Hi everyone… Swim Bike Dad (a/k/a the Expert) here.
2014 has been interesting to say the least. The Atwood family has had many highs (Ironman finish, new jobs) and some lows (Ironman training, marital strife, martial strife from Ironman training, the Hell House, the litigation surrounding said Hell House, old jobs), so to say my preparation for racing was subpar is a dead-on accurate representation. When my wife is stressed, she sets nutty goals and trains. When I am stressed, I crawl into a hole and do nothing.
I ended the last year’s race season with a great race at Augusta and immediately signed up for the 2013 race thinking… hell yes, I will be ready for next year! Sub 6 hours, baby!
Well, life sometimes does not agree with personal athletic goals. Therefore, training officially commenced for Augusta …in August. About 8 weeks before. No problem. I got this.
Meredith was racing Augusta, too. And it appeared that our planned childcare for Augusta fell through–and to be honest my training was sucking—so I decided to register for Rev3 Anderson half distance, which was coming up just two weeks after Augusta. This way, Mere could race Augusta and I would race a couple weeks later. I’d sherpa for her. She’d sherpa for me.
Training went pretty well, swimming was up to par and I managed to squeeze several straight weekends of 50+ bike mileage and some running. But leading up to the race, I just did not feel ready. How I track my progress is really strange. In my mind, I needed to have a positive race in Anderson. I “need” this because it’s my measurement to show that I had not gone backwards in a year (my wife, her “just keep moving forward” stuff, all that). I needed to know that, no matter how much crap had happened this year, that I was at least in the same place, triathlon-wise, as I was last year—-better hopefully, but not worse. That’s how I think. Right or wrong.
I knew I would not beat my Augusta time from last year. No way.
So during registration at Rev3 on Saturday, I had talked myself out of the 70.3, and switched to the 32 mile (Olympic) distance (0.9 mile swim, 26 mile bike, 10k).
My best Olympic time was 3:12. My logic to switching for this race? If I pushed it, maye I could beat my previous best Olympic time from a year ago. [What I didn’t factor in? I was in way better shape last year AND the Anderson course was much harder than my 3:12 Oly. But choosing to ignore facts is what men do best! We just get an idea in our heads and plough forward. Batten down the hatches!]
My mom was nice enough to drive up to Anderson to cheer me on. I needed it for sure. Early morning wakeup call at 5:00am, bagel, and coffee and off to T2. Rev 3 Anderson was a bit different than any other race I had ever done.
There were two transition areas: one at the swim exit where you pick up your bike and another where you drop off the bike and pick up your run gear. T2 was at the finish, which was nice because the volunteers picked up your stuff from T1 and brought it to you at the finish. The only not-so-super thing about the two transitions was that you have to take a shuttle from T2 to T1 race morning for the swim. All in all a good setup though.
Mom and I and arrived at T2 around 6:30am and met up with Meredith and the Swim Bike Kids. They had an even earlier start in Atlanta at 4:00 and made the drive up to Anderson to cheer me on. Again, needed all the support I could get. Kids collected, Mom and Meredith in tow, we jumped on the bus to T1. The T1 setup was awesome. At the swim start is a playground for the munchkins and lots of port-a-potties for dad.
The above picture reminded me of this “Dad Life” video.
Rocking my sweet goatee with a wetsuit. Aw yeah.
The half distance athletes kicked off at 7:45, which included Coach Monster (the Monster formerly known as Coach?). As I watched the male athletes run into the lake, I noticed several of them were dolphin diving. In my mind I see myself as a fast swimmer, so I figured that would be a really good way to start off my race. Why not…just try some new crap in a race. What’s the worst that can happen?
A little back story on me—-I get pre-race crazy and always line up at the front of the swim thinking I can hang. It never works out that way and yesterday was no exception. Fail #1.
Race gun goes off and I run my ass off to the water like a crazy person. Two or three dolphin dives later I’m in the LEAD!!! Awesome, kicking ass and fighting with all these guys!
30 seconds later….breaststroking and near asthmatic shock.
In hindsight full sprinting prior to swimming is not a great idea. But whatever, afterwards Mere said it looked kinda cool, reminded her of my surprise flying dismount of 2012, and she mocked the fact that I always do something crazy—so that’s all that matters. After I finished having a coronary, I settled into a nice swim pace. Out of the water in 30 minutes. Delighted to see the family at the swim in.
A couple high fives and one temper tantrum from the Swim Bike Boy later—-into T2.
Anderson was wetsuit legal which was great. Faster swim, but—-no strippers!?? (No, not those kinds of strippers). You had to pull off your own wetsuit and stick it in the Swim-to-Bike bag. I guess I was too excited and accidently yanked off my timing chip. The chip (unbeknownst to me) was inside my wetsuit and in the Swim-to-Bike bag. Fail #2. A quick wave to the family on the way out of T1 and one more temper tantrum from Swim Bike Boy, and I’m was on on the road.
The bike course was much more challenging that I expected. Lots of climbs and no real resting points. Not that you should rest during the ride anyway, but if you wanted to do so on this course, forget it —it’s not happening. The course was well-marked but the roads were rough. You had to pay attention, as the course was pretty tricky. My bike pace was pretty good. I knew that I had to keep the speed at 18mph to have a shot on the run. I purposely buried myself on the bike.
My run training had been near non-existent (due to my torn meniscus and overall bad training), so the bike had to be pushed if I wanted to beat 3:12 for my time. Pretty sure my average HR on the bike leg was 170 or equally as silly.
But either way I ended up coming into T2 around 1:55.
As I came into T2 one of the volunteers starting chasing me to write down my race number and asked if I was running the Olympic. I said “yes of course” but I thought that was pretty strange. What I didn’t know was that I had left my timing chip in my wetsuit—-thus, subsequently causing the volunteers all kind of trouble. Is the dude dead on the bike? Did he drown, etc. To any race volunteers reading this, I am really so sorry. Meredith told me as I was packing the night before to remember to safety pin my timing chip.
But it has Velcro, I had said.
You need to pin it, just in case, dude, she had said. AND she even handed me two safety pins.
But did I pin it? …no. Stupid men! Fail #3.
(As I side note to my “stupid men” joking comment, last night the Swim Bike Kids were upstairs watching a movie, and I heard Stella tell James, “James you are a stupid man!” To which he responded, “At least I’m not a baby.” Ha!)
Out of T2 with 1:17 to run the 6.2 miles. I had a shot at a PR and was really excited. My typical run pace post-torn meniscus is around a 12 minute mile. I’m a slow runner, but at this pace I thought I could make it happen.
Meredith was holding down the fort of chairs and signs outside of T2. And she looked horrified as I came running towards her.
I later learned that she had just sent my Mom and kids off to the bouncy house and to get snacks. “I didn’t know you’d be off the bike so quickly,” she wailed.
I thought, Poor girl does so much racing and no Sherpa-ing, she has no clue.
Last night I told her, “It’s okay, it was your first time.” Double ha! I’m a Sherpa pro after Ironman! 🙂
Got a quick kiss and off to the run. So the “bouncy house”? Oh yes, Rev3 is super family-friendly. They have all kinds of stuff at the finish for the kids and best of all they have food and coffee. I can’t tell you how many races I have spectated where there is no food, coffee and really nothing to do with the kids. This was a really nice change.
The run course was pretty dang challenging. Several long climbs.
Everything that goes up must go down and this was the case for the run course as well. Some really nice downhills. The Rev3 volunteers were great. Tons of aid stations with a lot of support. There was really no need for my Fuel Belt—-but it holds in my tummy and I like that. Hell, I would wear it to work if didn’t make me look like a crazy person. My favorite part of the run was that the half distance athletes mixed with the Olympic distance. You never felt alone AND watching the half leaders blow by you was pretty cool (and awfully humbling).
I hit the 3.1 mile marker with 45 minutes to go. Good….only 3 miles to go. I got this.
Heading into the last mile, I saw Coach Monster zoom by, starting his second lap of the half marathon. I thought he was a cheetah at first, but cheetahs can’t say “good job, James.” Or at least not cheetahs I know. (And I know a lot of cheetahs. Just sayin.)
Anyway, running the last few 100 meters was great. Stopped by for hugs with the kids. The Swim Bike Boy decided he needed to read me his poster sign. Mere was screaming, “go go go!” and telling me to run. Poor kiddo. He is just learning to read….and well, sometimes that just takes time…especially, because he insisted on reading his sister’s sign to me as well. So I read it with him (instead of waiting for him to sound it out), then darted off the finish. He lost his mind. Swim Bike Boy tantrum #3.
Finish time 3:05. Really happy about that. Official finish time ????? Well. Lost the timing chip. Thankfully, we found it in my Swim-to-Bike bag. This made the volunteers happy as they could now stop looking for my dead body. The search was over!
Overall a great race. I would recommend the Rev3 Olympic, for sure.
If you are considering a 70.3 distance with Rev3, I would say you might want to be in the kind of shape to finish under 6 hrs. For this reason only: I don’t know if there were a ton of 6+ hour racers out on the course and in my experience, things get pretty lonely out there when no one is around. This happened to me in Miami at my first 70.3. I was in nearly the last swim leg and it made things pretty tough running and biking more or less alone. So if you are a first timer, I would shoot for something like Augusta, where there seems to always be someone around- in the race or in the crowd….[Not to mention the bike and run course is really no joke there in Anderson.]
We waited a bit for the Monster to come in, zooming into 2nd place AG with 4:44 for his half.
Thanks to the family for making this a very special day. I learn something every tri—and there is nothing like getting out with 1000 of your closest friends to suffer for 3 hours to set your mind straight. I am motivated and ready to continue working into the off season.
While I’m ready to leave this difficult year behind, it’s been full of amazing highs to balance out the lows. I am going to start (finally) working with a coach very soon. Swim Bike Mom and I are starting a new round of Whole30 tomorrow. Life is good.
Thanks for reading.