My season started in February, when I headed to the QT2 pro training camp in Clermont, Florida. While, I train throughout the year, this is where I really ramp up my volume and also am faced with reality: I have a long way to go. The people I’m with there are my friends, but in the end also my competition.
I love training, but I absolutely love racing. So once we started this season my coach and I decided I could race a 70.3 every 3-4 weeks. This plan would keep me focused and give me more experiences as a pro in my second season. This meant that I signed up for 5 races between April and June and I was excited for it. We would use the races to build through the season, peak at 70.3 Mont Tremblant, take a couple weeks off and then hit it for a second round of racing. And maybe, just maybe, try my first full at the end of the season – Wisconsin.
When I started training with Sam, after our first power test, she y told me how aerobic I am and that Ironman would be my sweet spot, and Tim was no different. But he was also clear in that I should not do a full until I felt ready and really wanted it. Then in April/May, in the midst of training and racing it hit. I was ready. Lake placid was a race on my bucket list, I had been there for training the year before and I loved the area. So I texted Tim: “what would you think about Lake Placid?”. It didn’t take long for him to reply with: “I think that would be a great race for you”. So the decision was made.
With all the racing it was hard to get the long runs in safely, so in my peak weeks I sometimes did 3 or 4 shorter runs in a day. And through some of the hottest and most humid weeks in Wisconsin I got my 6 or 7 hour rides in and absolutely loved it ALL. Of course there were days I struggled. During a weekend of training in Lake Placid I got on my bike the day after a long ride in the blistering heat, a week after having raced, and I just had nothing left. I called my coach, crying out of fatigue and disappointment and ended the workout. Frustrated, I felt like I should have pushed through and not complained – but Tim reassured me, that I don’t complain, so when I do, it’s probably time to pull the plug. So I gathered myself, flew home early the next morning to go straight into a split run with a bike ride in between. I felt rough, very rough, but pulling through days like these builds confidence. It was my choice to do this and it was and is hard, but it wasn’t supposed to be easy. And thankfully, I have a crazy supportive wife at home who made me dinner night after night as I lay on the couch, exhausted.
The week of the race I was nervous. Very nervous. I had no idea what to expect. But I trust Tim blindly, and physically I felt ready. On race morning the nerves were overwhelming and I walked towards the start line with tears rolling down my face. But once that gun went off, it was game time. Time to stick on people’s feet on the swim. Time to crush that rainy bike ride, keeping it steady but solid. And finally, time to nail that run. I had never run a marathon before that day, so I followed Tim’s instructions – easy, real easy for the first 4-5 miles, walk every other aid station, and after mile 14 – just let my body do the work. And it did, yes – it hurt - but I enjoyed every moment of that race.
After the race I wanted to try it again! So it was on to Wisconsin!
As Wisconsin started getting close, I felt confident. Too confident? Lake placid – was that a fluke? Ignorance is bliss – it was nice to not know what I was getting into that first race, but this race would be different – was I making it prettier in my head than it really was? And now people knew who I was, there were expectations. I had expectations. Were those realistic? Would I be able to do this again?
Not my best swim, I knew that as soon as we got to the 2nd buoy. But I was determined to finish this race strong. And during an Ironman anything can happen. The bike – I had ridden the course, I could do this well. I felt good, was consistent, and pushing hard – but not too hard. As I went down a steep downhill, I tucked in aero – I knew this turn, had taken it in training many times – then came out at the last minute to brake and go into the turn. As I squeezed my brakes on my race wheels I knew I was too late, and I was going too fast. I made the split second decision to ride into the grass shoulder. As soon as my front wheel left the asphalt, it caught and my bike and I made a flip, I landed on my back with my bike a few feet further down. A bit surprised, I stood up – many things flashing though my head. But first things first, I was ok - no pain? No pain. Second – the bike, it looked ok, my wheels spun like normal. So far so good – so I grabbed my nutrition, stuffed my bottles and gels back on my bike and got back on. I refocused on the race; I was determined to finish this race strong. I lost a few minutes, but anything can happen during an Ironman. Before Lake Placid Tim had said: Anything can happen during an Ironman, anything can happen to anyone. Unexpected things will happen during an Ironman. So you take the hits as they come and manage them to the best of your ability. So that I did. And I briefly cursed when I then had to stop for a train – but again refocused. The supporters along the run course were awesome, and it was a blast to run through town, the stadium, and the campus. The run started hurting around mile 15, but I was determined to run it out strong. There are many what ifs and I am disappointed in myself for falling, which maybe cost me a spot on the podium. But then again, who knows, maybe this is exactly what I needed? Anything can happen during an Ironman.
As I am recovering I can’t wait to get back to training, can’t wait for my next long ride or run, can’t wait for my next race.
This stuff is hard - very hard - but it’s supposed to be hard. Consistency is key, the day in, day out of training, of pushing the body, strengthening it slowly and steadily. But maybe more important is the mind, the focus, the determination, to maintain the day in-day out of training and keep going when it hurts, to refocus when the unexpected happens. In the end, what it comes down to for me is that I love it, I love all of it and wouldn’t give it up for the world.