Race Report: Vineman 2014

Dwayne The Rock JohnsonThis was the one. The rock and the roll. The We Will Rock You. The Bee Bop and the Rock Steady. All of the Rock. The race where it all came together and showed glimpses of what kind of triathlete I can be. The shift from “coming back” to racing hard.

With this race, I punched my ticket to the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. Though I’ll be racing the ITU World Championship in Edmonton, Alberta six says earlier, I had to take the qualifying slot. It felt too right after this race and the Tour de Canada will be long, but not impossible.

And what would Vineman be without Pops V. being there for support?! In fact, it was a pretty stellar race weekend all around – Vince’s folks got a place on the river and we stayed with them and AD for a relaxing home base. Nothing like a home cooked meal the night before a race to top off the tanks.

Executive Summary:

  • Dramatic race that involved a catch at mile 10.9 of the run and a 2 mile kick to the finish
  • My best Ironman 70.3 result to date:
    • 4:15, PR
    • 3rd Amateur
    • 1st Age Group
    • Amateur run prime
    • Personal fastest 70.3 bike split
  • Swim was passable, but fell off the goal pace after show portion of river zapped energy
  • Began the bike feeling wonky, but settled in and worked a very solid split through traffic to set myself up for a good race
  • Hit the run with Vinny, and took off to chase down 1st AG, punctuated by a 2 mile kick

Race Song:

My dad and I listened to the National on the way up to the race and it was a really fun drive. So this song was playing in my head during the bike portion especially. The National is awesome, they are from Ohio and this is a good tune for a chill, but uptempo vibe. What else could you ask for?

Swim:

Rough waters into T1, don"t faint

Rough waters into T1, don”t faint

Russian River is shallow enough to stand in most areas and mild in temperature. This usually means a pretty cohesive wave start, as sighting is as easy as it can get. The gun went off and my goal was to stay on Vince’s feet and come into transition with him. He started to pull away – he’s swimming really well right now – and I fell in with another group.

We made the turn and as we came back, the water bottomed out. I began dolphin diving because I thought that would be quicker than scraping rocks. This used too much energy so went back to the swim.

As we came into the final 200 meters, it really started to get congested with all of the waves ahead of us. This seemed to liven up the guys in my group, as it started to get rough. One guy in particular was straight swimming on top of me. I tried to keep my cool and get away from him, but the heart rate sky rocketed.

Swim Result: 30:57, 19th AG, 142nd OA

Transition 1:

I got out essentially gasping for bread and really felt off going to my bike. As I took the bike off the rack and began to run away I began to go dark and had to stop and collect myself. I ran my bike up the hill and slowly got on the bike, not sure what to expect.

Bike:

After starting timidly, I was able to turn the dial up a bit. Nick Giometti and I cut our way through many, many (many) people from previous waves. Unfortunately, I had my “On your left!” callout on speed dial.

Traffic aside, I was feeling great and keeping the foot on the gas. Half way through, I checked in on the numbers and I felt I was able to get stronger for the second half. Always Screenshot 2014-11-06 22.02.51a beautiful thing when that happens.

M2 had me spend the previous two weeks doing specific extended efforts and detailed long rides, as well as pedaling exercises to increase efficiency. I found myself referencing this – especially the pedaling efficiency drills – to keep power smooth and steady.

My good vibes and quick pace got majorly squashed however as I hit the roughly 1 mile long No Pass Zone coming into Transition 2. I felt the full weight of being in the last wave. It seemed some folks at the end of previous waves were content to sit up and (literally) not pedal as they coasted in. Passing here was grounds for disqualification, so all I could do was “coach” folks (took every ounce of strength to not have a jerkface tone) that the race was not over and we needed to keep it rolling. I knew I was having a great race and had the potential for podium. But here I sat, not pedaling the last mile of the bike.

Bike Result 2:21:26, 4th AG, 32nd OA

Transition 2:

After tiptoeing like a running back through the folks getting off their bike, I saw Vince running in with his bike ahead of me. I hit the rack a few seconds after he did and as I put my shoes on, he yelled out for me to pick it up and come with. He was out probably 15 seconds before me and I sprinted out to catch him.

Run:

Screenshot 2014-11-06 22.03.12I ran the first mile in 5:34 as I caught up to Vince and he had to tell me to dial it back as I was still in “catch up” mode. And off we ran together, like we had so many times before on the roads, trails and track, picking off people one by one. We kept checking in with each other, “5:43s, cool it;” “6:12s, pick it up;” “hit that shade;” “pace this hill.” It was awesome, and our pipe dream for every race we do together. We were cruising.

It was HOT. We were hitting the aid stations hard – water over head, ice down shorts. We hit the SFTri aid station together and it was nice to see familiar faces as we barked “Water, Coke! Water, Coke!” And then at La Crema Vineyard, as Viva Pink energetically manned (womanned?) the aid station, we again made our preferences very clear.

Screenshot 2014-11-06 22.44.45La Crema is one of my favorite parts of the course, because it reminds me of a cross country race: soft dirt trail around the perimeter of the vineyard, spattered with tree cover. I mentioned something about the pace and got my first lukewarm response from Vince and knew that I was driving at least for the moment.

We made it back onto the road and as we went for the turnaround at mile 8, we saw Bradley from team Every Man Jack coming the opposite way. I knew Brad was a strong athlete and that there couldn’t have been anyone in front of him. I also knew that I was going to catch him, as long as each of us continued running as we were. A major if, because in that heat, who knows when the wheels could come off. But I was feeling great, considering, so I pointed him out to Vince, who at this point was a step behind and I got no response.

This is when I knew I was going to finish the run without Vince. With new energy I surged into the turn around, and saw Vince three seconds behind. I gave him the wave, the same wave he gave to me out of transition, and got the thumbs up in return. Damn it. I wanted to continue crushing this run with Vince, but I knew I was on my own.

Mile 9. Lock and load.

Mile 9. Lock and load.

I locked in and the chase was on. Again, I bulldozed through the SFTri aid station, “Water, Coke! Water, Coke!” Only Bradley wasn’t the first guy from my age group that I passed. I didn’t realize it, but Ezra Becker (M25-29) was between us. As I passed him, he said “Go get ‘em…” to which I gave a response of agreement, which may or may not have been English.

Ten seconds is how far Bradley was ahead of me at mile 10 and it took some serious self-awareness to not go for it all at once. “Still 5K left, no need to get it all now.” As it turns out, it wasn’t that easy anyways, because though I was running faster, Bradley was still running well. At mile 10.9, I finally settled in behind Bradley. And an internal dialogue occurred over about four seconds:

“If I go now, I have to kick for 2.1 miles… Ouch. Do I have that? Would it be safer to run with him a bit and kick later?”

“But what if he has some crazy 400m kick that I don’t know about and punches me out at the end?”

“At this speed, I’m not convinced we won’t get caught by someone behind us…”

And it was this last one that sealed the deal. I took a breath, stepped aside and punched it. The longest kick of my life was on.

The final two miles were 35 seconds faster than the two miles before them.

The final two miles were 35 seconds faster than the two miles before them.

Screenshot 2014-11-06 22.03.45After I made it down the hill and was about a mile away from the finish, I had a moment where I thought, “Move made, settle down and finish.” But I that passed immediately as something told me I had the chance for a special overall result. And so I continued and was fueled by the crowd that lined the return back to the finish.

As I made the turn into the chute, I was up on the toes as there was no pain, there was no exhaustion, only joy and a healthy dose of Heem that comes with a race well run. I zipped up the M2 kit before crossing the line, got a big welcome from the man, Eric Gilsenan, who loves M2, and broke the tape.

Run result 1:19:07, 1st AG, 8th OA

Overall result 4:15:15, 1st AG, 16th OA

What I learned:

I proved to myself that I can push the bike and still run hard. This was a big takeaway. I also now know that I race faster when I’m actually racing – that is, racing with and against others. I’ve always known this, but it really materialized.

It’s important to always be racing against something or someone, even internally, to have your best result.

I feel like I managed hydration and nutrition well with GU Brew, GU gels, Picky Bar and water/coke.

Finally I learned that I have the potential to be a pretty solid triathlete! I’ve always had this as a goal, but this race was affirming for the possibility.

Thanks:

Thanks to my family and friends for the support, it means the world. M2 for his guidance and the M2 community for the training atmosphere. GU for the goods to keep me going. All the volunteers and the Vineman crew for putting on a great race every year.

Onward – rock!

Checking In – Early 2014

This past weekend was Ironman Oceanside 70.3 and if you read my 2014 Preview – and retained any of it – you may recall that it was the first race in a season full of fun and challenging races.

I’m happy to report that I reduced my time by 4h 24min and 10 seconds over last year with a time of 00:00:00. I’m less happy to report that it was because I am still coming back from my running injury discovered in late 2013 and I’m still not fully up and running. Definitely bummed to have missed this incredible race, but my buddies Brett and Pat did well to carry the M2 flag and set a strong tone for the year.

Still, I’m having some awesome training, gaining a lot of fitness and eating the food:

I'll take all of the Nutella, please.

I’ll take all of the Nutella, please.

What is the injury and why has it taken so long?

IM-0001-0001_1

Standing tall and “straight” for the camera

My left leg has been a problem child since leading up to and through Tahoe. After time off in the fall, it continued to be a problem at Christmas. I went to see Dr. Shepherd in Powell, Ohio while home for the holidays and we found some serious imbalance and misalignment with my hips and spine. This is either because my left leg is longer than my right (by birth or growth patterns), which would be consistent with the 4mm difference in my legs during my bike fit last year, or because my muscular imbalances have thrown this platform out of whack, making my left leg “longer,” but not actually longer.

If that sounds like a bunch of jargon, just know that it means that everything is more injury prone in my left leg and it stinks. I worked with Talitha at Individual Fitness Solutions while in Dublin to develop a strength and flexibility program to try and stabilize the platform. I do this strength program at least twice a week and my attention to post workout stretching and rolling has increased ten-fold (so, so important). I also continue my body work with my main man, Andy Tubbs, who induces eye crossing pain (i.e. massage therapy). Lastly, I run in a bubble:

Shirt off, thumbs up, bro out

Shirt off, thumbs up, bro out

The Alter-G at M2 Revolution continues to be an absolutely essential tool for coming back from injury in a controlled, healthy manner. I’ve progress from 75% to 77% and currently 80% of my body weight, while I begin to run at speeds that look much more familiar.

The goal remains the same

It can be easy to have a negative mindset when you miss a race and the road back to health is taking much longer than originally planned. But that’s the thing – you can’t plan it and it’s silly to think you have more control over the circumstances than the hard work you put into it allows. That’s all you can do, work hard to be healthy and the return will hopefully follow.

I entered this year as one of the best triathletes in my age group in America. My goal for this year was to race well at a level that removes that qualifier – I want to be one of the best amateur triathletes, not just in my age group. The goal still remains, and the race calendar has shifted a bit later.

Stay tuned to see how it unfolds!

A big thanks to friends, family, the sports med folks I’ve worked with, M2 Revolution and GU.

Race Report: Ironman Tahoe Pt. 2

It's going to be a long day (photo credits Competitor Group)

It’s going to be a long day (photo credit Competitor Group)

Race day

After a night of minimal sleep and plenty of staring at the ceiling, the alarm went off at some hour that I have blocked out of my mind. As far as I knew, this race was going on as planned despite any concerns about temperatures or frozen roads. I was ecstatic to see that it was 30 degrees out! Was definitely thinking mid-high 20s.

The house began to stir as we put on the coffee and I made my oatmeal. The plan was to essentially get race ready in the house and drive to the finish line as late to possible. Standing outside in 30 degree temps for any extended period of time did not seem like a good way to start an Ironman.

I was feeling loose and ready to roll. I put on a pre-morning play list as I gathered my things. There were a lot of great tunes that played, but this is the one that would stick as…

Race Song

Calm Rush Before the Storm

A final word with Pops before heading to the beach

A final word with Pops before heading to the beach

Staying in the house for as long as possible meant arriving to the insanity of the transition area with a pointed agenda and no time for fumbling around. I got to my bike to put air in the tires and of course the little plastic baggie I put over the seat was no match for the ice that would freeze across the leather. After getting transition areas set up, I walked over to my personal body-marker, M2 sista from another mista, Alessandra Sales. We hugged it out for a good-luck embrace and she ensured me that I’d see here and Evgenios out on the course.

I suited up, hugged and kissed the support crew – Mom, Dad, Ali and Nancy – and told them that I’d see ’em on the other side.

The Swim

"This is it. Don't get scared now." Kevin McCallister, Home Alone

“This is it. Don’t get scared now.” Kevin McCallister, Home Alone

Tahoe swim start_

Enter the abyss

Enter the abyss

I stood in the icy sand listening to the National Anthem, moving to keep warm, and taking in the dreamlike setting that would be the venue for this race. The way the steam rose off the water and dissipated, giving way to the snow-capped mountains was surreal.

There was a general vibe across athletes and spectators alike that was part appreciation of the unique circumstances and beauty, part what the hell are we doing, but all excitement. As the singer finished, the music started pumping and there was less than a minute until the pros started. I was so freakin pumped and ready to go, that my keep-warm movements turned into genuine excitement.

The gun or cannon or horn (I was too in the moment to remember which) went off and the race started. Per Ironman’s new swim start format, it was a rolling start instead of a mass start, so your race didn’t start until your chip crossed the mat, similar to a running race.

Most folks in the race took their time walking into the water. Tahoe is knee deep for about the first 100 meters, so most people would opt not to burn energy by water-running anyways. Layer on top of that the uncertainty of how long it would take bodies to warm up and caution seemed to be the MO. I was completely on board.

My goal for the swim was 1:10. I figured that on my best day I could do about an hour and change. I made a marked decision to back off on an altitude swim to set myself up for a solid day.

Run across the land of a thousand daggers

Run across the land of a thousand daggers

The water was a relief. At 50-some degrees it was more than 20 degrees warmer than the air temp. Sighting was somewhat of a challenge as the steam off the water made buoys and rest platforms appear at the last minute. The water however was, per usual, the clearest water I’ve ever been in. So taking stock of the race around me and swimming on the right feet was easy.

To this end, I really liked the self-seeding, corral start. I didn’t have to fight not to be dropped or pick through traffic that usually happens when a race shakes out of a mass start.

As I came back into the beach, my body started to shiver. The water was becoming shallower and the affect of the air became greater. I exited the water and my feet immediately turned to block on the jagged, icy sand. 1:09:54 – I was stoked to be exactly where I wanted.

SWIM DETAILS | Division Rank: 27

Split Name Distance Split Time Race Time Pace Division Rank Gender Rank Overall Rank
Total 2.4 mi 01:09:54 01:09:54 01:48/100m 27 315 389

Transition Hell

I ran through the transition bags and grabbed my bag of full cycling gear. Normally in a triathlon, the majority of athletes opt to transition at their bike, stripping their wetsuit, staying in the same kit they wore underneath and pedaling away. There is a tent available for those who would like to take the time to do a full dry change.

Use your imagination to make a chicken coop. I'm horrified of birds and hell to me is chicken coops.

Use your imagination to make a chicken coop. I’m horrified of birds and hell to me is a chicken coop.

The problem with a race at 30 degrees is that no one is transitioning at their bike, everyone is doing a full dry change and that this tent that is available as an option to some, becomes a necessity to all. It was an absolute train wreck. Athletes packed, running around like chickens in a chicken coop. Someone accused me of stealing their wetsuit, I could barely stand upright to put my clothes on, and worst of all I lost a glove. I realized this as I finally Heismanned my way through the crowd and headed to my bike. I decided it was worth going back into that mess of humanity to find it because I couldn’t imagine trying to shift or handle my bike with a frozen hand.

Crap

Crap

That was absolutely useless. Thank God I ended up coming into an extra glove before getting on my bike, or else it would have been trouble. Speaking of trouble, I was now at my bike and my feet were so numb, I couldn’t put my socks and shoes on. A volunteer came over to help me.

This was just nuts.

17:50 later, I was running out of T1 to the cheers of my family and friends. I shook my head in disbelief. Looking around me and seeing the athletes that were exiting with me, I knew that this set me back.

The Bike

IMLT Bike course_crop

Bundled up, tongue out, making ground

Bundled up, tongue out, having fun

The plan was to ease into the long saddle time and build into race watts on cold legs. The reality however was that I had 17 minutes worth of athletes in front of me that I need to get by. The way passing rules work in triathlon is that you have to make a full pass and be out of the no-draft zone. When there is a line of 20 athletes spaced out at 3 bike lengths (no-draft zone), you have to pass the whole line, as falling into a draft zone half way is illegal.

So I kept my eyes on the watts and rode at the upper end of the range, making work of the traffic. It took 30 miles to really feel like I was in the clear to ride my own race. Which was what I was hoping for, because I wanted to avoid the bottle neck in Truckee, leading into the climbs. The crowd was out in full force and riding through Truckee was like a cycling road race!

Something I noticed around this point – as my feet began to thaw, my right foot was kind of hurting, specifically in the pinky toe area. I chalked it up to my feet being numb when I put my shoes on and tightening them too much. Stopping, taking the booty off, adjusting, putting it back on…nah, didn’t seem worth it.

Martis Camp

IMLT Bike profile_crop_label

The first of the two mega climbs came in the Martis Camp area. Since it was closed until race day, this was my first time riding it. I knew what climbing watts at altitude looked like from riding Brockway before, but something about Martis Camp was more difficult. Brockway is a steady grind without any real change in grade or direction. Martis Camp was much more full of switch backs and steep pitches. My body was sending off altitude warning signals – higher heart rate, leg burn – at watts that were totally fine on Brockway. So I dialed it back.

Another challenge in Martis Camp was that I started to overheat a bit. At almost 40 miles into the race it was warmer and while climbing, I was working harder. The big descent down to Brockway was like a built in engine coolant and I leveraged it with all 4 layers upzipped.

Brockway

Family and underwear men ahead at Brockway Summit

Family and underwear men ahead at Brockway Summit

For how difficult it was to settle into a groove during the undulating Martis Camp climb, Brockway was smooth sailing. Put the head down and grind at a set cadence all the way up. The awesome thing about Brockway is that the line of traffic going the other way for supporters driving to Squaw was a continuous cheering section. As the climb got closer to the top, the crowd turned Tour de France and supporters stood cheering on both sides of you. At one point a dude in underwear was even running beside me like I was Froome himself. A very unique and appreciated aspect of this race.

Grinding out the the top of Brockway

Grinding out the last few feet of Brockway

The goal was to do second loop better than the first, but that would be somewhat challenging given how much harder I had to ride during the first 30 miles to get past the unplanned traffic. I kept an eye out for the Champagne Prius my family would be driving the opposite way to T2/Finish in Squaw Valley and sure enough I saw them and gave them a wave.

2 loops down and onto Squaw Valley

2 loops down and onto Squaw Valley

I was feeling pretty good, but something weird was happening – I kept peeing. I was kind of concerned because I was drinking as much as planned, but I was afraid my body wasn’t using all of it since I wasn’t sweating that much. I told myself it was still important to drink due to the unseen effects of dehydration, but I was a bit uneasy about it.

Contrary to plan, lap 2 ended up being worse than lap 1 by about 10 watts on average. Though I was feeling good, numbers were just down across the board and not nearly as consistent in either Martis Camp or Brockway. By the time I descended Brockway again and made it to the climb out of King’s Beach en route to Tahoe City, I was feeling a bit zapped. From Tahoe City to Squaw the watts just weren’t there. I was ready to get off the bike and run, but was a bit ticked to see the watts fall off.

And so the first negative thoughts begin to creep:

Why did T1 take so long? Surely I spent more gas earlier on the bike than I would have wanted because of that. Why was I peeing so much? Was I flushing myself out? What is the DEAL with my right foot? This shoe must be on super tight for it to be hurting like this.

You just rode your bike 111 miles, calm down and get to T2. Getting on the run will…wait there’s Virgilio, already mile into the run. Due to a crazy work schedule, my main man hadn’t trained more than a couple hours a week for the last  weeks. He waved as I mouthed, “What the f*&%?” Ughhh…Get me off this bike!

Meanwhile, at the ranch…

Beautiful day to watch some triathlon

Beautiful day to watch some triathlon

Ali and Nancy

Taking in the sites before the athletes parade in

The ‘rents, Ali, Nancy and Vince were all enjoying the plush treatment of the VIP access that John and GU were able to hook up. It’s tough for better viewing conditions than a sunny day in Squaw, until you throw all the free food and libations you could ever want on top of that. I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded if I did another loop on the bike!

Enter T2

Entering T2

But there they were, waiting as I rolled into Transition 2, ready to get off the bike and into my running shoes.

BIKE DETAILS | Division Rank: 11

Split Name Distance Split Time Race Time Pace Division Rank Gender Rank Overall Rank
Total 112 mi 05:58:20 07:26:04 18.75 mph 11 126 139

Transition 2

I wanted to be consistent, so I botched transition 2 as well. In addition to a gear blunder (left the watch on the bike, volunteer chased it down), I was about to really find out what I was in for with this right foot. I took off my cycling shoe and immediately let out an expletive or seven. My right toe felt like it was broken. I mean, I really thought it was broken.

What was the deal, might you ask? Well I’d put hand warmers in my socks so that my feet would warm more quickly. I handled the left foot, but as you might recall, I had a volunteer helping with the right foot. Of course he didn’t know there was a handwarmer in my right sock, and so of course he didn’t take it out. But since my foot was literally numb, I couldn’t feel that it was there.

Exit T2

Hobbling out of T2

So I rode 112 miles with a little baggie handwarmer bunched up on top of my upper right foot. Stellar.

I left T2 in a pretty crappy place mentally. I was already not pleased with where I was at in the race, upset with the lost time of chasing down the watch and pretty sure I was going to have to run a marathon on a broken toe.

The Run

IMLT Run course and splits_crop

No shortage of inspiration on the IMLT course

No shortage of inspiration on the IMLT course

The first  mile of the run was spent deciding if my toe was broken. Or rather, even if it was broken, could I run on it? After deciding that, yes, I can run, it was time to start running well. I took a moment to center myself and remember just how long a day of Ironman is. I was starting a marathon – nothing before this mattered, so much could play out in my favor if I ran the way I was capable of.

So off I went. It’s net down hill out of Squaw Valley and to the Truckee River. Even still, I went out too hot. The plan was to ease in from 7:30s down to 7:00s and below and I just couldn’t hold back. By the time I got down to 89 I was getting sucked up into running with other guys and I should have stuck to my slow burn plan.

I made the turn around at mile 9 and change and I was feeling a bit off. Mile 10 went by and I was starting to loose my grip on the pace. As I approached the 12 mile marker, I did something I’ve never done in a race: I stopped.

I stopped running and stood there. Something was not right. Sure I was feeling fatigued, but something else felt off. As I began to run, I immediately stopped again, clutching my stomach. It was totally jacked and prevented anything more than a walk/jog. And all the while I had freakin’ Starship stuck in my head. Not the time for We Built This City! Need to revise playlist criteria.

I got myself to the porta-John at Mile 13, hoping that would do the trick. But it continued to be a struggle. I felt absolutely awful. Until that point I’d done only Coke and my concentrated electrolytes. Now I could hardly stomach anything.

So there I was, wondering what the next 13.2 miles had in store for me. How was I going to get to the finish line? Until now, I was finding silver linings, realizing it was a long race and even running 8:30 miles could net out to a solid day if others were struggling. But this was pretty much the nail in the coffin for hopes of a competitive finish. It became a game of survival.

As I got to the entrance of Squaw Valley, I put on my brave face and trotted by the supporters. As soon as I hit the hill returning to the Village, I began walking again.

Mile 13: 8:41

Mile 14: 9:51

Mile 15: 12:20

This was getting bad.

Considerably less pep in the step than seen above in the same spot, lap 1

Considerably less pep in the step than seen above in the same spot, lap 1

This is where I bottomed out. At the top of the hill, trusty Alessandra saw me walking and began to run with me. She really got me moving again and even though my stomach prevented me from running well, at least I was running. She sent me off into the Village where seeing my family meant everything. It was what drove me.

I struggled to run through the village, but the wild support really kept me alive. I saw my family and stopped and gave each one a kiss (except Vince, sorry bud) and told them I was doing my best and I’d see them soon. I think at this point they knew it wasn’t the day that I wanted, but they were all smiles.

9 miles left and the goal was no walking. This is where the magic of Tahoe really shone through, because the course was littered with SFTri, GGTC, EMJ, Viva Pink and all the other Bay Area staples. Having supporting during almost the entire run was all the difference.

Driving the struggle bus at mile 22

Driving the struggle bus at mile 22

Then it came back, and at mile 20.5 I was back in the porta-John. Twice. Miserable. Directly uphill after that and I was walking. I drew strength by thinking of my loved ones, thinking about how much I’d asked them to stand by me and – sometimes – play second fiddle as I prepared for this. I owed it to them to do my best. It’s truly what kept me running. The determination grew.

I grabbed my quads, strutted like an old man up the mulch stares back onto 89 and closed in on the 23 mile marker. A guy with my age group on his calf in was front of me and something clicked.

“You have 3.2 miles left in this freakin’ Ironman. Balls up and run like you know you can to the finish.”

I passed him emphatically and charged uphill to the finish. Any pain didn’t matter. I can run a 5K, I’ve done it a thousand times. I latched onto a guy running even faster and pretended it was a track workout and he was leading. When someone yelled, “Let’s go, Mike!” he turned his head and said, “Yeah, let’s go, Mike,” and turned up the pace. Fine by me, I’m here dude!

We flew by the EMJ group again and after going through the final aid station, I asked if he wanted me to take a pull. I cranked it up a notch further, while we exchanged words of encouragement. He dropped about a mile from the finish. It was really cool to strike that connection and fire each other up.

I passed the SFTri group again and I heard Adam Smith’s unmistakable British accent say, “There’s Mike, he’s looking good now.” That’s how bad it was earlier.

With the blinders on as I go full bore through the village

With the blinders on as I go full bore through the village

As I made the turn to go into the village, I was out of my skull. So much pain. So much emotion. So much energy from the crowd. Thank God I had sunglasses on because my eyes were definitely sweating. The day had not gone to plan, but I’d be damned if I was going to leave a drop on that course.

I made the final turn and saw the finish line. I can’t even describe how painful my body felt but how amped my mind was. Staring at that finish line didn’t even feel real. The crew was on the left but I didn’t even see them, all I could see was the line.

Charging to the finish

Charging to the finish

Vince extends for the high five, to no avail

Vince extends for the high five, to no avail

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Overcome. Family and Vince, arms raised in the background.

Overcome. Family and Vince, arms raised in the background.

RUN DETAILS | Division Rank: 8

Split Name Distance Split Time Race Time Pace Division Rank Gender Rank Overall Rank
Total 26.2 mi 03:51:36 11:23:12 08:50/mi 8 103 118

El Fin

Dad and me post raceI literally had nothing left in my body when I crossed the finish line. Tearfully, I reached out to Vince and gave him the high five I’d missed coming down the chute. When I crossed they asked me some questions to which I responded, “Everything hurts.” After some time in the med tent (I was shuffled there to get my core temperature back up), I came back out to hug it out with the crew.

I was so grateful to them for being so supportive. We headed back to the VIP pavilion so I could partake in the food and beverage party. I think I had about 4 sips of my beer and could only eat for about 10 minutes before I was toast. I looked over to see Chris McDonald, the winner of the race, cheersing folks, right as rain. Good for him. I felt like sh!t.

Takeaways

The list of takeaways is way too long to put here. And in some ways, I’m not sure exactly how much there is to take away. With so many extreme variables across the day, it’s tough to point at the body breaking down before the half way point of the run and know exactly what caused it. I have my theories, ranging from effort to nutrition, but as of now they’re just that, theories.

The biggest takeaway is that even though I didn’t get the result I wanted, I had an immensely successful training build, reached new levels of fitness and learned so much about myself along the way. It may have been my worse race by the numbers, but I think it’s the finish I’m most proud of, because it truly took everything.

Thank Yous

I can’t thank Ali enough for her support through the year. After being together, but across the country for 3 years, she moved out here this spring. I know it wasn’t easy to settle into a new place when I was logging Ironman training hours, but she really was supportive and I’m grateful.

The family for always showing their support, and coming to share in the big races. It was great to have my parents there and I know Nick was rooting along at home. It was incredible to have Nancy (Ali’s mom) out here as well, as it was to have the support of Andrew and Amy remotely.

Michael and the M2 gang. The support to get me across the finish line started on our New Years Day ride and lasted until the end. My physical progress was no doubt accelerated by being a part of this crew, and it was a blast of a season with all of you.

The Bay Area tri community. Whether you were racing on the course or a supporter in the crowd, awesome, awesome support out there. As I mentioned earlier big shout outs to everyone that was there from SFTri, GGTC, EMJ and Viva Pink. I could list almost all of you off by name, but the list would be long. Thanks!

My Fitbit crew for being so supportive, it’s great to work with a group of people who value this kind of journey. John and the folks at GU, I knew you had my back this year, but it was really great to see my family enjoy the race from the VIP section – mimosas on the dock in the morning to rounds next to the finish line by afternoon. Stellar!

And to everyone else supporting via texts, calls, emails, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Thank you! Every not meant a lot and was a source of inspiration as I had to dig deep to finish.

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That’s a wrap on the 2013 season…! Tough to believe. I’ll write a season wrap up, 2014 preview, but for now, I think I’m going to go eat some cake. Offseason.

The crew enjoys tequila and tacos at Tahoe Blue Agave the day after IM

The crew enjoys tequila and tacos at Tahoe Blue Agave the day after IM