Sure, but also of rage and hate and pain and fear of self
And I can't keep those feelings on the shelf
I've tried, well no in fact, I've lied
Could be financial suicide but I've got too much pride inside
To hide or slide
I'll do as I'll decide and let it ride till I've died
And only then shall I abide this tide...
I've made a lot of terrifically dumb decisions in my 28 years on this planet. And I'm sure I'll make many more along the way.
The past two weeks probably enter the top realm of idiocy. What kind of moron decides to race an incredibly challenging half the day after an extremely tough Olympic? And then, on a whim, decides, "Sure, you know what? I'm going to go do the dumbest, hardest race I have ever done AGAIN."
It's the hook, you see. The infectious drug of camaraderie, of competition, of the drive to make oneself and your fellow athletes better. There's something about triathlon that, during the course of racing, you're laying yourself out there to bare. You're as much of yourself out there as you are anywhere else. There's no place to hide. There's no excuses. It's you against the course, the clock, and your competitors. And you get to see where your work puts you amongst your peers.
Without further adieu...
I drove down Friday after work to hit up the course and toss the race wheels onto Sam Eagle.
Sam Eagle, you ask? Well, naturally, it's another year, so it's another new bike:
As we all know at this point, my bike names come after things that my late father-in-law enjoyed. So we had Kermit, Wallace, and Oddjob.
I felt compelled to go back to the Muppets. Also, with the blue-and-white paint and knowing Trek's commitment to building bikes in the US (yes, I know mine was merely "designed" here...), this came to mind:
So after a brief visit with Hannah, Alex, and the entire Rev3 crew, it was time to get my food in, packet picked-up, and away we went.
Rev3 Quassy Olympic
Quick Hits: 2:33:21 (67th OA)
Realized that I was Bib #2 for this race. Uh-oh. Guess that means I'd better go fast. However, I knew that I would not be meeting my goal of beating my bib number in the overall standings.
The day dawned cool. Perfect conditions for a guy like me. I generate a fair amount of heat and so being able to keep the temperatures down was perfect.
All of us doing the Revolution (aka double-dipping in the Olympic and the Half) were racked together. We made a fair number of jokes, and also got everyone's assessment on how we were going to try to attack the day. The majority were here to cruise today and then try to race the following day. One guy was here to crush both. There were two of us that were going to try and race our guts out on Saturday and then use Sunday effectively as a catered workout. (Note: sign you are messed up--70.3 miles is justifiable as a "catered workout.")
Waltzed on down to the water's edge and get myself into the wetsuit. I was wearing a blueseventy Reaction for this event; I'm simply not good enough for a Helix. At least, not to take advantage of a Helix.
We got into the water and did a couple of swim start efforts to warm-up. Back on the beach and we're ready to roll.
I lined up left at the swim start. I knew the gong show would be on the inside right as people jockeyed to stay right on the buoy line. I figured it'd be much clearer water for the first little bit and then start cutting the diagonal to the turn buoy.
The horn sounds. We sprint off. The super-swimmers are off the front fast. I settle in and find some feet that I'm pretty happy being on; about 15th guy back, inside edge of this front group that is starting to form. We're the chase; there's a group of 10 or so on the inside buoy line that are simply flying.
We start doing some work and we're at the first sight buoy in no time. I can tell that I've been out of the pool a little more than I wanted to be heading into this race, but we're starting to feel comfortable. I lift my head to sight and notice that the feet I'm following are going WAY left. I make the decision: get off these feet, move back towards the buoy.
I think I made four strokes before I get kicked so hard in the ribs I had to come to a full-stop and roll onto my back. Dude is just all over the place thrashing about and nailed me. It happens...and I put myself in that position. Still...getting kicked in the ribs sucks.
I roll back over and get going again. I've missed my feet, and now I'm going to have to try to work around this guy. I get close and his feet get wide again. I took a very indirect route up and around.
Finally, make it to the turn buoy...and directly into the sun. I can't see anything. (Note to all swim directors: maybe it's time we considered having some different colored buoys based on light conditions? Like, say, something more contrasted for bright sunny days? Save the yellow for when it's cloudier?) I just charge ahead and pray I'm on the right path. A yank on my foot tells me that's someone on my feet. I go to breathe again, same yank underwater. A third: same.
Now, I don't mind my swim's being a little...aggressive. But if you grab my foot three times in a row, and I don't get to breathe for triple my normal breath range...you are going to get introduced to my foot. Hard.
After that, it was pretty smooth sailing. I got up and out of the water and:
I run right up the hill to transition. I get to my spot, get down to the ankles with the wetsuit and realize that I forgot to TriSlide my calves.
F***! You moron!
As you can tell by the above T1 number, I could've eaten a picnic lunch up there. I was furious with myself.
Finally, time to get on board the bike and ride. I knew this course was supremely hilly, and so I wanted to open a little more conservatively through the first 10 miles and then flip the switch to turbo.
We started climbing. And climbing. And climbing some more. I had a couple of the 35-39 crowd start to pass me at this point as I debated whether or not to chase them. I decided to stick to my guns. In retrospect, I probably should've attacked here. But having never raced an Olympic distance event before and really wanting to make sure I charged the run, I went with the more conservative of the options.
We finally started making some turns and I started to reel in a couple of guys that had blown up early. I kept moving at my relatively decent pace (I never actually looked at the numbers until later.) I hit mile 10 and started to lay on a little bit more power. I felt like it was a good effort, but not like I was redlining. Again, in retrospect...too conservative.
I made up some good time from miles 15 to 20 as we hauled ass down Hard Hill Road (aka the Big Hill from the Half course). Fastest time down it ever! As we started to climb back towards transition, I again opted for the spin technique, rather than putting in a little bit more effort.
We cruised back into the chute. The guy in front of me completely locked everything up and was all over the road. I wound up coming in way hotter than I wanted to, having to bail right. My options were as follows:
1.) Lock up the brakes and take the mount/dismount penalty;
2.) Bail right into the rock wall, or;
3.) Skid as much speed as I could, jump off, and hope that I could sprint fast enough to not die.
I went with option 3. It wasn't pretty, but everyone applauded me pulling it out of my ass.
Now for the run. I pulled on my Skechers GoMeb Speeds and took off like a bat out of hell.
This course features three big hills: one at mile 2.5, one at mile 3.5, and one at mile 5.5. I hit the first one...and didn't feel great. This was more of a steepness thing than anything else. Got to the top and was able to open my stride back up.
On this next hill, I realized the guy in front of me was in my age-group. I decided to charge after him on this hill. He was hurting. I was in agony. I just kept pushing. I knew that if I could crest the hill before him, there was no way he was going to come back. Psychologically, I had to break him.
So I charged past at a completely unsustainable pace on the hill, muttering "Good job, keep it up" as I went past. I crested, looked back, and his shoulders were slumped; the stride had shortened; he had broken.
I flew down this next downhill and caught up with the guy in front of me. We were both moving at a great clip and decided we'd try and work together to hold off a hard-charging group behind us. We worked the next mile hard, trying to really push the pace. Yet these guys were just flat out faster. They caught us. We both lifted our efforts to try and stay with them. I was the first out the back; the guy I was with held on for the next half-mile.
We made the turn for home and the evil hill; it's a half-mile, it's the steepest hill on the course, it gets steeper as you make the turn, you can hear the finish line, and it just does not ever seem to end. I saw Eric, the race director, who immediately looked at his watch and went "Hurry it up!" I couldn't help but shrug and smile; my race had pretty much been decided at that point. I went hard up the hill. I couldn't lose position at this point, nor could I gain it, so as we rounded the corner for home I went with "tempo effort" into the finish.
Now, three years ago, this would've been my second-fastest 10K ever. So, to run that off the bike I'm pretty thrilled, particularly on a course as hard as that. As always, though, I'm not truly satisfied; I felt like I was way more conservative than I should have been. Then again...I only had this to do the following day...
Revolution3 Quassy HalfRev
Quick Hits: 35:55/3:10:21/1:52:19
Race morning dawned, and I got my breakfast on. I opted to wear the Pearl Izumi Octane Tri Suit for the second day. I was completely undecided on shoes. I had loved the GoMebs the day before. I also had my Mizuno Sayonara's that I had rocked in the Charleston Marathon this year. I just couldn't make up my mind. I left both in transition for the morning.
I readied the nutrition for the day. Working with Christine Lynch this off-season was the best decision I have ever made, as it helped me uncover some serious nutritional issues as well as dial in my sports nutrition. For this race, I would start with the following:
1 x EFS Liquid Shot Kona Mocha 4 oz flask (for electrolyte and calories)
1 x 26 oz bottle with 2 packets Skratch Labs Apple Cinnamon Drink Mix and 3 x Huma Gel Apple Cinnamon (for calories and light electrolyte).
1 x 22 oz bottle water
I would start off nursing the slurry 26 oz bottle with water, and then transition to the EFS bottle. This was to try and front load calories on the ride when it was easier to digest, and then transition to the simpler EFS fuel. Also, as the day started to warm, I would be able to replenish more electrolytes. I knew my body tolerated all of this fuel well, so I was excited to see how it would stand up in a race environment.
I made the decision that I would try and push the swim harder than the day before because I was so irritated with my result from Saturday. I would then try to get to Thomaston on the bike (the town where you start the massive climbs for this race) as conservatively as possible. I would then see how the legs responded. If they had pace, then pace. If they did not, then it was spin-city time. And then I was running every step of this run course because of how last year went.
Into the wetsuit, into the water, and time to get my ass in gear. And away...we...go.
I lined up left again, and this time had much better folks to work with. We were on the straight path to the buoy and had a good clear sight of the lead group. This is what good swimming is supposed to feel like! We had a great time out to the first buoy, rounding it at the 10 minute mark...
...and was staring directly into the sun.
I have never had to stop before to sight. But we as a group flat out could not see. Everybody picked their heads up to try and find the line. Finally, two of the group spotted the buoy, and the sprint was back on. In previous years, my age-group has been a little bit later, so we could just follow the line-up of splashing. But as the second group, we just could not see where to go. Would a different goggle have helped? Who knows. But before I knew it, I was spit out the back of my group. I have good diesel speed; efficient over the long course. But I need to do more explosive work (sprints) to be able to hang with the fish over the short haul.
At any rate, chugging along, and wound up WAY inside the buoy line. Wound up having to cut way back out to the left across the forthcoming swim caps. Still, I felt like I was in pretty good shape.
We rounded the far buoy and headed back in towards shore. This year they added a final turn buoy to make sure that nobody would hit the dock on the inside edge of the line to shore. (That was the shortest path in from the former last turn buoy.) I charged ahead, feeling like I could get out of the water around 32 and change, the same as last year. I had just felt like I settled in again, went to sight...and I was way too far right again.
At this point, I lost my cool a little bit and wound up having a pretty craptastic remainder of the swim. I got out of the water, saw 34:5X and just swore under my breath for having wasted a pretty good first half of the swim.
Up the hill we went. This time, I'd remembered to put a gallon of TriSlide on my calves. The suit came off easily.
Off and onto the bike. Two out of four years here, I have charged the first 20 miles so hard that I was completely and utterly useless getting back into town. The other two years, I reminded myself to be patient. Attack a little bit on the shorter climbs so long as it felt like a controlled effort, but otherwise get to Thomaston as easily as possible.
It was the most fun I've had in a race in a while. I passed a few athletes, wishing them luck on their days. I got passed, asked whether or not they had beer hand-ups available. Joked with a few folks that "dammit, I think Eric finds a way to add elevation to this course every year." And so on. I ignored the time on my watch, figuring that if we were going to start worrying about that, it would start on the climb from Thomaston.
I absolutely hauled ass down the descent to Thomaston. It's the fastest I've ever gone on that stretch of road. Some of that has come from the confidence in riding in groups on descents (note to triathletes: yes, do group rides, and learn how to be able to slow yourself down without having to touch your brakes...) and some of that was the confidence in the positioning and handling aboard Sam Eagle there.
Finally, we make the dual left turns that marks the start of 7 miles of relentless uphill. It starts off innocently and then gradually ramps its way up. The first sign of trouble was getting dropped on the first sign of uphill. The second sign was when I went to start putting in some power...and my body responded with "uh, excuse me, sir, but there is none of that available here." I asked again. "Nope. Fresh out. Try again later." Well then.
So I sat up and spun. I tried everything in the book to jumpstart the system, but as John had warned me the day before: if you raced the Olympic well, you'll have nothing but base fitness for tomorrow. Well, whaddya know: the coach was right!
Further up the climb I got a high-five from the awesome Jamie Bull and his lovely wife Sam. I pressed onward, but started to get really negative about the way things had gone. Malaika Homo, who I'd told the day before, "see you on the climb from Thomaston," had blown my doors off about five minutes before. I was just not in the right spot...and then I dropped my chain.
Conveniently, it was at the second aid station. Last year, I muffed the bottle exchange here and paid the price dearly for it. I stopped to deal with the locked chain. In the interim, I also decided to hit the port-o-john and regroup on fluids. I figured that if we were in that spot at this point anyways, it couldn't hurt to just re-focus and re-group on the things that I could control.
After my pit stop, I rode with renewed vigor. My legs came right around with some calories, fluids, and the couple minutes of recuperation. Suddenly I felt tremendous. We got to Litchfield and made the sharp descent...
...and I hit a pothole...and a bottle ejects...with the USAT official next to me.
Now, the rule states you're supposed to stop and pick this up whenever. Obviously, that doesn't happen (have you SEEN the amount of litter after an event?) frequently. With the official right there and the knowledge of what kind of effort it takes to clean this course, I stopped, found my bottle, and hopped back on.
Now I'm fueled by anger. And we all know that you can not just be pissed off, but pissed off for greatness. So I rode. Angry. Hard. Probably too hard. But I didn't care. I'd found the tunnel and was staying in it. Somehow I rode the last 28 miles of that course 20+ minutes faster than I rode the first.
Time to hop off the bike and head into transition. Much neater than the day before. I rolled in and had a decision to make: do I wear the Sayonaras, that I know have worked well for me over distance? Or do I wear the Meb's, which I had run in for the first time the day before? My body screamed "whatever is lighter" and so the Meb won.
I tore ass out of transition, slapped hands with Christine and Eric, and went on my merry way. I found a couple of people in really rough shape heading on down out of the hill, knowing that they were in for a long day on the baking hills of Quassy. I clipped off 5 before the first aid station. The last guy I passed was very much not happy to be passed by someone who had raced the day before. I smiled a little and told him to come chase me down.
I made the turn to head up to the spot where I passed out last year. It was the same aid station folks as the year before. I made sure to thank them profusely for pulling my ass out of the road and helping me out so much; they commented how much better I looked upright. Smartasses. Excellent retort, too.
First three miles down. 10 to go. 10 very hilly miles to go. I started on the uphill and just kept plugging. I promised myself that I was running every single step of this run this year whether it killed me. (Note: yeah, I sound a little morbid during my races. It's the willingness to dig as far and as deep as you can possibly ask out of yourself on a given day that draws me to it...so naturally, you get pretty far down the rabbit hole in your head.) I kept clipping off runners who had been slowed to a power-hike by the relentless Quassy hills.
We hit the run out-and-back and I caught my first glimpse of fellow Mainer Eric Oberg. Dude is a great family guy and really genuine. Highly recommend getting to know him if you're from up here. Anyways, he looked like he was a hurting unit. I had told him out of transition that I was coming for him; now, I'd run his 5 minute lead down to nothing in 5 miles. Now, that said, he was also 10 minutes ahead of me on the course (he started two waves later). But still, it's those things that you find to motivate yourself.
I caught him at the next mile. I tried to get him to run with me, but he muttered something about "negative split" and went on his way. (Don't worry, we'll see him again.) Mile 7-8 is probably the hardest part of the course, in my opinion. You are done with the out and back, but have this long, steep grind to the aid station. I slowed my pace a bit here, trying to conserve my legs for the speedy miles ahead. I loaded up at the aid station and tried to find my fast legs again...but they weren't coming.
Well, that's OK, I said, because now we've got the downhill to find Christian Road, which is across the street from the finish line. That picks up your cadence well, and now we can just truck onward. I felt OK, not as fast as I wanted but still running reasonably well. I took the next turn and looked back...and there's Oberg. Figured he'd make a comeback!
He passed me in the course of the next mile, looking strong. I was getting close to gassed from the weekend's worth of work. My stomach started to get a little haywire, so I slowed a bit more to just get it to calm down. I wanted to make sure I'd give my best effort on the final climb of the day. It's the best I've ever run the last out-and-back, which isn't saying much.
Finally: 1 mile to go. You can hear Sean making announcements, you can hear the music. And you're staring at this massively dumb climb under this bridge, which marks only halfway to the top, because it gets steeper when you get around the corner. I love to hate this course. I dug as far down into the well as I had. I looked behind me and realized I had plenty of gap; nobody was catching me today, so I was going to enjoy this finish chute.
Overall, a hell of a weekend. An absolute blast for those that are gluttons for punishment. Quassy is magical.
So I get razzed a little bit while in Connecticut from Rev3 staffer Bob Balfour, who does some work at White Mountains. He, too, had raced the event last year. I told him after Quassy there was exactly a 0.0 percent chance of me going to do the race. He agreed.
Fast forward to Saturday morning and he puts up a beautiful picture from Franconia Notch, touting the race. I put out a "don't tempt me" on Facebook. He messages me back that he has a spot for me if I want it.
I texted Hannah first, who said "go for it; why not?" I then texted John, who I'm sure looked at his phone in utter bewilderment and thought "this guy is f'n nuts." And that's how I wound up doing White Mountains.
I drove over the night before, got a fitful nights sleep, and then headed to Cannon. Had a nice race morning panic attack as a tire had blown on the rear wheel. Fixed in short order. I then spotted nemesis Bob Turner coming up the hill in his truck, whom I had told there was absofnlutely no way I was doing this event. I pointed straight at him in the old-school Hulk Hogan "YOU!!!" mannerism. I'm pretty sure he broke a rib laughing.
We chatted, I put beers in his cooler, and away we went.
I don't have nearly as much to say about this event because, well, it was really more like a training day than anything else. I did swim better than either day at Quassy, coming out of the water and onto the beach in 33:XX. I then opted to shoot for the King of the Mountains award on the bike; a really hard climb up to the campground. I finished 2nd, based on the results I've seen; I got curb-stomped by the guy who won the jersey and the cash so no worries there!
I had two mechanical issues on the bike, both with the chain again. Turns out the limit screw was out of place as well as a stretched chain, leading to dropping it when throwing to the small ring and trying to do any shifting in the rear. Rode OK, but knew that the run was going to be a long day at the office.
This run course makes Quassy seem pancake flat. Just unrelenting. It was not nearly as nice of a run this year versus last, in my opinion. I got through about 8 miles and my stomach simply had had enough; I had stopped sweating. So I loaded up on ice, grabbed some water and pretzels, and just started walking until I could run again. It's the second slowest half I've ever done, but dammit it was done.
And just like that, you've got 171 miles of racing in 8 days.
I can't say I'll be doing that again...we are deep into the build for Cedar Point now and we're following the plan. Each day is a constant step forward towards a hell of a race in September. Time to enjoy the ride.
Next up on the blog: a full review of the Skechers GoMeb Speed 2.
Edited to add: this post can also be found over on the Rev3 website here--http://rev3tri.com/2014/06/24/hook-brings-back-171-miles-racing-8-days-report/