70.3 World Championships. Let’s just get right to it.
This was my best race yet.
When I finished, I said to my Mom and Dad “that was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.” Sure, the effort was a great effort and the race was great fun. But more so, I think I meant that it was a beautiful day in the process, a great day of trying to accomplish and show something. I’ve said it many times before in my writing – that “Anybody can do anything. Just decide and commit.” This weekend was a shining example of that belief. Across the world, I had many teammates and friends competing in their n-th Ironman or Ironman 70.3, and a few even doing their first ever Ironman. Everyone was showing just how much we can do when we ‘decide and commit.’
Everyone showing what we can all do. Beautiful, way to be everyone :)
Four Hours, Twenty-Four Minutes, Eleven Seconds. 4:24:11 of grins, grimaces and full-on gas pedal.
A few parts to this post. First, comparison of results - comparison everyone else at 70.3 Worlds and comparison to my past results. Next, some context as to what 70.3 Worlds really is. And finally, my personal story and thoughts from the race.
Racing lends itself to comparison and context. 4:24:11 for 70.3 miles doesn’t mean anything without context.
Comparisons to everyone else:
31 pros beat me, so 49th amateur.
16th in the 25-29. 83rd out of the water, 41st off the bike and 16th to run across the finish.
The other guys that went faster than me: 11 guys in the 18-24, 14 guys in the 30-34, 5 guys in the 35-39, 2 guys in the 40-44, 1 guy in the 45-49.
10 minutes to the top 5 amateurs and somewhere in the mid-back of the pro field. That and more is achievable within a year, given continued commitment and good fortune.
20 minutes to the top 20 in the world overall.
30 minutes to the top 5 in the world overall. That’s a lot, 30 minutes. I believe it’s possible, though, in years, if I want it. Pros had a shorter transition area, so that’s 3 minutes. 5 minutes on the swim. 10 minutes on the bike. 10-15 minutes on the run. Who knows. I don’t, nobody really does. But if I decide to fully go for it, one day at a time, for the next bunch of years, it’s conceivable.
Comparisons to myself:
Here are all the 70.3s I’ve raced:
Boulder 2015: 4:39
Boulder 2017: 4:12 (excluding flat)
St George 2016: 4:47
St George 2017: 4:20
Chattanooga Worlds 2017: 4:24
I’ve finished 1st in the 25-29 or 20-29 age group in every race I’ve done, from 5K to full Ironman, since last November 2016. Then I finished 16th in the 25-29 at Chattanooga. That doesn’t sound good at all. I was a little surprised and puzzled at first. Then I put it in context.
Chattanooga was 70.3 Worlds. That means 3 things:
So there’s the comparison, the context, the placing. Everyone always wants to know, and so do I. It matters – racing is an endeavor that is objectively measured by comparison.
Here’s the rest of it, the personal story:
70.3 Worlds was just flat out awesome. The whole experience. For a week, Chattanooga was crawling with ultra-athletes riding plastic bikes and wearing pointy helmets, running the sidewalks wearing Hokas and compression socks, and swimming the Tennessee river wearing almost nothing.
There was so much swagger. So many dudes thought they were hot stuff. That got me right going – if you’re going to be cool and relaxed, so am I. But if the other athletes are looking at me sideways, too serious to exchange a smile, and cutting in front of my 5’2” Mom, then I’m going to stomp on them on raceday, crush their dreams, and feel great about it. I had had enough by Saturday evening. After checking in my bike, I said to my parents, “I can’t wait to beat these guys. They all think they’re so *#*#** cool. Tomorrow I’m going to crush these kids, and it is going to be AWESOME."
The swim was fine. It was in a river, so that was different and fun, but nothing much to report here.
The bike is where the magic started. The race was a rolling start, so the course was already covered with athletes by the time I was out of the water. I rode the first hour mostly alone (as in, nobody was going the same speed as me. I was riding on the left and passing everyone else that was riding on the right). The next 40 minutes a group of dirty cheaters caught up to me. Drafting is illegal in these races, but these guys were riding 2 and 3 wide by 10 deep, peloton-style. I got sucked into the middle of this ‘peloton’ a couple times, and let me tell you – the guys in the middle of that pack hardly had to peddle at all. Any goomba could have been pulled along by that pack. It was ridiculous. I got pissed right off, and the magic began.
I moved up to the front of the pack and rode with abandon. I rode all out. I figured I would ride as hard as I could for as long as I could, and forget the rest. These guys were cheaters, liars and dirty, and f- ‘em. I was willing to ruin my race just to get out in front of them on the bike.
That was the best hour I’ve ever rode. I was angry and I wanted to crush dreams, to drop anyone that tried to ride with me, to get off the bike in front of all of the dirty, lying cheats.
This turned out to be the best decision I could have made. I did outride all of the cons. I got off the bike with nobody in sight behind me. When I left T2, half of the cheats were serving their much deserved time in the penalty tent.
I rode stupid hard the last hour of my 2 hour 22 minute ride. I had regained my love of racing the bike, embracing the pain, and that instinct to ‘go for the kill’ and crush everyone on the bike.
Now it was time to run for the finish, 13.1 miles. Just an hour and a half to finish, but I put a high probability that I had left my race out on the bike course and that the run would be a slow death.
How wrong I was. My legs were fine – training actually works. It sure did not feel easy, but the training gave me the opportunity to go ‘gas pedal’ all day and put out my best ever effort. Swim hard, bike hard, bike harder, run fast, run faster.
I knew it by mile 4 or 5 – everything would be okay. It was going to hurt more than ever, but it was going to be okay, I would endure. By mile 8 and 9, I started to see just how special the day would be.
Early in the run, a few guys ran by me, looking great. They looked like natural runners. I told them so – several times, as guys passed me, I said out-loud, “Looking good man. You are a great runner.” These guys were beautiful, poised, ‘natural’ runners. Great posture, smooth, skilled, balanced, efficient. Watching them click off the minutes and miles is beautiful and mesmerizing.
Fast forward to mile 9 or 10, I saw that these guys were just steps in front of me. I almost cried. They are great runners. For the first time, I recognized myself as a great runner.
I was full gas to the finish. 50 guys finished within 2 minutes faster or slower than me – seconds mattered. I was feeling ultra-competitive, so the motivation came easy.
I got some of my bike-swagger back, I learned I can run just fine off a hard hard ride, and I experienced the revelation that I, too, am a great runner. Heck of a day.
The weekend was great. Mom and Dad, coach, teammates, friends – lots of great people were in Chattanooga, and it is a great feeling to put on my best performance on the biggest stage yet.
Now it’s Kona time. 12 days from now, Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The work is pretty much done, the opportunity has been earned – one more chance this year to crack it out, to shine bright, to see what I can learn and teach and share from the biggest race in triathlon.