I was shot off the back of the pack. Oh well, time to play catchup. The small field meant that it wasn’t too crowded.
Do you see me? I’m the guy not swimming wondering where my timing strap went.
Thanks to Brian for sharing this picture!
I felt decent for the first loop. Not great, but not horrible either. I felt like I was sighting good, but I just wasn’t very comfortable in the water. It got a bit worse on the 2nd loop. The water temp was in the mid-70’s and with a full sleeve wetsuit, I was starting to get a little warm. I pulled down on the neck to let some fresh water in a couple times and that helped. However, the whole 2nd loop I felt like I wasn’t moving. I felt like I was smacking the water on my entry and my pull/follow through felt rubbery. Nevertheless, I muscled through it.
As I turned the the final buoy, my RoadID slipped off my wrist. What the heck!?! I grabbed it before it sank and reattached it to my wrist. It was kind of funny because as soon as I got going again, I looked over and saw my buddy Brian swimming next me.
I continued on, but about 200 yards from the finish, both of my calves cramped up on me. Not one. Both of them. At the same time. All I could do was roll over on my back and wait for them to loosen back up. It felt like forever but was probably about 30-60 seconds. Once they started to loosen up, I breaststroked for a bit before I was comfortable enough to switch back to freestyle.
As I exited the swim I saw Jennie and Nate waiting for me. I stopped quickly before moving on. And then my calves seized up again on me.
I stopped briefly to massage them before carefully heading into transition.
Stats: 1:10:14 17th out of the water
I was a bit frustrated from the swim, but I knew there was still a long day ahead of me so I did my best to shake it off. I actually started to think of positives of a slow swim – more of a chance to catch people on the bike. My brother was working in transition all day and he was in the change tent with my gear bag waiting for me. I just had to slip on my shoes, helmet, gloves, and load up my nutrition in my pockets. A quick stop at the sunscreeners and I was off on the bike.
My bike ride started out great. I immediately picked off a few riders within the first few miles. The fact that I had people to chase down made up for the lousy swim. Despite feeling good, I was noticing that the course seemed much more difficult than it hand during my training rides. Overall, I just felt sluggish and climbs that were easy two weeks ago, were suddenly a challenge.
Once we turned off of Cannonsburg, I settled in and got a bit more comfortable. About 30 miles in, the course does a short out and back section. This gave me a chance to see where everyone else was. I had moved up quite a bit which gave me bit of mental boost. Plus, I was pretty sure that a couple of the guys ahead of me were aquabikers.
After the out and bike, we approached the unknown part of the course. Unknown because on Friday, the road commission decided to tear up 600 feet of perfectly good road despite the race directors being told no work was going to be done. I actually got a call from the race directors on Friday asking my opinion as a racer – keep the course and work on making the dirt/gravel rideable or change the course to an out and back. I honestly wasn’t sure what would be better. They ended up keeping the course. To make it rideable, they laid down a “carpet” of felt paper. Overall, I think they did a great job. You still had to slow down a bit but because it was an uphill section, I can’t imagine that I would have been going much faster.
Not too long after that, a motorcycle pulled up next to me as he paced the lead half iron distance racer. They started an hour after us and he just flew by me. He was the only half distance athlete to pass me so he must have had a huge lead because it was another 15 miles or so before the turn around.
I had mixed feelings at the turn around. On hand I was happy to be half done, but on the other, I couldn’t believe I had to do it all again. It was around this time that I realized my bike was making a lot of creaking noises. As I thought about it, it dawned on me that I cleaned my chain on Saturday but then forgot to relube it. Doh! Another mental mistake.
Shortly after the turnaround, I hit the special needs stop. I swapped out my water bottles and grabbed the Snickers bar that I had packed. I packed it in a bag with ice so that it wouldn’t melt and that actually worked great. I was able to get down half of it and it really made me feel better. I was already sick of my liquid nutrition so the solid food was a nice change.
Even though the Snickers helped, I just could not get comfortable on the 2nd loop. My stomach felt bloated and my back was getting sore. Those two combined made riding in the aero position very uncomfortable. I spent a good portion – probably at 50% – of the 2nd loop riding upright on the horns. Not ideal but it was the only way I could keep going.
I abandoned my own nutrition and started to just take water and Gatorade from the aid stations instead. They were spaced about every 10 miles so it was easy to grab a bottle at each one and not have to worry about running out. It was starting to get pretty warm out as well so I was dumping a lot of water down my back to try and cool off. It was also apparent that the wind was really kicking up as the day wore on. From the flags, I could tell that it was going to be strongest on the final 15 miles back to transition. Even though it was primarily out of the west, it felt like it was hitting me from every angle.
Starting at about mile 70, I seriously contemplated dropping out. I was really struggling both mentally and physically. There were times I simply wasn’t having fun and questioning why I was out there. While the small field of athletes has some advantages, one of the disadvantages is that it can get pretty lonely out there which makes it easy for me to get discouraged and for me to stay focused. Every aid station was like a Siren’s Song luring me to throw in the towel. Each time, however, I trudged forward refusing to give up.
The final miles back to transition seemed like they took forever. I only remember getting passed by 3 people during the bike and 2 of them were in this section. The first was an aquabiker who passed me at special needs. Thankfully I knew that one of the other 2 guys was on a relay. So, getting passed by really just one guy in my race made me feel somewhat better.
Can you tell where the wind kicked up?
Stats: 5:44:24 7th fastest bike. Worked up to 10th overall.
I was really, really, really depressed when I got off the bike. Not because of my time or performance but simply because I just felt miserable. I wasn’t having any fun and I just wanted to be done. In hindsight this was just a classic case of The Bonk. You’d think by now I would recognize this. I handed my bike off to Nancy (my brother’s fiancé) as I entered transition and then once again, my brother was in the change tent with my gear bag.
The run course was a complete death march. With the hot weather, it would have been approriate to hang a banner over the start of the run: "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate" (Abandon all hope, ye who enter here).
When I left for the run, I just started walking. I had no desire to run whatsoever. I was honestly at the point where I assumed that I was either going to quit or just walk the entire marathon. My motivation was at an all time low. However, once I started to get my fluids and nutrition back up, my attitude change completely. I took water, Gatorade and Pepsi at pretty much every aid station and it is just what I needed to keep moving.
I did end up walking nearly the first 2 miles. Not only was I mentally down but I was struggling to breathe. It felt like each breath in was only getting me 50%-75% of a full breath. I eventually started running slowly and realized that my breathing, while labored, wasn’t affecting my running too much. Shortly after I started running, my buddy Jim rode by on bike. I asked him if he had seen any medical on the course. He hadn’t, but asked what was going on. I told him and he gave me yoga breathing techniques to try. Basically he told me to breath in slowly through my nose and out through my mouth. That gave me something to focus on while I ran and it really helped. It took a few miles, but eventually my breathing felt less labored.
Once I started running, I actually got into a groove and started to catch some people. While it was a fairly lonely run, I did go back and forth with one other guy (another Kevin) for a large portion of the run. He ended up getting an 8th wind towards the end and left me in his dust, but it was nice to play leapfrog in the early miles.
My leap frog buddy for the early portion of the race.
About 8 miles in, I saw my neighbors standing at one of the turnarounds. It was awesome that they came out to cheer me on. As I ran by, I yelled out Jennie’s cell number and asked them to text her and let her know where I was. Jennie had gone home with Nate after swim knowing that it would be a long, hot day to be outside with Nate. Plus, there really wasn’t anywhere for her to see me on the bike so this worked out great.
A few miles later, I looked back and I could see the lead guy rapidly approached. I did my best to hold him off, but he ended up lapping me at about the 12 mile mark. I congratulated him as he went by to win with a 9:11 in his first ever iron distance race.
Any ways, in just a few minutes, I was approaching the halfway point and ready to start my 2nd loop. I was feeling pretty good still but knew I had a long day ahead of me still. At run special needs, I stopped to change my socks. My feet were soaked and I was getting a few hot spots. The fresh pair of socks felt great, but they didn’t stay dry for long. However, they did feel better and the hot spots went away.
I was feeling great through about mile 18. At that point, there is a 2 mile out, 2 mile back portion. The out is a steady uphill almost the whole way. On the hills, my calves would threaten to cramp up on me forcing me to walk. At about mile 20, I saw Jennie, Nate, Grandma and Brad (my brother-in-law).
I think this series of pictures shows the amount of hurt I was in at this point.
I hobbled over to them very happy to see them. At this point, I knew that I would finish but it was going to be a slow struggle. I walked with Jennie for a bit before heading off to the turn around. I passed by Jennie one more time before heading off to the finish line. I still had about 5-6 miles to go so I knew I would see Jennie in about an hour.
The next 3-4 miles was brutal. My calves were in such bad shape that all I could do was walk. Even attempting to run caused my muscles to spasm and lock up on me. While walking, I got chicked by the lead two women who were battling back and forth for the lead.
Finally, at about mile 24, I was able to start running again. Even as my muscles spasmed, I knew I would be done shortly. There was one guy ahead of me that I tried to catch but he seemed to know I was chasing him and each time I started to catch him, he would start running again. It helped pass the final miles and in no time I was turning onto the home stretch.
As I turned the corner, Jennie handed Nate to me so we could all cross the finish line together. This was easily the best part of the race as I got the cross the finish line with my two biggest fans. Without them, I could do any of this. They are the best!
My brother even managed to capture of video of us finish.
Stats: 4:49:31 13th fastest run
I ended up finishing 9th overall in the Iron distance event and 1st in my age group. I don’t care that it was a small race, 1st in my age group for an iron distance race is huge.
While this was by no means the time I was hoping for, I could not be happier with how things turned out. I went to some dark places mentally on the bike and run yet pushed through and finished strong. It is funny how some of the races that seem miserable at the time turn out to be huge wins in the end.
Race bling! The 2nd medal is because I Double Down-ed and did both the GR Tri and Michigan Titanium
Honestly, I don’t know. Going into the race, I had a whole month of fun races lined up for September/October. However, during the race, I was really feeling burned out so I am re-evaluating. I hurt much more after this race than I did after my previous two Ironman. But not, only 3 days later, I feel like I am 90% recovered. I hit the pool today for a short swim and that just made me feel even better. I’ll most likely do the Reeds Lake Tri which is only a mile away and is a nice quick sprint race. After that, I’ll see how I feel. There is a new Xterra (off road tri) event that I want to do because it sounds like a fun change. I think I just need to take some time and do some fun events and recover mentally.
Thanks for reading!