Saturday, November 17, 2012

Half Ironman on top of Half Ironman Part 2: Ironman 70.3 Austin Redemption

Iris wasn’t able to make it out to Tyler, and I think that having her there would have been huge in me keeping focused and finishing the race strong, rather than giving into the pain.  Knowing that she was going to be able to make it to Austin was a huge positive for me.  Everything seemed to be going right heading into this race, and to add to those positives, the forecast was a high of 67, my kind of race weather!

As I was leaving my apartment to hit the road for Austin, I took a look at my trophy case, picturing all the races I had trophies for, and trying to take something positive from each.  I noticed when doing that, that I had never placed 1st in my age group in an ironman sanctioned event.  I had placed 2nd in Ironman Florida, and 3rd in Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens, but never the illustrious first place.  That was my goal leaving the house, bring home the gold!

Going to the expo Saturday before the race, seeing the finish line, and picking up my packet really filled me with the motivation and the positive energy I needed to eliminate that slop race from the previous weekend completely from my memory.  Not that I needed anything extra from what I already had to make this weekend and race go any better, but after walking out of the chute finishing up getting my packet, I run into iris, and she has a bag from the ironman store.  I asked her what she got, and she got a big smile on her face, and pulled out a bunch of goodies she got me!!  I love that girl so much, she is unbelievable!  This race was going to go flawless!

Race morning came early, and it was very very chilly.  I was cold going through my pre-race setups, but knew that I would have a leg up on most of the other athletes because I LOVE the cold.  After pumping up my tires and getting transition laid out, I ran into former Michigan State Spartan Teammates Bill Vann and Ryan Bosma.  We wished each other good luck, but were more focused on the race and we kept it short.  

After running into those guys I went over and found iris and we headed down to the swim.  This race was filled with a stacked field on the men’s side.  Chris McCormack, Jeff Symonds, Andy Potts, TJ Tollakson, Bryan Rhodes just to name a few.  The men’s pro field was set to go off at 7:30, pro women at 7:32, and then my wave @ 7:35.  My wave was full of the collegiate division (where Bill and Ryan were a part of) as well as the rest of the 18-24 age group (my age group and trophy to win). 

Getting in the water felt great to get out of the sub 40 degree air temp.  But just as we were ushered into the water the cannon was off, and the race was under way.  I took it out pretty strong and tried to maintain that pace throughout.  I latched onto the back of a long string of racers, and had good position throughout the race.  Again similar to last week I exited the water and heard someone yell 26:30.  NO WAY!  This time I knew the swim was legit because ironman events usually are spot on their distances.  I was ecstatic with this swim, I didn’t take it too deep, and felt great!  I shot up the hill out of the water and into transition.  As I ran down my row where my bike was, I ran past Bill & gave him props on his great swim as I ran by (he had swam a 25 and change).  I took my time putting on socks and arm warmers because I wanted to be comfortable on the bike and not have to waste unnecessary energy trying to keep warm, then I was onto the bike course (2nd place in my age group). 

I felt great!  I was so happy to be in the cold, fresh legs, head finally on my shoulders straight again…I felt like a new man.  My goal for the bike was to ride a consistent power ~250 watts, not to blow up like I did last week because I got caught up in the moment.  And stick to that plan I did, I was riding strong, comfortable, and felt good.  At about mile 15 Yvonne van Vlerken passed me (she is a very accomplished pro woman, who placed 2nd overall in Kona a few years back) and when I realized that I told myself, if I can ride with her, I am setting myself up for a great race.  She went around me and I stayed with her for the next 20-25 miles, within my power zone, reeling in the other female pros who outswam her. 

At this point in the race I started to get the urge that I needed to pee…BAD.  Peeing on the bike is quite difficult, after sitting on a saddle for x miles settling into a pace and trying to just focus on race strategy…it’s amazing how hard it is to force out a pee!  I finally got the fluid rollin and felt soooo much better.  I had lost ~30 seconds to van Vlerken because of my lack of ability to pedal during this time, so I told myself I only have 20 miles left, I’m feeling great, let’s try to reel her back in.  So I deviated from the race plan and held 260-270 watts for the next stretch and before I knew It I had reeled her back in.  I was so pumped & it didn’t feel too hard either.  I was right back where I wanted to be. 
Sure enough shortly after I had to pee again!  So I followed the same steps leaned to the side of my bike, and let the fluid flow.  This time I had lost slightly less time than I had last time to Yvonne, and again I told myself lets up the ante, dial back into 260-270 and reel her in.  I was unaware that the final 15-20 miles of the bike was all into the wind, with some tough rollers.  I kept putting in a strong effort on the pedals and was not making up any ground on her…in fact I was losing time!  This was a mental blow, and sapped my legs a little bit knowing that I couldn’t reel her in, but I decided to stick back to the plan and dial it back to 250.  This whole time we were still eating up the pro women field on the bike, probably had passed 6 women the past 10 miles.   With 5 miles to go I was really starting to fade, and just wanted off the bike bad.  I again had what felt like a full bladder and there was no sense in holding it, so I let it out again, only this time I was going through an intersection where the police were blocking traffic…this was what turned my mentality around.  I was in the dumps because I was losing ground to Van Vlerken, and really starting to feel like crap.  As I was rolling through the intersection with the officers, I was going very slow and not pedaling, rather posing to the side of my bike leaning awkwardly with a nice trail of liquid following behind me.  The officers stared as I inched by them wondering what the heck I was doing and just as I had passed them they realized it and started cracking up.  This definitely put a smile on my face that I desperately needed.  My head was cleared of the negative thoughts and I was riding smooth again, the legs were still gassed but I was making it through.  A couple of the women I had passed a few miles back had rode through my pee trail and closed the gap I had opened, and we rode together the rest of the way in.  

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