You don’t know how badly you want to achieve something until you realize there’s a chance it might not happen – especially if you busted your ass and did as much as you could to achieve it. This is true for anything in life, whether it’s a promotion at your job or a personal goal in your life. When I signed up for Eagleman last September, I knew my training was aimed at achieving one goal. No, it wasn’t to qualify for Kona or 70.3 worlds, which most people who come to Eagleman try to do (which makes for one hell of a race!). I simply wanted to break 5 hours. My previous PR – 5:12 at Rev3 Quassy. I raced Eagleman in 2012 on the hottest, most humid day of my life. It was my first half and I managed to put together a not too shabby 5:22. I figured with 2 years of training, 5 hours should be a piece of cake.
I bought a 20 week plan off Endurance Nation that was pretty detailed in terms of power, heart rate, and RPE for each workout. I knew it would be tough to fit in the 8-14 hours of training in addition to working at the hospital 30 hours a week and having class and clinical an additional 30 hours a week. While my schedule wasn’t ideal, my head and heart were in the right place.
As Eagleman got closer, I threw in some races to gauge my fitness. I had a successful early season of running, with a 2nd place AG finish at the HAT Run 50K, a 3 hour marathon at Boston, and some fast races at the Nanticoke Sprint Triathlon and Rock Hall Sprint Triathlon, where I not only set PRs at both races, but managed to take home a 1st and 2nd place AG and top 10 OA finishes. The training was done and my fitness was there. All I needed to do now was put it all together. I figured I could manage a 40 minute swim, 2:45 bike, and a 1:35 run, which would put me at 5 hours.
Race day had finally arrived – June 8th. I don’t want to call the race director a liar, but I’m pretty sure the race director is a liar. According to WTC rules, wetsuits aren’t allowed in water above 76.1 degrees. I was obsessively tracking the water temperature all night, and come race morning the NOAA website cited a water temperature of 75. Race director got 76.6. No wetsuits. I wasn’t mad about the wetsuit swim as I’m pretty comfortable in the water. I was more pissed off that I had just bought a nice ass wetsuit from ROKA that I really wanted to sport on race day. Oh well. I racked my bike and met up with my Arena Club crew, which, as usual, had a good showing. I also met up with my Moxie teammate for a quick chat before the start.
The professional race started at 6:45AM, and I had the luxury of waiting around for an hour and 45 minutes before my wave went off at 8:30 – a huge disadvantage in terms of wasted energy at the start and the heat come the run. Luckily I had a good support crew, my mom, who found a nice shady spot under a tree where I just relaxed, hydrated, and got in some last minute nutrition.
The Swim (Split: 36:33 Pace: 1:53/100m Total: 36:33)
As I was beating my head against a wall, pissed that I went for the ROKA wetsuit instead of the ROKA swim skin, I decided it would probably be faster to just wear my tri top instead of trying to put it on wet in transition. I walked into the Choptank river as a newcomer to the 25-29 age group. The field is a lot more competitive and larger than the 18-24, but I just tried to keep my own goals in mind. The water was shallow with low tide, so we all stood in a line waiting for the start. The gun went off and immediately my timing chip fell off as I kicked someone behind me. Good start. Despite my lack of swimming in preparation for the race, I managed to find a good rhythm and swam at a comfortable pace that I could keep for the entire distance. The water was very calm with no chop and a very easy current. My sighting was spot on and managed to stay on course, which never happens for me. Before the first turn buoy I managed to catch the wave in front of me, which made it a bit more congested. A few kicks to the face here and there, but no major harm done. With the new WTC swim rules, there were more buoys in the water than in years past, so it made for very easy sighting. Coming into the finish of the swim, the water was so shallow you could barely swim. Most people just got up and walked the last 100 meters. I managed to get a few dolphin dives in and dolphin dived to the finish. Running into transition, I could feel my legs starting to cramp. With a wetsuit, the buoyancy keeps your legs and body higher in the water and definitely saves your legs. Without one, you’re kicking just to stay afloat. Not a good feeling running into transition.
T1 (Split: 1:41 Total: 38:14)
The Bike (Split: 2:35:33 Pace: 21.6 mph Total: 3:13:47)
I don’t consider myself a strong biker, but I have been working on it and it has been a heavy focus in my training over the past 20 weeks. I came out and rode the course a few weeks back with some Arena Club buddies, Brian and Trent. On that day, it was pretty windy and I managed to average around 22 mph, with the faster sections (tailwinds) reaching 27 mph and the slower sections (headwinds) averaging around 18. Race day was a lot calmer, so I had a lot of confidence going into this bike course. The 56 miles is nothing but flat, flat, flat. My race strategy was to take the first 10 miles easy, which takes you right out to the main loop. Then I would ride the loop pretty hard and aggressively. I wanted to leave as much as I could on that bike course, while still keeping enough in the legs to run a 1:30 – 1:35 half. With my legs cramping after the swim, I took the first couple miles easy just to get my legs back together. I threw back some MRI surge and some water to get fluids in me and just spun the first 5 miles. As my legs came around, I picked up the cadence and the pace. I managed to put together the first 10 miles at 21.2 mph. As I made a right onto the main loop after the first 10 miles, I was expecting a nice tailwind where I could just cruise until getting into the Blackwater Refuge. There was no tailwind. In fact, there was really no wind at all. If anything, there was a very very slight headwind that wasn’t really noticeable. In my head, I was thinking this is going to be a fast bike. No tailwind here means no headwind on Egypt road. I rode hard and passed a good amount of riders. A few of the weaker swimmers from my age group passed me, but for the first time ever in a race I managed to actually gain positions in the bike. Boom! Hard work pays off. I hammered my way through the bike taking in some cliff shot blocks or gels every 30 minutes and taking in water and MRI drink every 15. It worked pretty well and I felt solid on the bike. No cramping, no fatigue. My race plan was still going as planned. My power was right where I wanted it (around 180 watts) and I averaged 22.18 mph for the big loop. With less than 10 miles left of the bike, I decided to take the intensity down a bit and get focused on the run. I kept my cadence around 95 and tried to dial back the power to 170. I finished the last 10 miles at 19.71 mph. I dismounted my bike and ran into T2.
T2 (Split: 1:59 Total: 3:15:46)
The Run (Split: 1:43:11 Pace: 7:52/mile Total: 4:58:57)
The run. My strongest leg – usually. I had confidence going into this run. I had awesome races at Boston and the HAT run and my runs off the bike at both sprint triathlons were 5:50/mile and my run off the bike at Columbia was a solid 6:20/mile. I looked at my watch and realized I had about 1:45 to get to the finish. Easy – I ran a 1:35 at Quassy last year and that course, I would say, is much more technical. I was wrong. I cramped at mile…0. Well shit. I knew my mom was waiting to take a picture just around the corner, so I knew I had to make it at least past her so I didn’t look as shitty as I felt. Cruised by with a smile on my face. Mission accomplished. As soon as I turned the first corner, I stopped to stretch out my legs. I managed a slight waddle and a goofy looking jog when I hear “Let’s go Moxie! You got this!”. I looked up and saw a Wattie Ink member coming back on the run. This was a huge boost and pushed me to start running again. Mentally, I have to cut this run up into 4 sections of 3 miles each. My goal was to not walk at all, but this plan went to hell as soon as I took my first step. So, I decided I’d try to go 3 miles then walk. Around mile 1 I got a big boost as fellow Moxie Troy flew by on his way to the finish. He beasted his way to a 4:36 finish. I managed to get to mile 3 and slowed down at the aid station to get as much as I could in me. Water, Cola, Gatorade, ice – water over the head, ice down the shirt, down the pants, everywhere – sponges in my top and down my back. It wasn’t a particularly hot day (especially compared to 2012), but the heat was still getting to me. After the aid station, I picked up the pace and pushed on to mile 4 then mile 5. That nagging “knife in leg” pain started around mile 5.5 and I walked to mile 6. I passed some more of the Wattie Ink crew who gave me a quick high five and words of encouragement and managed to see some of my Arena Club athletes. I pushed on to the turn around.
There was an official at the turn around and he had the joy of seeing me vomit everything I had taken in. It was a nice mix of gatorade and cola and the mixture of gels and cliff blocks gave it a nice consistency. I had my timing chip in hand and told the official I was done. He asked if I needed medical and I said no, and he asked me again if I really wanted to quit. I wanted to say yes, but for some reason I didn’t say a word, put my timing chip back on, and walked away. I walked until the aid station and looked at my watch. I had 40 minutes. I was almost certain 5 hours wasn’t going to happen. I was deflated. All my hard work for a sub-par performance. Guess I biked a little too hard. I had 5 miles to go. 5 miles in 40 minutes. I knew I could do it, I’ve done it so many times. I did 6.2 miles in 38 minutes at Columbia. I pushed on and picked up my pace and just went as far as I could before I was forced to stop. I managed to get 2 miles before I walked again. I got to the aid station, took in some water and headed off again. I met up with Aimee from the Arena Club around mile 11. She was killing the course as usual and she looked strong. I fed off her energy and she told me to go and crush the last 2 miles. And crush it I did. Digging deep, I managed to run my last 2 miles in 14 minutes. I cruised into the finish line. I wasn’t sure what my time was, but I was pretty sure I managed to hit my goal. After checking the official results, I saw 4:48:57. Then I fell over.
I’m pretty sure if I looked down at my legs right now there would still be knives in them. I’m too scared to look, though. But as much pain as I’m in now, I know the pain would be a million times worse if I had given up like I was going to during the run. I wanted to go under 5 hours so bad and that’s what made me walk away from that official. Knowing my accomplishments from the past gave me the confidence and the strength to push through the lowest of lows and find a way to achieve new ones. Like I said in the beginning, when you really want something and realize it may not happen, if you truly in your heart want it, there is nothing that can stop you from achieving it.
A big thank you to my Mom, who was my sherpa and my number one supporter. She put up with my shitty selection of hotels (a smoking room at the Econo lodge – never again) and never doubted my ability to achieve my goal. Also thanks to my Arena Club crew and my Moxie teammates and Wattie Ink crew, who kept me motivated and pushed me each day. A big shootout to the sponsors and supporters of Moxie Nation – ENVE composites, ISM Saddles, MRI Endurance, Smith Optics, Rudy Project, Donkey Label, Wattie Ink, ROKA, Natures Bakery, and SwiftWick.
I can’t wait to come back to Cambridge in September on this same course for the inaugural Ironman Maryland (formerly known as Chesapeakeman).
#FindyourMoxie #MoxieFound #RocktheW