I will go ahead and warn you that this might very well be the longest post I have ever made. I thought about breaking it up into two posts, but what the hey. This is the crowning achievement of my active life. I want it all here in one glorious piece. If you have ADD then read part of the post, go chase a butterfly, then come back and read the rest…
Well as I posted on Sunday, I had a very emotional race day. You know about that part, but I bet you are wondering how I actually did in the race, right? Well allow myself to tell yourself. My parents watched my kids on Friday night and my wife and I had an intimate evening dinner at our local pizza joint, Orlando’s Brickoven. All I really ate was some caprese salad as I had been very careful about my nutrition leading up to race day. I crushed a huge breakfast, ate a normal lunch and then the salad for supper. Do some research on “carb-loading” and you will find that eating a huge pasta dinner the night before an endurance race is probably not the best thing to do. I had already packed up most of my gear and put it in my car. I checked and double checked EVERYTHING. I even had all of my nutrition supplements packaged up and separated according to where in the race I was going to need it.
I DID not drop my bike of at the transition area on Friday night because they were calling for pretty nasty thunderstorms in the night. That meant I would have to get up even earlier on Saturday morning. I went to bed around 8:00 and I actually fell asleep pretty quickly. Of course I woke up wide awake at 3:00 am. My alarm was set for 4:00. SMH There was no point in trying to go back to sleep so I just grabbed my iPad and checked the weather and Facebook. Things were looking gloomy. I got out of bed around 3:50 and ate a quick breakfast of a couple of pieces of Ezekiel bread toast and fixed a big ole cup of iced joe. I didn’t want to eat a lot and then have nothing to eat before the race so I had packed up a couple of bananas and some almond butter and maple syrup to take with me. I packed my bike up, kissed the wife as she slept, and headed out the door. This race was a double transition race, meaning that the swim to bike (T1) and the bike to run (T2) were in completely different locations. That means that I had to drive to where T1 was (at the KOA campground) and set up my gear and then get back in my car and drive over to T2, park and set up that gear, and then catch a shuttle back to the start. Did I mention that I had gotten some really awesome transition towels?
I ended up dumping all of my gear at T1 in a trash bag because the rain was starting. I got my bike out and covered the handle bars with a towel. I’m not really sure why I did that, but at 4:30 in the morning in the rain, it made sense. I jumped in my car and got over to the parking area and then had to walk about 250 yards over to the transition area. I ended up walking back and forth to my car twice to drop stuff off that I didn’t need or to grab something that I did. I got my second transition area set up and covered with a towel (raining…) and then jumped the shuttle BACK to T1. Holy crap are you as confused reading as I am writing this? Long story short, it was pouring rain by this time. I waited until about 6:15 to go set up my T1 because of the rain, but it was inevitable that it had to be done.
I got everything laid out. Covered it with a towel. Crushed two bananas and the almond butter and maple syrup. I hit the bushes to water the frogs and then I was ready to race. Just about that time the weather started clearing up.
So let’s get to the good stuff.
SWIM – 1.2 Miles – Double Loop in the KOA Lake
I got my wetsuit on and headed down to the start. My new 2xU A1s sleeveless wetsuit is the cat’s pajamas by the way…I wish they were paying me to say that. I ate an Accel Gel on the way down and felt like I was ready to be in this. I DID NOT have the super nerves like I did at the Parris Island Sprint. I think that had a lot to do with my new tri club friends being right there with me and giving me encouragement. I will post about them later because they deserve the recognition. Because of the crazy rain they were just getting the swim buoys into position right at race time. The halfway turn buoy seemed a good bit further in than it should have been and when inquired, the race director said, “Sorry guys, the swim will have about 100 yards extra…” Good thing I was prepped to swim further! My wave was the third and so after the first two went I got in the water. It felt awesome. I felt awesome. The horn sounded and I took off. My swim has gotten so strong during training and it showed. I DID have one issue when I got in the water that I was not expecting, however. My goggles started leaking. I NEVER had this problem in training and it was the same pair. It took me a couple of days to realize what was happening. I NEVER trained with a swim cap. The edge of my goggles must have been sitting on the side of the cap causing a seal issue. Regardless, on the first stretch I just dealt with it. I did not want to stop because of all of the others swimming around me. It got to the point about halfway through the first leg however that I had to stop and fix it. Good thing I did, because my sighting had been off (probably due to water in my goggles) and I was off course a good bit. I jammed those goggles back on and got back on course. I realized how well I was swimming when I started passing red capped swimmers signifying they were from the first wave. That gave me a LOT of confidence. I kept pushing and before I knew it, I was rounding the corner to start the second loop of the swim. My sighting was right on. My breathing was right on. And I was feeling great. I picked up the pace a little bit because of how good I was feeling. I was moving like a hot knife through Brummels and Brown yogurt spread. Once again, before I knew it I was nearing the end of the swim. I hit the landing and jumped out and start running towards T1. Looking back I NEVER felt out of breath or panicked and in all reality I probably could have given another 10% or so in effort. I just had no way of knowing at that point.
Official swim time: 39:16
Transition One – Swim to Bike
I ran up the ramp and around into the transition area while stripping my wetsuit off. They had strippers there, but I’m a married man and I wasn’t about to fraternize with the likes of them…Just kidding folks, the “strippers” were there to help you get your wetsuit off…but I declined. When I got into T1 I saw my buddy Jason in there. He was very excited for me and I remember him yelling, “Sub 40 swim! Sub 40 swim!” It didn’t register until a bit further down the road that he was talking about both of us. Not just himself. He knew that I was shooting for 40-45 minutes. It took me a little while to get my suit off and unwrap my gear and get everything on. I took my time because I knew that if I forgot ANYTHING it would be at least 3 hours before I got to T2. I ate two stinger waffles in transition and then got my bike off the rack and headed out.
Official T1 Time: 5:46
Bike – 56 Miles – North Mt. P through Awendaw Loop
I was cold starting out on the bike, but the wind was at my back and I got out on to Highway 17 and opened it up. I was holding between 18-20 mph going out of town and it felt pretty good. I had 3 bottles of GU Roctane Lemon-Lime and One bottle of fruit punch Nuun with me as well as multiple options of semi-solids and I knew that I was prepared. I was wearing my Polar RCX5 and I had planned to transfer it to my handlebars so that I could monitor my heart rate as well as my distance. I forgot, however, so instead I had to keep looking at my wrist. I hate taking my hand off of the handlebars. There wasn’t too much excitement in the first several miles. I tooled on down the road and I passed a number of people. I also GOT passed by several folks. One of them was my friend Amy, who actually slowed down to talk to me for a bit before tearing off into the distance (and a 1st place in her division…) At one point in the race my buddy Brian, who was not racing but who had been riding with me during my training, was waiting for me on the side of the rode. He whooped and hollered and even pulled some Tour De France tomfoolery and made me feel like a champ. He got back in his car and went up the road a bit and did it all over again. He did this 5 or 6 times on the course. It was awesome. I finally got to the halfway mark at around 1:30 and I knew that I was going to beat my anticipated time of 3:30. I felt strong the entire time and I never felt like I was fading. I ate a gel or a stinger waffle or some shot bloks every 15 minutes or so and I sipped the Roctane through out and I could tell that I had my nutrition dialed in perfectly. When I got to the turn on Guerin’s Bridge Road, I felt like I was on top of the world. Guerin’s Bridge had been on my training route and it felt like home. I kept saying, “This is MY road! This is MY road!” Unfortunately, I wasn’t expecting the wind on GB road and it slowed me down a bit. But that was MY ROAD and I just kept pushing it. The last stretch of the race was on Highway 41. While I know that road very well from a vehicular perspective, it was the scariest part of the race. There was bike lane, no shoulder, no protection, and the traffic was flying. This is where the scariest part of the race happened. I heard a car coming up on me from behind and he was honking obnoxiously. He got right on my tail and honked at me a few more times and then drove right up next to me and swerved at me on purpose and then sped on down the road. I yelled a few things that would make a New York sailor blush. If I had been more confident in my biking ability, I would have unclipped and kicked his window in. Even better was he got caught in the traffic backing up at the upcoming intersection. Instead of staying straight in his lane he swerved over to the right and caused me to have to pass him on the outside facing oncoming traffic. It was super scary. Luckily the intersection causing the back up was where we turned into the Dunes West neighborhood and the home stretch. It also ran parallel to the run course so I saw some of my buds who were ahead of me and already running. I came around the corner and entered into the transition shoot and realized that I was going to blow my anticipated time out of the water. I saw my wife and some friends and I knew that I was going to do this. All I had left was to get through 13.1 miles of running…
Official Bike Time: 3:07:35
Transition Two – Bike to Run
I got down to my transition area and realized that my feet were numb so I hopped out of my bike shoes and did a little Irish jig to get the blood flowing to my feet. I was having a little bit of rubber leg, but not half as bad as I thought I was going to. I trained a lot on the bike and I think it paid off. My area was very near the fence so my buddy Chris and his wife came over a shot some pics and the Wife was there to give a hug. I heard a couple of people make a comment about how I didn’t look like I had just biked 56 miles. Honestly I felt like a million dollars. Lots of energy! I got my shoes on and grabbed my running bottle and headed through the chute. It took me a while to get ready, but mainly I was getting blood to my feet.
Official T2 Time: 5:50
Run – 13.1 miles – Double out and back on Park West Running Path
My buddy Dow wanted to run with me on the course and I checked with the rules to see if that would be a problem. As long as he did not assist me or hand me anything it was fine. How cool is it that he wanted to be there for me in that way. Thanks DAD (his initials, not my father). I felt like I was going to be alright even though the longest single run I had done in training was half of this exact course. Funny thing happened about a mile into the run. I was wearing my Trek Mount Pleasant jersey because it had the pockets to hold my supplements. For some reason I was trying to adjust the bottom of it (yes, over my belly) and the zipper busted! It split all the way up to my sternum. I ended up running the rest of the race with my jersey looking like a shirt with only one button in the middle buttoned. Regardless, I was going to keep going. I had plenty of energy and my cardio was fine, but by around mile 5 or 6 my legs were starting to give out. Also, because of the rain, the running path had large sections of deep puddles all over it. That meant pretty much running in soaking wet shoes the entire time. The first out and back went alright. I am guessing that I was pushing somewhere between 11:00 and 12:00 minute mile. That is by no means a great pace, but come on, I had just biked 56 miles. Once I came back into the transition area for the turn around, my coach Ian was there (he had already finished the race ((third place overall the beast))) and he high fived me and asked me how I was feeling. I told him I was going to make it. But in all honesty I was beginning to doubt whether my legs would hold out. I headed back out for the second out and back and I knew that it was going to be much slower. I did have to walk a few times but I tried to keep it to a minimum and get back to running. Dow was encouraging me and talking to me and I was concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. I had some friends at one of the aid stations along the way and they kept cheering me on when I came by. We hit mile 9 and I knew that barring a debilitating injury, I was going to finish. We hit mile 10 and Dow said, anyone can do three miles and that is all you have left! I was on fire on the inside and I knew that I was no more than 45 minutes from the greatest physical accomplishment of my life. I kept pushing and pushing. I really honestly thought that I was the last runner on the course (I wasn’t too far off BUT I wasn’t last…) and Dow kept assuring me that I wasn’t last. But even if I had been, what would that have mattered, right? I was 360 pounds a few years ago. I couldn’t buy pants of the rack. I didn’t fit in booths at restaurants. I was ashamed of myself. And here I was about to finish a half-ironman triathlon. Who the hell cares if I was last? I was about to be the winner winner quinoa dinner in any person’s book that knew the old me. Dow punched it at mile 12 so that he could get back to the school and see me cross the finish line. There I was all alone on the course with nothing to think about except that I was about to accomplish something. Something that I had been training 16 weeks for. Something that makes me feel like I have ACTUALLY accomplished something worthwhile. I had to stop for a minute, before I came around the corner, to gather myself as well as make sure my race bib was showing. I tried not to cry at that point but I may have had a little sniffle. I came around the home stretch and I could hear everyone cheering for me. I tried to turn the jets on a bit to make a strong finish. I crossed the line and I had done it.
They handed me my finishers medal and took my timing chip. Ian was right there waiting on me. He gave me a big old hug and told me that he was proud. If I tried to talk I was going to cry so I just grunted and shook my head and smiled and laughed.
Official Run Time: 3:02:01
Official 70.3 Time: 7:00:26
You know what happened next. I saw my wife. I asked her if my grandfather had died. She said yes. I pretended that I was going to my bike to get something and I cried like a baby. The total culmination of emotions was just too much.
Once I had gotten it out of my system for the moment, I went back over to where everyone was. I got word that my buddy Jason had gotten first in our division. I was so happy for him because he crushed his previous 70.3 time. I heard that Ian had gotten 3rd overall. My friend Thomas had gotten 3rd in his division and my friend Amy had gotten first in her division.
Then I heard some even more interesting news…
I had gotten third place in my division.
I podiumed on my first 70.3!
Ok, ok. There were only three Clydes racing. But I found out later that I was in second place in my division right up until mile 6 of the run. Right when my legs started to give out!
Wow. What an experience.
There you have it folks. Losing weight and getting healthy for two years. Running races for 1 year. Walls to the ball training for 16 weeks. 7 hours to finish. I am now an iron distance triathlon veteran.
Oh yeah. I almost forgot. I also became a part of a team on Saturday. It always feels good to be picked for the team…