Princeton 70.3 Race Report

Princeton was my last triathlon of the year and I wanted to go out with a bang.  Besides a month of barely running, I would say that I had my best lead up to a race and was extremely confident in my fitness.  Between Eagleman 70.3  in June and my taper for this race I squeezed every last drop of fitness from my body. The only thing left to do was to execute on race day.

Having a later swim start, 7:56, there was no need to get up extremely early.  I set my alarm for 4:40 a.m. and wanted to be out the door by 5:45 a.m.  I had a great night sleep and awoke feeling fresh and rested.  I started taking in calories at 5:00 a.m.  First I had a smoothie (bananas, spinach, kale and blueberries - 200 calories). I then made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with my toothbrush since I forgot to pack a knife. The PB&J was left untouched until 5:30 a.m. (200 calories).  I also had a pint glass of lemon-lime Nuun (zero calories), to top of the electrolytes.  I would like to apologize to my three roommates for the early morning symphony of a blender and EDM. I was out the door by 5:45 a.m.

According to Google Maps the race site was 15 minutes from the hotel so I estimated I would have been in and finished with my transition routine by 6:15 a.m.  We pulled into the park and there was a long line of cars waiting to park.  Check my watch. Still plenty of time.  One by one the cars were pulling into the lot. Check my watch. A little anxiety started to set in.  We creeped forward a few car lengths. Check car clock. WTF. Anxiety sky rockets. Check my watch. Matt is one of those people that sets his clock 10 minutes ahead. Deep breath. Finally get to the entrance of the parking lot. 6:15. Very anxious. "Guys, I'm hoping out, I'll see you over at transition."

According to the Event Schedule Transition closes at 6:45 and that time was quickly approaching.  I felt rushed setting up transition but completed my normal routine with a few minutes to spare. I made the long walk from transition, through the woods, to the swim start to watch the Pros start.

I meet back up with Matt, Chris and Dan within a few minutes.  I managed to find a picnic table off to the side to sit down and relax.  Now I just needed to wait for 14 waves to start before it was my turn.  From 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. I kept the conversation light and relaxed, snapped a few pictures, made a couple of new friends and began to visualize the immediate task at hand.  At 7:30 I gave my support crew hugs, they wished me luck, Matt gave me some last words of wisdom and I made my way down to the water to warm up.  

As I exited the warm up area athletes in my wave had already started lining up.  I made my way over and started to play detective and locate the fish.  I believe I had found a couple of them and was going to seed myself right behind them.  As my wave made their way to the in-water swim start I noticed a lot of the wave made their way to the far right of the starting line so they could stand.  That's not a good sign. I was confident in my detective skills because I was right next to a group of swimmers that were talking shit and had laser focus on the course directly in front of them.  The horn sounded and I found my feet.  For the first 50-75 yards I was in a small pack of 7-10 swimmers with 2 guys leading the charge.  By the first buoy (200 yards) that group had quickly dissolved. It was now me and the two leading the charge.  By the second buoy there was two of us. I was about two body lengths behind the lead guy.  I knew I had to stay with this guy, his stroke was long and relaxed and there was no way he was going to fade. I put in an effort to catch him.  We were even leading into the first turn.  Right before the  turn I received a WWF elbow from a woman swimming breast stroke.  She rocked my eye so hard I thought she broke my goggles. She apologized. I had lost some time to the fish however, I was now determined be very aggressive when making my way through the crowd. I was going to stay on my line no matter who I had to swim over, squeeze through or put into the wall. Rubbing is racing.  As I made my way around the second turn I had lost sight of the fish but I did notice that a majority of the swimmers were way right of the buoy line.  That meant there was a clear line and clean water on the boy line and I was going to capitalize on this. My stroke loosened up and my turnover was rhythmic. The last turn finally turn buoy finally came into view and I decided to put in a final effort.  It was very crowded from 20 yards prior to the turn buoy to the Swim Exit.  This was the time to be extremely aggressive.  I definitely barged rudely through groups of swimmers and actually saw the fish I had originally had my eye on.  Both of us were like bulls through a china shop.  We exited the water at the same time.  That was a very fun and different swim for me.  As I exited the water I heard Matt, Chris, Dan and Anthony who drove to the race that morning.  I was fully expecting for Matt to yell my split but I'm glad he didn't. How bad was my swim? Don't think about. Be present.

Usually heading out of the water I jog to and through transition.  This time I was going to run.  I bobbed and weaved my way to transition.  I arrived at my bike, turned on my Garmin, and started to strip off my wetsuit.  I had a  slight issue and as a result had to sit down to finish the job.  This was a little frustrating but in real time probably only cost me a couple of seconds.  Helmet, sunglasses, bike, and I was running out of transition.  I'm pretty sure Anthony followed me from the water, through transition, to the bike mount because I could here his encouraging cheers the entire time.  It is pretty awesome to have such great friends and support system at a race.

Phase One of the bike was to take the first 10miles/:30 minutes very easy. Done.
The 10 mile marker came first. Commence Phase Two, Get To Work. I knew most of the rolling hills were between miles 15-40 so I wanted to error on the side of caution regarding my effort level to ensure a strong finish on the bike. My legs responded, somewhat, to my game plan.  They didn't feel bad or great yet they certainly weren't firing on all cylinders. Despite not having total confidence in my legs I was moving at a solid pace and was quickly joined by a few other athletes. For the next 7-10 miles I played with my cadence, seat position and pelvic tilt in an attempt to get my engine running at full steam. Nothing was having an immediate or desired impact. In lieu of these failed attempts I was still able to produce the desired power and was still keenly focused on the task at hand.  I was now roughly 20 miles into the bike and I was still pulling a train of athletes.  Were these guys serious? I began to look for a Draft Marshall and made sure they knew I was looking for one.  No marshal in sight.  The 88 minute struck and it happened, my legs started to fire! YEEEESSSSSSSSS. I took one last look at my passengers and took off.  This was the feeling I was waiting for.  My legs were turning over effortlessly, my cadence was smooth and quick, the muscles in my legs were relaxed and I was even more focused on smashing this bike. After about 5 miles I was only pulling 2 athletes.  One of them even had the balls to ride up next to me to tell me about the lay of the land for the next few miles. He then returned to his seat on the train.  Were these guys going to draft off of me for the entire bike? Do people really race like this? This is so messed up.  I found myself spitting up and over my shoulder as opposed to down on the ground in attempt to say,  "F@ck You". DRAFTERS SUCK.

Phase Three, time trial effort the last 10 miles of the bike. As mile 45 approached I gave myself a systems check.  Everything felt pretty good but, should I risk the potential of a great run for a time trial effort? "Trust your body and conditioning. You can run off the bike." That is all that I needed to remember from Matt.  I was going for it. I forgot about having to run off the bike and focused on the moment and finally dropping these guys.  Within three miles I had dropped them and I made sure that this train would not be taking on any more passengers.  For the last six miles I did my best to keep my focus on the present moment and to not take my foot off the gas pedal.  I did here Dan cheer me on at one point during that period.  He would later confirm that there were indeed several athletes drafting off of me. SMH.  

As I entered the bike chute and prepared to dismount my support crew was there and being very vocal about charging forward.  I hopped off my bike and began running toward my rack.  As I neared my rack I couldn't believe my eyes, it was completely empty. There wasn't a single bike in my rack. Holy shit, this is bad ass.  I sat down to put on my socks, slipped on my sneakers, grabbed my hat, watch and race belt in one hand and a water bottle in the other.  A quick swig of water and tossed the bottle into the garbage. Race belt over my head and under one arm, hat on backwards, watched turned on. I crossed the timing mat at the Run Out, hit the start button, it was time to "run for dough". As in T1 Ant was right there yelling at me to get to work.  There was something about his cheering and tone that was very motivating. 

After the first 100 yards I moved my race belt down to my waist and checked my watch. I was right on target.  As I hit the first mile marker one of the passengers on my train quickly made his way past me . . . you're welcome!  For the next couple of miles I toyed with the idea of just going for it because my legs were feeling really good.  Stay in control. Stay in the moment. This was the chorus of a response I gave myself each time I got that itch.  Matt, Anthony and Chris  must have strategically positioned themselves  through the course because I felt like I had a traveling cheering squad. Besides the cheers and encouragement from my crew, and the volunteers yelling "water", my race was silent. The first lap was actually enjoyable. I got this. Right before the start of the second lap I made the decision to let me legs go on any decline and increase the effort on any incline.  

The second lap started just like the first, with Anthony then Chris and Matt.  During the first lap I had quietly made my way through the field, a unique experience for me. The second lap I wanted to make some noise.  I was going to put my stamp on this season. The first step in accomplishing this was to reach my immediate goal of safely reaching mile 10. For me the 10 mile marker is where I make my decision, to push all my chips into the middle of the table or to buckle up and prepare for the bumpy road ahead.  Mile 7. At mile 8 my confidence took a slight blow for an unknown reason.  For the next two minutes I repeated the word, "strong" out loud. Crisis averted. Mile 9. All systems were still  a go. Mile 10. System's check.  Without a single hesitation I was going all in. Hulk smash.

I immediately began to increase my cadence and slowly raised my effort level.  As I progressed through mile 10 I began to feel several emotions; arrogance, confidence, nervousness, disbelief, relief, excitement, shock.  This was the very first time I knew what the result would be from pushing all my chips into the middle of the table. I quickly put my emotions  in check. Stay in control. Stay in the moment.  

The 11 mile marker was in sight and so was Matt. Shortly after passing the marker I came along side him. He immediately assured me I could do this and it was time to suffer.  Quick feet.  You can do this. Pick up the pace. Time to dig deep. I followed his directions but he responded the same way. Drive with your arms. Quick feet. Smooth speed. Time to dig deep. You can do this. Ignore the pain. Mile 12

This was where my race became real.  This was where Matt and Anthony asked if I was checking into the pain cave? I told them I would be checking in for the next 1.1 miles. For the next mile I had Anthony sitting on my left shoulder and Matt on my right.  Anthony took the Drill Sergeant approach to push me beyond my limits while Matt's approach balanced between Coach and Drill Sergeant.  My effort level was beyond red line and it didn't matter. I was going to push my body as far as it could.  You are going to have to suffer. How bad do you want this? Put your head down and get to work. Hulk smash.  Let's go. You can dig deeper. You can suffer more.  Several times I winced and as my eyes closed I felt that fuzzy feeling that you experience right before you pass out.  I was maxing myself out. This last mile felt like an eternity.  The finishing chute.

The banners were a relief to see. My race was about to end. The finish line was so close.  Did Matt and Anthony let up on me? No. Did Chris join in? Yes. I found yet another gear.  I crossed the line with two others. I even managed to give a shout out to my wife with a heart. I had finally established and pushed my body to the limit, a goal of mine since my journey started in endurance sports.

I took four steps across the finish line, was given a hat, medal, bottle of water and then I grabbed onto a fence.  Immediately I was asked if I needed a medic or wanted to go to the med tent?  I think I'm OK.  The next 5 minutes I was continually asked and encouraged to go to the med tent.  I saw my crew standing by the fence and made my way towards them. I dropped everything I had and hung on another fence.  After 10 minutes I tried to acknowledge them.  Matt came over and gave me a hug. I broke down and started to cry.  An athlete crying in his coach's arms after an unforgettable athletic performance . . . truly poetic.  

Strangely enough Ironman says I DNF'd the race.  As I'm writing this they emailed me about this. They think (have no idea) the reason for the DNF result and inaccuracies in my splits (at one point they had me in T2 for over 3 hours) was the battery in my timing chip. Thank you Ironman. Luckily I did keep track of my splits:

1. :32.28 swim (PR by 46 seconds)
2. 2:34.47 bike
3. 1:42.53 run (just over a 13 minute PR)
4. 5 minute transitions
Overall time: 4:55.08 (7 minute PR)

Race Nutrition:
Swim: 0 calories
Bike: 600 calories (CarboPro) in 30 oz of water
Run: 0 calories, small sips of water at most aid stations
0 GI issues

This is my last triathlon race report for the 2014 season.


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