ABC. A - Always. B - Be. C- Closing. Always Be Closing.
I closed alright. About time. 15th OA at Ironman 70.3 Coeur D'Alene including pros. 4:18 time for the hilly and hot course.
On a warm day in France in WWI, Ferdinand Foch said it took 15,000 casualties to make a major general. After my recent Bloody Sundays of races, a certain part of me had given into this thought completely. I thought perhaps I needed to lose a lot more before I could be proven or deserve to win. I do. We all do. Without errors we learn nothing.
Truthfully, I went into Idaho jaded. I went towards a quagmire. Victoria's pain loomed in my mind. The embarrassment and frustration of losing Duathlon Nationals in my AG to a lost run number tired me. I went into Victoria and Bend with a head raised high, and left with it whipped around. I went into Coeur D'Alene with a helmet on. Too bad Ironman doesn't put their logos on those.
In packet pickup I was in and out fast. Going on Friday evening meant avoiding the Saturday lines and the prancing-around-peacock-show. I already knew who was coming. Big guns. Naval guns. The kind that hits stuff from dozens of miles away. This was no skirmish. My AG was stacked and so was the whole field and they were gonna do some damage.
Good thing I had that helmet.
After an ungodly early wake up, I crammed some Clif bars down my throat and headed down to the race site. Setting up transition in a wonderfully lazy manner, I stayed pretty relaxed and chill. It didn't take long and I was off to the water. The swim seemed straightforward enough. Big rectangle. Nascar with one less turn. Even my peanut brain can handle that.
I lined up at the front and saw some of the competition. Essentially, of the top 5 guys in my AG from across the whole country, 4 (including me) were there - and that was just my AG. As the canon went off, I waited patiently in line (the swim was basically single file start) and hit the water maybe 15th or 20th. Two women proved to be the perfect pace match for me and I latched onto their feet. They were quick, though their navigation left something to be desired. However, they were a bit too quick for me, so I still opted for following and trying not to run face first into each buoy.
I popped out of the water in a decent enough position. Cool. Swim for show, run for dough is the saying, so i wasn't exactly ultra-confident that it meant anything at this point. I took a safe course through transition and was out quickly, except I mounted my bike poorly, knocked a bottle off, and had to run back and grab it. So. Aero.
And here the alliance began. Devin came up on me at mile 5 or so of the bike. The Oregon born, Southern Californian engineering student is an excellent athlete and I knew our skill sets were similar. He passed and I dropped out of the passing zone. I told him we should work together in a reasonable pacing fashion. He agreed. An unnamed Ukrainian athlete too seemed to hop on with us. This trio would work its way through the course until the last few miles - where it would swell.
The sun was shining. Trees rustled in the light breeze. The lake was shimmering. It was a beautiful day. I wasn't worried about any result in particular. I was just gonna ride my bike smart today. No hammerfest. Smart. if it was too slow, so be it. I was gonna start that run in a good physical state. The first big climb saw me gesticulating wildly at the semi trucks passing to blow their horn and I laughed my ass off when one blared it loudly, a mere 10 feet from my head. See? I'm fun.
Pacing was everything and I kept my watts very reasonable. No heroes today. Devin and I drag raced the downhills, sitting on our top tubes like lunatics. So cool. After what felt like an epoch, we reached the second turnaround at mile 36. To my shock, Devin and I were not alone. Within about 5 miles we were joined by a large pack of solid looking riders.
They caught and passed us and I went straight to the rear. Using this as my time to drink up and salt up (no cramps for this guy today). The pack remained close. Considering the hilly terrain, it was functionally impossible to space out. Grouping was inevitable, but in the spirit of sport, everyone steered a heady course for one another and avoided drafting. Once we crested the final hill along, a screaming descent awaited and I used this as a chance for a... natural break. The final miles into town were just a long glorified drag race as Devin and I lined up a couple hundred feet behind his teammate, Ryan, from Cal Poly.
Devin blasted by me in transition as I took my time to calorie/electrolyte/hydrate up. Ryan dropped out due to a lingering injury after a few feet of running, much to my surprise. I headed out into the fray with surprisingly solid legs. I kept my eyes up. Only at mile 1 did I look down to see my Garmin beep out a 5:50 first mile. Oops. That was a bit brisk.
But, I felt ok. Like actually ok. I passed Paul (from here in AZ) at mile 2 and Devin was back into reach at mile three and caught within a few meters afterwards. As soon as I caught him, I asked him to work together. Together, we could run faster and help eachother out. He agreed - and as one unit we started rolling up through the field. At the turnaround, for the second lap, he sped up a bit as we passed 4th place in the AG race and we were briefly separated. But, within a few feet we were back together moving quickly and up through the ranks.
It was getting warm out. I was hitting water every aid station, as much as possible, and still on my salt drive. With Devin, the miles were just rolling past. I felt great through mile 9 and 10, despite Devin pulling slightly ahead at mile 9 - only to regroup at 10. Here is where it came a bit unhinged. My stomach had been feeling a bit off for awhile at this point. However, at mile 11, it was clear it was not going to end well. I took my top down and dashed for the loo. I made a quick stop, only losing about 30-40 seconds. Still, very uncomfortable. Devin was gone and all of the sudden I felt the loneliness of having been dropped.
However, the break breathed life into my legs. I felt renewed speed and energy and I took off in pursuit. I was going to finish this thing hard. I was gonna close. I passed Devin with a mile to go and spied the next guy about 200 meters or so down the road. I pushed. I dug. I felt space open up from Devin. The figure in front of me reared closer and closer. I was only 100 feet behind. Then, the final turn, and I went past him on the long downhill straight through downtown. Everything hurt - yet I felt nothing. He responded and passed me back. But I persisted. Not today. I flung myself ahead of him and beat him.
Except I didn't.
He started 3 seconds behind me at the start - meaning that beating him by a second meant I only lost by 2. So. Close.
Well, we gave the folks who came out to watch some action. 70.3 miles came to a few seconds.
But, on my own personal development story, it was a resounding success. A solid run, well paced bike, and cramp free race meant an excellent sub 4:20 result. The errors of the past have taught me well, but I still have a lot to learn from them - and more. I have not so quickly forgotten the ghosts of my failures. They still float in my head. One very solid result and a general it does not make. I still have many more trials to go and from now on, I think I will carry my helmet with me.
"A battle won is a battle which we will not acknowledge to be lost." - Ferdinand Foch, Supreme Allied Commander of France, Great Britain and Poland; World War One