I picked up Big Rocks early Saturday morning - we wanted to get a jump on the anticipated beach traffic. My mind was not in the right place on the 1 hr 45 min drive - not in race mode. Instead, I was thinking about the nusance of racing. I used to love to race! But for some reason, now it seemed as though it was more of a hassle. I was going to be away from my family for the weekend. Many will say "bring the family and make them a part of your race!", but i cannot disagree more here. No spouse wants to spend the day before a race with their anxious, nervous, not-wanting-to-over-exert-at-all significant other, only to spend the night in a cramped hotel room, then on race day, entertain kids while they wait long periods of time for a 15 second glance of you. All that I was thinking about on the drive up was that I could have stayed home, trained early, spent time with my family, saved cash on race fees, hotels, and slept in my own bed. I never used to think like this - maybe I need a break from racing? If anyone has been reading my blog the last few years, it's been obvious that I've been dealing with my motivation to race. Sometimes I cant wait to get out there on the race course, and sometimes golf isnt looking so bad. OK, that's not fair - as I said, I love to train, and golf is hardly training. Golf's a fun hobby - I can't even call it a sport. But I'd much, much rather be on my bike. I have been racing since the early 90's. I did my first IM in 96'. Perhaps I was finally getting a bit burned out on it all? I still love to coach, and I love the camps, and I love the training. Maybe i just didnt have that competitiveness anymore?
We made it to Providence traffic free, and I was checked in and registered by 10am. Our hotel room wasnt ready, so we drove over to the lake to check in my bike. I changed in the car and did a 30 min easy spin in the park where the lake was for the swim venue. The trigeeks were out, compression socks and aero helmets everywhere, getting in their last minute speed sessions. I still wasnt in race mode yet? Bike checked, we stopped back in the little italy section of Providence to get some lunch, then went to check into our hotel, which still wasnt available. Finally at 3pm, we were able to check in, however the possibility of an extended checkout the next day was denied by the front desk. Now I'm even more irritable. My dad and I often discuss how he's very anxious - a worrier, where as I let things roll off easily and typically don't sweat the small things. However, this day before race day, i was not my typical relaxed self.
We joined Mark Rothbaum out for dinner, a client and friend of mine who was racing in the 60-64 age group the following day. Typically, I have pizza the night before a big race. It works and even though I don't condsider myself superstitous, I had this one ritual that I followed for dinner the eve of every big race. However, we went to a steak and seafood restaurant called Merrimans (very good) and I had rare Ahi tuna and a couple of glasses of wine. Mark and my father were into some deep conversation. they are both interesting and it took the already lackluster race day focus completely away.
There were three weddings being held in our hotel that evening, which made things loud and restless. A shame since I was sleeping on such a comfortable pull out (yes, the hotel was booked and the only rooms they had left were suites with a king size bed which I gave to Big Rock's and a pull out sofa).
The next morning, BR drove Mark, Kenny, Gus and myself over to the swim venue. As we prepped our transition, I realized I had forgotten my aero bottle and my swim goggles. I never do this stuff?! What the hell was going on - were these more signs that I should be taking a bit more of a break from racing? That maybe my competitive tri days have run there course? To make things better, I was in the 10th wave, 50 minutes behind the first one! F%$k. At this point, I was appreciating that much more the low-keyness of St. Croix's venue and atmosphere.
Finally, our wave was called to the lake and I instinctively moved to the front row, lined up with a straight shot at the buoys, even though I had only swam a handful of times since St. Croix, all open water. The gun sounded and I took off like a bullet, dolphining a few times then asserting a quick tempo to get out in front. I had a nice five foot lead to the first buoy! I wanted to get out quick and then try to hang in behind some faster swimmers. Maybe I am still a bit competitive? The lake was pretty gross. It was warm and murky and you can tell that it really wasnt hygenic to be swimming in there. I liked the non-wetsuit swim though. Soon, very soon, we began catching athletes from the many waves in front of us. I felt ok - I guess a bit better than I expected given my lack of swim prep. I came out of the water in ninth place and ran into Kenny in T1. Time to ride!
My legs felt pretty good right away - I'd say an 8.5 on a 1-10 scale. I immediately began motoring past droves of the 1500+ athletes that began ahead of our wave. Then, I got another sign. Subconciously, as I caught the guys in my age group who beat me out of the water, I would ask "how many more in front?" I was anxious to get to the lead. OK, I am still competitive mentally! This course was challenging - and I loved it. It's harder than Timberman, and on par with Rev 3. Around 25 miles in, I began hearing this thwacking noise coming from my bike. It was getting louder and louder until I pulled over. I thought I had broken a spoke, which had to be on the front since I was riding a disc. Turns out I didnt, and couldnt find anything wrong. I hopped back on and jumped back into the race, but the noise was getting even louder. My second stop! I inspected the whole bike and couldnt find out what was causing the problem?! Finally, i noticed that the black electrical tape that hold a magnet on my disc was loose. As I rode, it flapped almost all the way off and thumped against my frame, the disc, ... I ripped this off and I was back in business. As I was getting back up to speed, a guy in my age group came by. He was riding quite strong, and I hung about 10 meters behind. I wasnt overly concerned though - he would sit-up on most of the climbs or stand and rock hard on his bike so I knew he wasnt going to run very fast. In a 70.3, there's a fine line between riding hard enough and not cooking yourself. The pace for these races on the bike should feel closer to an Olympic Distance instead of an IM, but you cant go full tilt if you want to run well. We caught another guy from New York who we assumed was the leader, so now we figured it was us.
Out of T2, i'd assumed I was in second behind this strong rider. My legs felt solid right away from a looseness standpoint, but I didnt feel confident in running too aggressive with the first loop for fear of blowing up. It was beginning to get hot, and my wave started almost an hour later than the early waves meaning we were dealing with more heat. I made a pee stop at mile two, then, at mile six, I caught the strong rider. I figured I was now leading since on the out and backs i didnt see anyone in our age group. At mile eight, just before the big uphill, the guy from New York moved passed me! I didnt panic, but instead tried to stay within 15 meters of him. He looked fluid but wasnt gaining. Then, I closed the gap on the downhill at mile ten and sat on his heels. At mile 11, as we approached an aid station, he began frantically yelling for sponges, electrolytes, gels. I knew he was in trouble and so I surged. I didnt look back and tried to sustain a hard, quick tempo, all the way to the finish. I crossed the line thinking I had taken the age group, but actually, there was a 40 year old from Canada who beat me out of the water by four minutes and I never saw him all day! Hats off to him, he was fast. So I ended up second in my age group and 11th overall.
More importantly, I realized that I'm still competitive both mentally and physically. Maybe my day before funk was nerves? Perhaps it's just that I'm entering a different mindset? I'm big on changing things up physically all the time in training, so maybe I just need to switch it up a bit mentally? In any case, fun stuff to work out and I will keep racing until the one day when I'm in a race and subconsciously I don't care about the race going on around me.