May 10, 2009
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pictures of the trip to New Orleans.
Race report for Ironman 70.3 New Orleans:
This had "classic" written all over it. A team road-trip in a rented utility van, from Wisconsin to New Orleans. A team that is really starting to come together. We certainly know each other well enough for the smack talk to start almost immediately. Although I cannot remember everything that was said, I'm sure I started it off somewhere about 1 minute into our 16 hour road trip. The stage was set.
It started off with Michelle, Robb and me in the huge white utility van. Robb was the designated packaging guy, direction guy, and all around cruise director. He is the absolute best director I had ever seen. He rivals my Grandmother in planning. My other van companion was the amazing Michelle. I have really gotten to be good friends with her, and love to talk smack. It's all about the race with Michelle and me. I start the talk and she is certainly game to chime in. When I first met her, I would come out on top of the races, but as of late she is getting stronger and stronger and as you will learn, she took it to me yet again at the race. For the record, I'm actually getting sick of her kicking me at the races. I'm also happy when any of my teammates have a good day, but I'm never going to let up. That goes with the rest of my teammates as well.
Our first few hours went fast. We picked up Chris in Illinois - the van was full with bikes, luggage and the all important triathlon gear. I have the most amazing respect for each and every member on our team, and Chris is no exception. This guy is amazing in each and every way. He is incredibly smart, funny and an amazing athlete. He is also one fun guy to have in a van on a road trip.
Robb continued his impeccable road-trip-direction while Chris started the rules of the trip. We learned of the rules when we hit dinner. Rule #1 for our trip is NO food-chains. In keeping with rule #1, we hit Chubby's BBQ in Hayti, MO. This was an amazing road-side diner. The pile of food that came out was awesome. I have never seen so much meet. Michelle was a bit grossed out by the place, but the guys loved it! If it had a romote control and a recliner, it would be named the Man Cave Galaxy. We snapped a few pics to show our friends and headed back on the road. Soon it was time for Rule #2. NO Sleeping. We all abided by the rules, well, all except for Michelle. Not sure how she got away with #2, but she did sleep. The rest of us? NO sleep all the way down and all the way back.
During the trip, we learned a lot about everyone in the van. As is usually the case, I was talking non-stop. I told all the classic Stu stories. Nothing earth shattering, but I love to talk, and they listened. I think they did. When I wasn't talking we learned about Robb's real job as engineer. He told us everything you ever wanted to know about highway design. It was actually very interesting. All I can say is this is the first time I got to spend a lot of time with Robb - he is a rock star in every way.
As we stopped at each consecutive gas station I was able to take off more and more clothing. Ahhhhh. Just like my college days taking the trip from Wisconsin to the University of South Florida, I was loving the added warmth. The time went fast with the few rules we had, and was happy to finally see Louisiana after midnight. We made great time, and rolled to our rented house about 3am. We had made it. It was warm and very windy. That should have been a sign of things to come.
We quickly made our way into the house and all went to sleep fairly quick. Now the fun began. Over the next 24 hours the rest of the team began to come in one by one. Those already in New Orleans made the way to Bourbon Street. I have been a few times, so it was not as big of a shock to me as it was to others. We ate and just toured the city with Robb at the helm. Over and over he showed his amazing abilities to guide the team.
On Friday we had a great day planned. The entire team (except Tracy and JP) had made it to New Orleans. We had a team interview with Desiree Ficker, Linsey Corbin, Heather Gollnick and Chris McDonald. We had an incredible time meeting and interviewing them. I cannot say enough about how professional and kind all these athletes were. I'm not sure how other sports could ever compare. This group was just amazing. Classy. Professional. Wickedly cool.
After the interviews, I was introduced to Charlie's family. I had met his wife before, but now was able to meet his children. Have you ever met a family where you "just know" that they are being rasied to perfection? These girls were so incredibly polite, and fun to chat with. I'm glad Charlie and his wife are leading such an awesome family. Charlie and Lisa were also able to lead us around New Orleans a bit and take us out to dinner. I love having a local being able to give you all the history.
After the interviews and meeting Charlie's family it was time to register. The process was smooth! Nothing surprising. As is always the case on vacations, everything revolves around the next meal. In keeping with Rule #1, we ate Cajun food again. I think we even had Gator and I won a dollar bet in "drinking" some sauce - I'm not sure why people ever bet me to do things like that! With my new dollar in hand it was time to swim in Lake Ponchatrin. The waves were AWESOME. The water was rough. You could barely see 5 feet in front of you. This is the type of water conditions I love. I train in lake water when warm enough, so I just love it. That is certainly an advantage for my training. I will always take lake training over pool swimming. Anyway, we took some pictures of the surf. I had a smile on my face the entire swim. I felt like Flipper. Bring it on. In reality, if conditions were like this on race day, they would have to cancel.
The day before the race we swam again. This time it was as smooth as a pool. I had a hard time thinking I was in the same place. It was like night and day. What a difference. The "locals" assured me the winds would bring calm lake conditions. BUMMER! I want the huge waves. Oh well. The great thing about Ironman and 70.3 racing is you get to check you bikes the day before. We took some needed team pictures with the entire team. Time to check in the bike and get to work.
We all woke on race day, with some warm temps and strong wind. Perfect! I was still hoping for big waves, but no such luck. The locals were right. Calm lakes but warm and windy. I was set. I had done the training as best I could for April 5th. I had been on my bike outside once in the past five months in Wisconsin. I was not worried as I had my trusty PowerTap to guide me all Winter long. I never missed a day of planned running outside. It has to be well below zero outside for me to miss a run. I had done this once before in Wildflower and things turned out OK.
Raceday started out well in the swim. I have done so much lake swimming that I have learned to swim straight and do my best to take the shortest path possible. The swim here was weird. At times I was only 30 feet off the shore. I had people yelling and cheering at me the entire way. It was a very uneventful swim. I felt surprisingly well. Great almost. The only eventful thing on the entire swim was when I hit a rock on the final turn. I later heard many others did the same.
I came out of the water in great shape. I really had not done a lot of swimming as I have been focusing more on my run. Coming into T1 I was in perfect shape. I had not thought about my wager with my team-mates, but upon jumping on my bike, I really thought I had done what I needed to do in the swim to win. More on the wager later.
I got out on the bike and just started to watch my PowerTap watts. The great thing about riding indoors the last several months is you know where you stand for power. I kept a close eye and felt great. I turned a quick corner and watched my FULL water bottle run down the slope and into the dark abbis. I made the decision that I had little chance of finding the bottle. Just continue on and things will be ok. Another 3 miles fly by and another bottle decides to take a ride on the road. It was like slow motion - the bottle flies in the air, slowly scrapes the road and spills its contents all over the road. Bottle #1 - gone. Bottle #2 - gone. Bottle #3, almost gone. Note to self. Buy new anti-bottle-launch holders! This is getting crazy.
My midset was still ok. Even though I do not like Gatorade near as much as my Nuun / CarboPro combination, I was ready to switch. I was now dry and hoping to see a station soon. It took awhile, but finally I saw it. As I came up, I was actually looking forward to some Gatorade. I came up on the first person. It was like a movie. In the deep baritone voice, "weeeerrrrreeeeeeeeee ouuuttttttttttttt offfff Gattttttooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrraaaaddddddeeeeeeee." And my response, still in the movie mode was "noooooooooooooooo." Now what? Why is it always the inaugural year that this happens? This is always a problem when you are in one of the very last waves to go off. With no Nuun, CarboPro or Gatorade, I was in trouble. Mile after mile went by. Surprisingly, I was feeling great. Not sure why, but I felt great. The 2nd and 3rd station went by still with no Gatorade and in fact, got one of the last water bottles on one station. At this point I was deserate. Like a mirage, I saw what looked like a tossed Gatorade on the side of the road. I stopped and picked up a quarter bottle. I was desperate and drank it. What else should I do????????
The ride back to New Orleans was dead into the wind. I was averaging 20 MPH until the last few miles. I still felt great and though I had weathered the storm. I road hard and at times was only going 15 to 16 MPH on the way in. I was happy to see T2 and thought I felt good. I quickly transitioned and was out on the road. The first 3 or so miles of the run were directly into the wind. I had a great few months of run training so I really felt good about the run. I was on pace to beat both Michelle and Robb. All I needed to do was have a decent run. In looking at the times we all posted I had been right. There was only one problem. I was done!
I was not feeling that bad, but have you even tried to run and nothing is moving? At one point I looked and was running a 10 min mile???????????? What was going on? I kept going, but my legs were not. In looking back I had committed the rookie sin. I had not taken hydration seriously. I think nutrition is important to all, but for me, its a matter of racing well and being on the edge of disaster. In my three Ironman races, I had totally failed on my nutrition plan twice. On my last Ironman I nailed my nutrition and had a great day. It was soooo bad that at the end of the race I was truly fantasizing about food. I literally got down on my hands and knees and begged a hotdog vendor for food. The actual race did not have any "salty" food to offer. Kinda strange, but true. This vendor must have thought I was just so pathetic that he gave in and donated the hotdog to me. It was the BEST hotdog I have ever had. It was amazing. Unfortetley, I was on the edge for several hours and finally started to feel better the next day. For many reasons I did not do well on my nutrition plan. In my thinking, nutrition is based on two things: electrolytes/liquid and calories. I use NUUN/CarboPro for this. Unfortunelty, in dropping my bottles, no Gatorade on the course, and no backup plan, I failed.
I did finish. I did have a blast, but I need to think back to my post and NEVER EVER forget nutrition again! Why do I always forget this. Please, never again.
In grading myself, I give myself a B- on the swim. I felt great and think I did well. I give myself a solid B on the bike. My Powertap keeps me honest, and in fact, that was the highest Power I have had for a 1/2 Ironman. I give myself an "I" (incomplete) for the run. It had nothing to do with run fitness. My poor run showing was from my nutrition plan. My Nutrition plan I give a solid D-. Why not an F? Hey - I made the trip! I deserve at least a passing grade.
The bottom line is I'm MORE DETERMINED than ever! Period. I will not go down without a fight. To me, triathlon is a life long sport. A sport that I can grow old with. I truly hope that I'm given good health so I can be that 70 year old guy that people cheer for. I will continue my quest to qualify for Kona and the Boston Marathon one day. My teammate Charlie has tossed the idea around to try for Boston this year. My fastest 1/2 Marathon is a 1:26. My fastest Marathon is a 3:42. There is a HUGE time gap in those. A 1:26 is a respectable time for a 1/2 marathon. I know I can do much better on the 3:42. As for Kona, I've done 3 Ironman races. I have not been even close to qualifying. I won't even be racing Ironman again until my children are in college. Five more years! After that, I might just have to put in my time until I finally can compete in my age group. If it takes until I'm 70, well, I'm ready to wait.
I want to thank my entire team again - Tracy, Sara, JP, Michelle, Charlie, Chris, Rob! I also want to thank our adopted teammates Steve and Sarah (you guys are the best ever!!!!!!!!!!)