Heading out to Rev3 Cedar Point taught me an awful lot about myself, how my body responds to certain stimuli, and what I need to do to override some of those mental challenges. With that in mind, here begins the road trip diary.
Friday: Travel Day
The recovery from my hilariously catastrophic explosion at Rev3 Maine went pretty well. My legs felt wooden just about that whole first week, although the small brick I did the Sunday beforehand actually felt pretty good.
What had me more nervous than anything else was Wallace the Blue. You see, that Sunday it POURED rain. But I wasn't about to not get this ride in, as I felt like I needed to continue to shake off the cobwebs from Maine. So out we went, rode around, got caught by a group ride towards the end which was actually perfect, as then I got to take a couple pulls off the front with them. I got home, got my quick run in (hey, my legs actually don't feel bad!), and then got to cleaning out the bike.
I noticed that the seat mast had a whole bunch of dirt and grime on it, so I took it off, and then turned the frame upside down.
I could've filled a 20 oz. water bottle with the amount of water and road grime that came pouring out. OK, not a big deal, whatever. Shook it out, cleaned every square inch of the bike, etc. Everything seemed normal.
Fast forward to later on in the week, and I go for a ride: bike will shift up the rear cassette, but won't shift down. Play around with the barrel adjuster. Nope. Nothing. The only thing that seems to help is being overly aggressive with the pressure on the shifter. Even played with the pin in the shifter so that it would act as friction, not indexed: nope. No dice.
Fine. Eff it. I'll figure it out when I get home.
Tune the bike, adjust everything, all is fine. Great!
Come back the next morning, go for a spin around the block, same thing happens. WHAT THE HELL.
I get it squared away again, come back the next day, and it works! OK, we got it settled then! But I was planning on keeping an eye on it all weekend long. (You can probably guess here that yes, this will come up again.)
I was fully packed and ready to be on the road by 7:30 AM. Filled up the car (all 13.2 gallons of glory), and was rolling down the interstate.
My teammate, Tim Andrus, had stayed with me here at Maine. As I was talking about road-tripping on out to Cedar Point, he had the brilliant idea of having me drive to his place, rather than me hauling the whole way to Sandusky. Tim lives just outside Watkins Glen, New York, so it's pretty familiar territory for me.
This still meant, though, that I'd be trekking from Portland to his place, which involves making my way through Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, dive into Pennsyltucky for a minute (yes, that's what I said), and then back into New York.
The driving was fine until I-88, which runs from Schenectady down to Binghamton, where you pick up NY-17 (aka Future I-86, which it's been future 86 for oh...forever). It all looked the same. I had to make sure I wasn't in Groundhog Day a few times just by looking at the time and mileage to say, yes, we are moving forward.
Made it to Horseheads, NY by 3 PM. Made it almost the entire way without needing to stop for gas, too. Just needed a splash to give it something to be able to start when I got back to the car on Monday. Meet Tim's family, he rolled in, we transferred everything into his Suburban, and back on the road we went!
The trip from his place to Sandusky was rather smooth, except for the endless miles of construction. Apparently, Ohio likes to have the entire stretch of I-90 under construction at once, rather than completing one section at a time and moving forward. I swear, I saw 130,000 orange construction barrels along the way.
We made it into Cleveland, and that's when I caught my first scent of the city. I can now officially replace the phrase "It smells like Newark, NJ" to "It smells like Cleveland." I mean that in the nicest way possible; when you have that many refineries and import/exports coming through there...of course it's going to have a distinct scent. Part of what makes Cleveland what it is, I suppose.
Rolled straight into our place in Sandusky, and discovered a few things about our place out of the gate:
- There was a tiki bar, and countless Buffett/Maragaritaville signs EVERYWHERE.
- There was a wind turbine across the bay from us that sounded exactly like a disc wheel blowing past you.
- Our teammates Heidi, Anthony, Jeff, Elizabeth and her significant other Chris had ordered pizza. Tim and I took one look, and a 2nd pizza immediately got ordered.
- There was a significant amount of beer in the fridge that was crying to be consumed. Mission accomplished.
- In other words, by about 10 PM that night we decided that this place needed to be rented again.
Saturday: The Deluge
I woke up at about 5:15 AM to the sound of a bike tipping over.
I looked out on the porch, where Heidi and I had put our bikes overnight, to find mine had fallen against the chairs on the porch. It was extremely windy, pouring rain, and my bike was on the ground.
Panic-stricken, I got it upright, did a once over, and took a deep breath: no harm done. Checked the shifting again, just to be sure, and it was flawless. Awesome.
The water was extremely choppy. I checked the weather to find out a riptide warning had been issued. For a lake. 8 foot seas. ON A LAKE.
Needless to say, the morning tris had been cancelled. But there was still a kids race and a 5K happening instead. Tim and I were naturally awake: "HEY! The kids race is cancelled!" We got ourselves together and headed over to the race site.
What we found were tents blown all over the place, swim buoys that were halfway to Buffalo, and aid stations that needed to be created for the following day. Tim, Jeff, Anthony, Heidi, and I all decided it was time to get to work. We were all racing the following day (Tim and Anthony for the full; Jeff, Heidi and I in the half), but with the weather being what it was I saw no purpose in getting a whole bunch of fresh grime into a very clean bike. So my pre-race workout consisted of lifting things up and putting them down.
In all seriousness, I love being able to give back to the community where I can, so to have the opportunity to help this race go as seamlessly as possible was great. It really makes you appreciate the effort that goes into these events, all the while you're out there racing.
After helping out for a bit, we decided to head on back to the house to snag lunch, and get our bikes ready for the following day. (Tim's nightmare chronicles with Di2, my switch over to the Zipps for race day). Picked up our stuff, put in the race wheels, and headed back over to the expo.
After racking our bikes, I stopped over at the expo to pick up a spare tubular. (The Zipps are tubies, and I ride clinchers normally.) While there, I overheard an athlete asking questions about a hydration mounting system for the aerobars. It's the same system I use: standard bottle cage, standard bottle, bracket that gets zip-tied between them. He only had one bottle mount on his bike, and was only going to use that for the day. Recalling my under-nutrition and hydration experience at Quassy the year before, I asked him if I could install it for him. "You'd do that for me?" Of course! Team Rev3 at your service!
After finishing that up, checking Wallace one last time (and having a sweet spot in transition: first rack along the fence), it was time to head back to our house and load up on dinner. We had a sweet team dinner at the house, and then just de-compressed. Go time come morning.
Sunday: Race Time!
Alternate Title: Race Smarter = Go Faster
All weekend long, I'd been mentioning to myself that I really wanted to race this race smarter. I knew the fitness was all there, but it would take me metering my energy expenditures much better than I did at Maine. I needed to race with my head, as much as my fitness.
I've learned many things about myself, and one of them is that on race morning I need to be out of the house ASAP. So even though my swim wave wasn't until 8:40 that morning, I was up at 4:45 with Tim and Anthony to gear up as they prepared for the full. Jeff also decided to get the hell on out of dodge with us.
I prepared my breakfast (rice, eggs, honey) and my coffee. I was set and ready to roll.
We headed into transition at about 5:30. I got myself over to my bike and started setting up shop. I borrowed a pump from a neighbor. As it turns out, I couldn't reach the rear wheel without taking my bike out of the rack. So I went on over to the side wall, inflated things. And hey, what the hell, might as well check the shifting.
No shifting downward in the cassette.
You must be f***ing kidding me.
I tried everything in the short span of 10 minutes, and then made the call: heading to the bike mechanic. This flies in the face of my rule about myself and Freeman being the only ones who touch my bike. But drastic times call for drastic measures.
The guys over there couldn't have been more understanding. I explained the situation, and he started playing with it. He took the cable apart, tried to pull it, and noticed it was catching on something. He looked at his watch, and asked me if I knew whether the bike cabling required housing throughout the frame, or if it was just the cable through the frame and housing in the back. I knew from experience that it was just cable in the frame.
"OK, I can replace that. Or I'll give you a good gear for it to be a fixie. But either way we'll try."
So he went to work. He pulled the old cable out and discovered that the area by the bottom bracket and crank was just corroded as crap. Note to self: apparently, I need to powerwash the inside of my frame. Good to know.
By 6:30, the bike was restored, good as new. WHEW! Crisis averted!
I finished changing, getting myself together, ran into Ryan Oilar, another Rev3er, and got ready to head on through.
The last few minutes before the race are always tough: you need to control the mind, you need to stay relaxed. Trust in all of the work that you have done. After all, it can't be that bad. You've been here before.
You hear the countdown begin: one minute. Thirty seconds.
Ten seconds...nine, eight...*relax, relax, relax*...three...two...one...
The Race: Quick Hits
Bike: 2:39:38 (21.1 MPH)
Final Time: 5:12:37 (16th in AG, 97th OA).
The water at Cedar Point is pretty shallow for a while, so you're dolphin-diving and running for a fair bit.
One of the first things you notice is that the water is a little murky. You definitely can still tell if somebody is near you, but it's difficult to get a gauge where exactly that person's feet or arms might be.
I settled into a rhythm pretty quickly. One of the things I learned from Maine was when to sight: about every 8 breaths seemed to be most effective at keeping me on course. I was really diligent about this here because I hadn't had the opportunity to get in the water before race day.
I feel like my swimming has definitely come a long way, as I'm sticking with the front group for a good portion of the swim. I'll never lead the swim, but to be up there towards the top is definitely confidence boosting. I felt like I was really moving well.
About three-quarters of the way through the swim I could feel my calves tighten up a little bit. They wouldn't loosen their grip the entire day. I tried fiddling with my foot position to get them to open up with little success. It was during this time that I made my two big navigational errors; I forgot to sight for a bit, and all of a sudden I'm not swimming anywhere close to the direction I want to be. I easily added an extra 100 yards to my swim.
I was done swimming at 32:45. However, it takes FOREVER to get on up and out of the water. You're constantly struggling to get up and over. So I wasn't surprised to be on the beach seeing a 35 number staring me in the face. That being said, though, seeing that many bikes in transition in my age group made me smile. I was ready to rock.
I'd worked on my transitions a bit coming out of Maine, and had a much easier time getting my helmet on. I was away very quickly. Up and over the mount line, time to start the most fun part of the day.
This being Ohio, I figured the bike course would wind up being a flat affair.
You'd be wrong to think that.
The course has some roll to it! You needed to be thinking active shifting throughout the day.
As I started out, immediately the first thought in my mind was, "There's people up the road. Go get 'em!" I really had to control the urge to want to drop the hammer then and now. I decided that I'd ride based on feel, and checking my cadence every few minutes to make sure that I wasn't pushing too much gear.
I got through to the first aid station about 10 miles in in pretty short order. Unfortunately, my spare kit opened up for one reason or another here, spilling my spare tubie out. It wound up falling between the frame and my tire, so I had to pull over and pull it out. It cost me about a minute to get it back together and get going again. In the grand scheme of things, no big deal.
I kept riding in control of the effort. At about mile 20 the lead pro male came past me. When second place came up about five minutes later, I decided to put my first little surge in for the day. It was false flat, and many of my competitors were just content to spin at about 18 MPH in a rather large pack. I decided it was time to burn a match or two.
I surged for the next 10 minutes or so, until I moved through most of the main pack that I'd encountered. I then focused on nutrition, getting in my calories and electrolytes. My calves were still balky, but my quads felt very, very good.
The half course then split back away from the full course, and I spun again for the next bit. When we turned back to head towards Sandusky again, I took a mental account of how things were going: time wise, right on check; legs felt good; really in control of the day. The scary thought: "Eh, this doesn't feel all that long at all. Come on, you can push for another hour."
I made the call to put another decent surge in. I had to make sure that I was keeping the cadence up throughout the day, and whenever the muscle tension felt "good" it was definitely a bit too much gear. The shifting was flawless, thankfully.
We got back into the school area, and had my first encounter with a draft pack for the day. Luckily, an official came by just after this and carded 'em all. Haha, suckers!
With about eight miles left to go on the bike, I wanted to make one more push back to Sandusky. But the legs told me as soon as I tried that they didn't have it. Rather than force it, and pay dearly on the run, I backed off and kept myself moving at a good clip back to transition.
We made the turn into Cedar Point. I started to get out of my shoes, and my right hamstring seized. OK, THAT'S new. I stretched immediately. Crisis averted.
Off the bike, and who do I see in transition but Eric, the race director for Rev3. "Come on, you going to win this run?"
"I'm trying man, I'm trying!"
Ah, those are the things you love to hear.
I got over to my spot in transition, sat down to toss the socks and running shoes on, and was gone again.
I got out of transition and felt like I had just stolen something. I felt fantastic. My legs felt great, outside of the calves being balky. My stomach felt fine. I was really ready to rip.
I started out averaging 7:15-7:30. This was right in range with what I knew I was capable of holding based on numerous training runs and rides at this effort. I felt like I'd found my rhythm.
The first four miles just flew by. I was crushing this run. Nine more miles. You've held faster nine mile runs on worse legs; you can do this!
At mile 5, I took down a bit more nutrition, and my stomach just seized up. Complete crawl into a hole and want to vomit lock down. OK, little more Coke and water to settle.
Nope, I'm puking instead.
Back and forth over the next two miles it went like this (hence the slow from 7:30s to 8:30s all of a sudden). I had to make the call: was it going to be faster for me to take Coke, run faster, and puke? Or would I be quicker taking water, maybe a little calories, and knowing my legs would get heavy quick with the lack of calories?
I opted for column B. It was disappointing to see a bunch of people pass me that I had passed while running, but I also knew that I was having the best day I've had out racing, and that I can't make my stomach suddenly cooperate. I tried. I didn't find it.
At about mile 8 I started seeing some of my teammates passing behind certain points. I yelled out to each of them, "Come catch me!" The only one who responded, I think, was Heidi, who said something along the lines of "I'm trying." (It was one of the females.) Jeff was in a world of hurt with me, so at least I knew someone else was sharing in my misery.
I knew with about four miles left that the dream of getting under five hours was gone; so I just said, "Let's PR, and let's do it under 5:15. And if we can get close to 5:10..."
I was working hard, especially the last two miles, trying to get back to Cedar Point. I ran into Charlie (aka The Boss) with about a quarter-mile left to go. "Looking strong, Ryan. Only eight miles to go."
I just shook my head.
"What, not funny?"
"Not now, bud!"
I made my way towards the finish line, pouring on the gas the whole way. I had nobody else in sight as I came around the corner. The crowd seemed a bit quiet, so I yelled out, "Come on!" waving my arms. . I got another high five from Stu as I came down the chute. I pointed to Sean English as he started announcing me, and I came home across the line.
Another PR. Another 8 minutes down. Another one in the books. More lessons learned.
As it turns out, it was a very mixed bag for Team Rev3 at Cedar Point: a bunch of personal triumphs and a few disappointments as well. I beat Elizabeth by 30 seconds, which she gave me an endless amount of crap for. Heidi beat us both by under a minute, which was also an entertaining stream of conversation. We had PRs, but we also had some DNFs to go along with it, unfortunately. But that's racing, I suppose: you can only do with what you have on race day.
Conclusions on Racing
At least for me, I do far better traveling than I do racing from home. With travel, I have to pack all of my stuff, I need to be prepared. I can't put something off. It eases my mind. I'm seriously contemplating crashing at someone else's place for Maine next year just for the same purpose of having to get ready like this.
I need to hydrate more beforehand. I didn't do a good enough job keeping enough liquids coming in the days leading up to the event. You know it's a problem when you drive for 5.5 hours and you don't need to hit the bathroom.
I'm still trying to figure out the nutrition thing. I think I have a handle on what I need to do (more calories on the bike, so I need to take in less while out on the run). But I'd like to dial this nausea thing down now.
I raced this one well. I did everything I could have done on that given day. In that sense, I executed. I performed. And the chips fell exactly where they should have given those circumstances. In that sense, I am so pleased, and I can honestly say there's a sense of satisfaction this time.
It's all right there. I can feel it.
We found each other after the race. Jeff, Anthony, Tim and I decided it was time for grub, so we grabbed burgers and beers. Well worth it, me thinks.
We then headed back to our house, and unleashed a celebration for all of our hard work. Plus, hey, it's Margaritaville themed. We couldn't help ourselves.
Then, of course, there's the finish-line celebration, which is a party unlike any other. I said it on Facebook before: it's those moments that have me so happy to be a part of this organization. It really cares for everyone, whether you're crushing the half or barely making it before midnight in the full.
Monday: The Drive Home
Tim and I took off early, as he wanted to get back for the kids, and I wanted to get home at some relatively decent hour.
I made it to Albany by 4:30 in the afternoon, and made the executive decision to drive home through Vermont and New Hampshire, rather than the Mass Pike. The change in route helped keep me awake. It was gorgeous over there, too. Me thinks a good training camp over that neck of the woods might be in order next year...
I made it home at 9:30 PM. 1600 miles in four days. Not bad.
Of course, to my wonderful Team Rev3 mates, for such an awesome weekend.
The Rev3 crew for putting on such a fantastic event, even when Mother Nature tried to re-locate us to some place in upstate New York.
Our sponsors: PowerBar, NormaTec, Quintana Roo, Reynolds, Swiftwick, SBR Sports, Pearl Izumi, blueseventy...don't know what we'd do without you all.
To coach Doug, for helping guide me to this point.
To Mr. Josh Freeman, for his awesome bike tuning skills this season.
To the many friends and family for their advice and support.
And last but certainly not least, my lovely wife, Hannah, without whom I could not do any of this.
Coming up: whether I destroyed my good friend's Adam's soul at a local 10K, and some gear reviews.