I came into Boulder 70.3 (August 5) feeling in good form and much improved swimming, feeling springy and in my best run form to date, and feeling strong and ‘go forever’ on the bike, but it was difficult to figure out if and to what extent I was ready for a fast 70.3 bike.
And that’s pretty much how the race went...
Stellar swim. Best to date. Just like at St George 70.3 in May, this race was an age group wave start and the 25-29M age group started behind at least 1,000 other athletes. So we had to swim through most of these athletes.
For the first time ever, I was ‘on the feet of’ the age group leader and came out of the water within yards of him. And I had dropped, by over a minute, a handful of the more competitive guys in the 25-29. These guys had gathered around me just before the start and said, ‘Ya, we’re just going to swim on your feet!’ Less than halfway through the swim I noted their absence with great pleasure.
Getting out of the water and running fast is a helluva feeling, but it’s a finite and brief feeling, so I ran through T1 quickly, threw on my bike gear and was the first on to my bike for our age group.
I felt pretty good riding the first 10 miles. Then it was just garbage. I don’t know if it was all in my head, or if I was having a tough physical day, if I had some tightness or soreness somewhere, if something just wasn’t firing right… I don’t know. I out-rode almost everyone at St George, and was first in the 25-29 off my bike. At this race, I watched these same guys ride by me, and I was unable to find it to go with them.
I’ve done a lot of thinking over the last few days about why I was riding subpar, but I’m pretty much done thinking about it. I failed one day. There are no fundamental errors or omissions in my training, in my strategies, in my mental toughness or in my physical ability. I just failed once. It happens. I’ll practice riding silly hard for the next few weeks, and I’ll ride great next race. Simple.
My rear tire flatted at mile 50 with a small gash in the sidewall. I was in a poor mental state, so that seemed just about right. It was a “Well, that just figures” moment. I quickly got out a new tube, inflator, tire lever and peeled off the deflated tire and tube. Except it took me almost 10 minutes to get the tire off the wheel – the tires are just so dang tight on these racewheels. I threw in the new tube, put air in the valve, and listened as the air hissed right out of a hole I had pinched in the tube as I put it on. Then I was SOL, with no additional spare tubes and already 10 minutes on the side of the road.
Just as I was sitting down, a neutral race support vehicle pulled up and a super nice fellow helped me try to get going again. We put electrical tape over the gash in the tire and eased a new tube into the assembly. As we did this, the neutral-support-fellow played psychologist. He wanted me to keep ‘er going, to ride the last few miles and then crack out a PR run. Our first tube failed (second total attempt), but our next tube (third total attempt) got me rolling again.
31 minutes on the side of the road, 2 hours 12 minutes of riding for a total of 2:43.
The ‘race’ was over. The other guys in the 25-29 were up the road over a half-hour, and there was no making up such a deficit in a 4 hour race.
But I still wanted to crack out a fast run. I had been running really well in training, and I wanted to prove it to myself, to set a high benchmark, and to finish the day on a positive note.
The run was a unique experience. The wave start and my 31 minutes on the side of the road meant that the run course was filled with athletes, most of them moving between 8:00/mile and 12:00/mile on the first lap, and moving between 10:00/mile and walking pace on the second lap. I was moving fast, and, next to everyone else, it looked like I was flying. I ran a 1:27:40, averaging 6:42/mile on a slow (gravel) course. That’s my fastest run for a 70.3 yet, and fastest for the 25-29 age group by several minutes.
It would have been a great race, had I not flatted, as I would have been chasing and passing some of the other top age-groupers, competing for the amateur win. But that’s not what happened. And it doesn’t matter. I learned more from this experience than I would have from a more typical race sequence, and I had a blast cracking out a hard effort for the fastest run of the day.
Very shortly, in the next day or two, I have a post I’ll send out called “Riding Your Bike Fast”. Ironically, I wrote it a few days before this race. I’ve got this ‘poor’ ride a bit stuck in my head, but it really wasn’t that bad. It was (excluding the flat) still the around the top 1% of all amateurs. Swim was stellar. Run was beautiful. Put a good ride with that swim and run and I’m finishing in the middle of the pro field and having a totally different conversation. No ‘fantasy’ or ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ required, however - 70.3 World Championships (Chattanooga, TN) is in 4 weeks. Prep hard, prep smart, race with a smile and with all my heart – the result will be one to cherish forever.