Let me start off to say, I’m an engineer that is very analytical and detailed oriented. I’m a research junkie and on a diet front, super picky on what goes in my body. So my apologies for all the details in advance. I also try to stick to whole foods and avoid things that are highly processed. I also stick to plant base proteins. That certainly limited certain choices I would have to make so I will put that caveat out there too. Also being my first half and second year of racing, I have very little racing experience to fall on. I wanted to have my homework in place and figured the more I’m prepared on all fronts, was the best I could do without the racing experience. I also ATC questioned peeps all the time for advice, tips, talk through strategy, etc. Hearing that race experience was invaluable for somebody who has so little of it. Everyone had said, once you get up to 1/2 and full length distances, it becomes more of a nutrition and mental preparedness.
To help mentally prep, I focused on setting some goals. I had the under this hour time goal like most. But I wanted more details. There is a consistent theme about goal setting, you have to write your goals down. Not only did I write my goal down, I broke it out into each split and wrote those times down. That way I could visualize it every day to see it come to fruition. So I started doing my research and figured what I would put down for each split. I then added the totals up and was like wow, that is very, very aggressive and well under my hourly number. I have a post-it on my work monitor with the splits written down. I looked at that every day. That was step 1. The next step that was recommending it was to share these splits. The idea here is now that it’s out there, you have more accountability and skin in the game to hit those goals since more than just you knowing it. Peer pressure can be a powerful motivator if leveraged correctly. My coach certainly knew my goals down to the splits and was like wowza you have some work in front of you. I did not plan for an extreme day either way – nice and pleasant OR triple digit heat fest. I knew I would have to deal with the hand that was given to me. At the end of the day, this was really helpful to get me through those build weeks that were tough and tiring. After getting my swim start, I then back into time of day and where I should be based on the various landmarks on the race course. That way if I forgot my watch, it died, etc. I could ask somebody what time is it? I would then know if I was x minutes ahead or behind my plan. I like redundancy that way I had a backup plan and keep the math simple.
After asking a bunch of peeps what they do for nutrition, it was repeatedly stated it’s a very personal thing. Listening to this advice, I had to do my own research and testing of it as much as I could. My race in Bumpass posted a personal best time, but it was a nutrition disaster. It was a great lesson learned and come to Jesus I needed to get this figured out. For me, I cannot eat solids or gels when it gets hot or at higher heart rates. So I decided to take an all liquid approach. The next challenge was to figure out how many calories to intake and where to start with that. I was able to find some research that said you take your lean muscle mass and multiply that by 2 to get your cals/hr. Now my challenge was figuring out my muscle mass. I was getting an adjustment with Dr. Michie, I made an off the cuff comment on how I would like to get my percent body fat calculated. To my surprise, he was able to measure it. He gave me a ton of detail. With my muscle mass being 163 lbs. that means I could baseline my calorie intake at 326 cals/hr. I’m able to carry 3 bottles on my bike, I figured I would have each with a 300 cal mix figuring I was going to do a sub 3 hour bike, I should be safe in that target burn rate. I also saw research that you need protein at these distances to slow your body down from cannibalizing the muscle. I have to admit, I’m not sold on this theory because I cannot believe you can process the protein timely enough while your racing. I also pinged Hammer for nutritional contents and they provided me a wealth of information and transparency. I started with doing 3 scoop Perpetuem mix. My stomach could just not handle that much protein. So I dropped to 1 scoop and added 2 scoops of HEED. I also mixed it with SmartWater that has electrolytes instead of regular water. That would help on top of the salt pills. That seemed to work in my case. To prep for Steelhead, I want to try a custom Infinit mix for reasons discussed later. I also woke up at 3:30 and had 2 PB/Honey sandwiches and several bananas with Coconut Water. I took in around 1k calories 4 hours prior my swim start. That was enough time to get everything digested. I have been training with 24 oz bottle. My plan here was to take cheap bottles and toss them at the water stations so I would not have to bother switching them from holder to holder and take the time off. I went to BD and asked for the bottles. I then realized I would be going from a 24 oz bottle to 21. That’s 9 oz less fluid so I punted on that idea knowing I did not want to give up that much fluid.
Days before I started drinking coconut water to make sure I was hydrated. On Saturday after a quick little brick, I then was back on it. Both Mike and Kerri suggested I start taking salt pills the day before. I also ordered virgin Bloody Mary’s knowing they are really high in salt when you add in the old bay. Plus being poolside now, I really could have used an adult drink. It was so nice to feel prepared, relaxed, and enjoying the moment and time with my family. I also jumped in the hotel elevator and ran into this guy with maps and he asked have you raced here before with such a deer in the head lights look. I said no but I have trained on it several times this year. That certainly confirmed my level of calmness I had all week. The other race checking thing I never thought of was to release the pressure from my wheels. I did the morning brick and inflated my tires. The heat went up so much, I never thought to release the air pressures as the heat built with the bike sitting outside since this was my first overnight check-in. Thank you Mr. Atwell since he heard several pops while working bike check-in.
Trying to get some fast swim karma, I asked Alli to body mark me. She even put a little smiley on my calf. For my swim, I honestly figured there was no shot being wetsuit legal. Also sitting on the sidelines last year, I figured there is no need to stress over something I had no control over since I saw so many people getting worked up about it. I planned on it being non-wetsuit for several weeks. As the week went by, the question I has trying to figure out if I have the option to wear a suit what to do. Give up the buoyance and burn more energy or risk dehydrating since I’m such an excessive sweater. Knowing it was going to be hot, I was leaning toward no suit. Plus I would then be an hour later start which meant more heat on the run. Race morning, It was wetsuit legal so I did not have to make that decision. Once I got in the water to start, I opened the neck up to let water in. The was to keep my core cooler and slow my sweat rate down and “flush” the suit out. The second part I knew was a good sign that I was fully hydrated. I was amazing relaxed and chatting with Jeremy. Plus when somebody’s wife wished him off, it lightened up the entire mood. The horn blows and I was off. I started with a little breast stroke to let the true swimmers go and not fight them. I then got in my groove. Until the first turn, it was a little crowded so I was going between free and breast to deal with it. Plus I have been fighting a sinus cold (that goodness I trained with them before), I would have to hack a little bit and then continue. By the second turn, I was moving. I also was able to stay with my freestyle which was a big achievement for me being new to swimming. Every time I would stop to hack the snot out of my head/throat, breast stroke and I would open my suit to keep my core cool. On the way out, I took another Lahey suggestion and got hosed off by the fire hose to get the salt and slime off of me. Plus got a quick Gatorade I was into T1.
I took Jeff’s suggestion of rolling down my socks for T1. I knew I had time to get my feet taken care of since that was the key to me running the run. Got out of T1 and on the bike. I took it easy until the graveyard and noticed the time of day on my bike and said darn, I must of had a great swim. On the bike, I knew I had to stick to Zone2. With the depth in this field, there a going to be crazy fast people. No chasing anyone and stick to my race. When guys went by me, man they flew by me. I did see a couple smiley faces on those calves and was like Alli gave them too much speed karma too! 😉 I also turned the zone alarm on my watch that chirped every time I hit Zone 3. I knew I had to pick my spots on when to use it. I wanted to reserve is for Egypt. Going down the road I was on track with my nutrition plan and was taking salt pills at twice the race I trained since it was getting hot. I also noticed that my HR would drop when the wind changed and I could push it a bit and still stay in Zone 2. By the time I got to Smithfield Rd in 1 hour, I remembered the training ride with Jeff H., Mike L., and Michelle F. and Mike saying 1 hour to here is a great split. From that ride I also saw seasoned riders stand up to shake things out. When I would get too close due to traffic, avoid drafting, and have a lower HR, I would drop a gear and stand up. The extra drag backed me off and I could handle the little HR spike to keep in Zone 2. By the time I got to Egypt, my mouth felt like I had this sugar paste all over it. I planned on getting water at this station if I needed it and a guy with no depth perception, this is hard to train for. I was lucky and grabbed a water bottle in the first try. I squirted my face and then my head to help keep cool and tossed it. Also at this point, my “soft tissue” was screaming since I’m still trying to find the right saddle and was starting to get a little bloated feeling. Mike told me that he kept Tums and Advil in his bag with the salt pills. I popped a Tums and that settled my stomach. I then was fighting a head ache. Remembering the Simple Science lessons about how Advil delays recovery times even though it eases the pain, I wanted to avoid the Advil as much as possible. I ended up just losing the head strap on my helmet and that release of pressure was a Godsend. It went away by the next mile. Knowing my bike split was pretty solid at this point and my HR was starting to drift (like when I did my training rides), I just backed off a bit and kept telling myself, set yourself up for the run. End of the day, I only did 5 miles in Zone 3 out of the 56, the rest in Z1 and Z2. Very pleased there. Second best bike split I have done there and those were without the heat and swim.
Got to T2 and switched out my socks. I also put more body glide on my feet to take care of them. With a hit of sun screen, I was out and running.
On the run, I was really looking for my first ice station. I was hot and sore. I also kept my pace low to get adjusted and just tried to keep my feet moving. Once I hit the aid station, I walked through it. Dumped a cup of ice down the front of my shorts and bam, the soreness was gone. I also took a hit of Gatorade. By the time I hit the access road, I was getting tight on my right front ribs. Maybe from coughing too much with my cold, dehydration, or all of the above. The next station dumped another ice cup in my shorts, ice water over my head, then drank ice water, and used the remaining ice and held that where I was cramping. That helped me run through that. By the time I got to the turnaround, I looked at the time of day and was still ahead of my goals. On the way back in, I took a page from Macca’s book and started doing Pepsi because I was fading with the heat. I knew I would get the sugar rush (even though it’s HFCS and I just hate that stuff) and kept going. The pain in my front right shin was starting to hurt but still manageable. I could also hear squish with every stride and new all the water going over my head and down my legs was collecting in my shoes. The whole time, I was going, man I wish I had those PI with the drain holes in them. I knew blisters were coming based on my history. By the time I got to the neighborhood, my HR alarm was going off like crazy. Then when I made the turn at the water and started to get cold chills which was a first for me. At the same time, my HR jacked to Z4. Knowing I had time, I started to walk. I was ahead of plan and could back off. I also said, I still have Steelhead and there is really no need to take the risk and push through this. I took my time through the aid stations to really ice up and cool my core. I then saw water buckets. Another Godsend. I took an entire bucket and bent over to dump over my head and neck. Then Janet had that wonderful hose. After a nice shower, I moved on. I could then see the finish, I looked at my watch and still saw time to spare. After a quick walking break, I was back running. Then the finish line rush came and I was in the shoot before I knew it. The cheering crabs made me smile and I could totally enjoy the moment. I got to the finish line and the dude in front of me is rolling. I’m like man I want to cross this and not step all over you! Finally done but really not sure what my final time was. Got the ice towel and hit the fire-hose station and cooled off. I was so happy to get out of those shoes.
And how did my splits hold up? Here are my results vs. my stretch goals set back in January:
Swim – Beat by 13 minutes
T1 – Beat by 1 minute
Bike – Short by 8 minutes
T2 – Met
Run – Short by 2 minutes
Overall – Beat by 2 minutes
I am sincerely grateful for the help that fellow crabs gave me. With all that wealth of information and racing experience, I was able to pick and choose what worked for me and my situation. And a huge shout out to Kerri for helping being so prepared for something this large. Also having the patience to answer the most mundane questions and smacking me back in line when needed/deserved. I was really able to enjoy race week with such a level of calmness. I feel that this was such team effort to help me reach a crazy stretch goal I put out there back in January. Thank you all so much!
Now, it’s time to recover, regroup, and plan for Steelhead.