70.3 St George is a big deal. It's a brutal course, it's a talented field, and everybody is there to race. Certainly I was there to race. I was there to have fun, too, but I was far from nonchalant. Preparation was important. Execution was a personal imperative. Expectations were high and the results absolutely mattered.
St George is the North American Pro Championship – for pros, that means more prize money, more Kona points, and a larger, more competitive field. For amateurs, that means more slots for 70.3 Worlds and, again, a larger, more competitive field. The course is tough, it’s geographically convenient to the triathlon hot spots in Colorado, Arizona, Utah and California, and it’s far enough into the year that serious competitive triathletes have had enough time to train, but many less serious triathletes are waiting for late-summer races. All of these factors come together to foster a large, serious and fast field of athletes. Of the races I’ve done, this one has the least ‘let’s go have fun’, ‘this is my first triathlon’, ‘I’d just like to finish’ feel. People are in St George to race.
In my ‘race preview’ post, I said it was time to let it rip, to crank it all the way up. This was the first time doing a half-ironman (70.3) that I seemingly had the fitness to "race" the whole time. For 90% or 95% or 98% of the athletes doing a long-course triathlon, "don't race" is one of the most important pieces of advice. "Racing" can get you in too deep. Trying to beat everybody around you on the swim, refusing to be passed on the bike, running off the bike close to 10K pace – these are all "racing: and they are things that can write a check your body can’t cash. For this race, for me, it was time to disregard that warning. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It was time to race from start to finish, to crack it out and hold on baby, just hold on.
It's been a winter and spring of Lots of training. Treadmill, pool, spin bike, trainer rides, running at sunrise, running at sunset, lifting weights, foam rolling, eating out of the rice cooker. It's been a huge and seemingly successful build, and St George was the first time to really send it and see what we've built.
I’ve already said the field was competitive. It bears repeating.
By the numbers, there were 2,462 athletes signed up. 68 were pros, 2,394 were amateurs. I’m 25 years old, so I race in the 25-29 male age group, and there were 156 of us.
The race start style was ‘age group waves’. That means there are 20 or 30 different waves, each composed of a single age group, each separated by about 2 minutes.
I started on the swim with the other 156 25-29-year-old males, our age group easily identified by our fluorescent pink swim caps. I positioned myself on ‘inside line’ and had a really clean start. No getting kicked, pulled on, swum over, and no need to kick anyone or have any obnoxious melees. After maybe 500 meters, I started to get a picture of who was around me. Our age group had pink swim caps on. There was someone right on my toes, and glancing back I could see his pink cap. Looking left, right and in front of me, there were only one or two pink caps. So things seemed good. Really good. I was swimming hard, I knew I could maintain the effort for the 1.2 miles, and it seemed like I was swimming fast – I had left most of my age group behind.
Out of the water, whip the wetsuit off, run up to my bike, sock on, sock on, shoes, helmet, glasses. As I donned this cycling costume, a buddy of mine from Boulder came running up to his bike. This buddy historically swims faster than me in the pool, so me being about 30 seconds ahead of him seemed like a very positive indicator.
My swim time was 28:00, 5th in my age group. 3 minutes quicker than last year (30:56).
The bike was where I was going to make it hurt. Hurt for me, and hurt for anybody that wanted to ride with me. A little bit of pacing, but pretty close to ‘bike as hard as you can’ for 2 hours. There were a couple of guys in my age group floating around for the first 40 miles. Then we finally got to the big hill (Snow Canyon), and I stomped on it. Very few people can ride with me, especially up a big hill, when I really crank and am in good form. And that was true on this day – I had a heck of a ride for the entire 56 miles, and especially up Snow Canyon. I don’t think there were any other amateurs at St George that could have rode with me up Snow Canyon. Up to the top, fly down the other side and into T2.
56 miles, 2:17:51, and I didn’t know it yet (it’s hard to tell in the commotion of the race), but I was leading my age group by over 2 minutes.
I was scared for St George. I was particularly scared for the final leg of the race - the 13.1 mile run. Knowing I was going to bike ‘all-out’ just added to my anxiety. It was going to be uncomfortable. Shockingly uncomfortable. This I knew, and I tried to steel my mind in preparation for that hour or two of extreme discomfort. Most scary was that I did not know if my musculature and mind and metabolism would hold together for the final 13.1 miles of racing. And, it turned out, it really didn’t.
There were no ‘free’ miles, no easy running in this race. 5K straight uphill to start the run, 10K of rolling hills, 5K downhill to the finish. Around Mile 5, it got really really serious. As I like to say, shit got real. I had been trying hard all morning, and with about an hour of running to go, I had reached ‘the line’ – that point where it requires you to go to a deep, special, and personal place to maintain pace. I remember thinking that ‘my whole body is melting’. My legs felt so hot. There was a giant blister forming on the ball of my foot. That blister, though, was nothing - it was easily ignored. Less easy to ignore was: My whole body is melting.
By mile 7 and 8, I was totally f-ed. The musculature and metabolism were not holding together. I had two things left.
What’s the point? Why? What's at stake?
I reached ‘the line’ at mile 8. My insides were melting. My legs felt 150F. This was racing.
But let me step away form the race from a moment.
What was at stake at St George? Nothing - I was not going to win any money. Everything - the whole point of training and racing. I'm there for my reasons. My reasons are what was at stake.
My reasons. About 3 weeks before the race, I had to reaffirm my reasons and remind myself why I do this. I was having a "why crisis". Things were not good. I had put in 6 months of build, but my knee was all wound up. It had been hurting and preventing any running and any hard biking for weeks. My knee hurt and that was going to f- it all up. So I was freaking out. Why bother? Why be a triathlete? Just like achieving excellence in any field, achieving excellence in triathlon requires so much time and commitment. It demands all of your resources - time, money, mental capital, physical energy. I could make boatloads of money focusing my time on something else. I could go out to brunch instead of going for 5 hour Saturday rides. I could go for a hike with friends. I could go skiing. I could go fishing. The list goes on.
So, why? What am I doing? What are my reasons?
Here’s what I’m doing:
I’m showing it, talking about it, living it – that anybody can do anything. The other day I read a statement that seems true – “It’s simple. Decide. Commit. Succeed.”
Anybody can do anything that they decide upon and commit to. Success will be the result. That’s what gets me going and keeps me going when I need an external reason, when I need to understand my contribution to the world. Everybody has dreams and goals and a journey ready for them. Everybody can and should pursue those dreams and goals to reality. My reason is to show it, talk about it and be a living example – that anybody can do anything they decide upon and commit to.
Everyone can finish an Ironman. Scott Rigsby does it. Scott Rigsby doesn’t have any legs.
I did it. I raced my first Ironman ith no endurance sport background, no coaching, no group, no mentors. I did it because I wanted to, because it felt like the right thing to do, and I succeeded because I decided and committed.
Everyone can finish an Ironman. Not everybody can race an Ironman the way I can - I’ve been blessed with the gifts needed to race really fast and for extreme durations. Those are some of my gifts. You and every person in the world has his and her own different and unique gifts. Every person can develop and hone those gifts into talents and skills, and can live a remarkable existence and achieve remarkable feats.
I race triathlon and write this blog because I need to show, I need to shine as an example that ‘anyone can do it’. Everyone can do it. Anyone can do anything that they decide upon and commit to. That’s the point. That’s been my reason.
Who am I that you are not, or that he or she is not? I am nothing more. We are all alike, all children of God, made of dust formed in the heart of stars, with our own talents and powers and dreams and journey.
Back to The Race, St George 70.3, 6 Miles Left to Run
So those are my reasons. Thanks for allowing me to digress. And here I was, on May 6th in St George, 10K to go for the half-marathon. My insides were melting. My legs were 150F. And my reasons are what was as stake.
What is to give light must endure burning.
I won. 4:20:21. 1st place 25-29 age group. 4th place amateur, out of 2,394. And I wouldn’t have been at the front of the pro field, but it would have definitely been respectable.
I qualified for 70.3 Worlds – I’ll be racing against the best in Chattanooga, TN on September 10, 2016 in the 70.3 World Championship.
St George was a beautiful performance. I’ve been laughing out loud – I won. Everybody would like to with their age group, especially at St George. Who am I to win? I ride the spin bike. I wear board shorts on race morning. I drink beer. I’m not especially well known in the triathlon world, I wasn’t a collegiate athlete, I don’t look particularly different from everyone else racing. Win. 1st. The first of many firsts.
Who am I to do that, to have such success and see dreams come to reality? But, truly, who am I not to? Who are you not to?