I go into most races with what I describe as cautious optimism. I feel confident in my ability, and good about the performance I am capable of turning out. You never know how you are going to feel come race morning, or who else is going to show up. Yet I usually just hope to have3 a good, safe, and race to the best of my abilities. Going into what was supposed to be my first "A" race of the season, Ironman 70.3 FL however, that was not the case. I felt I had done myself a disservice early in the season. I raced the week before and it was one for the books. I raced shoulder to shoulder with a good friend and fierce competitor. The two of us, along with both of our coaches, and most of our friends knew we were pretty evenly matched. We raced eachother earlier in the season and it was a 23 second victory by me. I knew going into this duathlon that it was going to be a challenge, and that I would have a bulls eye on my back. We started the first run basically shoulder to shoulder and ended the first run that way... posting identical run splits. We left transition together, and he is much better at mounting his bike on the fly. Seeing him ride away, I stumbled and stuggled to get my feet in my shoes. He was gone! SHIT! I just lost this race I thought. He was so far ahead of me, I could see him rounding the first turn in the loop course that I couldn't be 100% sure that the helmet I was looking for was even his. I put down a solid bike though and managed to pull past him and into transition with a 20 second lead. THANK GOD I DID! Once again... struggles in transition. Apparently when I pulled my shoes off when I got into T1, i pulled the inner sole of my shoes out slightly with it. Now in T2, I am trying to put the soles back in. Knowing I had a slight edge off the bike, I figured they would go right in and I would have time. I was wrong. I struggled for over 15 seconds trying to get these damn soles back in. (Side note, lesson learned. Bring two pairs of shoes to a duathlon) Next thign I know, he runs in right next to me, as we are literally racked right next to eachother, I just pulled out the inner soles and pulled ont he shoes. Once again we were shoulder to shoulder the entire run. We literally ran the entire run course next to one another. His coach was at a strategic point. He asked if we were holding eachothers hands! Then he told him that this is the time to attack. I usually have enough in the tank to explode for about 100 yards. His coach knew this and he awas about 500-600 yards fromt he finish line. I knew this was just a little to long for me, and coming around the final turn he had about a 6 foot lead. I opened it up as much as i could, and just out of sheer luck I edged him out by the difference of my foot being on the timing mat, and his still being in the air! It was literally a photo finish!
To say that my victory was bittersweet would be an understatement. I have a half iron the following sunday and I just left everything I had on the duathlon course. I had a million questions now. Would I be recovered in time? Would I be sore tomorrow? How was I going to feel race morning? All these things running through my head more nervous going to FL than i was before my first sprint. the days prior i was freaking out, nervous, concerned. Race morning came. Lance Armstrong, Michael Poole, and David Kahn... Two of which I have met and trained with one... were all favorites to win. This made the men's start even more exciting. The media, the exicitement of having a world class athlete that transends the sport racing in the same race that you are is an incredible feeling.
Pro swim start was at 6:30.... I was in wave 17! we started at 7:40. Came out of the water which was a little longer than advertised at 1.38 miles in 41:24. good, but not great. Not where I wanted to be either. Came out of the water 755 overall... I had some work to do, and it was getting hot. Came out of T1 with no problems and immediately got to work. The way that Ironman broke down the bike was interesting. They did the first bike split at 38.5 miles, and the second at 17.5 miles. I managed to put down a 1:45:41 first split. THAT was what I was looking for... But it is geting hotter! I look down at my Garmin, and it says 82 degrees... It's only 10 am. By mile 50 things had started to get bad. The sweat that was already pouring into my eyes was starting to crystalize. I felt as though I had razor blades in my eyes. My second half bike split was over an hour. Total bike time... 2:46:49.
Things were bad and they didnt look like they were getting any better. I came into transition hurting but not done. I poured what was left of the liter bottle of water I had from early in the morning over my head in T2 and headed out on to the run. Legs felt strong, and I wasnt to thirsty as I drank 6 bottles on the ride... but something wasn't right. I turned onto the first part out of the park on what was going to be a 3 lap run, and what layed before me was soul crushing. 1 mile @ 10% grade. Whatever mental strength I had left in my body had just evaporated with the sweat on my brow. It ruined me. I stood in front of what appeared to me to be an angel with a hose ( I believe i told this poor woman that I loved her)... I stood there for over a minute letting the cool water run over my overheated body. It cooled me off enough that I attempted to begin this run. There was no point. My body had begun to shut down, and I hunkered in for what was going to be the longest half marathon of my life! 2:33 half marathon.
In races like these... you have to learn something. I learned that i MUST train in the heat if I am going to race in the heat. According to the medical staff i suffered from heat stroke and probably should've taken myself out of the race much like over 25% of the field did. I don't stop something I start! But to say that I am more than disapointed is an understatement.
That is why I am humbled. As good of an athlete as I think I am, is as much work as I have ahead of me. My dream of qualifying for vegas on hold for now... but I have another shot at it in 40 days in Providence RI!
Till we meet again! Ciao!