I love the feeling of being at the start line of a race. When the anthem plays, it takes me back to my baseball days when as the home team we were on the field. Sometimes it takes everything I have to not yell “Play Ball” after it’s over, I guess I have been classically conditions. The anthem brings pride, but it also always me to calm my nerves. It’s the trigger that switches my mind from goofing off to game time.
At Augusta, we weren’t allowed to warm up until after the Anthem, every race is different, but it’s the anthem that gets me going. I also enjoy looking back at the crowd. Their energy inspires me, the look of “aww” on their faces reminds me why I do this sport and it brings a lure of confidence.
The cannon went off with myself and 31 other male pros in the water holding on to a dock. That instant, turned the calm Savannah river into a chaotic scene. The swim was super simple, straight down the river with 9 yellow buoys, 8 orange buoys and one red turn buoy that brought us to T1, each buoy was 100 meters apart. As we all hammered for a position, the washing machine feeling began in the first 100 meters. I don’t think I have ever been kicked, prodded, punched as much, but I realized really quickly that I wasn’t going to be able to hold on to the pack. First off, I had one person beside me who didn’t know how to swim straight, second I was red lined. Quick thinking was just to follow the bubbles. 250 meters in and I was alone. About 200 meters later I was caught from the person behind me. I was able to stay on his feet until the buoys changed colors. “Damn, I was redlined again”. The rest of the swim I chased. I could have sighted better, but I came out of the water in 25 min. From a time, perspective that’s a huge PR for me. The more important number was, I was only 5 mins off the leaders, due to the current of the Savannah river.
Rolling into T1, feeling astonished at my time, I realized rather quickly, I was in dead last, its rather easy to tell, my bike was the only one left. PR swim, and I am still last out of the water. Quick mental check, “You’re ok, just catch them on the bike”. Put on my shoes and helmet, slammed a GU and boom we were off.
The bike was a rolling 56-mile lollipop with multiple railroad crossing and one out and back section that started around mile 43 and came out around 46. The cool thing about the bike course is there was a bunch of long straightaways were you can see a couple miles up the road. It took me roughly 25 mins before I saw my first competitor, another ten mins later and I was passing him and looking for the next.
Remembering my game plan, I knew my only way to catch up was to push the bike. I typically lap my Garmin at the hour marks, it’s a mental thing, but it helps stay focused on the job at hand. By this time, I had passed one other athlete who stayed on me pretty well. Hindsight is 20-20 and we should have worked together to try and close the gap on others more, but just over 24 miles at the hour mark.
Those long straights can be really mentally taxing if you don’t have your mind in the right place. I was playing games with myself to keep myself focused. I remember singing “can I get a ...” by Jay-Z., which I found shocking but hey when something works you go with it. The 35-mile mark was our largest climb of the day. I had two other competitors in my sight and climbed the hill like I stole something. At the top, we had a right hand turn and I caught a quick glance over my shoulder to see if anyone came with me.
This was a hug confidence builder when I saw I created a huge gap to get away on this one climb. Feeling good, I hammered until the out and back. Here, for the first time, I saw just what deficits I was facing. Ten mins behind the lead pack, at the time, I thought it was the leaders, and 8 mins behind the chase pack. At that moment I had to make a decision. 8 mins is on the verge of me not catching anyone, so I made the decision then and there to go… it was my only chance. Some inaccurate in the moment math, told me that I had about 35 min left on the bike and I could close that gap down to a more manageable 6 mins.
Into T2 I road, I knew I had just biked a PR in the power aspect. So quick checks on the system. Body: “banged up”, Mind “dude you just crushed the swim and bike, let’s roll”. You know in the first few steps how your legs feel for the run. I knew it was going to be a struggle, but I was going to go for it, I mean after all that’s why we do what I do.
The run was a physical struggle. As you all know, I always stop for kisses the first time I see the fam bam. The wifey, knew instantly it was going to be ugly. Her “Are you ok?” question, was said with concern, as my legs wouldn’t stop shaking. I started walking aid stations at mile 3 to see if I could get the fluids I need to come back. Mile five, I had a headache and was dizzy, so I started walking. I negotiate with myself to walk a block and run 2 to 3. By mile 7 I thought man I am starting to turn this around, my body was feeling better, I could feel my pace increase, and then boom, like I was shot with a gun, the hammy decided to seize. The next 6 miles was a run as long as you can, walk when you can’t run, and keep moving forward.
I cross the line feeling perplexed with my performance. On the one hand, I didn’t have the overall performance that I had wanted, and I was uber frustrated with the cramping. On the other hand, I just pushed many boundaries that I would not have known if we didn’t have a game plan of going out to race. Again hindsight is 20-20, I used all my matches on the bike to give myself a chance, I could have had a faster overall time if I would have kept it more conservative. But, this is a big but, I would not have learned everything to help my future self.
Overall, I am very pleased with my performance. Taking high risks is the only way to get the rewards I am after. Sometimes the risks pay off, sometimes they don’t. We will plug the holes, we will be back, and we are a force to be reckon with.