Nothing in life “just happens.” Success is achieved by consistent hard work, day after day, month after month, year after year. Occasionally, however, we have a moment of breakthrough, a moment where the snowball of work, determination, grit, and luck combine to form a peak. It’s at these infrequent peaks where we have the perspective to see higher attainable peaks that were before rendered obscure from the valley below.
In Buddhism, the concept of enlightenment is the ultimate achievement. But no Buddhist simply wakes up one day and says “Hey, gee, look at that I did it! I am a Buddha and have achieved total enlightment!” It just doesn’t happen that way. Not for a buddhist, not for a triathlete, not for anybody. You must work, you must sacrifice. But Buddhists have breakthroughs too – it’s called Bodhicitta -or- taste of enlightenment. It’s that point where you see the goal and realize IT’S WITHIN GRASP!
I had a Bodhicitta moment in Idaho at Coeur d’Alene. I went into the race with modest and unsure aspirations. I hadn’t had a SOLID bike split where my back and sciatica didn’t drastically slow me down in almost 12 months. I hadn’t had a SOLID swim split in, well, ever…. But I knew I was in good “shape,” and was eager to see what I had in the tank. As it turned out, I had quite a bit.
Rather than give some trite play-by-play, I’d rather just post the unfiltered/unedited letter I sent to my coach, Siri Lindley, while on the flight back to Las Vegas.
**The only thing I want to add was that I got to run behind a lead/guide cyclist for the first time as a pro-triathlete. This was a long-time goal of mine, and yes, it is as cool as it would appear**
HERE IS THE LETTER:
IMCDA was a great day…Not perfect, but great… I’ve been taking baby steps for the last few months, but this was a great leap for me mentally…. I am going to get sooo much out of that race in terms of experience, confidence, energy, etc.
Here is a brief recap of my experience.
Was super stress free. I had a great homestay that was very relaxing and allowed me to chill out… I had a little bit of pain in my hips following Boise 70.3 that subsided a few days before the race… Running all out after a cold swim and bike in Boise really tore me up…. This issue and a few others would pop up at about mile 19 on the run….
I got right behind Heather Wurtele on the beach with the goal of hanging on her feet. She is big chick and I figured maybe I could get a better draft off of her and could maybe stick with her… When the gun went off Bryan Rhodes and O’donnell took off!! But I was able to hang on Heather’s feet for a few hundred meters… I was feeling super pumped and relaxed… We hit some chop at about 750m and I lost her feet and swam the rest of the race on my own…. I must have really slowed down between 1000m-2000m because I came through the first lap in over 30 min and they were just about to start the age-groupers….. I got absolutely clobbered by a few hundred age-groupers who were starting the swim and got a lot of elbows and fists…. I tried to keep the tempo up but I was going nowhere…. Tough! I was pretty unhappy to see the clock at 1:04 when I came out of the water, but I had prepared for this possibility and focused at just riding SOLID…
Getting down to business….. Due to the out-and-back nature of the bike course I was able to see all the competitors in front of me and the corresponding time-gaps…. I was going to be on my own so I just put my head down and focused on pushing the biggest gear I could…. I’ve noticed that on my longer rides on the trainer, I am more comfortable pushing a huge gear that trying to spin….. Because it was soooo hot in Vegas I did a lot of my LONG rides on the trainer and I think it really helped… A lot of my long, trainer rides were spent in my 55×12 gear just getting strong….. I think it really helped.
The course had 5,600ft of climbing (a lot more than I expected and more than what was posted)…. I was able to stay aero grinding the big gear, but I used the climbs to sit up and spin a higher cadence…. The long climbs were my chance to take inventory in my body and stretch out a bit…. I really liked the climbs!!
But there were also some fast descents!!!! As you know, I am the world’s worst descender…. When pre-riding the course I was terrified…. During the press conference, Lieto was talking about going almost 70mph down the hills and that was my biggest fear of the day….. Once the adrenaline was pumping, I was able to stay off the brakes and actually descent pretty well…. I knew I would have to stay off the brakes if I wanted to catch people…. I am so happy to say that I didn’t touch the brakes one fricking time on the descents (except until I got in a no-pass zone with a bunch of slow age groupers)…. CONFIDENCE!!!!
Nutrition was spot on….
I used 1200kcal of Infinit (4 bottles), one EFS Shot, and one Red Bull at special needs….1700kcal total…. Not a ton of calories, but I have run into trouble before with too many calories and this was perfect… I also took some caffeine pills that I think helped a bit…. If I had another EFS shot, I would have taken it because I feel I got depleted a bit on the run…
By looking at my Garmin, I knew the pace was SLOW on the bike, but it didn’t seem that anyone was putting time into me… With all the headwinds and climbing, everyone was going slow and even cracking!!! I just kept my head down grinding the big gear
I was STOKED to see only 4 bikes when I got to T2. I changed into running clothes and hit the run…. I had a little less POP than I was used to at the start of the run and I felt like I was running slow…. I glanced at my Garmin and I was running 6min pace right out of the gate… It felt effortless, so I decided to stick to that pace….
I always wanted to have a “lead biker” in front of me on the run of an Ironman…. So cool to have someone yelling to the crowd that I was in 5th place… They were also able to tell the aide stations what I wanted (ICE AND WATER!!!)…
I knew Victor and Tim O’donnell were good runners, but the guys in 3rd and 4th looked like hell!!! I was able to catch them both at about the same time at about mile 10….
“HOLY SHIT, I am going to get 3rd place,” I thought… I was running steady about about 6:18 pace and it was still feeling effortless…. I knew I had a sizable gap to T.O., but I was taking it down a few minutes/lap….. I seriously thought “who knows, maybe TO will blow up and I can get 2nd… keep running” I kept my head down and focused on a quick tempo….
Matt Lieto was giving me a lot of encouragement and telling me I was the “dark horse of the day!” running up through the field…. I was evening having some fun with the spectators…. I saw Rinny out of the course and couldn’t help but yell at her even though I’ve never met her… I wanted to yell to her “text Siri and tell her to prepare THE CORKSCREW cause we got champagne to open….”
I knew I had a long ways to run and took keep plugging along, eat, relax, and don’t FUCKING blow it….. And then I blew it…
The wheels started to fall off a little bit at about mile 17…. My pace slowed by only 5sec/mi, but I knew something was wrong… My feet were hurting and I started to feel a little weak… My bowels were really upset and I felt like I was going to need a port-o-potty soon!!! The wheels totally fell off the wagon at mile 19. I hit a rest-stop but the door was locked…. “NOOOOO,” I thought…. I was able to hit the port-o-potty at the next aide station and I locked the door and sat down…. “FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!!!! This isn’t happening!!” I got out of the port-o-potty and I knew Matt Russell (former National duathlon champion and fellow shitty swimmer was closing the gap).
I took some nutrition and tried to pull myself together…. I walked the next aide station and tried to prepare myself for the inevitable catch which would drop me to 4th…. I ate some food grabbed some ice and Matt came by… We are good friends and he gave me a lot of encouragement….
Matt had caught me at Boise 70.3, but I was able to drop the hammer and beat him there…. I matched Matt’s pace, but I knew I had not chance of holding it together…. My legs and stomach were shot and I figured I’d better be smart and try to run a realistic chance so I could hold on to 4th….
I faded very badly 19-24…. I know I didn’t start too strong on the marathon…. I can hold 6:00-6:20s, I know I can…. Aerobically that is nothing anymore…. I just need to get stronger in the legs and stomach to be able to hold it together….
I think that had the bike course been a little more tame, I could have held onto the pace, but c’est la vie…..
I dug deep and pulled my shit together once I hit town…. I was able to enjoy the last mile of the race and take in the whole experience…
I tried to take a lot of snapshots in my mind, so I could remember this feeling in the coming months and years….
4th place! Soooo frickin’ pumped…. But man! I wanted to open that champagne…..!!! HA!
It feels good to have some validation!!! I knew I could bike well when things come together… By no means did I feel perfect on the bike, but I was able to stay in control and modulate my effort…. I haven’t felt strong on the bike in a long time and it is nice to know I have that in me!!!!
I know I can run fast, but I ran into a brick wall…. It happens and we learn from it….
I feel like it was a really, really, hard training day….
I am over the moon happy… It wasn’t the deepest field of competitors, but I was able to look in the face of Victor, Lieto, O’donnell, and I KNEW they were suffering too…. And I know I can suffer and go as deep as they can now….
I know I have to improve my swim, and I KNOW I CAN!!! I would give almost anything to be able to swim like Alex, Cleaver, Luxford, or anyone else I’ve seen at Culver Plunge… I just need to figure it out….Learn how to hurt in water, get strong, and kick some ass……
It’s GOING to happen. But I am not naive enough to think it is going to happen on its own… I need to focus a huge effort on improving my swim…. It might not happen in the next few months, or this year, but I would like to be able to quit my day job someday so I can put the requisite time in to get it together….. THIS IS ONLY THE BEGINNING!!!
Glad I have the week off cause I have to go to Chicago for a long work-trip…. I am bringing my wetsuit as I might sneak in some drill work/floating around in Lake Michigan…… I won’t think of running, riding, or doing anything stupid until I get back….
i am going to try to run out to LA in early July to pick up some stuff I left at Nina and Dana’s house…. Maybe I can stick around for a few days and get in some proper training with the crew….
MISS YOU GUYS!!
THANKS FOR EVERYTHING!!!
WE WILL OPEN THAT CHAMPAGNE SOMEDAY! I PROMISE!!!