Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Half Ironman on top of Half Ironman Part 1: Just Tri to break 5 hrs please

The off-season is here and man do I need it!  The past 3 months have been filled with more than my fair share of ups and downs to say the least.  Work really likes to get in the way of the things you love, especially when you are traveling ¾ of the month since July, which as you can imagine really got in the way of training!  Aside from work stuff I was also trying to balance a few personal things on my plate that became very difficult.  Not to mention I was asked to move from Seattle to Dallas for my job.  Things got dark for a stretch there, but thanks to some seriously good friends I came out, and am a better man today because of them.

This isn’t a recap intended to bring a sad tear to your eye, but rather a tear of joy.  Through all the rough things that people go through in life, the world usually balances its gifts and sorrows pretty well in the long run.  

Ok, back to the story…my coach Andy Sweet and I had been really firing on all cylinders all summer.  We started working together in late June, and since then I had seen some serious progression in my bike.  I was starting to learn about riding with power (thanks to team evotri and Cyclops for the once in a lifetime opportunity) and was really connecting the dots between training smart and training dumb.  I really felt like I was starting to get it!  I had some good results on the bike in races throughout the summer, and was uber optimistic about the 2 half ironman’s I had coming up in late October.   My running was stronger than it has ever been, and my swim…well I seem to always find a way to pull it together in the water regardless of if I’m training for it or not.  

So Andy and I had talked about finishing my season with Ironman 70.3 Austin and we both agreed that would be an excellent idea.  As the summer progressed we both were becoming more and more excited for that day to come and to see how well I would race.  I started to get overly confident, and one day I found a race in Tyler, TX that was about 3 hours away, also a half ironman, and it had some serious prize money to it.  $1500 to first, $700 to second, $300 to third.  The race was a first year race and didn’t seem to getting its name out  too well, so I thought hey, this could be my chance to snatch my first prize money in a race!  I talked it over with Andy, and we decided that it wasn’t the most ideal because it was the week before Austin, but we thought it could be done no question, so I signed up.  

As August turned to September, things were going really well.  My biking and running were hitting an all-time high and I was through the roof excited for the Tyler half ironman.   I thought there was no way I wasn’t going to get $$ for sure.  

Just about that time was when the Grims dark cloud started to take hold of me.  My personal issues I mentioned above started to really affect everything I did.  I had no desire to train, so I stopped, and just moped around feeling sorry for myself hoping that at some point I would snap out of it and come around…well as the time went by suddenly I had lost 4 weeks, and next thing I knew the Tyler half ironman was the following Sunday.  WOW I was in trouble.  My excitement a month ago had turned to fear and I was not ready physically or mentally for what I was about to endure.  

Race morning I set up my transition area and it started to feel like a race again.  I was getting excited because there were less than 100 people at the race, and for a race with big $$ on the line I figured there would be 500-1000 people at least!  I started to think that the $ was as good as mine again.

As they shot the gun for the start, I took off.  The pro wave started 5 mins ahead of the rest of the amateur field, and my plan was to power through the swim and get on the bike, trying to work my way up through the pro field…keeping myself in striking distance for the run, which I had planned to use as my weapon.  I thought I had it all planned out!

Exiting the swim I looked at the clock and saw 25:40!  I couldn’t believe it…I was pretty stoked to see that fast of a swim.  I also had passed about half of the pro field, which I felt put me in great position for the overall $$.  My new plan was to group up with these guys on the bike and try to ride and run with em, hoping that the 5 min advantage I had would provide me with a nice pay day!

After a quick transition I was out on the bike by myself.  About 10 miles into the ride I hit an intersection (still riding alone) and a guy was there yelling “4th Place, 4th Place!”  When I heard that I was over the moon.  I couldn’t believe that I was in 4th place overall, and still had a 5 min advantage because of the swim.  I had this in the bag…easiest money I ever made!  At this point I figured I would try to push the bike a little bit more so that I wasn’t riding alone. 

Going through mile 30 I was still riding solo.  I was starting to get a little irritated that I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me, but I did notice that I had a few riders inching their way up to me.  One guy finally caught me and we rode together for another 10-15 miles, trading turns at the front trying to keep an honest pace and reel in the leaders.  Hitting mile 45 I started to realize that I was biking too hard and was paying the price.  It was becoming more and more difficult to hold the pace we had been setting the whole time and I started to lose ground.  By mile 50 I was all alone again…and this time not feeling too well! 

I finished the bike leg up and had ridden an average 2:32 and change, losing  lot of time over the last 10-15 miles.  At this point I still figured I had a shot at the money, thinking that I was somewhere around 6th overall, I just had to find my run legs and reel back the time I had lost the final part of the bike and I would be fine. 

After a pretty decent transition I was out on the run and feeling good.  I wore my gps watch and after about 4 mins I looked down and saw I was clicking off 6:35s.  I felt great and knew that if I held this pace I was going to work myself right back into this!  Well unfortunately that’s where things went south quickly.  By mile 2 I was walking, starting to overheat & cramp.  Not only did all hopes of winning money get flushed from my mind, but even worse, they were replaced with similar thoughts that were going through my head the past 4 weeks.  I was weak mentally, and things only got worse. 

I managed to muster a sub 2hr half marathon and just squeak under 5 hrs overall coming in at 4:54 and change.  I was glad to be done, but not too glad about having another half the following weekend.  Even though I raced very poorly I ended up first overall amateur, and won a pretty sweet trophy.  Lucky for me, I had a nice 3 hour drive by myself to reflect back on the race and analyze what I could have done differently.

The days following the race started to brighten up.  My gray clouds that were hovering over me seemed to disperse rather quickly and I started to see straight again and feel like myself.  That was the worst part about everything was I was not feeling like myself one bit, and feeling like there was nothing I could do to change that.  It felt great to feel like myself again.  I recovered from the Tyler half pretty quickly and was starting to really look forward to Austin, as crazy as it sounds.  Things were starting to look up!

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