Disaster struck at 10 p.m. The night before my flight to Atlanta, our (myself and Colin Laughery’s) Airbnb host canceled. I spent a half an hour arguing with the host—who only said she was going to cancel on us (because of an alleged broken hot water heater) but didn’t actually follow through with it. This is apparently a tactic unscrupulous hosts use to get their would-be guests to cancel so they don’t have to give a refund. The next hour was spent haggling with a half dozen Airbnb employees based in India to give me a discount for a new place, since all the cheap options were long gone. The new house ended up being twice the size and five times nicer than our original house, so the late night stress was worth it in the end.
But as usual, the stress didn’t end there. After a full day of travel to Augusta on Thursday, the next two days were somehow jam packed with rides, swims, grocery runs, the stupid waste of time pro meeting, bike drop off, driving all over town, etc. As I finished my third bowl of ice cream on Saturday night, feet finally up on the couch, it felt like I’d barely sat down since we got there.
The race started in near pitch-black, because that’s the best time to swim in cold, fast-moving water, and my day was off to a good start. Thanks to the current, I exited the swim just a minute and a half behind the lead group. I fumbled with the visor as I got my helmet on and decided, last-second, to ditch it in case it decided to fog up. That was my first mistake, as everyone knows that a visor shaves off 40 watts, about three minutes per 40 kilometers, I believe.
Next, my legs made sure to waste the down river swim bonus by feeling like absolute garbage for the first 15 miles of the bike. At first, my quads seized up and I had to essentially soft pedal off and on for five minutes. Then my glutes cramped up. When the cramping/seizing was over with, I gloomily realized I also just didn’t seem to have it today. The power wasn’t there, and even if it did come later, the hilliest section of the course was upon us. I had to take advantage now. As part of a large chase group, I was at least getting a benefit of being in the draft. Someone on the side of the road—this is always a super trustworthy source of information—hollered that we were two minutes back on the leaders. But how many leaders? And did that guy say two minutes, or three? I began hoping the large group I was in might just catch whoever was up the road without me having to do anything.
As we approached what I felt like might be the first longish hill, the itch to leave them behind grew. I said the hell with it and put in a long surge, getting away by myself, briefly, before I was joined by Trevor Foley, who apparently just learned how to ride a bike last year. This should make all of us feel pretty shitty about ourselves since he had the fastest bike split of the day (beat me by a second) and had enough left in the tank to run a 1:08.
I forced my legs to do some work, still not feeling good, cresting and descending small risers for 20 or 30 minutes. We passed a few guys but the gap to the leaders wasn’t coming down very quickly. Eventually Foley came around and got us the rest of the way across to the group of five in front: eventual winner Jason West, Martin Ulloa, Filipe Azevedo, Justin Metzler, and Dylan Gillespie.
It was late in the bike leg (mile 40 or so) and the road was essentially dead flat but Foley and I put in some digs in the next 15 miles to get away from those guys. Nothing worked. I just got more tired. With a few miles to go, I decided to just sit up and take it easy. And by Jove it was easy! I know there’s a huge benefit, but it’s always shocking how big of a draft you get four or five people back in a line like that.
The seven of us came off the bike together, but within a mile of the run I was by myself. I’d dreamed of coming out of T2 with a big gap and running a 1:14, but I was missing 20 watts (I only averaged 311) and now it seemed that my legs weren’t going to run as fast as I’d planned either. The streets were too quiet. Too wide and monotonous. At least there weren’t any hills.
I had a burst of hope when I passed Gillespie and began making up ground on Ulloa, who was in 5th, but that’s as far as things went before my momentum was zapped by a momentary urge to vomit. I choked nausea back and slowed down for a minute or two. Content with 5:50 pace, my legs weren’t able to get back up to speed, then Ulloa was out of sight.
I spent a good couple miles wondering why I do these miserable races before I refocused on maintaining 6th place, which would at least pay for the trip and a couple new house plants. My thoughts and emotions (fear of getting caught, contentment with 6th, self-doubt and disdain for being content with 6th, anger and confusion about my poor bike performance, and then finally elation for the pain being over) were a rollercoaster until I crossed the line. In the end I ran a 1:16, which wasn’t great, but more importantly it wasn’t a catastrophe like the first half of my run at Boulder 70.3.
I’d say I’ve recovered fairly well since Embrunman. After a long-ish rest period, I managed to get a solid week and a half of dedicated training in leading up to Augusta. In fact, I had my best training performance about 10 days ago (it’s too bad the race wasn’t that day) during a five hour ride and a short, fast run off the bike.
Things are looking fine for Ironman Arizona. But I definitely need to focus on the run though. And the bike. And the swim. Fuck.