All I can say is dang! 70.3 half-ironman races are an entire new animal to conquer. Last Sunday, I competed in my very first 70.3 event and it was in one word incredible. If I look at all the races I've ever done, Timberman was the most humbling and an event with a myriad of takeaways. Let's cut the small talk and get down to the race experience!
I had been training for this event all summer and with 15 weeks of preparation recorded and with 4smaller distance triathlons in the books, I felt ready. The switch to training strictly CrossFit and CrossFit Endurance was scary for an event of this magnitude. In my last marathon, I was only out there for just under 3 hrs, in this event if I finished just under 5 hours (the goal), I would be completely stoked. For the preparation side of things, I successfully built up to 3 to 4 CFIT WODs and 4 - 6 CFE WODs per week. (When training only CrossFit its ideal to listen to your body from the intensity side of things... you have to build up to doing this many workouts) What's wild, is I raced almost every weekend even hitting an 8K the weekend before Sunday went down. This was the training and I felt good about it.
On race day, I woke up bright and early at my Grammie's home in Tilton, NH. I think my favorite part of races is doing them around people I care so much about. People I love. People I want to impress and inspire. I had to wake up at 330am just to make sure I got up to Gilford, NH for the 710am start. My Grammie woke up (such an incredible lady) made my patented Paleo breakfast: 4 Eggs w/1 Banana spread with almond butter. She fueled me up and as usually told me "If you feel bad just stop, be safe out there!" Knowing her and the rest of my family would be at the finish line made it all the more doable. Everyone always tells me I am nuts and I have to agree. Truly a few screws loose to put myself through such rigorous events, but man what I hobby!!
When arrived to the transition area, I had well over 2 hours to get focused. A lot of things went through my mind as I did my CFE Warm Up (Jump Squats, Pose Running Drills, Hip Mobility). I thought to myself you've been working so hard for this Jeff, "Today's Your Day." The most important thing going into every race is drawing on the voices and comments that are deep in your mind. You have to know that ever day you race is your day, ... again your out there for only yourself and my goal is always to prove to ME what I am made of. "Today was My DAY" to do so. Other thoughts came to my mind, "You can qualify for Vegas," "It's just a race" (heath), "You don't need luck, just positivity energy (Amber)," "You'll finish under 5 hours," "Trust your training, find your breathing" ... Man I think my mind is the most busy right before a race. It's really a time you can't recreate: nerves, excitement, goals in mind, and
As the time final came to head to the beach, I couldn't have felt more prepared. The water temperature was 74 degrees so wet suits were allowed. (any temp under 76) It was hilarious 5 minutes before getting into the water, I looked around the thousands and saw that I was one of two dudes out there without a wetsuit. I kid you not everyone else out there was wearing!! I was like oh man, its my first 70.3 no big deal. As we we're about to get into the water I chatted with a few of the other athletes. I told them is was my first one and what big smiles I received :) Right before we laid the goggles down Alex (one of the athletes I had talk to) said "God Speed Jeff" at that moment I knew it was on. The gun went off and from there I enjoyed a nice 1.2 mile swim. Kept a great pace and finished right at 37 minutes close to my predicted time ... Score!! And no wetsuit even better.
Popping out of the water was surreal already getting to the bike. I love to crush the transitions and literally sprint to my bike (most athletes don't haha). As you all know I am one speed. So I popped on the bike smoothly and out of the transition area no problems. I think the coolest part of this race was that it was like every other Triathlon I've done, but on STEROIDS in set up and of course distance! It was made cool every time we came back to transition.
Anyways, the bike was 56 miles - 16 miles further than I had ever gone. With CFE programming the most I ever do in one spurt is a high intensity 20 mile time trials. What's incredible is that my confidence was there as it should be in any race. Remember, "Its your day" Anyways about 6 miles in I wanted to make sure I started to fuel. Get this my water bottle filled with Paleo coconut water and SFH whey protein dropped after I got only a squirt. I hadn't anticipated transitioning the bottle back into it's holster to be a problem. Man it was! And I had lost my main fuel source only minutes into the bike. Ahh!! I knew I had to find an alternative so I grabbed a Gatorade at the next aid station. The course was rolling hills throughout, but wouldn't you know I lost the new gatorade bottle around mile 20, almost taking out a few of my competitors when it fell off. Man bad luck on the initial fueling.
Bouncing back, I took what gels I had (Chocolate #9 low GI recommended by BMAck) and just kept going, but was it enough? Solid pace throughout and maintained right where I wanted around 20mph and then get this my chain falls off down shifting up a hill at mile 42!! So I am almost done with the Bike and I start to panic. I'm thinking to myself "Why me, Why now?" There was certainly some pity going on. Quickly snapped out of it and new I had to make the adjustment on my own. You can only change the present! So I am sitting there on the hill working on the chain and just can't get it! 60 seconds go by and I am like oh snap this could cost me a chance at Vegas!! I'll never forget when this older age group athlete comes by and he yells "Are you okay?" I respond "Ya chain fell off, any tricks?" He could see my hands were covered in grease. Immediately this HERO directed me to the back trigger and instructed me to push it down. I had honestly only put a chain back on like twice before this happened!! After hearing this guys words of encouragement and advice, I got it right back on and only lost close to 2 minutes. During the final 14 miles I was pretty cautious with the shifting haha
Anyways, I was approaching the final leg! What's wild is how fast this race was going by. It always goes by fast when your out there. I hate it because I just LOVE being out there competing. I feel like I am where I am suppose to be, the rush is indescribable.
So then came the run, usually my favorite section of the Triathlon. Not today. I grabbed what gels I had left and headed out hard from the transition area. I was pulling close to 6:30's on the way out and felt strong, but I soo realized too quickly it wasn't there for me this race. From the different fueling lapses on the bike and a tight lower back from the 56 miles, I felt what's called the Wall coming on! I bonkeded on the run. My muscles were simply out of glycogen there was honestly nothing left and unfortunatetly nothing I could do. When you hit the wall you hit the wall and my splits show you what can happen. First 3 mile split: 7:04 per mile pace - 2nd 3mile split: 7:45pace - 3rd split - 8:38pace - 4th split 8:32 pace. After making some strong paces in the early miles of the half marathon, I soon realized I just didn't eat enough. I beat myself up while I was out there, but come the last mile I really snapped myself out of it. A strong older female triathlete was running by and we started chatting. At this point, I was trying to latch onto the faster runners to increase my pace for as long as I could hold it (I really couldn't believe I was being passed, it was an out of body experience.) Anyways, we discussed where we were from the obvious race small talk, and that this was are first 70.3. She was only on her first leg of the run and I was finishing up my second. What she said to me with 2 miles to go really resonated and helped me keep it together. She saved my roof from crashing and by simply telling me"Your looking so strong ... man, I hope I look as good as you on my second loop!" I was encouraged and for the first time, I snapped myself out of this self pity for not fueling correctly. I went charging into the finish line with the Ironman Banner over head and let me tell you it was INCREDIBLE. I got through the race, it may not have gone exactly accordingly to plan, but I got through it and am stronger today. I went 70.3 miles in 5 Hours 12 Minutes ... what an accomplishment.
Waiting at the finish line was my close family and unexpectedly my brother who wasn't sure if he was going to make it. To know my family was out there supporting me (for 5hrs haha) and watching the other triathletes really hits home for me. It's the best feeling knowing they think what I do is pretty cool and something they don't mind watching :) I really don't think everyone gets why I do what I do, but having this type of level of support has gotten me to where I am today. Not in races, but in the biggest race of all ... my life. What I failed to mention is that one amazing person popped out to greet me after the race. She drove up to NH out of the blue and came to see me at the finish. To know that someone would take these measures just to come see little old me felt unbelievable. It is something I will never forget and memory that will stand strong from my first 70.3 race.
So NO I didn't qualify for the 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas, but believe me after my next race (already thinking July 2012) I will qualify in!! Check out my takeaways from the Timberman below and let me know what you think. Above all keep in mind: "Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence (Colin Powell)" You'll only find your success if you continue to learn and PERSIST.
1) Give yourself credit - we are our own worst critics, we can't just be incredible, we need to believe we are and allow ourselves to see an accomplishment. Never dwindle it.
2) Fuel the beast -create a regimented fueling plan, how often you'll fuel and percise times throughout your race that you'll take gels or supplement. Your body needs 200 to 300 calories per hour in an event like a 70.3.
3) Listen to the voices - the ones in your head, your CrossFit coaches, all the warm FaceBook good luck wishes, the sayings that hit close to home and never forget to drive off the people around you. I consistently say to myself "Pain is temporary, Regret Lasts a Lifetime" (huge during any race)
I could go on and on, but finally it's time to cut this one off! Above all, I am writing this post thinking of all the people who contributed to such an awesome race experience. The fact of the matter is my roots run deep because of an amazing supporting cast. I am a Timberman Finisher not just because of the hard effort towards training, but because of you.