Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Grudge Report

It’s not that I didn’t want to write about Idaho, or the race. I honestly really didn’t have much to say about it all. However, since I’m a man of a million words, and I promised myself I couldn’t write about anything else until I wrote about Coeur d’Alene, the race report goes down like this:

The preparation leading up to this race was about as perfect as I could have asked for. The usual suspects kept me healthy and rolling. Jason Abshire and Keith Terro kept me upright and walking, and Dr. Joe and Joey at LaCaze Athletic Solutions helped me with my crazy gangster lean problem on my right side. The great thing about a June/July Ironman race for those of us blessed enough to be inbred, I mean born and raised in Louisiana, is that the weather conditions for us during the big training is semi-bearable. Granted, there is the uncertainty in the spring of 45 and windy, or 80 and no humidity, but it sure beats the hell out of 95 and humid, with a 30% chance of afternoon showers and a 20% chance of dying if you stay outside longer than an hour, which we get all summer. Anyway, back to the race at hand. We stayed in Post Falls, which is about 10 minutes from the swim start and exactly one town over from Coeur d’Alene. For the most part, you are nice and isolated from the hustle and bustle of the Ironman spectacle. But the most important reason for staying in Post Falls when I go back to do this race again (yes, I am for sure going back) is the Whitehouse grill. A blip of a building right off of exit 5, this is the best restaurant I’ve eaten at, ever. No exaggeration, I’m doing this race again for 2 reasons: First because of all the crowd support and the second is Whitehouse grill. It’s a Greek restaurant with a catchy slogan, “You love garlic, and we love you!” Enough about the food and festivities, it’s time to race!
Race day came, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been so calm before the start. I told ENM as we had our awkward moment of her trying to get me wedged into my wetsuit. “Elyse, I think this wetsuit makes my butt look fat. Does it?” Women don’t find it so amusing when you use their questions against them. Anyway I kissed my mom and Elyse, and man hugged my dad (dudes don’t kiss, come on!). I waddled down to the beach with a confidence that in about 10 or so hours, we’d be talking about when we were flying to Hawaii, and who all was coming. Now before you call me an arrogant prick in your mind for being so bold, keep in mind that I had a pretty good idea what it would take to get to the big baby dance show that is Kona, and I knew that my training and racing results put me on the UPS truck. All I had to do was deliver the goods. The gun went off, and it was on! The swim was the most brutal I’ve ever encountered. There was about a 3 minute period where I really worried about drowning. I got punched in the head like a man, as opposed to all the girl slaps you normally get in open water swimming, and someone behind me grabbed my hips and pushed me under. I don’t care how good you are in the water; you’re never ready for that. I decided for my next race, I’ll do a bit of training with my weight room buddy “Crazy” Tim Credeur to get ready for the swim.
I come out of the water in 1:05:xx, and frankly I’m pissed. I know I can swim an hour, how did I not swim an hour? Just as I ponder my swim fate, and millions of beautiful Ironman groupies were screaming my name(hey, It’s my lie and I’ll tell it any way I want to), I face plant. Sweet move! Now I’m pissed about the swim, and the odd off color chance I hear someone say, “Huh, huh. John Fell. Get it?” Uh yeah, real original. Out of the change tent and onto the steed. The 1:05:xx swim got to my head, and I thought I had given up a bunch of time to the guys in my age group wanting to get their Kona ticket. (Little did I know that the lake level was causing a wicked current, and everyone’s swim was slow. Let that be a lesson, kids!) So I did the most brilliant thing I could think of, which is ride the first hour of the bike like I was trying to keep the yellow jersey. My heart rate was jacked, and didn’t come down till I finally calmed a bit and found a rhythm. The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful, except that stark realization that people from pan flat Lafayette, LA will probably suck at hills. Unless you count overpasses, then I’m a world champ. Anyway, I told my dad to run a covert op for me of counting everyone he saw in front of me with the ages 25-29 on their calf. I would have asked ENM to do this, but she goes to UL-Lafayette, and well I was a bit concerned to trust a UL student to count. When I came by on the run, they told me I was in 8th. Man, not too shabby. I knew we had 5 slots, and if I could just run the pace of every long run I’ve had since March, it would put me in the chute at 9:45, 9:50 at the latest. And for sure that would be top 5. I passed a “legendary” triathlon coach who was racing, and basically trains all day with zero stress, so I knew I was going pretty well. Then it happened. This guy comes by me with a good pace. I knew I could pick it up a touch and match him, so I decided to attach myself to him. In short, we ran stride for stride for 23 miles. We were catching people left and right. There was no funny business, as he was 30, and I 28, so we could use each other and not have to have a “There can be only one victor” race at the end. I was ecstatic, until I looked at one of our mile splits. The LCD simply read “8:03”. I was crushed, as I knew I was going as fast as I could for this moment, and that kind of running wasn’t going to pull the 3 guys in front of me back. I kept running hard, and the pace never really increased. It was that cold, scary, pit of the stomach fear that I had just realized. “What if I train my ass off, taper well, rest, do everything right. And then, on race day, I just don’t have it?” Well, I can now check that box, as I was just off what felt like 2 or 3 percent all day, from swim to bike to run. I felt horrible as I just basically quit on the course at mile 25. I cramped at an aid station, and then just cruised it in with this guy that I had been running with about 10 seconds up the road. I apologize to anyone who was watching Ironman live; as I’m sure I looked about as excited crossing that finish line as a 5 year old did who got a sweater/sock combo from Santa.
In short, I’m not bummed with the day, the preparation, or the sacrifice. I’m bummed because I’ve got a great, talented group of people behind me and who put as much into this as I do. As an athlete, I’ve got the easiest part; deliver the goods. And on the day, I didn’t deliver. But, hey that’s life. The (sorta) cool part was that the guy I ran with got his ticket to Kona, and I helped. That made me feel a little better. Wait, nope, it didn’t. Just kidding. Seriously, John from Los Angeles, enjoy Kona. I’ll be tracking you on race day, hoping you rock it. Anyway, after the race, all hope for a rolldown was demolished, as we only had 4 slots in our age group, I was sitting in 8th place. How much separated me from 4th? 15 minutes. You know how much time is in feeling off 2-3% on a 10 hour day? 15 minutes. So, the cool part is that I know I’m close to getting that spot. I just need to have a good day, and not have the German national Semi-Pro Triathlon team show up to the race I’m doing. And oh yeah, the moral of this story? Ironman still hurtsJ

Thursday, July 3, 2008

What if....

First off, I know I haven't written a race report for Couer d'Alene yet, and you are probably checking this blog to see if I have posted it yet. I'll pry write one, but I'm just not ready yet.

Here's my thought of the day for you. My very own Nike Triathlon commercial, if you will....

What if triathlon had nothing to do with awards, rewards or results?
What if there was no Hawaii?
What if there were no sponsors or free stuff?
What if there were no age group awards, no "championship" races?
What if there were no finisher medals or T-shirts to display proudly?
What if it was just a swim workout, followed by a bike, then a run?
What if you raced the course, and had no idea where you finished in the field?
What if it was truly just a group of guys going for a morning swim, bike and run?

Would you still be here?
Would you still be dedicated and focused?
Would you still sacrifice?
Would you still get the same feeling?
Would you race soley for self-discovery?
Would your passion still be strong?