A few days removed from the last triathlon of the season, I’ve had some time to not only delve into what I accomplished at the LeadmanTri EPIC 250 in Bend, OR this past saturday, but I’ve also reflected on what I’ve accomplished this season. Unfortunately (or, maybe fortunately?) for you, this is just the race report, so the ‘Season Reflection’ will have to wait 😉 Epic 250 was only the second long distance triathlon I’ve ever done, my first being Ironman Canada barely 4 weeks ago. To say I was recovered from Ironman Canada would be a lie, and I knew that EPIC was going to hurt. This is an account of how I entered the hurt locker, embraced the suck, and rode the pain train all the way to the finish line. Did I earn the coveted sub-9hr Big Buckle? Read on to find out.
|Packed TIGHT in the ‘FIT’|
First and foremost, I HAVE to throw thanks out to LeadmanTri and their title sponsor/organizer Lifetime Fitness. Not only did they put on a world class event, but they picked an absolutely fabulous locale to host it. Bend, Oregon, is a place of beauty; surrounded by endless mountains, curving and winding FRESHLY PAVED roads (with enormous bike lanes to boot,) I would go there for a summer training camp without even a HINT of hesitation. With all the hype surrounding the race, I believed there would be thousands of competitors racing! Walking through the transitions, it was reminiscent of an enormous International race venue, put together with such professionalism. That was, until we realized there were only approximately 450 people registered for the 250/125 events COMBINED! LeadmanTri ensured ALL the athletes (whether Pro or amateur,) got quite the SWAG-bag (Stuff-We-All-Get, so you know the lingo) at package pick-up. More things than I’ve ever gotten at a race!
|Some LONG HAUL snacks!|
|Filled with ‘race fuel’ and ready|
My travel companion was none other than the feisty ‘Tiger’ Rachel McBride, my Teammate who was racing EPIC as her first race since March. There was a huge mix-up on the bike course, due to some poorly marked turns and last minute course changes, that caused Rachel and a portion of the race field to make a wrong turn, ending in a DQ. To find out more about Rachel’s experience, check out her post HERE. We left EARLY thursday morning, with the hopes of making it to the Pro meeting that evening. Packed and rolling out just before dawn, we were outfitted with all the delicious snacks you could think of. The two days leading up to the race were fantastic, and although I was apprehensive about how fully recovered I was, I was excited for the last “Kick at the Can” of the season. Meeting all the Pro’s that I’ve seen at the races all year was great, catching up and shooting-the-shit with them about what’s been going on. I was stoked for race morning, and boy did it ever come early…….
|High-fiving bikes, off to T1|
|Bus riding excitement!|
The most exciting (in a nerve-racking way) event pre-race was definitely the bus ride from T2 to T1. It was a 60mile bus ride, and our slightly under-informed bus driver (God bless him for volunteering to be up around the same time most people go to BED on a saturday morning,) kept missing turns to the lake, causing a slight amount of panic. Inside, I wasn’t too worried, as at least half the pro field and the head race officials were riding the same bus. They ended up starting the race 15mins later to give us more prep time. I wasn’t complaining, it was DAMN cold!
|Waiting for me in T1|
Not having swam since wednesday, I was slightly nervous about how I would perform. But after a few strokes in the warm up, I was feeling perfect. The water was heralded as really cold pre-race, but after an initial cold forehead, I actually felt pretty comfortable. I snagged myself a good spot on the start line, near Olly Piggins; Olly and I had swam together during IMC, so I figured a great spot to be. The horn went off, and it was ON! I swam hard out, and found myself leading a few swimmers after the initial melee of flailing arms and kicking feet. I kept my spot until shortly after the turn around, when Olly (surprise surprise!) pulled in front of me, and I decided it would be a mighty fine place to cruise. We caught up to Thomas Gerlach and swam as a group to the finish. All I could think as I exited the water was how BLOODY cold it was!!!! Wetsuit stripped and running like I was on tacks, I made my way to the far end of T1 to my bike. Initially, I figured I was one of the last guys out of the water. WRONG!!!! Imagine my surprise when I came across the rack and saw Jordan Rapp’s bike (along with MOST of the other bikes) still hanging there!! I couldn’t bloody believe it!!! THe reason though, as I soon found out, was that they had gone into the heated change tent to damn-near put on FULL winter riding kit. Brilliant. Luck was on my side that I happened to have a few items there to put on, and as I struggled to get it all on, the other guys slowly streamed out onto the bike course. Finally geared up, I headed out for the longest ride I’ve ever managed (by FAR!)
It doesn’t matter HOW you cut it; 223kms on a bike is DAMN far! There’s no fooling yourself with this one, you have to be ready for the long haul. I froze my hands and feet off for the first 2 hours (making things difficult and painful,) but toughed it out. As I rolled through the first 30-40kms, I felt like mother nature was playing a practical joke on me: it was a BEAUTIFULLY clear morning, and the sun looked glorious. The evil joke, though, was that the sun JUST didn’t quite make it past the top of the trees, condemning us to the frigid shade and an added level of suffering (especially for someone like me, who prefers the temperature closer to 35C!) The hardest part of the whole ride was to slowly see guys pass me, and I felt powerless to do anything about it (aside from potentially throwing a Powerbar into their spokes; would be effective to slow them down, but that’s really not how I roll.)
|The ‘White Lightning’ Race Rig!!!|
**Biking is something I’ve learned just takes TIME; i.e. ‘Time on the Bike’ is what’ll make you stronger. I, being just a wee young lad, haven’t many years at all on a bike (about 5-6 years ago was the first time I ever placed my rather large, cushy tookus on a bike saddle.) As such, I have MANY MANY years of gains ahead of me. This is something I have to constantly remind myself of when things start to hurt and the ‘Big Dogs’ start to roll by me.**
The bike remained a rather uneventful event for me, aside from an exciting revelation; I figured out how to urinate off the bike WITHOUT GETTING IT ON MY LEG!!!!! Probably my proudest accomplishment of the day (naw, just kidding; second proudest,) it prevented my legs from freezing up in the icy cold morning. Warming up, I was able to focus more on the ride as the day went on. My nutrition on the bike went VERY well, something I’m very happy with. I had to adjust a few times, but that’s what makes the long course racing so exciting, is overcoming obstacles and troubleshooting. Later in the bike I could feel the effects of IMC in my legs, as it was a physical grind the last few hours. At the forefront of my mind were two targets:
– Go as hard as I can to try and get my BIG belt buckle (which felt like it was slowly slipping through my fingers, as the ride went on;)
– Ride ‘Faster than Fatty;’ a blogger named Fat Cyclist had put out a challenge, that anyone who could beat him in the bike leg (he was part of a Relay team,) would get themselves a ‘Faster Than Fatty’ T-Shirt. Check out more on his challenge at Fatcyclist.com.
Luckily for me, the last miles were all down-hill & tail-wind, which helped me FLY all the way to T2. I was feeling pretty crushed rolling in, but I knew my nutrition had been great, and the run is what I do better than the other two disciplines.
I had been worried about Rachel the whole ride, asking race officials whenever I could if they had seen her or where she was on course. My concern came from not seeing her during the initial out-and-back portion of the bike course, where I was SURE I would have seen her! I was shocked (but also relieved) to see my teammate in T2, standing there eating some grub. After a short conversation (while I did my thang in T2,) I discovered her predicament. I also learned I was WAY behind, so I headed out with haste to the run course.
I started the run course, and the first thing to happen was I got a few whistles from some girls in a car. Being a dude, it seemed to add a bit of ‘hop’ in my step, straightened me up, and put an even bigger smile on my face (which was permanently pasted there all day.) Nothing like women to make a guy try a little harder; some sort of primitive response. The run course was beautiful, and it started to make my mind relax. When you’re so far behind, with nobody close on the chase, it’s hard to mentally push yourself to the limit. At only 22km, the run is short enough that you can really gut yourself. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the best mental spot the first 3-4miles, and was more or less in full-on ‘cruise and enjoy yourself’ mode. So I cruised and enjoyed myself. But then, the pivotal moment in my efforts came at the 4-5mile mark. I turned my garmin 605 watch over to the actual time-of-day, and realized that there was a chance (albeit slim) that I could potentially make it under 9 hours. I decided, right there and then, that I was going for it.
I committed. I started to do what I do best, and started to gut myself on the run. Hitting Coke, water, and my ELOAD Zone caps through all the aid stations, I was givin’er shit! Nearing the end of the run, I was absolutely putting everything I could into the run (as well as giving thanks to volunteers and “great job”s to the other athletes in the 125,) but looking at my watch, I thought I had missed the 9 hour mark (and subsequent GIANT belt buckle,) by 2mins. As I rounded the finish line chute (bridge over the Deschutes River,) I saw Teammate Rachel standing there, yelling out “GO GET THE BIG ONE NATHAN!!!!” Confused as all hell, my smile nearly exploded as I crested the top of the bridge and could see the finish line clock:
|Hard-earned, but a perfect race medal|
Yeah, holy shit is right! I blasted through the finish line, absolutely elated to have earned that coveted buckle! I enjoyed some post-race chatting with Steve Fleck (Steve used to work for Nineteen wetsuits, and was the one that set me up as one of their athletes,) Matt Lieto, Matt Sheeks, and of course Rachel McBride (who, as you can imagine, was just a few degrees above furious at her shortcomings.) I gyrated towards the Deschutes Brewery beer taps (naturally,) and enjoyed an absolutely smashing beverage! After some more slightly-slurred post-race chit-chat and socializing (ever had a beer after a 9hr race? Doesn’t take much!) Rachel and I retreated to our hotel. We finished off the day by celebrating/sorrow-drowning with more beer, fabulous Mexican food, more beer, and a GIANT cup of frozen yogurt (self-serve is DANGEROUS!)
All-in-all, this was a perfect way to end the season. I was VERY proud of how well I swam, it seems to be improving a lot, putting me closer and closer to the front pack against the big dogs. My run was fantastic as well, I ended up running sub 1:30 for 22kms, with the 3rd fastest run split of the entire field. I am so fortunate to have such amazing support and such a great team to train with. Thanks to EVERYONE who helped me, without my team of support I’d not have made it to LeadmanTri and performed like I did. It’s time to shut-it-down for a bit, recover and recharge my mental and physical fuel tanks, and in a few weeks I’ll be starting up again to get stronger and faster for 2013. I have big hopes for next year, but more on that later!!
Thanks for reading (I hope you enjoyed,) it’s been a phenomenal 2012 season. Happy training and racing for those of you still at it, I’ll see you out there!!