I’m not exactly sure where to start on this one……………..It was a rough day.
This week was my second week of base training for Ironman St. George. My weeks are full of 2 hours of training every day, usually within pretty moderate heart rate ranges. Last week I was feeling great after about 11 hours of training, but this week with the addition of two VO2 Max tests (one for running and one for biking) on top of another 11 hours, I was feeling tired and fatigued.
The SHAC (Sand Hollow Aquatic Center) triathlons have kind of been a legacy for myself and my good friend Chanda Jeppson since about 2007. There are two of these races each year, one in the early Spring and the other in the late Fall. Every year Chanda or I have carried the races whenever we have been there. We have had good races and not-so-great races, but we have always ended up on top. It is a dynasty we are pretty proud of Chanda won the Spring race and the Fall race was mine this year.
This little race is a lot of fun and many local athletes of all abilities come out to play. There are beginners mingling with old pros…….who can put up some smoking fast times. Honestly, it is one of the most fun events of the year. The Fall race is nice because it tends to be a bit warmer (if that is what you call it) then the early Spring event and everyone is at the end of their seasons and out to have a great time. In 2010, I ran my PR on the course of just under an hour at 59:45.
I had a full week of training on my schedule this week and decided not to mess with it and just plan on the Saturday race being my Saturday workout, while keeping everything else the same. I generally take at least the day off before a race, but I figured I didn’t need to and just went with it. Friday I ran for 90 minutes at a very easy pace with a friend and then hit the pool for 2000 meters. The run felt great, but I was definitely feeling the fatigue in my body in the pool. The short intervals were hard……harder than they should have been. It was at that point I knew that this race was not going to be too impressive.
I know the SHAC course like the back of my hand and don’t feel the need to do much preparation. I packed my bags up the night before and made certain I had everything I needed to stay warm on the bike. I got up early and went to the pool with Adam (he was setting up sound for the event), so I had plenty of time to kill. We got there about 7:15 and I wasn’t due to start until about 9:50. I racked my bike in T1 and set up T2. I figured I may as well kick my feet up for a while and finished my breakfast and visited with some other Southern Utah Triathlon Club athletes as they were showing up.
This event is a little unique in triathlon where it takes place in a pool. Only about 24 people can be swimming at any given time, so the start takes a very long time and makes for a long time standing in a VERY LONG line. It is fun being able to see everyone else start and was kind of special this year as many SUTC athletes were competing in relays and were first to hit the pool. (I should have done a relay!).
I stood in line with my training buddy and neighbor, Rich Bruin. Rich and I tend to be very close in ability. We can race the same event and even though we never see each other our finish times tend to be very close……sometimes within seconds. I really enjoy training with him. I entered the pool first and Rich was just behind me.
My swim felt solid. I was stroking well and things were smooth. My arms were not as tired as I expected and was excited to get out of the pool. As I ran into T1, I realized that it wasn’t quite as cold as I had planned for. Too late. I had committed to a long-sleeved jersey and a wind-breaker jacket and struggled to pull it on (something very difficult when you are dripping wet and rushing…..see the video below). I decided to forgo the ear warmer and put my gloves on. Almost all of it was unnecessary except for my long-sleeved jersey.
As soon as I exited on the bike I knew that I was overdressed. Oh well! I just listened to my jacket flap and thought of how much better I would feel without it on ;( Bummer! Double bummer……..my legs were like LEAD! I couldn’t push the hard gears that I would usually ride on the first straight away. My legs just wouldn’t handle it. I tried to get comfortable and get my heart rate under control, but every time there was a slight rise in the road my legs would burn. I felt like I was going nowhere. Everything was confirmed when I was passed. I NEVER GET PASSED ON THIS COURSE! Two guys passed and then Rich passed. He looked strong and efficient (cool as a cucumber as usual). I could stay with him, right?. He blew by me like I was standing still.
With an out-and-back double loop course, I saw Rich at all the turn arounds and knew he was opening an even larger lead. My legs were just not cooperating with my bike. I held on and did the best I could . I finished my last loop and headed into T2.
A separate T2 for this race was new this year. I was kind of excited because the transition area in the past had always been a mess. Too many people going in too many different direction in an area that was far to small. This year they split us up and I figured that would alleviate a lot of the problems. WRONG! I dismounted and headed to my spot straight ahead only to come face to face with a rack FULL of bikes and equipment. My shoes were on the ground underneath it all. I didn’t know what to do. I had to put my bike SOMEWHERE! I saw another bike leaned up again the end of a rack and decided that was my best bet. I put the bike down (hoping it would not be bumped and damaged ) and dug out my shoes. I was out and on the run, happy to strip off my wind breaker.
The run course is a double-loop, out-and-back as well. It is uphill on the way out and you get a nice downhill to work with on the way back. The run felt far better than the bike…….THANKFULLY! My feet weren’t frozen (like they usually are in this event). I hit a stride and just stuck too it. I had forgotten to start my watch and was just going to run. I was passing a lot of people and was hoping that I was picking up some time.
When the finish came, I knew that I had not just finished my best event. It just wasn’t my day. I paid for the fact that I didn’t rest or taper and also that I just didn’t go after this race with an open-mind. I should have lowered my expectations. I guess I tried to, but in the back of my mind I knew that I was bringing a long years worth of training with me that I thought would carry me through without too much effort. Unfortunately, that is not how this sport works.
I finished and was greeted by the smiles and cheers of the other SUTC athletes. Such an awesome group! We laughed and joked and just enjoyed the moments. Adam went to find my time and came back holding up 2 fingers noting that I was in second place. He told me who had won and then told me my time 1:06! YIKES! Not only was it a bad day…….IT WAS HORRIBLE! My heart sank………..Honestly, I wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear. Yup! That would be childish and immature! I decided to go clean up my stuff from transition and spend a few moments with my thoughts. I needed to get a grip. I was mad at my performance (not so much second place, but how I felt throughout the race) and I was even more upset with myself for how I was feeling inside. This is something I am going to work on………..Mental toughness in this sport isn’t just about suffering through for hours and hours and then bringing it home to the finish. It is about dealing with the highest of moments and the lowest of days. My career of triathlete is made up of far more than a hour and six minute event.
I went back and sat with my friends and enjoyed my children, still disappointed, but determined to have a smile on my face and good sportsmanship towards all those who competed that day. This is the kind of day when I have to dig deep to remember why I do what I do………..I have to be grateful……..There are so many people out there who worked so much harder than I did and wore a beautiful smiles while doing it. They teach me so much. They help me look beyond the times and the awards and to what it means to compete surrounded by friends and family. I need to be grateful for the fact that I have two legs and two arms. Things aren’t so bad for me…..actually they are pretty darn amazing!
I took home a second place overall finish and Sydney proudly wore it to the car. No more racing for a few months…………I believe my body needs a step away from competition. There are bigger and better things on the horizon
Here’s a fun video that Adam shot of me struggling with my clothes in transition. Kind of funny from this perspective