Wow… the headline sounds cooler than it is, but it’s still pretty cool. Wonders of shock journalism.
First off, the disclaimer: it was a tiny race so it's really not that big of a deal, except to me. I was pretty jazzed because I don't win very often and this was a full Ironman!
Caitlin and I talked about winning the race the day before and I was having visions of snapping the tape before I had even started. How ‘bout I Tarantino it and start at the end?
The sun was slowly going down as I hit the turn into the final 200 meters. The race staff, volunteers, and crowd were all lining the finishing chute and screaming. I was jumping out of my skin. Arms spread wide, I airplaned down the final meters, high fiving everyone, and laughing my ass off. Holding the finish line tape above my head was incredible. They had multiple cameras trained on me and I went nuts grabbing the camera and shoving my face in it, spitting everywhere. After the celebration they gave me a slick trophy and the race director interviewed me. It felt pretty nice. I love winning.
7 am the whistle sounded and we were off. The water was colder than an abandoned piece of salmon at the bottom of your freezer. I was swimming well and came around the first loop in third feeling relaxed. The second half of the swim was tough as my arms were going a bit numb and felt sort of floppy. Michigan blood served me well and I sucked it up. I managed to stick with the group and I exited the water to see my buddies Christina and Larry. Larry won the Olympic distance race the day before, so we were hoping I could handle business and complete the double for us. Caitlin yelled that I was out in 51:50! 51:50???! Come on. Talk about short. I swam well, but I’m not Michael Phelps.
Off onto the bike and feeling good.
The wind was calm and I was focused on getting the first loop done as fast as possible to avoid as much of the wind as I could. As a result, I overbiked a bit and set off on the second loop feeling a little drained. The roads were shit shakers to say the least and each pothole was very leg draining. The wind had picked up and my speed had dropped considerably. Very annoying, however at mile 80 I got to survey the damage and found out I had laid waste to the field. I was clear of second by at least 35 minutes.
I rolled into transition feeling rotten and annoyed that I had to run. I waddled out of transition and up the first and only hill on the course. I settled into my rhythm. I needed to get food on board as soon as possible. Being an inaugural ironman, the aid stations lacked some of the luxuries and volunteer support that the larger races enjoy. Weird gels and incredibly high fiber bars are not a good recipe for long distance racing but not having coke felt like sticking a needle in my eye. That stuff may not be for everyone, but it's my lifeblood. Hollatcha boy, Coke. I took what I could and was ticking off miles at a pretty low heart rate.
Mile 8-14 were a debacle. My gut had completely revolted and the chicken broth and syrupy goop were acting as Che Guevara. I will spare you the details outside of the fact that I got very acquainted with the various port-a-potties along the way. At mile 14, I lectured a volunteer about getting coke the next time they do a race... within a half mile, a race staffer poured me three cups out of the back of his SUV. He then proceeded to stock multiple aid stations that I would lean on like a delicious highly caffeinated crutch. I came around after the coke kicked in and started feeling lucid again.
I finally saw second place. I was at mile 17 and he was at mile 11 and seemed like he was in a tough spot. The next guy was another 2 miles back, but running quite well. I had them covered as long as I kept moving. I kept thinking, “Don’t waste Caitlin’s time. She’s been out here running around for you for hours. Just win and then you can go home and sleep. Don't lose after you've been leading for 8 hours.”
I knew the course was a touch long as I was doing the mental math. Dammit. When you're racing an ironman, the last thing you want to do is run extra. Time doesn’t matter anymore, just win and run fast. I covered the last 12 miles at slightly above 7:30 pace and rolled into the last half mile as the sun was setting. The finish line was better than I could have imagined. After snapping the tape, I looked over at Cait who was grinning like a goblin. It could not have played out better if I had written it.
Caitlin was a COMPLETE LEGEND and saw me at least 50 times on the course. No joke. She got me through some really dark spots. Cliche, but seriously I could not have done it without her.
Great end to a great year. Thanks to everyone who supported me through the year, thanks to evotri, the great sponsors who keep us moving, my friends and family, and Caitlin who is the absolute best.
I love you guys.