Ironman Moo

We just got back from a solid weekend in one of my favorite towns, (Madison, Wisconsin) where we raced the 2012 Ironman Wisconsin. I attended this race last year supporting Whit, and when she announced she would return this year I couldn’t help but jump in myself.

A few things about this race. Ironman Wisconsin is NOT an easy race. Of all the Ironman’s I’ve raced, the IMMoo (as it is affectionately called due to the cows in the area) bike course is the toughest. Runtri.com has ranked Wisconsin as the toughest Ironman brand race actively running. (Click here for comparison). It is also the only race my father has ever dropped out of. He raced IMMoo in 2005, a year that goes down in history due to a brutal heat wave. The 2005 IMWI has the third highest drop out rate of any ironman event. So I wanted to get some McCain family revenge.

Whit and I arrived in Madison late on Thursday night and were met by Bret Newcomb, the father of the family who we were paired with for host housing. He had his son, Gus, with him as well. Gus is an up and comer on in triathlon and a very talented athlete himself. We gathered our luggage and headed to their house, which was beautiful and located just outside of town in Middleton.

Friday was full of race rituals, swimming, packet pick up, and Bret even drove the course with us to get a solid reminder of what was to come. Friday evening we went to dinner with a great group including Tim (an old friend and teammate from King) and David Buntin who’ve we’ve met from triathlon. They both live in Chattanooga, and we’ll see them again in a few weeks at the StumpJump Ultra. We were also joined by Billy Edwards (Boulder training partner) and Jackie Arendt (Female pro from Madison) as well as a few others. We hit a trendy TexMex place downtown and had an excellent dinner.

Saturday we woke up, worked on our bikes, then headed out with Gus & Bret for our usual pre-race ritual. We then simply prepared for the race and relaxed. Saturday night was exactly what we need. We set down with the Newcombs and played Cranium for a long while. It was made even more special by the fact that is was Rachel’s (mother of the family) birthday. She was such a great sport to share her birthday with us.

Race Day:
Bret and Gus drove us down to the race. They were Volunteers for the swim course and needed to get there at about the same time we did. We checked our bags, bikes, and were ready to roll. As I went to the swim start, I realized that my timing chip was missing. FREAK OUT TIME! I finally found the timing tent and got a new chip, phew. A few minutes later, I asked a spectator to help me zip up my wetsuit… and I heard her say “Why on earth do you have your timing chip inside the neck of your wetsuit?” Oh no, now I have two timing chips! I ran back to the tent and got it sorted out again… for a second time.

Swim:
I took an interesting line, on the inside of the buoys. I figured it would be less crowded, and it was. I had a pretty clear shot to the turn which was the first place I really faced much traffic. I swam fairly easy with a few hard efforts to get out of jams. I felt good, which is not typical in the swim. The swim was a huge one loop, and as I made the final turn to head back to shore, all felt good. When I was about 50 yards from the finish I saw Gus standing on a dock, monitoring the race to ensure no swimmers got off course and hit the dock. I thought it would be fun to yell at him so I shouted “GUSSSS” as I came up for a breath. Sure enough her heard me and started cheering. It was great, and a fun way to end the swim.. which I did in a close to standard time of 1:12

The transition at IMMoo is a lot of fun as you run through a crowd then up three flights of a helix parking structure full of screaming fans. It’s exciting, and a rush. The changing tents are inside the convention center, then you run out to your bike and head back down the helix.

Bike:
As I noted earlier, the bike course is TOUGH but fun. The route is a double lollipop that goes through several small towns. I rolled out well and passed quite a few people in the first 12 miles of the bike. As the race thinned out, I settled in to my effort, which I watched closely on the climbs. At about mile 22, we reached a short but stout climb that is located by the Newcomb’s parents house. We knew the Granpa Bob and Chris (grandmother) would be on the hill cheering. Sure enough, when I rode by they were up there with HUGE signs and smiles. I cruised over to them and gave them both high fives! It was great to see them.

The hills on this course are not killer individually, but they are relentless. The hardest climb is Sauk Pass, which is where many fans lined the streets partying and cheering. They are so much fun that you almost forget about the climb. Near the top of the climb, I saw the Newcomb clan on the side cheering. I shouted to them and got some support before dropping down the back side of the climb.

I kept rolling the bike course and stuck the plan for an easier effort and natural nutrition. The second loop was fairly uneventful, except for when I came down one of the fastest descents I saw Bret and Gus on the side of the road on their bikes. I gave them the “hang loose” sign as I blazed by at 45mph.

I arrived at T2 with a bike split of 5:29 (20.4 mph), right on target. T2 was nothing spectacular. As I left though, my back felt locked up, and I knew it would take a bit to unlock it.

The marathon course at Wisconsin is basically a two loop out and back that weaves through downtown and the University of Wisconsin. The fans on the run are AWESOME. They are best downtown near the capital, on State St (bar area) and on the back end of the loop out where you can see runners come by three times in a matter of minutes.

At mile 3 or so, you enter in to the U of W football stadium and do a loop around the field. This is a strange feeling. Being in such a huge stadium that is deathly quiet is surreal, but also fun. At mile 6 I saw Whit heading the other way. She didn’t look great, but gave me a look that said she loved me. It made my heart happy to see she was ok.

I cruised along until about mile 16 where I once again hit the wall, and had to start walking aid stations. I’ve got to figure this part out as it gets me every time. Regardless of the slowing pace and walking, I kept plugging along and couldn’t have been more relieved than when I saw that 25 mile marker. I kicked it in and saw the entire Newcomb clan on the sides as I neared the finish line. I gave them high-fives, crossed the line, and was greeted by Whit. Now this was the way to finish an Ironman!


Though I’m not particularly happy with my time, 10:51, I enjoyed this race to the utmost. I love Madison, the people are outstanding. The Newcomb family, well, they will be life-long friends. They were nothing short of “family” to us and we owe them more than we’ll be able to repay in the near future.

Now that triathlon season is over for Whit and I, we will plan for a 3 day bicycle tour of eastern Colorado in a couple of weeks, followed by a 50k in a month! No rest for the weary, but all these events will be low-key, high-enjoyment.

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Rev3 Knoxville Race Report

First race of 2012 is in the books. While May is later than I’ve ever waited to start a season, 2012 is the year of ednurance races so there has been more preparation required. Whit and I flew out of Denver on Thursday night and arrived in Nashville late. We woke up Friday and went to visit my Grandfather’s grave and then put our bikes together for the Sunday race. After lunch, we headed up with Dad and Mary Ann to  Rev3 Knoxville.

Once in Knoxville, we checked in for our first Rev3 race ever.The race expo was not busy when we got there so the whole process was quick and easy. After registering for the half, we had dinner on Market Square where we had tapas and great company.We strolled back to the Hilton where Whit and I lazily laid around then watched the movie “Our Idiot Brother”.

Saturday, we had a nice breakfast and then drove out to preview the bike course. While I can’t say I was surprised, I was a little anxious after viewing the 56 mile bike route. The course was covered with short punchy climbs and a few extended climbs. I knew right away that my typical sub 2:30 bike probably wouldn’t happen. After driving a bit, we all hopped on our bikes to get a real taste of the roads. Within 20 seconds of riding, Whit’s 650 tubular tire exploded! The tear in the tired was so bad that we couldn’t plug it and we didn’t have a spare with us. To make things worse, we called every shop in town and not one had a 650 tubular tire, much less the time to glue it on in time for the race.

At a loss on what to do with no help in Knoxville, Mary Ann thought to call our friend Howard Newsome in Nashville. He has an early model Cervelo that was made back when 650’s where thought to be faster. Lady Luck was on our side, because Howard was not riding this weekend and said his wheels were ours to use. Even more lucky, Clint and crew had not left Nashville yet, so they were able to swing nby Howard’s house to pick up the wheels. Though is was a lot of work and sacrifice, the family seemlessly worked together to save Whit’s race. Also, my Mom came up to watch the race as well. Her support means so much to me, it was awesome to cross the line and see her standing there cheering with Whit. We are so blessed to have that kind of support.

The night before the race, Dad, MA, Whit and myself were joined by Tim Hayes (college teammate) and his buddy David. Both of those guys are great dudes and will be racing Ironman Wisconsin. It was great to hang out, talk tri, and catch up.

Now on to the race…

The gun for the Half Rev went off at 7:30am est with the first wave of athletes starting the swim in the Tennessee River. The course took athletes upstream for 4/10 of a mile before shooting back down stream, past the start, and on to the exit. The swim seemed a bit long, and my time of 34:28 confirms that it at least had the potential of being long. Nothing remarkable to note about the swim, which is good because races have a way of being off in the swim fairly often.

The 56 mile bike course left Knoxville and sent riders east in the direction of the beautiful Southern Appalachian Mountains. Though the course did not get as far as the real mountains, it did weave in and out and over some of the foothills. The course was as challenging as it was gorgeous. As a frame of reference, my last two half iron bike splits have been 2:12 and 2:18 respectively, my time this past weekend was 2:42. Sharp climbs were typically followed by slightly technical descents, and there were several ninety degree turns thrown in as well. This actually favors me due to having done a significant amount of bike racing. At mile 10 of the ride, I met a guy named Shay. We decided to legally pace each other and it worked great.

Felt great on the bike until about mile 45. It was then that I started feeling the 80 degree temps and nearly 70% humidity. Simply put, I just couldn’t keep up with my sweat rate. Also, at about this time at a turn around, I saw Whitney on the course. She had started 10 minutes behind me and the course suited her riding style, so I was not surprised to see her about 2 minutes behind me. She looked great and I was looking forward to her catching me. On a steep climb near mile 50 I had a technical problem with my front brake and it start sliding ovder catching my front wheel. I stopped twice to correct it and it cost me a minute and a half or so.

After adjusting the bike, all was good for the final few miles back to the transition on Neyland Stadium. While leaving transition I look up to see Whit entering. I yell to her “I see you Garcia, better come get me!”


The run was a great course. It started by heading down river on Neyland Drive on an exposed four lane highway. The heat and humidity was oppressive. At 6’3 and 185lbs, I don’t handle the heat well, never have. At mile two and on a greenway now, I caught Shay and we decided to run together. At mile four Whit finally caught us. While my legs were there, my body just couldn’t go fast. I was overheating and couln’t up the effort. At mile 5 Shay caught a cramp on a long and steep decent, it was a hill we’d have to climb on our way back out. I reluctantly left him and motored on. The second half of the run was more brutal due to the rising temps. I slowed significantly, but kept at it.

I was passed at mile 12.5 by the second place woman and a man not in my age group. At mile 13 I caught a guy in my age group. He looked at me and said “I’m not going to chase you down. I just want my kids to cross the line with me. Go ahead.” Even in the finishing part of my race, his statement struck me as a great testament to his priorities. I appreicated his honesty and intentions. I kicked it in to the line and finished witha 5:00:07. 7/100 of a second short of sub 5 on the toughest course I’d face. Damn. It was good enough for 22nd overall though, I’ll take it.

Whitney did great considering everything. Though her times were not where she and her coach had aimed for, she ended up winning the woman’s race by a 9 minutes! After the race I was trashed. I spent the rest of the day trying to rehydrate, then loosing fluids in many different ways. It just proved to me that I did give all I had, so I’m happy that I used all that was in my tank. Ultimately, it was a great race. I will most defintelty do another Rev3 race. Their team and race organization is amazing.I can’t speak highly enough of them.

Next… the Denver Triathlon in June, then prepping for Vineman in July and Ironman Wisconsin in September. A pint or two tonight then time to get back at it.

To Catch Up

So I’ve been drafting individual posts up trying to play catch up for all the things that have happened in the two months since Beach to Battleship, but I’m failing. So in an attempt to get back on track, I’ll do this two month recap then pick up live.

After B2B I came back and started working out immediately, it’s like a drug. This lasted for one whole week then my body came down from the race. Since then I’ve averaged about 3 work outs a week and have gone back to my normal weight of about 187lbs. I am about to get back at it and am especially stoked about riding my new road bike and the hand-me-down cross bike my father gave me.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, Whit aka Bug aka Shorty Fry raced Ironman Arizona. The field was stacked and it was a fast day. She finished as the 13th pro female with a blazing time of 9:40. Her splits were 58 min swim, 5:06 bike, and a 3:29 marathon… not too shabby. She now holds the family Ironman time by 16 minutes. It was a great ending to her first year as a pro and we had a great time hanging out with some friends from California and Ohio.

For Thanksgiving, Whit and I flew in to San Fran where we met both of her brothers (Jeff and Jay). The four of us went to In and Out then Dunkin Donuts for some healthy dining options before we headed further north to Ukiah, CA. We arrived about 2am in a pouring rain and went straight to bed.

The next morning I was the first one up and I spent a solid hour and a half with Whit’s parents Jerry and Nancie. We’d not met until then, but our interactions more natural than I could have hoped for. The entire trip to Ukiah was great. We ate a lot of good food and played volleyball, ping pong, baseball, and football. In essence, we had an ideal Thanksgiving.

After four solid days in Ukiah, we headed back to San Fran where Whit and I toured around for a day then met up with my friends Tom and Nicole. Tom and I are riding buddies from back in South Carolina. Tom and Nicole are a great couple and will be lifelong friends. It was nice to catch up with them and meet their daughter, Celia. The next day, Whit and I travelled to Alcatraz. The Rock holds a special meaning to my family because my great uncle, Homer Binkley was inmate 259. In fact, just before my grandfather was shipped out to the Pacific Theatre of WW II, he received permission to visit his brother while he was incarcerated at Alcatraz for bank robbery charges. It was a good visit and surreal to stand in the same visitation room my grandfather stood in back in the early 1940’s. I can only imagine what was going through his mind.

After Thanksgiving, Whit and I had one weekend at home before travelling to Aspen. She had bought a living social deal for the Molly Gibson lodge where we stayed for a long weekend. Neither one of us ski so we really just planned on eating, playing, and resting. The trip was an absolute blast, and the Lodge gave us a free bottle of wine as well as a $50 gift card to a local bar. Unintentionally, Whit and I stayed busy in the days and partied at nights. Partying is a relative term for us, but we did cut loose and have an in-room dance party one night to MGMT and Electric Feel. We also had some nice runs on the greenway there in Aspen, which was followed by jumping in the heated pool and hot tub. Starting to think each day should start with a run then hot tub time.

We are currently returning from a five day trip to Nashville. As always, it was a great visit with the family and a few friends. We did the traditional Christmas Eve at my grandparents, followed by my mother’s log cabin for a fire and presents. Christmas morning we had a large breakfast with my mother, her husband, and my Nanny before taking off for a long run around downtown Nashville. We spent the rest of Christmas day at Dad’s house with Mary Ann and my aunt from Georgia.

We were spoiled with gifts, but that is a tradition with them. Lots of clothes, gear, and even cash were given from Mom and Dad. It’s hard not to feel guilty about these things, so Whit and I are trying to figure out a way to give back somehow. I’m putting this out there so those who read my blog will maybe ask me about it later and hold us accountable.

So what’s next? Well, it’s time we start to buckle down on work and find the training groove. I’ve already signed up for Vineman 2012 while Whit is leaning towards Ironman in Idaho. We’re both also planning on doing a Rev3 race as well. Finally, we are in the early stages of getting together a Rim to Rim to Rim date to finish out 2012. R2R2R is basically running down in to, across, and back up the other side of the Grand Canyon, then returning. It’s a 40 mile run that is not officially supported, so we’ll be on our own.  We’re looking forward to a solid 2012 and closing out with a true adventure.

Ok, I’m back on schedule and will continue to keep it up.

LM

Ironman Wisconsin

Just rolling in from about two weeks from being on the road. Including a 5 day stint of no training and a 3 day run of a total of 10 hours of  sleep. I was running on fumes but such is life sometimes.

It started with Ironman Wisconsin. We left on Thursday morning and headed to Madison. We arrived with two bikes in tote and decided to upgrade to the “Impala”. Yeah, we were ballin for this trip, no expense spared. At the hotel we met Diedre, a friend of a friend from Canada who was also doing IM WI. D was a trip, a light-hearted spirit who was noticeably laid back to be an Ironman athlete.

After getting settled in I told Whit we should drive the bike course, so we headed out through downtown Madison and out to the country to drive one loop of the course. We were both very surprised at how hilly the course was. Being that we are in Colorado, climbs don’t really bother either one of us, but these hills were short and punchy…. and relentless. It became very obvious that if you didn’t gauge your effort correctly, you could blow up fairly quickly.

 

We spent Friday and Saturday preparing for the race, while I managed to sneak in a couple rides and decent run. Being at sea level was great, and I felt strong on the run. After looking at the stats, I average 7:17 pace over 11 miles.

Sunday we got up at 4am and after eating, I drove Shorty Fry down to the race. I dropped her off and headed to the water to ensure a great place. Well….. the area got SLAMMED with people (should have known) so I stuck around long enough so Whit could see me before the start, then I headed down the water to a more clear place. The Pro’s were sent off with a cannon shot at about 6:50am. The group thinned out quickly and drafting started. About ten minutes later the age groupers were sent off with an equally impressive cannon shot, but a much more ferocious start. Watching the start of an Ironman is something special. For all my qualms with what has become “Ironman”, a mass swim start like this is something you should see at least once.

 

Whitney appreciates knowing what place she is in at the start of the bike so my main goal was to get up to T1, which was on top of a parking garage, and let her know where she was. The swim start was a beautiful site, as it always is, and after one loop I headed up to the Pro transition area so I could give her some stats.

Whit’s strong discipline has not typically been the swim, but she exited the water sitting in 4th place. This was about as good as she could have hoped for. She hit T1 looking fresh and happy. I gave her the details and she started out towards the bike exit. Just before she took off, though, she stopped and waved to me. It was pretty cool, as most people around saw what happened and started clapping.

As soon as she took off on the bike, I took off in a dead sprint so I could get to the car before the age groupers got out of the water. Since the bike course was a lollipop route with two loops, I figured I could get inside the lollipop and see her multiple times. With the help of a hand drawn map and some really friendly locals, I was able to see her 4 times. Each time she looked very happy and strong. I saw her for the last time somewhere around mile 85 then decided to head in to town and prepare for the run. Just was I was getting in the car, I got a text from Jackie Ardent of team Timex, she wanted to let me know that Whit had passed long time pro Heather Gollnick around mile 90 and moved in to 3rd!

The run course was two winding loops that back tracked each other through the streets of Madison. With the way the course was set up, I was able to see her at least 10 times or so. The run course was really helpful for spectators, and it showed as thousands of people were out to support the athletes. While running around the course, I kept telling people Whit’s name and to cheer for her. What followed was an interesting phenomena,  people starting hearing other people yelling “Whitney”, so they started yelling “Whitney”. It was really interesting how fans there supporting their loved ones remembered Whit’s name and kept yelling for her, it was really cool to watch.

Whit was moving well but I soon saw that an Argentine Pro had moved from 6th place at the start of the run to 4th and was gaining about 30 seconds a mile on Whit. I hesitated for a few miles to tell her, because Whit did not look so great and had asked me to not tell her. Well at about mile 15 there was an out and back and the Argentine had moved up to about 1:30 behind Whit. I kind of suspected Whit had seen her at this point, so as she passed me I simply said “You see her, you need to go now”. I’ll never forget the way looked at me and simply nodded.

The last 11 miles of the race were intense as Whit kept fighting to hold the girl off, who was clearly a great runner. At mile 19 I saw her again and Whit had increased her lead by 5 seconds. The bleeding had stopped for the moment, but could she hold her off. I was only able to see Whit again at mile 25, at which point I saw the camera crews and lead bike heading up one last strip before the finishing lap around the state capital. Through the fans and media I could barely make out Whit’s running cap. She had done it! As she looped through where I was, she looked at me with a blank expression, nothing. She was toast, but she had done it.

Whit hit the finish line in 10:03 and 3rd place in her first Ironman race, it was truly a great day. After receiving a little medical attention, they released her to me and told me to make her walk. So we walked, well she limped around for about half an hour, then she wanted Starbucks.

I’ve not cheered often in my life. In fact, I was actually afraid I wouldn’t be good at it. But it’s all different when you love someone, and instinct just takes over. Ironman Moo, as they call it, was a break out race for Whitney. I was very happy to be there and be a part of this.

We spent Monday going to the awards banquet, which was a lot of fun. Then we toured Madison and the U of W, which is a very pretty campus on the lake. There are all kinds of outdoor eateries open in Madison this time of the year, and we managed to hit most of them I think. I’d highly recommend this race due simply to the way the people supported the athletes, it was truly amazing.

Utah Half Race Report

The Utah Half is completed, woo hoo! This was my 7th Half Iron distance race since I started triathlon back in 2005. It is also my first half since 2009 Gulf Coast, which seems like ages ago. I was very excited about getting out there, testing my fitness, and dusting off to cobwebs prior to Beach 2 Battleship in late October.

I arrived in Provo on Thursday night, in plenty of time to land a hotel, eat, go to packet pick up, and get comfortable. Friday I slept in a little, got my bike stuff together and did a nice prerace workout at race site. Regardless of the race distance, my typical day before a race workout is a 45 min bike with a few efforts followed by a 15 min run with similar efforts

While out at the race site warming up, I ran into another gentleman doing a similar workout. We started talking and I found out that this was Barry Siff, the founder of 5430 Sports (now WTC Events) and a well-known and respected member of the triathlon community. Oddly enough, we live within a few miles of each other in Boulder, but it took a 8 hour drive and a flat tire on Barry’s bike for us to meet and spend a little time together.

After the workout, I started the process of preparing the gear, tuning up the bike, and mixing oodles of sports drink and electrolytes. Whitney has me currently using a combination of GU Products, Carbo Pro, and Nuun. This process gets my mind in the right place and helps in visualization of what’s ahead. After I felt comfortable with everything, I headed out for dinner and a movie at the local theatre.

I was home from the movie at 8:45pm and in bed by 9:30pm, at which point I called Whit before I hit the sack. I can’t tell you how much we connect through similar goals, and this race was no different. She couldn’t attend because she is in full preparation for Ironman Wisconsin, so over a phone call she and I went through all the race preparation duties. We also discussed each aspect of the race, playing different effort, weather, and nutrition scenarios out. At my level, completing a half iron is not an issue, but being able to race one is. Her insight and our conversations before races has been an invaluable tool. Not to mention, she sent me one of the most motivational emails ever as we were talking. Thanks, Shorty Fry.

Race morning the weather was beautiful, absolutely perfect. Getting to the race was painless and before I knew it my gear was in place and ready to roll with plenty of time to spare.

I started in the second wave (the first wave was Pro and only had 6 people) with all athletes under the age of 34. The swim was a two loop course and I was hoping to get out in under 40 minutes. After the first loop I looked down and saw I was at 15:30, hell yes. I was giving myself the chance for a good race. I was putting forth a hard effort so I intentionally backed it down and took the second lap slower. When I exited the water my clock read 32:40. I took off towards T1 and got ready to tear up the bike.

It’s funny how training puts perspective on things. My coach and mentor, Dawson Cherry, had me complete several 5+ hour solo rides over the past few months, 56 miles felt like a short spin. Mentally I was stuck between wanting to hammer the bike and being aware that a too much effort too early, could in fact, ruin the rest of my race. Plus, Rachel had let me borrow her Flashpoint aero wheels, which was very much appreciated and I could tell a difference immediately. The first part of the bike was through downtown Provo so there were a lot of turns. Triathletes are notoriously terrible at bike handling so I was able to pass about 15 people in the first few miles. Once we got out to the straight and flat roads, the course got fast. At about 20 miles in, I knew I was towards the front of the race and that I needed to be sure to reserve some efforts. When I hit the halfway point I was right at about 24mph, maybe a little over. Since my overall time goal was a 4:40, I resigned myself to being conservative with perceived effort for the second half of the bike as to ensure a solid run.

After the turn around, I caught 2 riders within a few miles but neither one of them were looking well. At about mile 40 I got in to a quasi-group of three. We exchanged leads back and forth and used each other as beacons. It was a really nice group, all of us were on course to be on about the same bike split and gave us an immediate goal to stay with. I led the last 3 miles heading in to T2 and looked at my clock, a 2:12…. HOLY COW, that is just above 25 mph. In all honesty, though, the course was a couple miles short so that pace is slightly inflated.

I entered the run well on target to make my goal of a 4:40, but with a chance to make 4:30. All I had to do was run a 1:40 half and I had it in the bag, which who cares if that is 3 minutes faster than my fastest Half Ironman, Half-Marathon time ever.

Out of T2 I was moving well. I didn’t mean to be, but at mile 1 I looked at my clock and saw 6:15. While I felt ok, I knew that was too fast so I tried to back it down, at mile 2 it read 13:33, damnit. By mile 3 that pace hit me and I had slowed down to about 7 minute miles. And by mile four, my stomach started having some problems and I settled in to a pace of about 7:30, which is where I stayed for the remainder of the run. While I am happy overall with the race, I do wish I had been able to break 1:35 in the run, maybe next time.

The Utah Half marked the first competition with my new nutrition plan. Overall I was very happy with it, except I had a little bit of stomach issues. I mostly blame that on the overall heat and effort of the day however.

I crossed the line with a 4:29:44, by far the best time I’ve ever had but my fitness has also come around this year. That broke down to a 33:20 swim, a 2:13 bike (25.1mph), and a 1:39 run (7:38 pace). I’ll admit, though, that the bike course was shortened. My clock actually read 24.2 mph, which I am still very happy with.

After the race I ran straight to the car and started the 8 hour drive back home to the house and my Lady who had a 6 pack of Colorado Native waiting on me. The ride was beautiful and I snagged a couple more photos! Looking forward to my next and final race now.

Bailey HUNDO & Bucket Item #3

The 3am wake up call hurt like hell. But soon the thought of the task at hand entered my head, and the energy of knowing I was about to knock #3 of my bucket list took over.
To back track just a little, this past October I purchased a Specialized 29er with the implicit purpose of competing in a 100 mile mountain bike race.  After a few days of riding in Northern Georgia, I moved to Colorado – where I could really put my steed to the test.  By March I had officially applied to take part in the 2nd Annual Bailey HUNDO, an off-road century that was won by JHK last year. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I discovered  a 100 mile mountain bike race is not just a “lil harder” than 100 miles on a road bike. In March I took the mountain bike out for a 50 mile ride from Boulder to Lyons and back on trails. It was then that I visited bonk town and grasped the reality that this was going to be more challenging than I first thought. To give myself some stepping stones, I signed up for the Voodoo Fire 70 in in March in Pueblo, CO and the Front Range 60 in May in Lakewood, CO. I was tired after both these races but learned a few things about mtn bike racing and felt better prepared.

Due to a nagging wrist pain and the general roughing up the body takes while mountain biking, I’d not been on the mtn bike but a couple times from middle May until the Bailey on June 18th. I had, however, been on several long solo rides on my tri bike. I knew that my endurance was there. I simply had concerns about being in the mtn bike position for so many hours.

Sart Line

So it was with glazed over eyes but nervous excitement, I arrived at the start line for the HUNDO in downtown Bailey. There were roughly 250 of us, limited by the forest service, allowed to start the race. After a few pre-race announcements and a few “hoo has” from the racers, we were off with the blast of a double barrel shot gun.

The first 8 miles of the HUNDO are road. At first paved then within a couple miles in it turns to dirt. This is actually beneficial in the sense that it breaks the riders up before the single track hits. I started out at a very casual pace. I’ve never raced 100 miles on the mountain bike, but thought that a 10mph pace might be fair to expect.  We entered the single track nice and warmed up. Even though my preparations and rest during the two weeks were not good, I felt decent.

I knew from looking at the map that miles 8-60 were primarily single track. (View Course Here) The trail was extremely fun as there was a bit of everything -flowy single track under the protection of large conifers, sustained climbs, and every now and then a rock garden or some other trail challenge.  Every now and then we’d pop out on a service road through a campground then cruise over to another trail system which gave me a chance to sit up, grab a long drink and down part some of my new EFS Liquid Shots – gu type substance.

My goal was not to stop for food or drink until mile 30. Not that this is some great feat , I simply thought I would need to refill at that point. The first 30 miles came and went quickly in about 2.5 hours, ahead of schedule! Even better, I didn’t need to stop because some volunteers were actually on course handing out bottles. I grabbed one on the go and moved on. My first stop came at mile 40, however, as the bottles were not pre-filled. Still, I kept it brief and kept plugging along aiming for the drop bags at mile 60.

A few miles after my quick stop, the back end of my bike hit a burned out stump of a tree. I felt the impact but thought everything was ok, and then my chain starting skipping. Every time I tried to shift or put much power in to the pedals, the chain would skip and hop from cassette to cassette. It made standing nearly impossible and certainly slowed me in coming out of corners or climbing. It was unfortunate timing because it was near this time we started to go through a beautiful portion of the trail. We climbed on top of, and then rode across, a ridge that had been hit by or forest fire in 2003 I think. It was one of the worst forest fires ever in Colorado, but the now it gave the appearance of some sort of moon scape. In the back of my mind, however, I was trying to figure out what I could do about my bike troubles.

Long Stoney climb

I started hoping for a mechanic to appear at an aid station. The 50 mile aid station came and went with no such luck. I knew that the drop bag location had a better shot. There would be more volunteers, people, and better car access. So after a steep descent to a valley, I crossed a river on a pedestrian bridge heading towards the drop bag location and I was pretty damn happy to see a “Wheat Ridge Cyclery” banner and bike station. A friend and Wheat Ridge employee, Pat Mayben, was there with another mechanic and they immediately grabbed my bike and went to work while I rummaged through my bag to figure out my nutrition. Within about 12 or 13 minutes I heard Pat yelling my name. The bike was ready to roll! I had banged my rear derailleur and bent an eye on my chain. They had fixed both, lubed my chain, and had the bike running better than it was prior to the start.

The next 12 miles or so was legitimate flat road. I knew this was my chance to make up some time on a few people who passed me in technical sections. My skills are not good enough yet to hold my own there, so I felt compelled to ride hard for the next portion. I put my head down and went. At first I was just blowing by people then figured it would be good to pick up someone for some help. I caught a guy that was going somewhat well and yelled, “Grab my wheel, let’s go”. He looked happy to do so and we start splitting the pace making, and within a few miles we caught another guy who was going well. He hopped on us and the three of us lit it up until the next aid station at mile 72.

This aid station was at the base of a huge climb, one that I thought would be 10ish miles. It started out on paved road then turned on to forest service dirt road. The first few miles were lower grade and I held steady. At mile 3, the climb it got steep and I started losing ground slowly. Close to what I thought was the top, it got really steep. It was steep to the point that some people were walking. I got to an aid station at mile 80 after a few hundred meters of descending. I knew the mileage was off, but we were pretty high up there and I only saw a road going down, so I made the joke to a volunteer “Where’s this tough climb they keep talking about” and he replied “You just did the first few miles of it, it goes down a bit and then you are pretty much climbing until mile 90ish. Damn me and my sarcasm.

Never have I ever hurt like that on a decent. I was sitting at a little under 7 hours on the bike and knew I had 12 miles more of climbing or so until a real break. Though I am in decent cycling shape right now, the legs were not used to the mountain bike position and I found myself sitting forward on the nose of the saddle and pulling up in an effort to give the hamstrings a break as they felt like they were going to start cramping.

As expected, the next 12 miles were hell. Dirt and gravel roads of exposed to the sun, and slick so your wheel would spin out if you didn’t hold your line. It’s daunting to gaze off at a mountain in the distance and see other riders negotiating a winding road. The heat was increasing from a relatively cool morning and hydration was starting to become more of a necessity. I started playing leap frog with other racers, each person going harder when they felt better. Finally, and with a bit of skepticism, I hit a 1 mile downhill. And then it happened….

Descending by Wellington Lake

Buffalo Crossing! At least that is what everyone was calling these two unique features in the course after the race.  As we came up shooting down a false flat to what looked like a small creek crossing, I saw a guy in front of me (going at a good pace) hit the crossing and almost disappear. I mean muddy murky water nearly up to his waist type thing. I wondered if my fatigue had made me see something, but sure enough as I hit the crossing I submerged my bike just like he had. And it was awesome. There was another one a few miles down the road and I hit it harder than the first. Part of me, the kid inside, wanted to go back and do it again. But the legs were starting to scream so I headed on.

The last ten miles were not easy by any stretch. The course was up then down, up then down, which meant your legs just really got enough time to lock up before a steep half mile climb. I knew I was getting close when I caught a guy and he said, “Home stretch brother, 97.5 miles”.  It put a smile on my face, we gave each other daps then rode on. The last 1.5 miles was UP then DOWN. Starting with a STEEP and .75 mile climb, you could look straight up and see guys weaving in and out of the road. It was painful and brutal, but a damn beautiful was to end an epic day. I hit the top, turned off the road and on to the Sawmill Property where the finish was located and cruised down the last three quarters of a mile. I officially crossed the finish line at 9:14.

While I played it safe and my preparations were pretty bad for this event, I was fairly happy with knocking #3 off the “To do before I turn 35” list. It’s always fun to test the body. For some reason endurance sports speak to me. I’m not naturally good at them and I don’t train enough to make myself better. Nevertheless, over 9 hours in the saddle was rewarding and better for the soul than the body.