A recap and a 'story within the story' from Ironman 70.3 St George.
St George was good.
On the Monday after racing, I was back in Boulder and at the pool with my team. Everyone was asking ‘How’d St George go!?’. I kept saying, in a positive tone, ‘it was alright!’ Alright, when said positively and enthusiastically, seems to mean not great but certainly good enough. My coach happened to be standing next to me during this Q&A, and she kept correcting me saying ‘It was good’.
It was good. It wasn’t a ‘breakthrough’ race, and I can’t say anything cool like “I won!”, or “First non-pro!”, or even “25-29 Age Group Podium!” But it was good. More specifically, it was ‘incrementally better’ (by several notches). And, I guess, it doesn’t really matter if I ever have a ‘breakthrough’ race. If you just keep doing incrementally better, well it’s plain to see that would lead you to the top.
So, the race.
Wake up at 2:50. Eat 3 packets of instant oatmeal and some peanut butter. Take care of the bathroom. Drink a bit of coffee. Sit on the couch. Visualize, prepare for the intensity of thoughts, emotions and sensations that are bound to come on race day. Pray for a good GI (gastrointestinal) day.
Blah blah blah. Highlights:
Warmup. I ran around in a dark corner of the parking lot for a mile or two and did some skips and calisthenics. There were maybe 30 people over there warming up. I recognized at least 10 of the top professionals, and I’d say that probably 25 of the people warming up were pros. That means 40% percent of the pros (and most of the top pros) did a warmup and 0.4% percent of the amateurs did a warmup.
Pro-tip: Do a warmup.
Transition setup. Check the bike,
check the tires, check the bike computer, check the tires. Say a prayer to the greater-bike-powers-that-be for mechanical good fortune.
Swim. Garbage. 25-29 year olds think they’re hot shit and are willing to push and shove in the water to prove it. Well, they’re not hot shit, because I got out of the water in 31 minutes (just an okay time) and 90% of them were behind me. Next time I’ll start further to the outside of the course, and I’ll use my effort to swim fast instead of fighting off 120 goombas.
Bike. I can spin the cranks off a bike. And I keep getting better at it – eventually I will be the uber-biker. Today I did pretty well. 59th overall bike split and 24th for the age groupers (out of 1900 total). Most importantly, I biked smart. I could have rode faster, but you start to get diminishing and negative returns on that, after you account for how much slower it might make you run.
Weather. We started the race at about 50 degrees and full overcast. Then, on the bike, it started to drizzle. (10% chance of rain forecasted). Then it started to truly rain. Then, while we were riding up the 10 mile Snow Canyon climb, it started to downpour. And the temperature was in the upper 40s. All of us triathletes sure looked stupid in our skimpy spandex shorts and tank tops. I saw strong looking dudes crack and stop putting out any effort, I saw a pro crying while riding up the canyon, and 265 people dropped out.
Run. I ran the 13.1 miles in 1 hour, 38 minutes (appx 7:30/mile). Pretty good. Considering it is unanimously regarded as one of the hardest run courses in triathlon, I’d say 1:38 is quite good. (1267 feet of gross elevation gain. For reference, Wisconsin’s Little Switzerland is 200 ft and Granite Peak is 700 ft). Last year I ran 1:46 at Boulder 70.3 on one of triathlon’s flatter and easier run courses. I got passed by 29 people on the run at Boulder last year, 44 at IMWI last year, but only 16 this year at St George. So, I’d actually say I ran really well.
Place. It sounds pretty good, but no matter how you say it, it doesn’t sound as well as I would have liked. But oh well. Incrementally better every day.
93rd overall (of 1900). 48th age grouper. 9th in the 25-29 (of 123). Shoot, man, 9th. That’s not what I wanted. But hey, this was the most competitive field I’ve ever seen or been a part of. It was the North American Pro Championship, so the pro field was absolutely stacked. All the big names were there. And the age-group field was similarly stacked. Almost everyone I know in CO that is really fit made the trip down to St George. Actually, in the 18-24 and 25-29 age groups, everyone really good that I can name was there.
Let me leave you with a short story within the story.
A dude passed me with about ½ mile to go in the race. He was in his 30s, and he said to me, “Hey dude. There’s a guy just a little behind me that’s in your age group. He’s moving pretty good.”
“Alright, thanks man.” Well, there wasn’t much I could do at this point. I was running flat out already and my legs had lost any spring about 5 miles back.
So this guy that I had been warned of did end up passing me, with about 300 yards to go. I looked over and saw the name on his bib tag. 'Jesse'. Wait a minute. I recognize you! You’re the SOB who beat me at Ironman Coeur D’alene last June and earned the final spot to Kona!
So that pissed me right off for about 10 seconds. Then I realized something, and if he didn’t pass me, I never would have realized what happened. 'Jesse' beat me by 26 minutes at Coeur D’alene. He beat me by 30 seconds at St George.
Look out Jesse.