How many of you feel that your racing and your success are defined by a number, a time, a mere “result” on a piece of paper? I know I often am. Professional Athletes live and die by this objective data. However there are times when we all need to step back. Forget about the end result. You sometimes just need to look at how you friggin’ got there! Yesterday’s Ironman Syracuse 70.3 was one of those moments.
I’ll cut the crap and get straight to the race. I know you are all dying to refresh your twitter feed already.
Around 20 professional males lined up at race start. Looking at the race start list you would be forgiven if you thought the field was weak. It wasn’t ‘stacked’ as has been the case for much of this year. Some great athletes like Gambles and co were there, then a whole bunch of wanna-be superstars like myself, except with an American twang. The prospect of a thin field completely changes the race dynamic. There are much fewer athletes of similar speeds, resulting in less groups in the swim and bike. Essentially, it can become a very lonely day. Yesterday was exactly that. Combine this with a course that has more elevation change than any other, and heat in the mid-30′s and over 90 percent humidity, it quickly becomes a very torturous venture.
The swim was about as uneventful as it gets for me. I had a quick start and even let my ego try and tell me that I may be able to hold Sam Douglas’ feet for most of the way. While this was a good idea after 200m, at approximately 300m my heart, lungs, and notable orifices were telling me otherwise. I swam the rest of the way with Joe Gambles, coming out about a minute behind Sam and about a minute in front of a pack of Yanks.
Starting the ride with Joe is an exciting prospect; a super-strong cyclist capable of bridging the gap to leaders quickly and then taking the advantage straight after. This exciting prospect was quickly challenged by the first hill, when Joe simply rode away from me. Looking down and seeing I was already holding 350 to 360 watts on a slight incline made me feel a little better about the ravaging he was giving me and an impetus to commence racing my own race. This would be the start of a very lonely day. For the next 85km it was just me, my “sponsors-please-apply-here” bike, my power meter, and a shit load of hills.
When you’re trying to push for 85km in a time trial position, over 2 hours, you have many thoughts go thorough your head. Many negative thoughts. Thoughts as simple as “my tire feels soft, I think I have a leak” to more complex and dark thoughts like “I am riding as well as I ever have, yet I am loosing minutes, why bother?”. Without getting too deep and introspective on you, what I am proud about most from yesterday is the way I handled every one of these dark moments. I simply smiled, took a drink, and pressed on. The end result: I came off the bike 11 minutes down on Joe Gambles, 9 minutes down of Sam Douglas, but 5 minutes ahead of the chase pack behind. I averaged 289 watts. I was cramping but had good energy. And yes, I did have a slow leak in my rear wheel, but shit happens.
The run was just survival. The course features two climbs that are simply ridiculous. I am assuming 15 – 20 percent, one after the other. The course also featured very little shade. For someone that sweats like a *insert racist or inappropriate juxtaposition* and struggles to run in the heat I knew it was going to be hard. But with my new found enlightened outlook on dark situations *insert sarcasm* I was pretty focused on little things that would get me through; Ice and sponges on the balls at every aid station, very little calories, and a lot more salt and electrolytes, and just keep running. It wasn’t fast. It definitely wasn’t pretty. But neither was anyone else. I made a bit of time up on Sam, absolutely nothing on Joe, but distanced myself quite a bit from those behind. I literally stumbled across the finish line. After refusing initial medical assistance and scaring the shit out of Alishia by passing out on her, I ended up in there for about 2 hours with multiple IV bags and worried med officers.
I came third and I am bloody stoked. As I alluded to at the commencement of this diatribe, I am not stoked because I finished third. Third is great, it is my first podium on the circuit and it just about assures me of qualifying for the 70.3 World Championships. However, I want to win one of these things one day and I believe I truly can. But it is obvious I am not yet ready for that. What is more important to me though is that I did not let psychological factors get in the way of my physical performance. That’s huge as an endurance athlete. It’s huge for me in my progression to where I want to go.
Congratulations to Joe, but more importantly, to Sam Douglas. Like myself, he is chasing ‘the dream’. Sam has a lot of potential and probably more than he realizes. He towed the line with a guy that is regarded as one of the best in the world at this distance, and he did pretty friggin’ well doing it. Complete respect.
Both Alishia and I are so grateful to our homestay Tim and Margaret and their beautiful kids. Having 5 kids is a greater task than any Ironman, and you do it with such fun and love it’s ridiculous. We had an absolute blast.
Thanks for all the wonderful messages. Thank you to Alishia for being the world’s greatest supporter on Sunday. Thanks to the parentals for being proud. Thanks to my friends for being prouder. Thank you to Marko Albert, my coach but an even better friend. And thank you to my amazing partners in Scody, Nutrend, Volosport, Huub USA, and On-Running. It all sounds very deep and long winded, but important people are not thanked enough.
Few days in Mahattan for holiday, then back to Boulder.
2013 : June 22, Ironman 70.3 Syracuse, New York State, USA