The first time I TRIed (see what I did there .... sorry, couldn't resist) was the 2015 IRONMAN Victoria 70.3. Now I'm not sure if jumping into a half-IRONMAN was stupid, nuts, bold, brash or impressive. What I do know is that I had a ton of fun and everyday I'm glad I made the big jump. Getting to Victoria on June 14th was an interesting journey recounted here (Part One) and here (Part Two). I owe it all to Trevor, whose story is as equally interesting.
I had done some training. I jumped on a plane. I met Trevor in the parking lot of the check-in for the event, where I assembled my bike in the parking lot and we checked in. Some how I even managed to get all the required gear to make it look like I knew what I was doing ..... well ish.
Let's jump to race day.
The morning was a little on the hectic side of things. We got are gear all in order, hopped in the car and jammed out to Ace Hood's "Bugatti" while we made our way to the bus to take us to the start line for our 6:03 am start. Everything was on schedule and on time, until we got on the bus and it took its sweet little time to get us to the event with 20 minutes to spare before our heat.
Now 20 mins sounds like a lot. It isn't. Setting up the transition station, getting into your wet suit, and disposing of some excess weight takes time. Actually, nearly 20 mins!! So Trevor and I ran around, helped each other jam into our swim gear and ran down to the water, making sure to step on the big black mat to activate the timing chip. Now for the head games.
Here I stood. In a wet suit for the 3rd time. 125 other men, in our cute little orange swim caps, starring into the wet abyss of Elk Lake. It is hard to describe the feeling. Heart is pounding. Adrenaline is rising. Feelings of excitement, doubt, and fear coursing through your body like jolt of electricity from your head to your toes. I Waited. Tapping my hand nervously on my thigh. With little time left, I looked at Trevor, we said "let's do this" and we were off!
I dove in and started swimming. I didn't know what I was doing. I just swam. I started far outside the group, thinking that if I avoided being trampled over I would be better off. This theory worked for awhile......then panic! My first panic came about 10 minutes into the swim. I was looking up getting my barrings when I glanced at my watch. This split second glimpse seemed to say 17 minutes .... 17 MINUTES!!! I was f%&^ed. There was no way I was going to make it.
I freaked out. My breaths started getting shorter. I was panicking. I kept thinking of how embarrassed I would be. People had flown to watch me. I would prove those who doubted me right. My body felt heavy.
Then instantly, as if some sort of instinct suddenly kicked in, I told myself to calm the f*$& down and just swim. So I did. I put my head down and swam. Importantly, I swam to the inside, right in the middle of the commotion and just put my head down and gave it hell.
I came out of the water in 42:32. A personal best for me (mostly because I had never swam open water for that long before). I was happy. I slipped awkwardly out of my wet suit and walked to my transition station. Next up, the bike. My specialty.
I'll address transitions at the end, but boy was I happy to be on my bike. My comfort zone. My ride started out great. Everything was feeling fantastic. Then, as I started to go down a hill and switch into my bigger gears, my chain started randomly skipping back into the smaller gears. Ugh. Are you kidding me??? I had just had the bike tuned by MEC on Saturday, what could be wrong?
In the end it was my derailleur. It had somehow moved just enough to cause me to loose my 4 biggest gears. So I had a decision to make. Stop and try and adjust it. Or keep going. I could still maintain a good pace on the flats, but going down hills I lost all ability to pick up more speed. I did a quick calculation and decided that I could finish my bike in a good time if I just kept going. The flip side was I stop, couldn't fix it and then lose even more time. So I powered through.
The bike ride was gorgeous, but really uneventful. I put in a respectable 3:03:10, especially given the malfunction. A few comments on the ride though. It was during this ride that I realized three things:
First, all the planning cannot stop somethings from just going wrong And not just in one sport. In three. It is a sobering reality and something I think people often over look. This was made clear, when I was clearly being lapped by a pro or pro"ish" rider, whizzing by in his $10,000+ bike sounding like a spaceship with a nice ZIPP Disc Wheel on the back, and BOOM! his back derailleur actually flew off his bike. Chain flapping all over the place. His day was done. It's a tough sport.
Second, these people are good. I got passed a lot. By some really good riders. It was awesome to see the effortlessness that some of these individuals moved with their bikes. Extremely motivating and impressive.
Third, drivers are stupid. Cars have no respect at all, even during an event. I heard that two people got hit. I saw drivers make reckless passes on larger groups. A reminder to be ever vigilant, even in controlled race environment.
So I had finished two components. One to go. I was feeling pretty good off the bike. Body was feeling fresh. As I started to run though, my legs started to seize. I was cramping. I hadn't even made it a single KM and my legs were cramping. I started to walk it off. Not what you want in a race but what choice did I have? After a little while it went away and I started actually running. Things were back on track.
It is at this point in the race, about 3-5 km into the run, where I started to once again think I wasn't going to finish. My legs were bugging me, I was running pretty slow (or it felt slow) and I was starting to get a little exhausted.
I kept running. Thinking about putting one foot in front of the other. Removing all other thoughts from my mind. Before I knew it I was making the first loop of the run course. I could hear the cheers of people as the announcer called out names of those finishing the race. I thought to myself, that's going to be me! Dig in and that's going to be me.
I dug in. Ran for another 5 or 6 km before I looked at my watch and then realized, holy shit I could finish in under 6 hrs. Now don't get me wrong, I had no idea if that was good or bad or whatever, but I convinced myself that that would be me! So I put the hammer down. I ran the last 3 km. Mustered whatever sprint I had left in me and ran my little heart out.
I think it is this moment that hooked me on triathlons. I didn't even know I had this level in me. I was digging deep, something was compelling me. My competitiveness, my desire to just get done and have a beer, I honestly don't know. But something took over and I was flying. It felt good, like that first sip of cold beer on a warm summer day. I shivered as it flowed through me.
The kicker however, was the other athletes shouts of encouragement and support as I ran by them. I was passing a lot of people. They had no idea why. For all they knew I really had to go to the bathroom. But 4 or 5 of them started to cheer me on. Yelling words of encouragement. "Push it" "Way to go, you got this". I couldn't believe it. It was incredible. People, in the midst of their own struggle, taking the time to push me on. I was in awe.
I finished the run in 1:59:52. Not bad. I was happy. Overall time of 5:56:49. I breathed a huge sign of relief as I crossed the finish line to the smiling faces of my friends cheering me on. Euphoric.
My overall race was good. Well at least as far as I could tell. I was happy with my time and I FINISHED!!! Here is what it looks like together.
A little note on transitions. I told myself that I would take my transitions easy. I wasn't going to run, stress myself out. Just take my time and get prepared for the next stage. And those times are indicative of that strategy. Transitions are overwhelming .... until you do one. I over hyped them and I didn't really need to take that much time, but I did. All I can say is I know where to be quicker next time around. I also had way too much stuff, I over prepared and will definitely be cleaner and smoother on my second event.
So I did it. I actually did it.
I didn't know it yet, but I was hooked.
I'd deny it for a few more months, but deep down I knew I'd attempt the IRONMAN 140.6 .... eventually.