(Not your typical) Race Report
It has been a little over a week - but on March 17th, it was finally that time of the year for me - time to open up the 2018 triathlon season.
Originally I was supposed to of opened my season in the first week of January at HITS Naples, however due to a mechanical issue found the night before the race that I was unable to resolve before the race, I had to withdraw. To say I was let down is an understatement, however I spoke with Coach Lenny and we decided I would get back to work immediately and refocus for the Intimidator 70.3.
Over the next 8 weeks I had some ups and downs with the training cycle as the volume increased, but was really excited with where I was at in my training. As I rolled into race week I took a look back at the previous season and was honestly not sure how this year would pan out. I think any athlete is nervous heading into a new season - it means we care, but I also knew that I had put in a lot of work and I really wanted the race to showcase that work. While I have had a few good races in the past, I had not really had a great race where I felt like I raced to my full potential. There was a whole other side of me that I knew was untapped. Compared to years past however, my mental fitness and focus on race fueling were a huge part of my training and I was hopeful that I could show that in my racing as well. But looming in the back of my head were my previous experiences at races - even in years when I was super fit I would under-perform. Over the course of 3-4 consecutive seasons, I have collected my fair share of races in which I under-performed or just did not execute properly. I was making steps in the right direction in 2017 and was really hoping that the trend would continue into the 2018 season, but like any athlete on race week, I was left with the anticipation of what the outcome would be on race day.
Leading into the race was much like other races, however I really didn’t taper too much. I had a great weekend of training the weekend before to stay focused on my ultimate ‘A’ race, Ironman Texas.
Day Before Race:
Did my pre-race bike and run first thing in the AM so I could get my biggest meal of the day (MMMMM….Pancakes) in my body and give myself plenty of time to digest. Since I didn’t know the area where I was staying and didn’t really want to drive to the race site, I opted to do my spin on the trainer, but ran outside. I felt decent during this workout, not great or amazing, but I knew another 24 hours or so of rest/recovery I would be feeling much better. Packet pick-up was uneventful and got in a quick swim at the race site.
After wrapping up at the race site I headed back to my AirBnB and got my bike and run gear ready. Of course since it was the first time of the year it took me a while to remember what the hell I was even doing. Dinner was eaten around 5:30p (I had the usual bland pre-race meal) and washed it down with a bottle of Gatorade Endurance.
During the day I also consumed two bottles of Pedialyte as it typically settles better with me than other sports drinks, even if every person assumes I am severely hungover.
I slept pretty decent considering it was a race night and was up pretty quick when the alarm went off. As soon as I got up I put my headphones in to start blasting some music, grabbed my coffee, protein shake, 3 cups of applesauce, and a banana for breakfast and got it down as soon as I could (4:30 am). I prep all of my food the night before so this is as easy as a process as it can be on race day. I started sipping on Gatorade Endurance and finished it an hour out from gun time - at the same time I ate 1/2 a Clif Bar.
When I got my bike set-up in transition I noticed that Murphy’s law had taken place, and my powermeter battery was dead. Unfortunately I did not have the specific tool nor the battery to fix the situation, but just shrugged it off and told myself I would go off of HR and RPE. I have done all of my workouts observing multiple metrics as this is a cornerstone of Evolve - we never want too get to caught up on one metric or we would be screwed on race day if something like this happens. Instead I assured myself that I knew intrinsically what my watts felt like and I had HR to back that up - I knew my zones to race in and would use those as a guiding principle.
I got through my pre-race warm-up and sipped on water through the hour leading into the time I went off. 15’ out I downed my Powerbar Gel with water. Off I headed into the water to get a quick warm-up swim to get the arms and lungs working, and make sure the wetsuit was properly situated.
Swim - 31:42 - PR
For the wetsuit legal swim, I lined myself up on the far left of the crowd right on the buoy line. A minute or so before the gun went off, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes for a second, and just gave myself the opportunity to loosen up (mentally). The gun went off, and it was the typical melee for position where everyone thinks that they can swim the 1.2 miles like they are Michael Phelps. I swam pretty hard, and thought I found some pretty quick feet to sit on, and hopefully would be able to bridge up to the lead pack. Unfortunately the guy I decided to follow was gassed by the first buoy and ended up passing him and tried to find the pack. Since we were the last wave to go, there were plenty of people already in the water which made it difficult to pick out the athletes from my wave. I ended up swimming most of the distance by myself with two guys right behind me. I was hoping one of them would bridge up and do some work, but alas they did not. When I made the final turn towards shore with about a 1/3 of the way left, I was feeling comfortable and thought I was making a decent pace. I had a bit of a hard time sighting coming in due to the sun even with the tinted goggles and ended up swimming a bit wide which would be about an extra 150-200 yards (doh!).
T1 - 2:25
There is a decent run from the beach to T1, but I was relaxed and made sure to not gas myself by sprinting through transition. I came out of the water right behind a fellow Jacksonville triathlete and buddy of mine, and knew it would be a good bike ride since we are similar on the bike on most days. I put my socks on, grabbed my helmet, and Charlize (my Cervelo P5) and went on out.
Bike - 2:32:01
I headed out and initially had some issues with getting my shoes on due to velcro sticking to my socks, and just all in a all it was a total cluster fuck. I was able to fix the situation on the fly, and get my feet in, but it was not fun for the mile or so with a few little hills to go over straight out of transition.
I immediately started my nutrition plan (which I have practiced over and over). I knew I wanted to really lay a solid foundation for a good run by pushing fluid and calories in that first hour. This has been a huge change for me since working with Evolve and something that Coach Lenny has really pushed me to work on - and I think ultimately was a very important part of how the day played out. In the past I never really dialed in my nutrition in the way that is demanded on you as an Evolve athlete and have had issues in the past which would haunt me later on the run.
Here is a breakdown:
Started with 3 Bottles of Gatorade endurance on the bike, and drank two of them in the first hour over 30’ intervals. Third bottle was finished by 1:45 of the bike, 4th bottle finished a little before 2:30 and had another swig of a 5th bottle (picked up from the aid station) right before T2.
Gel wise - I took in gels at 15’, 1:00, 1:40. 2:15 (this is all part of the plan that was tailored to me and my needs).
In terms of the actual ride, it was a decent and honest course. I worked my way through both previous wave athletes, and a few guys from my wave as well. It was pretty quiet and lonely for a lot of the ride without too many others to push you. My HR was about where I expected it to be once I get to the mile 10 mark. The first 40 miles or so is pretty rolling with only a few little punchy hills, but then comes the beast of Florida - Sugarloaf Mountain. I carried a lot of speed into Sugarloaf, and honestly it wasn’t that bad. My fellow Jacksonville triathlete, Eric, was near me a lot of the ride, and we kept passing each other back and forth as a typical ebb and flow of a race. While we rode most of the ride near one another - I kept Coach Lenny's voice in the back of my head - race your own race - stick to your plan. This can be a huge challenge - it's a race after all, but this is long course triathlon, and the race really begins much later. I know as both an athlete and a coach what makes for a strong bike-run and riding smooth and steady within my zones is what would ultimately set me up for the run. I knew that Eric wasn’t much for descending, and the back half of Sugarloaf and leading into T2 would hold a few technical sections. Once I got to the top I punched it (this is also part of the way we train at Evolve - lot’s of rides and run with harder tempo efforts which really helped me here) and was pretty aggressive through the downhill and rolling sections with some fun turns (especially one with a good amount of sand in the middle of the road which almost caused me to go off roading - YIKES!). I knew if I had any chance of holding him off that I had to put space between he and I as much as I could and push the pace leading into transition since he is a very strong runner.
Another good friend of mine, Thomas from Greenville, South Carolina was just ahead of me much of the back half of the race and I finally caught up to him after his 29:xx swim with only a few miles to go. The dude can swim and bike!
T2 - 0:57
I got into T2 with Thomas right in front of me, and quickly racked my bike, grabbed my fuel belt and hat, and got on the move. I try to get as much done moving as possible, so typically put my hat/glasses and fuel belt on while running.
Run - 1:34:07 - 70.3 PR Run
Nutrition - 24 oz Gatorade Endurance w/ added base salt.
Powerbar Gel at 40’, 1:20. Coke starting at mile 10 through the finish.
I set out and just wanted to try and find my legs and be confident. Lenny had given me paces and HRs and I knew that I needed to settle in first and then start to dial it in. I have had a lot of great run training, and honesty have never run this strong (in training) in my life. I knew that Eric and Thomas would be behind me and breathing down my neck, but I stay focused on MY RACE, and didn’t try and race with my ego like I used to do all too frequently. The course is a two loop, double out and back so you can see your competition at the turn arounds twice every lap. When I made the first u-turn Eric was about 20-25 seconds behind me at most. Thomas was also hot on his heels - it was going to be a race for sure. I knew I could only do what I have in my body and held strong. I made it through the next turn around and had lengthened the gap. I figured something was up since Eric typically runs a 1:28:xx half marathon off the bike, but shrugged the thought away and kept focused. I have been working hard to race in a bubble - focused only on what I can do to be my best at each moment. This is way easier said than done, but I was determined to do my best at it.
In situations like this previously I would self sabotage along the way, or simply just mentally give up because I lacked confidence in my own ability in comparison to others. When things would get tough, I would relax in my effort as I did not have the confidence to work through the discomfort. This time was different. My posture was good and I stood tall and was running proud (shoulders back, head held high). I was towards the front of the race and finally was seeing myself as the athlete that I actually am in my training, but have never been able to showcase in a race.
While some may infer from previous conversations or my blog post earlier this year, I used to have a larger body composition. At my heaviest I was 255 pounds (for reference I am in the low 160’s during race season). Even though I lost the weight I still would see myself and think like my former larger self, and self impose limits in various ways, always citing my body size and being overweight as being the inhibitor. Body image is something I will struggle with for the rest of my life in some capacity, but I can tell you that pre-race I no longer fucking care how ‘fit’ someone looks (in general or comparison to me). I put in the work everyday, apply myself every day in all capacities. This year I have worked harder than ever on giving zero fucks and with the support of my amazing coach, I have made some huge strides. I have also grown in this capacity due to coaching - it is amazing what you learn about yourself when you work on helping others .
I continued on with the run, and even though had a few rough miles towards the end and held on to 4th OA for a majority of the run, at the final u-turn I could see I had plenty of space between me and the rest of the group - except for one guy who legitimately came out of nowhere and was hot on my heels. As it turns out I was run down by an amazing runner from Virginia in the last 200 to 400 meters. I joked with him after the race saying I tried to hold strong to hold him off as long as I could go, but he was relentless. He was a humble and great fellow competitor ( I later saw that he ran a 1:24:xx to break down my 10’ lead on him off the bike).
As I crossed the line and stopped my watch I saw some great news, 4:41:11, a PR by 8 minutes. My previous PR was from Miami 70.3 in 2013, and while I was extremely close on far tougher courses (compared to Miami) last year, I never broke the magical 4:49 number.
I ended up with a 5th Overall placing, and took the win in the Male 30-34 Age Group. The long days of training were somewhat validated, and gave me an extra boost going into the last block of training for Ironman Texas.
I don’t know what the cards will hold at Ironman Texas, but I do know that I will race fearlessly and view myself as a confident and well trained athlete following the direction of Coach Lenny Ramsey, who has continued to challenge me in the 6 months that we have been working together. I am excited where we will go!