Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Santa Rosa (DNF)

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I charged my battery, but that’s none of my business

Can you write a race report if you only get 27% of the way through the bike before pulling out? Maybe this is more of a race blurb. Or perhaps I could write a sonnet. Well, whatever  this is, it’s pretty short and sweet, but plans moving forward are at the end so read along to get the latest!

This past Saturday morning, circa 7:03am, I knew I was in trouble. I’d just completed the swim in the cold, but way more bearable than expected, Lake Sonoma and run up the crazy steep, even longer than expected, transition to my bike.

I’d taken measures against the 45 degree air by putting a long sleeve jersey over my wet body.

I took my first few pedal strokes and my legs felt ready to roll, not to be taken for granted after a swim.

And then, after the small hill out of transition, I clicked my electronic shifter to shift over to “big ring.*” Nothing.

I clicked again and again and the bike wouldn’t shift. I, of course, charged the bike before the race, so I was shocked at the first sign of a low battery, a dead front derailleur. Especially after working with mechanics to diagnose and fix battery draining components weeks prior.

This was the internal thought process that led up to the decision to drop, for this blog post narrated by Morgan Freeman:

0.25mi: “Ok, the next two miles are down hill. Tuck, bomb, get to the bottom and get off the bike to change it with your hands.”

2.25mi: “I don’t think you can change electronic derailleur with your hands.”

2.26mi: (click, click) “Ok, time to spin your legs as fast as you can to keep tension and salvage a bike split and deliver yourself to the run.”

4mi: (going up hill) “Not so bad, maybe this is possible!”

5mi: (going down hill) “Crap. Most of this course is downhill or flat.”

15mi: “Yeah, spinning like a maniac and watching the race pass you is kind of dumb. At this rate I’ll be done about 30min slower than expected. Last option, does this aid station have mechanical support? No? Time to pull the plug.”

And with that pun, I rolled with my teammate Brad KS who’d dropped with a chest cold, to the next town where a gracious family of spectators gave us a ride back to Santa Rosa.

I’ve learned a couple of reasons why my battery could have drained in 36 hours. I’ve put them at the bottom of this post.

While it’s a major bummer that when I was fit and ready, I wasn’t able to race this big local race against such a talented field and my teammates, I realize things happen and like the cramping at Oceanside a month prior, it’s all part  of racing. It was great to cheer so many teammates onto podium performances.

But since we’ve had a tough start to the season with duds at the first two races, I’ve made the decision to race Chattanooga this Sunday, May 21. We’ll have a lot of guys there, it’s the site of 2017 Worlds and it’s a chance to put this fitness to work. Hopefully I’ll be smiled upon by the racing gods for good race luck.

Thanks to everyone for the kind messages, sponsors for the support, Dani for being in my corner and all my teammates for the inspirational finishes to light that fire.

 

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Podium studs enjoying some suds

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Reasons Di2 electronic could have lost charge:

  • How the bike was stored in the back seat of the car
  • Break cabling work week before race could have knocked something loose
  • Cold temperatures over night
  • In transition, something pressed or if the bike was knocked over ttriggering  the system response to freeze the gearing

Race Recap: Ironman 70.3 California (aka Oceanside aka Cramp City)

They don’t call it Oceanside for nothin. Thanks, Jen, for the photo!


I do well with consistency. I’m not sure if it’s nature or nurture, but let’s just say you can’t wake up at 4:30 for workouts without it. So in the spirit of that consistency that athletes hold so dear, I had a melt down in my first Ironman 70.3 of 2017, just like last year (though that was more of a freeze out).

Yes, Oceanside 70.3 didn’t go as planned. That might be putting it lightly. I was laying in someone’s front lawn putting ice down my pants at mile three of the run. It was a mess. But unlike last year’s bout with hypothermia, I was able to grit and bare my way to a finish. I even ran a few miles with Andy Potts! Keep reading to find out how I went from front lawn to finish line.

(Here’s my Instagram – press follow to see more pics of me doing exercise)

First thing’s first…

Let’s get something out of the way: I was not having the race of my life only to be foiled by cramps on the run. Even though it was the new rolling swim start*, I swam the same (slow) 31min I’ve swam for the last two years. The first half of the bike felt great! The second half I could not attack on the climbs as I would/can/planned.

Consequently I got off my bike further behind the competition and really needed a stellar run to salvage a result. Instead of panicking, that’s exactly what I planned to do.

 

Some of these splits are not like the others…zapped by massive leg cramps.

Cramps…what’s the big deal anyway?

A fun fact about me is that I’ve never cramped in a race before. I mean, I’ve “been crampy” before, pressing my stomach up into my ribs while running to get rid of side stitches. But I’m not sure I ever understood how cramps could be so debilitating.

Oh, I get it now…

After feeling my way through the first two miles I started to turn up the intensity, only to feel my lower back tighten. I stopped at the aid station just before mile 3 to loosen it up and both abductors (inner thighs) went off like car alarms, sending me to the ground.

The volunteers at aid station 3 were great, bringing me bananas, pretzels, oranges, water and Gatorade (which I politely declined**). They brought ice, which I put down my pants and on my core. I rubbed the cramps, I stretched, I prayed. I did it all.

If you’ll recall, I didn’t have a second to spare on this run, so as this continued, I realized my race goals were donezo and for a second I thought about quitting. But that second came and went, and my new goal was to finish. Not for a podium spot, but for the volunteers who were rushing around to help me, the spectators who cheered when I stood up, for the team name EVERY MAN JACK plastered all over me, and finally for me – to leave the race stronger, wiser, and sure that I’m not a pansy.

Getting up, falling, and getting up again

As I shuffled away from the aid station thinking about how much ten miles was “gonna suuuuck,” Andy Potts came running by on his way to the finish. Of course the natural thought for anyone who just writhing on the ground would be to run with an Olympian and Ironman Champion, so that’s what I did. I could tell Andy was perhaps having an off day, so in a way we were helping each other out; it’s amazing how much better you can feel being pushed by someone vs. suffering solo, something visible in mile splits 4 and 5 above.

As Andy peeled off to finish, I turned up the hill for lap two and had there not been a railing lining the course, this would have been me:

Image result for faking dead punt gif

The abductors blew out for good this time and I came to a halt, grabbing the railing, and inching forward. A spectator told me I needed to walk or it would get worse, so that’s what I did. Then I began to jog. Then run. The objective for the rest of the run was to run just beneath the point of “cramp explosion,” which I was able to do while slightly building mile by mile. 

As I crossed the finish, turned to give the crowd an applause; they spent their free Saturday morning standing in the sun willing a crampy gimp to the finish. Respect.

So what was it that caused the cramps?

I really wish I knew. As athletes we love to point to that “one thing” and say, “Aha! I will fix that and move forward!” But the reality is that I have a handful of theories ranging from fitness, to equipment, to health, to nutrition that I will discuss with my coach, Matt Dixon and the purplepatch crew. Having a coach and/or trusted, knowledgeable sounding board is really important to learn from situations like this and I’m fortunate to be surrounded by smart folks to get it fixed before Santa Rosa.

Thank you

Thanks to all my friends and family, teammates and sponsors who showed their support! It goes an especially long way on days like this. See you at Santa Rosa!

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* Ironman installed a new “rolling start” to the swim, which was a self seeded time trial start. This was great for the faster athletes to get out in the front of the race and while I wasn’t able to capitalize on it in the water, made the rest of the race much more enjoyable. I hope they adopt this moving forward!

** I cannot drink Gatorade, or other sport drinks, especially during intense efforts. I’ve thrown up while cycling and running after drinking it (Muncie), my stomach just can’t handle all of the sugar and food dyes. Sometimes it makes sense not to make a bad situation worse.

Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Muncie

muncie finish chute

The Summary:

Ironman 70.3 Muncie was just the appetizer to an action packed weekend back in the Midwest. Almost immediately after crossing the finish line soaking wet, I was in my car b-lining for Cincinnati to celebrate my good friends Jillian and Dan getting married before turning around for a family reunion in Columbus twelve hours later. But unlike most appetizers, it was not small, expensive (thanks, GU!) and didn’t leave me wanting more. Nope, this was a very solid race for me that ended in a 3rd Overall finish driven by a my fastest ever bike split (by far) and a solid run.  Ok, so I kind of wouldn’t have minded more, 40 seconds behind 2nd, but 3rd OA was another exciting notch up the performance ladder! It went something like this…

The Swim – 1.2mi: (00:31:41) After a great warmup in what was essentially a lap pool off the lake’s shore, I began the swim loose and in control. Unlike most of my swims, this feeling never went away. I stayed on pace with a group of my wave and sighted like a champ after tons of practice each week with the purplepatch group. My visibility was incredible in the Roka F2 goggles with amber lenses as the green of the treeline and orange/yellow buoys really popped.  While this swim wasn’t my best time (and the course may have been long as times were up), I was on the perfect line, swam confidently and even surged past some guys as they wore out. I got to my bike feeling fresh, a huge mile stone for me!

The Bike – 56mi: (02:13:23) This is hands down my best bike split I’ve had in a half iron bike. In fact, I even bested my 40km time! After riding without power at St. George, I decided I was going to do this again and just ride hard and respond to the race. The night before I texted with Ritch Viola and he said something that stuck with me, “ride hard, but not breathless.” I thought I was doing this during the first 15 or so miles of the bike but once I saw Greg Grosicki of my team coming the other way and Eric Hawley of Indiana continuing to put time into me, I knew I had to take the effort up even another notch. I rode like it was an Olympic distance for the rest of the race and holy smokes did the Felt IA and Enve wheels respond – SOOO FAST. I train and race with GU Brew, a light hydration mix – never Gatorade, which was on the course. However knowing that the day was only going to keep getting hotter and the humidity would assuredly cause cramping if I wasn’t careful, I went through my GU bottles immediately and moved onto bottles and bottles of the sugary stuff. But with the hard effort and this foreign sugary liquid in my stomach, my gut wasn’t happy and kept…sending Gatorade back up and out. Gross! I know, but I tried to pay attention to it, while ignoring it, if that makes sense – be aware of the body to ensure it’s ready to go for the run, don’t freak out that you kinda keep puking.

The Run – 13.1mi: (01:19:42) Since I’ve never ridden that hard on the bike during a 70.3 and my legs felt a little crampy at times before forcing more Gatorade down the hatch, I wasn’t sure how this run was going to go. This course was actually very rolling and felt similar to Vineman with sustained, pesky grades. But I laced up my trusty Saucony Fastwitch 6s and found my stride quickly to run a focused first mile in 5:54. The next couple of miles slipped a bit as I felt my way through the open, rolling terrain. I took advantage of aid at every mile, keeping the core cool and beverages flowing. I started counting time to the guys ahead of me on the out and back, knowing that in my cases I could make up the time. But when I saw Hawley running the other way, I knew he was going to have to blow up in order for me to catch him – he was running well. I turned on the gas. When it was getting tough on the stubborn inclines, I’d put myself mentally in the Valley of Doom and just pretend that I was doing another repeat. It really worked and the training gave me familiarity and confidence to run strong. I started my final kick with about half a mile left and boy was I suffering. It’s a beautiful thing what the body can do when it only has to endure another couple of minutes – I was officially in zombie mode. I crossed the finish line with an embarrassingly loud grunt, before seeking out my parents and friend since age six, Nate who were there supporting the whole time.

Result – 70.3mi (04:09:42): Overall – 3rd, Division – 2nd

Thanks – First and foremost to my parents. Not only for always being so supportive, but for being there every step of the way on race weekend, including my Houdini escape to the wedding – couldn’t have done it without you! Nate for waking up at four-something o’clock and schlepping all the way from Columbus to the middle of Indiana to watch me run around for a combined 23 seconds. To my Uncle John who did the same from only a slightly less far drive via Noblesville. Greg Grosicki for having me the day before the race at his place for home base as he showed me the bike course and hooked me up with his bike mechanic, Mike, at Greenway 500 – thank you! Mark Graham for just being a great teammate, even when I only saw you for a few minutes; and to you and Jessica for the great pictures!  The rest of my Team Everyman Jack teammates for always inspiring me – whether it was texts or just knowing what results were going to be clocked the next day at Vineman, I was jacked up (bad puns). And of course, to all of our sponsors – see the Mike Like’s page to see the amazing brands/products that I used to get me to, through and recovered from the race!

Here are some closing photos. Thanks for the support and keep on keepin on, all!

My biggest fans

My biggest fans

Felt IA and Enve 8.9s.  Ridiculously fast!

Felt IA and Enve 8.9s. Ridiculously fast!

This dude drove for 2 hours at 5 am to watch me run around in Indiana!

This dude drove for 2 hours at 5 am to watch me run around in Indiana!

Uncle John woulda have done the bike if I asked him to

Uncle John woulda have done the bike if I asked him to

Fast forward a couple of hours... #cleanupnice

Fast forward a couple hours #cleanupnice

Family reunions are a great time to recreate old pictures. Until you're the one holding the baby.

Family reunions are a great time to recreate old pictures. Until you’re the one holding the baby.

Homemade baked ziti. All of it, please. Italian reunions ftw!

Homemade baked ziti. All of it, please. Italian reunions ftw!

Solid performances don't stop at the finish line - Nick and I took the Guacci Family Cornhole Title

Solid performances don’t stop at the finish line – Nick and I took the Guacci Family Cornhole Title

When you bruise your ribs dunking on an inflatable hoop. Kinda worth it!

When you bruise your ribs dunking on an inflatable hoop…