Sunday, September 25, 2016

2016 ITU World Long Course Championships, OKC, USA

I've got plenty of long course race experience with something like 28 Ironman races under my belt all over the world. Just not a lot of experience racing 3/4 of an Ironman only 5-6 weeks after a full Ironman. One at altitude (which takes a lot out of you from the altitude), then the other 3/4 of a full distance, in what amounted to a wind tunnel with heat all day long.

Let me start by some admission of my own fails. First, I ignored every cardinal rule I ever set for myself in a race, so results are quite deserving of where I landed up. This time around I will not point to the fact I've had one race and pretty much been fighting off multiple injuries this last season. This has more to do with jumping in a race too soon and spacing everything you should NOT do before a race. I will be clear and exact here, to not mislead the post.

It started last year when I chose ITU Long Course World's in OKC, due to being the 2015 45-49 AG National Champ. You must defend/show up to World's if it is on home soil in the USA. Honor the title! Though several young bucks were moving to the AG (Dave Slavinski & Tom Woods), There was little chance to really defend anything, but hell, let's roll the dice, anything can happen right?
I raced Ironman Boulder in early August, with recovery right after that. Not sure I ran more than 8 miles since then, or biked over 45 miles at any single time since. My swimming was quite decent as that seemed to not bother any of the injuries I've had recently. When I made hotel reservations for this race, for some reason, had it slotted for Sunday, 9/25/2016. I was under the impression it was not 9/24 despite all the communications I may have received and scanned over. I typed the leave/return and race dates from/to Boulder incorrectly, as well as took off more days from work than I needed.

It wasn't until a final email (sent on Friday morning) of things to do from USAT, for last minute details, that said "Bike Check In until 7 PM on Friday." Why on earth so we take bikes two days prior to the race site? Dumb I thought (Note: this was Friday AM as mentioned, after waking up.) As I read the email, turns out the race was SATURDAY (tomorrow!), not Sunday like I've been thinking since last year! I don't know what, where, or when I missed exactly, or how, but that started the downhill roll with added stress of completing everything in one day. Packet pick up, bike drop off, pack race bags, plan the early morning commute and wake up times, when to eat, what to eat, everything was turned completely upside down in a flurry and rush. Stress for sure!

Another "rule" I broke was eating junk. I ate a not so good burger from a place called "Tucker's" which looked like a 5-Guys inside, but the burgers were burned tasting and not a place I'd remember to return to. I also had salad that day, which fiber was not needed for those of you who know what the body does race morning. I did steer clear of milk/dairy Friday. Although I did have milk and pizza at dinner on Thursday evening with Tom Woods at Hideaway Pizza in Edmond, OK (ITU Silver medalist in this race). So yeah, I screwed that up royally, something I rarely do.

Another rule, heading into race day dehydrated. Peeing a bit on the gold side race morning (okay, a lot) must've been all the running around getting things done Friday. I went for a bike ride with Tom Woods and some of his buddies. Little did I expect the ride was to be more than half an I did not bring a water bottle as I had a water bottle full of ice water before we left. That short ride turned in to a hot, getting lost type ride all over the Hefner Lake neighborhoods. It was close to 75 minutes long or more-- double what I expected. Never could catch up liquids after that. Drink too much water, you can't sleep because you're getting up every hour and then feel sloshy in the gut at night. Tom did share one of his water bottles during the ride with me but I went through that rather quickly.

Another rule broken...(how many can there be?) Not planning out my nutrition. I know to the calorie what I needed for Ironman Boulder. For LD World's I didn't even measure consistently what I put in the bottles. One was about 210 calories, the other was 300 calories, identical bottles. I had a Gatorade gummy block packet and three of the FREE gels I got from USAT in our packets. Not even sure what brand it was, so I figured, it's all calories right? (*NEVER* try something NEW race day.) The rest of the bike was a mostly water and a couple swigs of Gatorade. Clearly I had way too few calories. I could honestly count 1,000 calories for the entire bike of 120 km. Gels, Infinit mix, the rest was just water poured over my head, and some in my mouth whenever I got cottonmouth. I was having trouble keeping anything down really, and even threw up on the bike. As for salt, I had one salt tab on the bike, which I had only last minute put into my Salt Stick, before the swim. If only because Tom asked if I needed any Salt Tabs. My first thought was, "Oh shit, I forgot that too!" Then ran off as they were closing transition to fill the Salt Stick up.

The went okay, crazy super windy and waves. The amplitude of waves were that of Kona, but the chop the waves was beyond that and as such, the current was worse, requiring you to fight just to stay on course in a legal sense. At times, we swam into the outgoing swimmers as we returned. Luckily, it was in 2 feet of water where we all walked for a hundred or so yards. I did get a cut on the bottom of one toe from the sharp rocks, but it otherwise did not affect my race. Transition went smooth, getting in and out in a decent time but not super fast--but was one of the faster guys for sure. Dan Chapman (my AG) left shortly before I did. Upon exiting transition I heard them announce Tom Woods and knew it wouldn't be long before I saw him passing by. It was quite a surprise not seeing multiple time World Champion Dave Slavinski for a very long time later into the bike. I really thought he would have been ahead of both Tom and I at that point.

The bike was brutal. Not many calories and not much hydration, way too little of everything. Although I felt quite fine until mile 50 when I just lost power to the quads. First thought...I'm racing too soon after Ironman Boulder, with too little training behind me. Nope, that wasn't it. Next thought...not fueling during the bike enough...yep, that was really the source I think, combined with my nemesis the HEAT for the slow down on the bike. I was cooking, it was not comfortable out there and there was a vast difference in my sweat rate vs liquid intake the entire bike.

T2...not too bad, not the best, but had to change into some dry socks. It went okay, but not what I called one of my better transitions.

Run...getting out of transition it was quite hard to get the legs moving. They were dead from the wind and exhaustion spent on the bike, or part of the lack of recovery from Ironman, or lack of training since Ironman, or the injuries--but likely it was a full combination of all of the above elements.
The tempo wasn't there. The cadence wasn't there. Immediately I felt the heat, though it was windy in your face starting out, the mile 1 aid station couldn't come soon enough. Vision blurred about 5 km into the run, arms were flopping around, everything went to hell in a hand basket and there isn't much you can do when that happens, it just happens no matter what technical advice you try to self talk yourself in to. "Arms swing forward, relax the neck and shoulders. Fast cadence!" None of it worked. I was fighting just to finish, after being on the podium position or near it at the start of the bike. Some title defense right? Do EVERYTHING wrong you possibly can and sabotage your day--complete opposite of what you're used to doing. Why? I don't know for sure, it happened.

After lap #1, the Team Manager, Tim Yount tried to pull me from the race yelling at me, "Come here, it's not worth the damage to your body! It's okay to drop!" I heard him, but he said I was weaving around and eyes were rolling around (my sun glasses were down on the tip of my nose or my head was bobbling). Anyhow, I ran into a fence post while running, not realizing I flopped all over and ran crooked. My thought was, "You're on USA soil, the USA champ, even if you have to walk this race, you have to give the others a chance to knock you off the top spot, it's unfair and would dishonor the title to drop."   So I didn't. The hardest part was trying to get my senses back. I started Coca Cola, Red Bull, all the water and ice and sponges I could get at each aid station. I gave up time standing and going through a dozen glasses of ice and water each mile to keep my core temp down. As long as I could get enough to go just one more mile. After lap two, I was going to drop when I got done with it. One more lap to go. I didn't want to continue, didn't want to fight, just wanted it to end. I had absolutely nothing left--put a fork in me, I'm well done! Quit and that memory is forever. Keep going and finish--you've won over yourself and all the inside demons forever.

Any more screw ups? Sure. Oh let me count the ways...After much walking between and aid station stopping, Dan Chapman (a local I've had the pleasure of meeting along with his wife), passed me by and was kind enough to encourage me to continue (I was going to, just in walk mode). Upon getting to the finish line, there was a right sidewalk (lap route to turn around), the finish (straight ahead) and the left sidewalk (the run exit to start out of T2). Nobody was posted there so I was in full tilt with whatever I had left in me towards the finish line, cut left (wrong direction!) before Tim Yount yelled I took the wrong direction and to come back. I turned around only to see the Aussie (McCann) who I saw drafting multiple times on the bike with a Russian and by the intersection and took my 6th place AG finish place, dropping me to 7th. So there you have it, I was 6th until the last 50 or 75 yards of the race--but lost it going off course, making me now a 7th place 45-49 AG finisher. That sucks. I was delirious so was confused despite there being a sign right there pointing to the finish. But another competitor did the same thing so I don't feel as bad. A trip to the medical tent for lots of ice and cold towels, a half hour later, and I was able to leave. After the finish, Dan Chapman said his wife walked me to the Med Tent. I didn't even know it was her I was so out of it. I saw a female and some things spinning around--like a kaleidoscope. That's all I remember until I cooled down. The only thing really I was aware of was multiple doctors around me talking about temperature and how an oral thermometer isn't they may have to take a rectal temperature. Luckily, they didn't see the cut in the back of my suit (repaired from 2013 Du World's accident when a Brit ran into me at the bike mount line with his SRAM R2C shifter levers). Otherwise, that would have been the ideal place to put it!

In short, I screwed up about everything you could possibly screw up. Right down to dropping a shampoo bottle on my foot in the shower race morning, leaving a bruise before I left the hotel for the race. Yeah, it was as if bad luck was on my side the entire trip.

What's next? Go see a doctor and get some imaging on all these injuries, get into a physical rehab plan, build strength, and get healthy. Only two races under the belt all season. From Long Course Triathlon and Duathlon AG National champ last year, to UNRANKED in both sports. Wow, what a turn of events.

I'm happy to have gotten to know Tom Woods better this trip, he was like a travel buddy we spent so much time hanging out. As for my athletes I coach, I will only say, take this as a positive message. Your coach on this day, leads by example. What I mean by that is, I lead by example of what NOT to do before, or during a race. That was not the usual ME out there, so it is good to get grounded by having this poor of an experience, which in turn, is a good thing. Because it reinforces what I always have said. Plan, double, triple, quadruple check plans. Don't be lazy about the details. A few missed details can be disastrous for race day. All that work goes in the garbage without plans and precise execution.

The happiest thing I did this trip, was not giving up. Not quitting or letting someone pull me, no matter the cost. I beat those demons inside, fought them back. I'll be back, next time--healthier, more fit, ready to rumble again. After all, it was inspiring despite my slow time and placing, to defeat my toughest competitor...ME.

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