Texas was an obvious choice as my 2013 season kick off race for several reasons. The timing was ideal, as it fell at the end of offseason and beginning of Ironman training. Also, I had never visited Galveston before, which made for an appealing destination race. The clincher – my good friends Patrick and Marty live in nearbyish Dallas, and I hadn’t seen either in several years. The last time I was in Big D the three of us rode a mechanical bull, and Marty received a lesson in the Texas two-step from a stranger in a bar. My post-race expectations were high.
Everything screamed “Texas” on my arrival. Driving down from Houston to Galveston, I was limited to country and Latino music on the radio. The lawyers advertising their local practices on billboards were all wearing 10-gallon hats. My rental car was the smallest on the road – and I was driving a 4-door Accord. As I pulled into Moody Gardens, Galveston’s marquee theme park as well as Sunday’s race site, everything looked HUGE.
Capping off the day, I had a wonderful dinner at Gaidos with Max and his parents. Back at my lovely but slightly messy rental house from Airbnb, I stepped over the kitty litter and dog beds into my room for a solid five hours of snoozing.
All races come with surprises. Sometimes these surprises are positive, like an unexpected burst of energy, or a helpful current in the swim. In this race, as is often the case in triathlon, my surprises were not entirely pleasant. Specifically, I experienced three “Oh Shit!” moments throughout the race.
“Oh Shit!” #1
In an otherwise uneventful pre-race morning, catastrophe struck. Five minutes before my wave was set to jump off the pier and swim to the start line, the strap on my goggles suddenly broke while performing last minute adjustments. After quickly thinking through my options, one of which involved seizing the megaphone from the race director to beg the crowd for a replacement pair, I put my McGyver skills to work. With a little luck and a lot of straining, I managed to get one notch of the broken strap back through the goggle loop. This was good enough to keep the goggles on my head, though I feared one errant stroke or kick from a fellow swimmer could easily send them to the bottom of Offats Bayou.
Fortunately, the goggles did their job. With twelve waves ahead of me, I slalomed through (and sometimes directly over) some of the other competitors without a hitch. After inadvertently feeling up my fair share of competitors and exiting the water, it was hammer time.
Well, eventually it would be hammer time. During the first 10 miles I struggled to generate my target power. Perhaps I still had some fatigue from the previous two weeks of training? Or maybe there was a subtle mechanical issue holding me back? As the ride progressed, it dawned on me that I was not sufficiently warmed up. Training rides typically start off easy then build; hence, my legs simply didn’t know how to hammer out of the gate. After 30 minutes I began to feel more comfortable and the watts kept climbing. With a dead flat course and moderate winds, the conditions were ideal for maintaining a steadily increasing power output. And then…
“Oh Shit!” #2
A gunshot-like POP rang across the Texas sky. After a quick reality check, it becomes obvious that a tire exploded. At this very instant, I (and every biker around me) looked down to check the tires. I feared my tube was suddenly flaccid.
I breathed a sigh of relief when everything looked okay, but felt a twinge of remorse knowing that some other poor soul was suddenly sidelined. But only a twinge.
My power output was well on target by the end. After rolling through the airport runway at the end of the course and back through the great pyramids of Moody Gardens, I was feeling good about my chances for the remainder of the race. Until…
“Oh Shit!” #3
People suddenly turned and stared at me as I dismounted. My left glute and left quad suddenly erupted, which had me shouting some not-so-family-friendly remarks. I’ve dealt with minor aches and pains out of T2 in the past, but nothing like this. My left leg was generating no power. Consequently, I was limping through the first quarter mile. I backed way off my target pace. I began to run with my normal gait but the pain intensified. I passed the first mile marker with a respectable split but had to back off my pace even more. The situation continued to deteriorate. By mile marker 2 I had to review my options. Withdrawing from the race was a potential outcome. I also considered stopping and stretching. Either way, a strong run seemed out of the question.
Then something inside of me spoke up. LOUDLY. No stopping. No DNFing. Just keep moving and see what happens. Somehow I gritted my way to mile 3. My pace improved, and my glute/quad loosened somewhat. I continued to rationalize the death march. Mile 4 passed. Miraculously, running started to feel pleasant. That’s when I found my speed. Miles started clicking off at my target pace, pain free, and I enjoyed every footstrike.
I crossed the finish line with a stupid grin, knowing I had dug my deepest to get there. Half a pizza and a box of cookies later, the glute-quad demon returned with a vengeance. I limped my way back to the morning bag tent to change into my street clothes. As I checked my phone, I had several messages from folks telling me I had taken my age group. Oh Shit!
Mad love for:
- Tri360 – Where would I be without you? The service, products, and support are all top notch.
- Ignite Endurance – My triathlon family, whose love knows no bounds.
- Blueseventy – The blueseventy Helix performed magnificently in its debut. Huge range of motion, super buoyant, fits like a glove, kept me warm in surprisingly chilly water, and looks badass.
- Cycleops – Training on the powerbeam all winter helped me achieve a power target that would have been a pipe dream last season.
- Skratch – I’ve tried virtually every major endurance drink on the market and nothing delivers like Skratch. Seriously, you should try this stuff. You won’t go back to whatever else you’ve been using. Their video explains why.
- Max and his family for treating me to a lovely dinner and providing me with great company on race eve.
- Coach Eric, for constantly pushing me out of my comfort zone to help me achieve great results.
- Mary, who I found through Airbnb, for being such a sweet hostess.
- Patrick, Emily, and Marty, who graced me with Texas-style hospitality in the days following the race.
A look at the numbers:
Twelve years ago I completed my first triathlon. It was a sprint triathlon – a short distance, but a huge disaster. I was armed with a Brazilian-style speedo during the swim and lacrosse shorts for the rest. My swim barely resembled freestyle, and at one point a kayaker stopped me because he suspected I might be drowning. I spent most of the bike ride dry heaving from all the rancid lake water I ingested. Tremendous cramps hampered my legs through the run. After crossing the finish line, I collapsed in pain and exhaustion. Again, this was a sprint.
Seven years later I attempted my first half-ironman. For me, this event was a 6-hour death march through upstate New York. I almost cried during the last miles of the bike. I was delirious during the run. I ran bare-chested as I left my tri top back in Virginia. Once again, I stumbled across the line in pain and exhaustion, with a wicked sunburn to boot.
I’ve certainly experienced my fair share of failures in the sport. But I fell in love with the ongoing learning process in triathlon. Twelve years of these learning experiences culminated in a Kona qualifying performance at Ironman Cozumel.
The 2012 season has been my best to date. I registered my first overall podium spot at Luray, narrowly missed the overall podium at Kinetic, and qualified for the 70.3 World Championships at Eagleman, which led to a breakthrough race in Vegas. Although my mistakes during 2012 weren’t as egregious as those I made as a rookie, I still had plenty of learning experiences from which to benefit during my last race of the season – the Ironman World Championships at Kona.
Lesson – Bring your family to your “A” race
I was on a mission to recruit family to join me in Kona. My brother, an avid surfer, was an easy sell. My father, on the other hand, had recently undergone surgery on his leg and the trip looked to be difficult to handle. I employed several tactics, ranging from an excited sales pitch (“Imagine how much FUN we’re going to have!!”) to the classic guilt trip (“I may not make it across the finish line without you there to cheer me on (insert pity face)”). Eventually he gave in. When he emailed me his flight itinerary to Kona, I was so overjoyed I cried testosterone-laden tears of manliness.
Lesson – Get to transition early on race day
During several races this year, I hit transition with just enough time to get my things organized and rush to the start line, which proved to be surprisingly tiring. On race morning in Kona, I woke up with plenty of time to eat my oatmeal, banana, and bagels, get my tires re-pumped, and socialize a bit with Kendra and Fabrice. I calmly meandered down to Kailua Pier, high-fived Chrissie Wellington, and made the 100m swim towards the starting line.
We were promised a big, booming cannon would start the race. Suddenly, Mike Reilly yelled something over the loudspeaker which sounded like “Mmmph! Mmmph! Mmmph!” through my swim cap. My neighbors exchanged confused looks with me. The front of the pack began swimming hard, so I figured he was telling us to go. I put my head into the water and began my second ironman.
The mass start included 1900 age groupers, each of whom were determined to be the first out of the water. Elbows, fists, and feet flew in every direction. The rhythm of my swim felt much like my rhythm on the dance floor – awkward. My form was shit and I was expending WAY too much energy to go forward.
As the pack thinned slightly, I found enough space to get down to business. Drafting was a cinch. Keeping my head down and elbows high, I found my zone.
Then we hit a bottleneck at the first turn buoy, forcing an abrupt stop. Nobody in the type-A swim parade was willing to make a wider turn than necessary. The swimmer on my feet crashed into me. Another traffic jam awaited me at the next turn, which was an exaggerated spike around a sailboat. Kona can take a lesson from Savageman – large inflatable turtles work better for turn buoys.
The swim back to shore was smooth and strong, with the only thing keeping me from completely going into zen-mode was the idiot drafting behind me, touching my feet with EVERY stroke, and occasionally raking fingers down my soles. I kicked like crazy, the international sign for “back off dude”, but this was largely ignored. I burned a match and surged ahead to the next pack. I felt strong but in control, with the foot molester eating my wake. I carried this pace back to the pier.
Swim Time: 1:06:59
Place after swim (Division/Overall): 114/646
Lesson – As bike metrics go, power is king
Despite some issues with the setup, my Quarq power meter was finally ready for primetime the week before Kona. Power is the most effective way to measure work in the saddle. During my 2012 races I used heart rate to dictate my pace, which meant certain variables – altitude, climate, and possibly biorhythms – could unduly impact exertion. With my technical ducks in a row, I was ready to bike with optimal efficiency and consistency. Or at least stay entertained reading the numbers.
The bike course is surprisingly barren. Perhaps the lack of distractions served my competitors well, as they were able to focus on forming draft packs. Thankfully I managed to avoid these clusters, since the draft marshals were diligently sending offenders to the penalty tent. Among the four penalty tents on the course, the first two were as PACKED as if Rudy Project was giving away more free helmets.
Lesson – Bike the second half stronger than the first
I actively backed off my target power by a few watts during my trek to the turn-around point in Hawi. During Eagleman I went out too hard on the bike and paid the price during the final 20 miles. Knowing the approach to Hawi would be uphill and into the wind, I prepared myself for a slow crawl with minimal power spikes. My patience was rewarded; upon reaching the turn around, my bike erupted like the Kīlauea volcano. I began passing some of the overzealous riders who had overtaken me at the beginning of the bike portion. I couldn’t stop smiling.
My smile began to ebb around mile 80, when the direction of the course shifted towards some less-than-friendly headwinds. These winds stayed with me for the remainder of the ride. Up until that point, a sub-5 hour bike split seemed possible. Now it was clearly out of reach as my pace dropped to 18 mph. Pace notwithstanding, my power was right on track with my target average power. As I rolled off the Queen K Highway, down Makala Blvd, and into transition, the toll I took during those last 30 miles was evident in my legs. Looking ahead to the run, I felt like the Apollo 13 recovery team; I was about to open the hatch, uncertain if there was life on the other side.
Bike Time: 5:10:40
Placement after Bike (Div/OA): 86/347
Lesson – Time Goals are the enemy
At Boston I held too closely to a pre-determined time goal. Instead of revising my goal based on adverse weather conditions, I locked into a pace that was detrimental to my overall race performance, and consequently I blew up. While I was determined not to let that happen again, I REALLY wanted to break 3 hours on the Kona marathon.
The first part of the run is a 10 mile out-and-back down Ali’i Drive. It was glorious. Fans were spread out throughout the entire, mostly flat, slightly shaded stretch of the road. My legs felt fantastic. I had to slow myself down after a surprisingly fast first mile of 6:36. I passed people by the dozen.
Some say the race doesn’t begin until mile 10. After clicking off the first 10 miles I hit Palani Road, which showcased the first real spike in elevation. My climb was strong, but my pace never recovered. I was starting to get gassed. Shit, did start the run too hard??
Lesson – Challenge your central governor
As I merged onto the Queen K Highway for the final 16 miles, the contrast with Ali’i was stark. No crowds. No scenery. No shade. With the sun and heat intensifying, it was gut-check time. Internal negotiations began. Hold pace until the next aid station, then slow down a bit… Pick it up until you pass the group ahead… Down another gel like your life depends on it…
The idea behind the central governor theory is that the mind regulates energy usage during exercise to prevent overexertion, and to ensure an emergency reserve of energy is maintained. From an evolutionary standpoint, this allowed our ancestors to flee predators in sudden bursts despite feeling otherwise depleted. Athletes can push their bodies to new limits if they can convince their minds to harness this reserve energy late in a race, despite the absence of any life-threatening danger.
By the halfway point of the marathon, I was deep into the hurt locker. The pain intensified as I reached the Natural Energy Lab, which is surrounded by lava fields and solar panels. The road temperatures in the afternoon normally reach the 100s. If the big island was a frying pan, the stovetop burner was just set to “HI”. I played every mind game in the book to override the central governor. My rational approach: I don’t have to slow down, there’s still energy in the tank. My imaginary approach: The lava is chasing you – run for your life!
Exiting the Energy Lab, I continued to pass people. One person particularly stood out – a DC-area tri-stud who many predicted would podium this race. This dude crushed me in several races this year. He was walking. I was not. Though I had no business passing him, I gratefully accepted the opportunity. With my spirits raised, I embarked on the straight shot back to the finish line.
Upon reaching mile 22, my left calf began to seize up with a wicked cramp. I downed my first salt tablet in over an hour. My pace took a hit, but by mile 24 I was in the clear.
As if a bolt of lightning hit me, I took off. I had a renewed sense of determination. The cramps were gone, the terrain is downhill the rest of the way, and for Pete’s sake my brother and father were waiting for me! Though I experienced a new level of hurt, the pull of the finish line was too strong. I passed two guys on Palani. Another few people on Kuakini. Turning the corner to Ali’i, I passed two more.
Lesson – Be prepared to finish strong
I lost finish line sprints at three races this year – the Capitol Hill 10K, Kinetic, and Eagleman. With a quarter mile to go at Kona, I decided to sprint to the line regardless, even if nobody challenged me. 30 meters ahead, one more competitor was holding the Panamanian flag high above his head and soaking in the cheers, while taking his time in the finisher’s chute. While Kona protocol may dictate that you should respect someone’s finish line processional, I had no desire to ease off the gas pedal. When I passed him with 10m to go, he was clearly surprised. But he wasn’t going down without a fight. With fists clinched and flag by his side, he charged. I responded with every last bit of energy I had.
Run Time: 3:05:52
Final Time: 9:29:42
Final Placement: 17th M35-39 Age Group, 65th overall amateur, 99th overall male (including pros)
I wanted to collapse. The finish line catchers immediately surrounded me. I asked them if they would let me collapse. Refusing my request, they took me to the medical tent for a sprite and some chicken broth.
Checking the results, I learned that FOUR of the people I passed during that final surge were in my age group. As for my friend at the finish line, I edged him by a second. US-Panamanian relations may have plummeted as a result.
My Dad and bro joined me outside the med tent. We spent the rest of the day walking (in my case, shuffling) around Ali’i Drive, eating pizza, and enjoying Mike Reilly’s animated screaming at the finish line.
Lesson – Our success comes from respecting our roots, taking value in what we have learned, and embracing our journey
Aa Na Maka O Na Aa, the theme of Kona 2012, means “the sparkling eyes of my roots”. How fitting that my dad and brother, two of the most influential people in my life, joined me on the big island. Their presence during this week, and particularly on race day, meant the world to me. They cheered for me all day, took pictures, yelled out my placement, and took my stinky belongings up to the hotel room while I was in the med tent. Throughout the week they made sure I was fed, rested, and entertained. Kona was not my race; it was OURS. Sharing this success with my “roots” couldn’t be sweeter.
Mahalos are in order for:
- Ignite Endurance – My teammates and training peeps who inspire me, push me to new limits, and make triathlon life so much fun.
- Tri360 – The best triathlon shop around. They provide me with a ton of support, including a Quarq installation on short notice and bike troubleshooting the day before my Kona flight.
- Kate, Nelson, and the rest of Team Strike Out MS for letting me race for a terrific cause. The time and energy you put into raising funds and awareness for MS research is truly inspiring. I am honored and humbled to have raced in the SOMS kit this year.
- Coach Eric – Four months of guidance have reaped huge results. I cannot say enough about how well he prepared me for this race. Plus, a big congrats for getting hitched this weekend!
- Cervelo – The Cervelo tent hooked me up with a free tune-up, where Jason the mechanic spent an hour changing my shifter cables, adjusting my brakes, and cleaning a season’s worth of dirt off my frame. Their services made a big difference for me on race day.
- Finally, a HUGE mahalo to everyone for the kind remarks over Facebook, Twitter, email, text, in person, and through any other medium!! The amount of love I’ve received is both humbling and at times overwhelming. I feel extremely fortunate to be surrounded by so many supportive and caring people.
Finally, a look at the numbers, for all you data geeks:
Summary Bike Metrics:
Run Heart Rate – notice the spike at the end:
There was madness in any direction, at any hour. You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. -Raoul Duke, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
From the moment I arrived in Henderson, Nevada, everything screamed triathlon. Compression socks everywhere. Race gear from every Ironman race on earth. Disc wheels. Aero helmets. You name it. The race competitors were models of fitness. Thirty of them could easily fit into the small hotel elevator without exceeding the weight limit. Even my roommates were rehearsing their Cirque Du Soleil moves in their spare time.
This year marked my first qualification for the 70.3 World Championships. At the Eagleman 70.3 in June, I finished 9thin my age group. Faster competitors grabbed two of two slots allocated my age group, but as Lady Luck would have it, an unclaimed slot from another AG found its way into my hands. I felt fortunate to even be standing on the starting line. Well, in this case, treading water…
So unless we intend to do this job in Reno, we’re in Barney… Barney Rubble…Trouble! -Basher, Ocean’s Eleven
Swim Time: 33:34
Swim Rank (Age Group/Overall): 96/697
I was in Barney from the moment the race began. I left a critical piece of equipment back home in Alexandria – my Zoot swim skin. Of the 1800 participants, I was one of maybe five who would be swimming in a race kit ONLY. The wetsuit I packed was of no use in the bathwater of Lake Las Vegas. Swimming is my weakest leg, so I need to use every advantage available. I rolled snake eyes when I was hoping for a seven.
The lead pack took off like a pod of dolphins. I took off like a sea slug. Making the best of the situation, I found a pair of feet well-suited for drafting. As I picked up steam, I dropped them for another pair. Looping around the turn buoys, I broke off once again from my drafting pack, finding myself largely surrounded by the yellow and red caps from the waves before me.
At this point I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, the lead pack was right in front of me. Wishful thinking, I would later realize. The dolphins were several minutes ahead and the course was feeling a tad long. I kept chugging along, increasing my speed as I went, and sprinted the last 200m into the swim exit. The first transition marked open season for dolphin hunting. Onto the bike!
Casino Dealer: 5.
Austin Powers: I’ll stay.
Casino Dealer: I suggest you hit, sir.
Austin Powers: I also like to live dangerously.
Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery
Bike Time: 2:34:17
Bike Rank (Age Group/Overall): 40/216
The bike course was among the most beautiful and interesting of any race I’ve competed in. It takes you along the edge of Lake Mead National Park, with the lake to one side and desert landscape straight out of a Roadrunner cartoon on the other.
The plan was to hold back initially, then kick it up a notch at the mile 23 turnaround. This was a big test for my ego, as several dudes from my age group flew past me. Like the hapless coyote, their ACME rockets would eventually sputter off a large cliff. Patience, roadrunner.
My legs were itchin’ to hammer. As I finally reached the turnaround, I gave myself the green light. I accelerated to a “comfortably uncomfortable” heart rate. I saw Caroline and Mel, both screaming something at me, which I took as words of encouragement. My spirits were high yet the elements demanded attention. As the blazing Nevada sun seared my skin and the desert air gave me cottonmouth, a few things occurred to me during this stretch:
- My rate of hydration is far outpacing my bladder. I’ve been drinking like a fish and no urge to pee whatsoever. Wow, this is a dry climate!
- Got to keep my awesome Zoot arm coolers wet because Sweet Moses it’s dry out here!
- They should pass out chap stick at the aid stations. Did I mention it’s quite dry?
- I just dumped a full bottle of water all over my body and it has already evaporated. Holy Buddha, it’s dry in this joint!
During the course of the ride, I blew by many of the dolphins and coyotes who left me for roadkill earlier in the race. In total, I managed to pass 53 people from my age group. I left T2 in 43rd place. Meep meep!
Because the house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes. The house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet and you bet big, then you take the house. -Danny Ocean, Ocean’s Eleven
Run Time: 1:23:17
Run Rank (Age Group/Overall): 1/18
I knew it from the second my Newtons hit the pavement. This would be my run. The house was about to go down!
The run is a three-loop course through a Henderson neighborhood.. Not great in terms of aesthetics, but it suited me well: hot, unshaded, and hilly.
Holding back my pace on the first loop, my stride felt fluid and effortless. I took every cup that was handed to me. I dumped ice down my pants. I learned how refreshing icy balls feel in 90+ degree temps. I hit pleasantly consistent miles splits, just the way I’d hoped. No nutritional issues, no cramping, no hitting the wall.
I passed people by the dozens. I left more coyotes and dolphins in my wake. In the course of the run, I passed 37 people from my age group and over 200 people in all.
Another competitor challenged me near the finish line. I found my extra gear, and dropped him with ease. I had the finish line to myself. I nailed this race.
While happy with my finish time of 4:36:21, I was supremely stoked with the run. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I posted the fastest amateur run split, outran all the female pros, and all but 17 of the male pros. While on the surface this gives me an ego boost, I remind myself that many competitors, amateurs and pros alike, suffered from cramps and heat-related maladies. In less extreme conditions, I might not have outran so many folks. I thank the sauna-fest at Boston for teaching me how to thrive in the heat.
Jack Singer: Do you know what a straight flush is? It’s like… unbeatable.
Betsy: “Like unbeatable” is not unbeatable.
Honeymoon in Vegas
The preliminary results were taped to the side of the info tent. Scanning for my name, my jaw dropped. Under age group place, the number “5” appeared. Podium awards went five deep. Did I manage to podium in the 70.3 World Freakin’ Championships after barely qualifying???
We started the celebration that night at the Bellagio with a few fountain shows. Later, Mel, Joe, and Caroline joined me, Fabrice, Dina, Ken, and Ken’s family for dinner and drinks. Lately, my version of “drinks” has consisted of plain water and water with Nuun. And though at the time I blamed peer pressure, it didn’t take much of it before I threw down a tequila shot. After that kind of race, one ounce thoroughly rocked my world.
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Except for herpes. That shit’ll come back with you. -Sid Garner, The Hangover
As it turned out, my winning poker hand blew up on the river card. Checking the age group standings one last time that night, I discovered the updated results put me in 6th place. No podium. No award. While results sometimes change before they are finalized, this usually does not occur so late after a race, or with such dramatic consequences.
I sighed, but had no complaints. Prior to this weekend, I hadn’t even considered a podium spot as a race goal. I executed my plan to near perfection, aside from the swim skin mishap. I spent a great weekend with friends both new and old. I had an amazing experience on one of triathlon’s biggest stages, meeting great people and absorbing the breathtaking scenery. In summary, I walked away from the dealer’s table with a larger stack of chips than when I started. That’s all I could ask for.
Many, many thanks go out to the people who made this weekend what it was. In no particular order:
- My Ignite Endurance team for being awesome training partners and friends, who push me to new limits.
- Tri360 for fulfilling all my nutrition and equipment needs since joining forces with Ignite. Tri360 has a terrific approach to serving the DC triathlon community, and I look forward to a long, successful partnership. Kate, Blaine, and Katie have been super helpful and supportive of Ignite. And Mike the mechanic rocks! (not to be confused with Mike + the Mechanics, but they also rock)
- Fabrice, Ken, and Dina for letting a complete stranger crash with them for a weekend. What was originally “just another race trip” turned into a great experience. Fabrice, I look forward to reuniting in Kona, and Dina and Ken, good luck on your Cirque Du Soleil tryouts!
- The pros for being so accessible before, during, and after the race. While they perform like freaks of nature, their attitudes are down-to-earth and friendly. This is particularly true of Jesse Thomas, whom I had the pleasure to talk with one-on-one for several minutes after the race.
- Coach Eric for helping me achieve performance levels I previously thought were unattainable. Your thoughtful training plans, killer workouts, timely feedback, and brilliant race strategies have made a huge difference in the few months I’ve worked with you. I can’t wait to see where we go from here!
- Finally, thanks to everyone who reached out to me via Facebook, text, and email with all the kind notes! Each one means a lot to me. Thank you very much for the love!
Mahi: Hey, always remember, E hoopuka i na olelo maikai wale no mai kau waha-aku. It means always have the good words come out of your mouth.
Jack Singer: That just doesn’t help me at all. But I appreciate the thought.
Mahi: Aloha brudda!
Honeymoon in Vegas
Upon arriving at PDX for my return flight following Rev3 Portland, I was confronted with the usual barrage of questions as the gentleman at curbside check-in of United noticed my bike bag.
Gentleman at curbside: “What’s in your bag?”
Me: “It’s framing equipment, sir.”
“Is that a bike?”
“It’s framing equipment.”
“That’s oversized luggage – we can’t take it here. “
“But I’ve flown with it as standard luggage and it fits through all the carousels…”
“Sorry, but you’ll have to check it in at the counter. Next!”
I proceed inside to wait in the uncomfortably long line that meandered toward the counter. The lady directing people into the appropriate lines sized me up and subjected me to the same interrogation.
“It’s framing equipment,“ I keep responding. She eventually relented.
Surprisingly, the lady behind the counter printed out my baggage ticket (which I prepaid with a standard luggage fee) and requested that I drop off my bag in the oversize line. She charged no additional fees and had already looped the ticket onto the bag handle; I was in the clear! Or so I thought.
The oversize handler for United took particular interest in my bag. “Is that a bike?” “It’s framing equipment” I said for the 1000th time. With a puzzled look, he asked “what kind of framing equipment?”
What I wanted to say: What is this, twenty questions? Just take my bag, assface!
What I really said: “It’s just framing equipment. Thank you!” Then hurry off before he can pester me with another question.
Oversize THIS, United!
This scene is all too common when I fly with my bike nowadays. Airlines charge astronomical bike fees that sometimes would make it more economical to purchase a separate passenger ticket for your trusty steed. With bike fees reaching $200 one way, and bicycle transport services charging $350 at most races, I began looking for more cost-effective ways to travel with my bike. In my search, I discovered this post by DC Rainmaker is filled with tons of useful information on how to fly with a bike and avoid the ridiculous fees. I have relied on his methods religiously for both packing and checking-in.
The only problem with this approach, however, is that airlines are starting to get anal about their general oversize fees*, which are often worse than bike fees. On the flight from DCA to Portland, I got nailed with an oversize charge of $125**. The man at United’s counter wasn’t about to let my “framing equipment” go through without collecting something in additional fees. It’s definitely a crapshoot at the airline counter; some days you’ll get the lackadaisical, just-punching-the-time-clock counter rep who will let it slide, and other days you get Barney Fife. Having experienced enough of the latter, I started to look for different options.
The days of simply choosing the cheapest round-trip tickets are gone. Bike and oversize fees change the game. The sum total of bike fee + airfare is the new bottom line. I’m even willing to shell out a few extra bucks beyond the bottom line to support an airline with fair bike fees, just on principle. So which airlines show bikers the most love?
|Airline||Bike Fee||Oversize Fee|
|Airline||Bike Fee||Oversize Fee|
|Airline||Bike Fee||Oversize Fee|
A few notes beyond the numbers:
- In nearly every case, the bike fee trumps the oversize fee. When flying one of the good airlines, be loud and proud of the bike in your bag. “Yes, there is a goddamn bike in here, good sir, and I intend to ride the shit out of it!”
- Most airlines will charge an “overweight” fee if your bike bag exceeds 50 lbs. This shouldn’t be an issue unless you ride an old school steel-framed tank-bike.
- Delta Airlines has a policy that allows you to fly with Christmas trees. Enough people have flown with trees that Delta dedicated a section of their policy to address this. If you can pack your evergreen to stay under the oversize limits, xmas trees fly cheaper than bikes. How’s that for ashes in your stocking?
The Final Frontier
Clearly, Frontier is hands-down the most bike-friendly airline. I understand many of their executives are avid cyclists who look out for their own. Consequently, I plan to fly with Frontier whenever possible, and you should too.
My bike will join me on three flights over the next three months: to San Francisco in August (Mt. Tam Century), to Vegas in September (70.3 WC’s), and to Kona in October. SF is a JetBlue flight, and Vegas is Frontier. I look forward to supporting these progressive airlines. To get to Kona, unfortunately, I have to go through American, United, or US Airways, so there will be one more “framing equipment” exercise in my future.
*Every airline defines “oversize” as exceeding 62 inches when adding a bag’s height + width + depth. The laws of physics prevent most bikes from fitting into a package of those dimensions.
**United charged me the $125 oversize fee in addition to the $20 I had prepaid online for standard luggage. They clearly don’t have a problem fleecing their customers. Many of the other airlines have similar policies.
Since Revolution3 (aka Rev3) came onto the scene to challenge WTC’s dominance of the triathlon market, I’ve been anxious to try one of their races. Two weeks ago I participated in Rev3 Portland to see what all the hype was about. Did I discover anything unique about Rev3 races? Let me count the ways…
Flexible registration policy
Since most triathlons fill several months in advance, one has to register early with the hope they will be healthy and available come race day. I registered for this event during the winter to take advantage of early bird pricing, but did so knowing I could withdraw for ANY reason, while receiving full credit to another Rev3 race. Taking notes WTC?
Accessibility to pros
The $50K prize purse drew several big name pros to the City of Roses, which included Meredith Kessler, Angela Naeth, Jordan Rapp (I can hear my non-triathlon friends thinking “Who the fuck are those people?”), Justin-Bieber-faced Jesse Thomas, and Richie Cunningham (no, not Ron Howard’s character, although Hunter uttered “Ayyyyy Cunningham!” in his best Fonzie voice every time we heard his name). Nearly 60 total pros made the trip to Portland. The day before the race, Rev3 organized a “Pro Meet and Greet”, where amateurs and pros mingled in a casual setting, to discuss training, nutrition, race strategies, or life in general as a triathlete.
I’m not big on swag, but Rev3 gets points for originality. Shampoo and conditioner, long sleeve T, visor, and best of all, BlueSeventy goggles!
Rumor has it Rev3 likes to make their courses challenging, and Portland was no exception. Even the swim had its own unique challenge. My wave of 150 type-A triathletes began by running off the beach and sprinting towards the first buoy 100m away, where a 90 degree turn awaited. This created an intense bottleneck of overzealous yahoos and hardcore swimmers. The beatings I received at that turn were proportionate to most of my rugby matches.
The highly technical bike course included steep climbs, tricky descents, and hairpin turns. Nearly all of this climbing was concentrated in the first 18 miles, with a 5 mile stretch of straight uphill. Say hello to Savageman’s little brother. Also like Savageman, many parts of the course are breathtakingly beautiful. I would gladly bike this course again in a more casual setting with camera in tow.
The run course involved an out-and-back through roads and bike paths that run along the Columbia River. Like Eagleman the course is not shaded, and Portland’s course is a little hillier. To rival Eagleman even further, the Portland weather system decided to up the ante from its normally moderate temperature to 94 degrees! I was fortunate enough to spot the lead pros as they made their way back to the finish line while I started running. They looked miserable. As we crossed paths, Meredith Kessler managed to give me a courtesy smile when I offered words of encouragement, but clearly she was deep in the hurt locker.
The best part of this race was seeing Hunter, Keri, Journey and Jonah cheer me on. At most races, they would have to find ways to kill time for several hours on end between the 5 second windows they see me on the course. Rev3 goes out of their way to make their races spectator-friendly. In Portland, they had a “Little Rev Adventure Race” the day before the race, and a “KidZone” during the race, which consisted of a giant inflatable castle thingy and other cool activities. The expo tents stayed open throughout the race, which meant Keri was able to take advantage of the NormaTec compression pumps while I was sweltering on the run course.
Of course, Hunter and I relished in these once I finished.
Cool age group prizes
The competition at Rev3 isn’t quite as intense as the m-dot races, however some seriously legit age-groupers made their way to Portland. Fortunately, with my 7th place overall finish I was able to snag 2nd place in my age group. The prizes I received included a medal that envelopes my finishers medal, a race belt, and a gift certificate to the Rev3 store. Unfortunately, the certificate didn’t quite cover a Garmin Forerunner 910, so instead I settled on bike tape.
Seriously, who DOESN’T want a burrito after a long day of triathloning? Rev3 and Qdoba teamed up to make it happen.
From start to finish and everything surrounding, Rev3 provided a top-notch experience. They go the extra mile to address athletes’ needs where other races fall short. They turn an otherwise athlete-centric event into a family-friendly affair. They create an atmosphere that is welcoming, generous, and exciting. Rev3 represents everything that is good about triathlon – competitive yet inclusive, challenging yet exhilarating, and extremely supportive.
Thinking about entering a Rev3 race? Mr. Schwarzenegger says it all:
The Mile 19 sign might as well have been a giant middle finger. I still have over 7 miles to go and I haven’t even reached Heartbreak Hill. My pace slows to a steady walk, and then I stop. My sweaty hands drop to the smoldering pavement of the first Newton Hill. I assume a downward dog pose on the side of the course. Sweat from my forehead sizzles on the asphalt. A steady beat of footsteps drum past my one-man Bikram studio. The crowd is roaring, yet it fails to inspire my legs into motion. I want to collapse into a shaded place… a car… maybe an ambulance?… better yet, a stretch limo! Fuck it, anything with AC will do. So long as it has wheels and will take me back to Boston. Because my legs are dead. Absolutely, unequivocally, dead.
On the heels of the Shamrock Marathon in March 2011, I had high expectations for my next 26.2. At Shamrock I posted a marathon PR in which I beat my goal time of 3 hours and simultaneously qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2012. I began my Boston training in January. Before taking a single stride, I established a 2:45 time goal. This seemed ambitious yet reasonable. The pace calculators validated my goal based on my 5K and 10K PRs.
Once I started training at race pace, the difficulty of this goal became immediately apparent. While I was comfortably cranking out 6:52 minute miles the previous year, 6:18s challenged every fiber of my being. Initially, mixing in goal pace miles halfway through my long runs led to disaster. On more than one occasion I had to do a “walk of shame” back home after blowing up during a long run. At times I would question if I should scale back the goal to something I could more confidently hit. I finally reasoned this is a good opportunity to set a risky goal, since the Boston course is mostly downhill. Plus, the legend of Johnny Kelley inspired me to go big.
Leading up to race day, news of the impending heat wave buzzed all over Boston. Temps were set to climb into the high 80s. The Boston Athletic Association sent participants a series of heat advisory warnings, escalating from “these are the precautions you take in a hot race…” to “DO NOT RACE THIS YEAR UNLESS YOU ARE AN ELITE MARATHONER!” They offered a deferral entry for anyone opting to race in 2013. I thought that would be a pretty lame way to go. Isn’t the point of a race to test oneself and deal with adversity?
I decided to stay the course. Though performance can decline in hot weather, I remembered all those days as a kid I would play basketball outdoors, all day, in stifling July heat. Surely that toughened me up enough to run a few hours on a hotter-than-average spring day without a noticeable impact? Right??
Stepping off the bus in Hopkinton, Mass, I felt the first waves of heat. Walking through athlete’s village was an exercise in tent hopping. Sunlight was the enemy. Approaching the start line, roughly a mile walk through Hopkinton, my body was already covered in sweat.
The gun went off and I quickly settled into my goal pace. My plan was to start nice and easy, carry that through the first half, carefully attack the Newton hills, then go for broke in the final 5 miles. Too winded after only four miles, I feared I would need to modify my plan. By mile 6, I knew this wouldn’t be the kick-ass race I had envisioned. I backed off to avoid spontaneous combustion. The field collectively slowed; runners all around me started to pull up, having similarly underestimated the elements.
“That’s okay,” I reasoned. “Just scale back to 6:40s.” My decision provided temporary relief, but I was still breathing too hard. It felt like a track workout. I needed a new plan. 2:45 was out of the question. A PR was doubtful.
I held steady at 7:00 miles, a pace that had served for months as my comfortable training pace. “Run at the moderate pace, soak in the atmosphere, and have fun with it.” That became my new approach. I slowed down and smiled. I conversed with the people around me. I high-fived the Wellesley girls.
In the Deep, Dark Hole
After the halfway point, my “comfortable” pace was no longer. My heart rate had spiked beyond comprehension. My legs felt okay, but I was just… exhausted. Every breath of muggy, humid air reminded me of the oxygen deficit I encountered hiking through the Salkantay Pass at 16,000 feet of elevation. I wanted a nap. I hadn’t even encountered the hills yet and I was completely spent.
Then I did something that I never thought I would do. I walked.
“Don’t walk you putz. Keep going. What the hell is wrong with you?” I lumbered forward into my stride, but it was a far cry from where I started. Survival was my new goal. Even “fun running” was unattainable. Each aid station greeted me with water, sometimes cool, sometimes boiling hot from sitting in the sun. I would routinely douse my body. Running after each station became increasingly difficult.
I hated what I was doing. I hated myself. I felt like I was giving up. The body just wouldn’t cooperate. It seemed like hundreds of people passed me. “Why can’t I just do what they’re doing?”
I stopped for maybe the 10th time. I was defeated. I couldn’t stop thinking about how embarrassing it was to walk. Despite talking up my 2:45 goal to just about everyone, I faced the possibility of returning home with a time over 4 hours. The shame cycle continued. Then I heard from my left, “Run!” Another voice joined him: “Run!” I looked over to find a bunch of young men and women in Boston College apparel. They were focused on me. In unison, the group burst into a chant “RUN, RUN, RUN, RUN, RUN…” They didn’t care what my goal was. They didn’t care that I wasn’t leading the pack. They weren’t judging. Nobody was. Except for me.
I went back hard into my stride. The BC students roared. I gave them a smile and thumbs up. Though the Newton hills wielded damage, I was ready to strike back in the last 5 miles. My pace settled back into the low 7’s. Though I moved slower than my original goal pace, I was happily meeting my revised goal. I pushed through the mounting pain in my legs until hitting Boylston street. The insane crowds brought me in the rest of the way. The finishing clock indicated a respectable 3:13:00. I was happy to stop running.
Regrouping with my friends afterwards, it appeared nobody had the race they wanted. The day just wasn’t meant for PRs. Even the pros were 10 minutes off the lead times from the previous year. This ordeal taught me to be flexible with my time goals, which may require on the spot modifications. The elements make a difference, and they should be respected. Despite the unfavorable conditions, the overall experience at Boston was fascinating. I hope to return before too long, only next time I would like to execute a race plan that includes consistent running and fewer downward dogs.
After a decade of casual competition in triathlons, I needed something new. I wanted to train and race with a team. I wanted to share my triathlon knowledge with others and learn from them in turn. Enter Team Z. As a member of this Arlington-based triathlon club, I gained knowledge, inspiration, and camaraderie from my 400 teammates. Teammates who, as it would turn out, were particularly drawn towards the Ironman distance.
Hearing the word “Ironman” would often trigger this response through my inner-monologue: Aren’t Ironman races for the nutjobs who have too much time on their hands and an insufferable thirst for pain? No way in hell I’d join that idiot parade. Sure, I’ve dabbled in a few half IMs, but I cannot imagine what it would be like to go immediately back to the swim start and do the whole race over again. No. Freaking. Way. Have fun, nutjobs!
I found a core group within Team Z with whom I would regularly ride and run. I set a PR on my third marathon. Track workouts were no longer a solitary suffer session, but a group one! Triathlon life was good. But something was missing. I heard a lot of buzz about this Ironman thing. Many of my teammates were training for IM Wisconsin in September, and virtually everyone else had already earned their M-dot. Our team leader Ed Zerkle spoke incessantly about the Team Z IM experience, using phrases like “sick” and “off the hook”, which presumably meant good. Call it peer pressure, call it curiosity, call it a lack of foresight, but I was intrigued. Maybe I could do this IM thing. I had to find out. The sheer volume of training was intimidating, but dying an IM virgin scared me more. I made my decision. I would become an Ironman.
Sadly, registration for the team-selected IM Wisconsin had long since closed. Though I could have registered for other races in 2010, I wanted to race my first IM alongside my teammates. It seemed likely I would have to wait a whole year to get my IM on. Maybe this would work out for the best; after all, waiting would buy me time to talk myself out of this potentially fatal decision!
The team chose Ironman Cozumel as their marquee race in 2011. After filling in my personal information on the registration screen, I sat in front of my computer paralyzed. The “submit” button taunted me. Last chance – do I really want to do this? Something inside of me pulled the trigger. And so began my IM journey.
2011 brought a sub 3-hour marathon, an Olympic-distance PR at USAT Nationals, a podium finish at USAT Long Course Worlds, and a victory over the Westernport Wall at the Savageman Triathlon, a steep climb even Dave Scott could not conquer. A year of successful races suggested that if I executed my race plan perfectly, qualifying for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii was within my reach.
My training felt strong and my body even stronger. Doubt and fear had long since departed. I fine-tuned my nutrition and pacing plans. I designed a killer race strategy. I had the support of my team and lovely sherpa, Kendra Goffredo. Ironman Cozumel was going to be MY race.
All the odds and ends had been resolved. The bike was in perfect working order and dutifully waiting in the transition area. My body was marked… twice. Run, bike, and dry clothes bags sat in their appropriate locations. And most importantly, no strange Mexican water-borne parasites had found their way to my stomach. I reflected on this good fortune as a took a sip of Gatorade from a large cooler in the pre-race tent. Where exactly did they get the water to fill up this cooler? Uh oh.
Arm circles and other dynamic stretches occupied the remaining minutes before race start. I climbed on a large rock on the beach to survey the pros start. Curiously, they did not reach the first turn buoy in the time I would expect. The race announcer commented on the particularly strong ocean current. Before activating the panic alarm, I reminded myself of the advice my friend and fellow triathlete Mike Piet once told me: “When the conditions are rough, let that be everyone else’s problem and not yours.” And so I did.
Into the water with 2300 of my best friends I went. One cannot help but be positive and happy when swimming in teal blue, crystal clear, 80 degree ocean water. Using the final minutes before the starting gun for silent meditation, I visualized an exceptional race day. I couldn’t wait to bike alongside a pristine beach, hammering in the sun. I couldn’t wait to push myself in the late miles of the run. And I couldn’t wait to spend an hour in this lovely water. 60 seconds until start… 30… 10…
Swimming in the midst of 2300 people is daunting in all the ways one would expect. One has little personal space and receives an occasional punch in the head. Yet this worked for me. It reminded me of my days playing rugby. I would sprint to the scrum, get a little beat up, but also deliver a few beatings along the way. Even when the pack thinned out, I was constantly around people. Drafting was a breeze.
I could have sworn only 2 minutes passed before reaching the first turn buoy, though in reality it was closer to 15. Time was FLYING. I had dialed in my rhythm, only to be broken when occasionally fighting off another swimmer. Before I knew it, I had arrived at the stairs leading out of the water and into the first transition area. My first ever 2.4 mile swim was in the books. And right on schedule.
Goal Swim Time: 58:00
Actual Swim Time: 59:16
High winds greeted me as I scurried onto the bike course. Repeating Mike’s mantra, I became friends with the wind. The initial gust propelled me towards the south side of the island with a speed that was both fast and furious. Exercising caution, I slowed down closer to my target pace, despite my eagerness to put the hammer down. My focus: soft pedal, stay aero, take in calories. The latter proved to be the most difficult. My stomach simply would not accept anything more solid than gels. The Clif Bars and Shot Blocks in my bento box became dead weight. At each aid station, the same routine ensued: take a water bottle, douse my whole body (which felt like it was on fire from the Cozumel sun), drink a few swigs, and dump it. Occasionally I would start taking in Gatorade bottles as well when my Perpetuum ran out. I had originally planned to minimize my water intake so as not to flush the sodium out of my system, but eventually it became clear that the humidity would dehydrate me a lot quicker if I didn’t start chugging the H2O. So I adapted the plan.
The first loop of the bike, like the first leg of the swim, passed in the blink of an eye. Cruising into town at the end of the loop, the entire island came out to meet me. The streets were PACKED. The good people of Cozumel effectively closed down their city for the race, then came out to support us in the blazing hot sun. All day. One couldn’t help but to put on a show of speed as an expression of gratitude. The energy was infectious.
During the second and third loops, my legs suggested that my “soft pedaling” at the beginning perhaps wasn’t that soft. As the day went on, I found myself working harder to maintain my target speed. To make matters worse, my left quad shot in pain whenever I stood out of the saddle. Using my root-cause analysis skills honed from years of consulting, I concluded that I should no longer stand up on the bike. Problem solved.
One unfortunate byproduct of the course design was the propensity for cyclists to illegally draft off one another. Periodically I noticed a few barnacles clinging to my rear wheel. How to lose them? I considered keeping up foreign relations (you know, the bird), delivering a wicked golden shower, but finally settled on a vicious glare followed by a head shake. This seemed to guilt the draft party into backing off.
My odometer reached 112 miles well before the second transition. The course appeared to be a tad long. Nonetheless I had maintained my target speed, and was thrilled to give the locals one more “flyby” before dismounting. A fistpump and some barbaric yawping might have been involved too.
Goal Bike Time: 5:00:00
Actual Bike Time: 5:05:49
Quickly downing a banana in transition, I set out to run a marathon. From my training, I knew it would take a few minutes to find my legs. Through the first 800 meters, I felt as though I could barely pick my feet off the pavement. To my astonishment, my Garmin showed a 7:30 pace per mile. This can’t be right. I feel SLOW. As my legs loosened up, I discovered my rhythm. My speed picked up considerably. I had to consciously back off to stay at a 7:15 pace. The first four miles felt like my easiest run of the year.
Mile 1: 7:16
Mile 2: 7:18
Mile 3: 7:07
Mile 4: 7:25
Then my body came back to earth. 7:15s felt like work. I slowed down a few seconds per mile. At the end of the 1st lap, my cumulative pace was 7:18. Waiting for me at the turnaround, Kendra told me simply to focus on my rhythm. The 20-man drumline helped me accomplish this, at least for a little bit, but my legs felt like a tire slowly leaking air. With each passing mile, it required more work to hold the pace of the previous one. I decided to stay conservative; I would hold the same level of effort, even if that meant slowing down. There was no sense in risking a blowup this early into the run.
Mile 5: 7:29
Mile 6: 7:16
Mile 7: 7:23
Mile 8: 7:33
During the first loop I began to see some of my other Z-mates running in the opposite direction. Ryan was far along, Seb was running fairly strong, Brian was holding a solid, steady pace, and Amanda was crushing her run. It was nice to see some familiar faces, and I tried to draw from their energy. Or at least slow down the leak.
Mile 9: 7:34
Mile 10: 7:51
Mile 11: 7:56
Mile 12: 7:47
Mile 13: 7:51
Halfway through the run, Mother Nature decided to make things interesting. Intense sunlight turned into a light sprinkle, which quickly expanded into a flash flood. Certain sections of road became obstacle courses, funneling runners onto the sidewalks. Raw sewage spewed out of manholes. Oddly, these conditions were a nice reprieve from the heat.
Mile 14: 7:50
Mile 15: 7:49
Mile 16: 7:58
Mile 17: 7:50
Beginning the third loop, Kendra ran with me for a few strides, shouting more words of encouragement. A momentary spike in energy followed. Then a small stitch decided to join me, resulting in my slowest running of the day. It’s okay, I’ve dealt with this before. Take small breaths in, deep ones out. Repeat. Work through it.
Mile 18: 8:21
Mile 19: 8:19
Mile 20: 8:06
Mile 21: 8:01
Ed greeted me at the turnaround of the 3rd loop. ”You’re in 9th. Just a few minutes out of 8th. Go chase ‘em down!” The stitch had subsided and I was ready to bring the run home with a bang. I pushed the next mile hard. The next one even harder. My muscles and lungs started to burn. Make this your 10K. I started passing people with the same ferocity as when I started the marathon. I stormed through puddles. I fed off people’s cheers. At mile 25 I saw Steve and Denis by the Tiki Tok. “One more mile, bitches!”
Mile 22: 7:47
Mile 23: 7:41
Mile 24: 7:54
Mile 25: 7:38
I ran the last mile on pure adrenaline. The crowd, drums, and noisemakers came together to propel my legs towards the finish. I had the finishers chute all to myself. Arm raises, fistpumps, screams, and maybe even a robot dance got me over the line. Holy shit, I’m an Ironman!!!
Mile 26: 7:13
Unable to find Kendra after crossing, I stumbled over to a random Cozumelian and gave him a sweaty embrace. My entire body completely tightened up. I stumbled to the massage tent leaning on two volunteers, each half of my height.
Goal Run time: 3:10:00
Actual Run Time: 3:22:17
9:32:59. 43rd overall finisher. 17th overall age grouper. 9th in M35-39 age group. All in all, I could not have asked for a better race.
I met up with Kendra after an hour-long massage. Eating, cheering, and more eating followed. Is there a more ideal post-race food than a burrito?
Kona or Bust
My 9th place finish in an age group with 7 expected Kona slots meant needing a break to land a ticket to the big island. The first break came the morning of the slot claiming session, when I learned 8 slots, not 7, had been allocated to my age group. All I needed was one slot to roll down. This might happen…
That afternoon, Kendra and I moseyed over to the slot allocation session in downtown Cozumel. Like many other aspects of the race, it was disorganized and chaotic. Eventually, the announcer instructed the automatic qualifiers to line up and claim their spot. Surveying the line that formed, I noticed a lot of dudes that looked my age. Perhaps my death glare would force a few of them to back out? I tried, to no avail.
Thirty minutes later, the line started to die down. Once all of the female qualifiers claimed their slots, only ONE female slot rolled down. CRAP. I started preparing myself for the possibility that Kona may not be in the cards for me today, but I positioned myself directly in front of the speaker to be certain I didn’t miss anything important.
I eavesdropped on the announcers’ conversation. “Here are the age groups that still have available slots,” said one to the other, while pointing to the slot roll down lists. And there it was – M35-39! I flagged down Kendra from across the room and gave her an enthusiastic thumbs up. She jumped in excitement. Next announcement: “Is Eduoardo Entraygues around to claim his slot?” Eduoardo was the lone hombre in my AG who hadn’t yet claimed his slot. I nervously scanned the room for someone pushing their way through the crowds to make his claim at the last possible second, leaving me with nothing. But this never happened. “The slot for male 35-39 will now roll down to Andrew Lip…”
“I’M HERE!” I practically shouted in front of her. Just like that, I punched my ticket. After my first Ironman, I had qualified for Kona!
Two weeks after finishing, I still remember little things that happened during the race. Somehow a ridiculously long and eventful day with a 9+ hour workout went by so fast, my mind is just now processing everything that happened. The whole experience was overwhelmingly positive. Even when things sucked, it was awesome. I’m already starting to think about training for my next IM, unsure if I can wait until the race in Kona next October. I now proudly consider myself an Ironman nutjob.