Through simple stubbornness and perseverance, I managed to meet all of my obligations with a smile on my face and a relative spring in my step.
The obvious question was did it all pay off? In the midst of all this chaos, was tri-guy able to not only complete the event, but to also walk away at the end with some kind of respectable result?
Read on my friends, read on.
So I was off to do the Liberty 1/2 Iron in Minnesota.
Well once we arrived in Plymouth, just outside of Minneapolis, we headed over to get a feel for the course. Well... blow me down and call me dusty... what a beautiful park. Rebecca Lake park is a lush gorgeous setting nestled deep in the heart of the Minnesota forrest. With rolling hills, perfect pavement, this is truly one of those vacation spots that is kept quiet and local. This place, from all angles, was a post card of the midwest. This area of what is formally know as Hennepin County is a slice of the American dream.
Here you have quaint little towns like Delano, where the local people sip coffee and browse through knick-knacs on a beautiful Saturday morning with their store-front American flags waving gently in the ever so subtle breeze of dawn. The meandering course takes you out of Delano and into the thick green farmland with stoic barns and fields of varying grains and crops. All of this on pavement unequalled in our Canadian frost-heaved training grounds.
Race day came with a 3:45 a.m wake up and a stagger to the ample breakfast at the Country Inn and Suites. A quickly cleaved cinnamon and raisin bagel covered with cream cheese and grape jelly served as the breakfast of choice and, combined with some strong coffee, found me squinting less and less and the sun poked its way through the trees.
With, coach and wheels in tow, we loaded the bikes and eased our way through the 12 miles to the course with the intent of being there early so we could rack in the sweet spot and gain whatever little advantage there was to being in a position of choice. After a brief wait and some gentle ribbing of the first man through the gatekeeper who jogged to his bike rack, we set our kit and settled into our routine of talking loudly and wondering in jest if they were, "going to allow flippers like last year" and proclaiming, as we exited the port-a-potty, how great it is that they still have toilet paper.
After a brief stretch on a picnic bench commenting on the action like the fates in a Greek play, we left our perch and headed down to the water with our moaning puppies.
I was in wave 4 of 6. We were the purple caps. I was not happy, as this meant that most likely I was going to have to stick handle my way through the carnage of waves 1-3. The waves were put together seemingly haphazardly by varying age clusters and not ability. Thus, when the gun went off, I would be about 8 minutes behind wave 1. The water was fairly clear except for the piles of mill-foil that had suddenly appeared as waves1-3 had churned up the water. As if that was not bad enough, there was a dead bass floating in the water as if to harken some omen for us all that any one of us may be flopping around like a dead fish.... but then again.... dead fish don't flop.
At the start, I had a great line and drew to the front of my wave quickly. I was looking to draft, but I had open water, so I went for it. My plan all along had been to sprint out the first 200m or so and then settle in to my routine. At the 200m mark, I had seemingly left my wave behind and started running into the dregs of wave 3. These were people who simply did not train and could not swim a straight line in open water to save their lives. The best plan here is to get past them quickly so they do not swim into you or block you. After a wile, I was passing so many people, I got to thinking that I should slow down, but at the same time, I was feeling really great and I saw no reason why I should not continue picking off the weak and gasping. Wave one was red caps and I passed my first one at about the 1000m mark. .... BRILLIANT! I was flying. As I rounded the turn for home I focused on my tri-cept pull and harnessed even more speed. It felt great and I was very happy.
I hit the beach in what I felt was a stellar time and with my purple capped wave 4 team-mates far behind me, I exited the water and headed up the seemingly endless stairs to The Giant.
The Giant was right where I left him and raring to go. The wet-suit came off with typical hesitance, but the body glide made it let go of its tentacled purchase. Underneath the super-suit, I had my skins, tribe top and shorts which, of course, were all soaking wet. However, that just meant I would have to ride a little faster to dry them off. And with little ceremony The Giant leapt off the rack and out on to this unfamiliar course.
The best you could hope for was a day that was not too hot and with little wind..... well we all felt like we had won the lottery. What a perfect day. I took coach's advice and went out with the singlet and no sleeves. Wow was I glad I did. The day started at about 16˚C and throughout the race warmed up to 22˚C.
The story of the bike is the roads and the quaint little post cart visages that we floated through. Within the first mile we crossed under highway 12 and into the town of Delano. I truly felt like a member of the tour as it seemed that the whole town was up early to greet us. With the glass like pavement and squeaky clean infrastructure, you really felt like this was a sham or a set-up of some kind... "This can't be real," you ask your self. "This must be a movie set of some kind." But no, it was just their usual wonderful hospitality coming out to say hi and welcome you to their neck of the woods.
This course has rolling hills and epic vistas. There were even a couple of round-abouts to give you that "Tour" feel. We all commented on the dead cat about 3/4 the way up one of the climbs as it served to remind us that not only were we going to ride by it twice, but at least it was out of its misery and we were still out here suffering.
I ate a Gu every thirty minutes and masticated my way through a shot block on the 15's. These chewy treats were recommended by coach as an alternative fuel source. No, we are not trying to save the environment, we are just trying to keep our bellies happy and not crampy. An un-happy tummy can ruin your day.
The bike played out as planned, and I eased off my intensity in favour of having something left for the run. The race was very typical that way, as all of the crappy swimmers who were amazing cyclists were now beginning to pass me. You go girls, now it is your turn to shine.
The 90K in the saddle went by quick enough, but it was time to get off the bike. My butt was getting sore and I was ready to be done chasing down the weak and tired. With a glide and a donkey kick, it was back into transition and off to the run.
I had gone on about a 1k warm-up down the run course and I knew it was going to be epic. Not only was the treed course simply beautiful, it was also very hilly. Not steep hilly just long rolling ascents and descents that would eventually catch up with me to the point of causing one of the most solid psychological walls I have ever had to run through.
I eased into the run watching my HR and looking to keep it low. Averaging 8:30 minute mile for the first few miles was good, but I was worried about the remaining 10. After a bit the hills started to take their toll and although I had decided not to do the fuel belt, I was still taking on a GU at any aid station that was close to the 30 min mark.
Instead of Gatorade to drink, HEED was a major sponsor and I was drinking this luke warm oddly syrup-y stuff.... hey whatever gets you through the day. Basically they could have been serving well water and I would have drank it down..... wait a minute, that's what they were serving....... but I have to be honest and say that it was great.
Miles 1 - 6 were fairly Bb and I was feeling good. I passed coach around the 2 mile mark and he was in the lead.... way to go patches. From there on, I was good and the legs felt great until we hit a gravel section near the turn-a-round that, although it was not long, took a lot out of the legs as it was quite steep (comparatively) and there was a bit of a climb into the turn-a-round pylon. From there on, I was in for the fight. At this point, I had been at this think for about 4 and a half hours and I had about 10K to go. The legs were tired and the mind was going. I was doing anything I could to take my mind off the race. The Garmin was not helping as it was being blocked by the trees and giving me weird data that I could not make sense of. I thought about the end.... Pain is temporary, but the medal is forever. With the course being very twisty and turny, as well, it gave you little marks to keep you going. As each hill approached, I would not let them turn into mountains by putting my cap down low and just focusing on the pavement in front of me.
As it was an out and back, as I made my way towards the end, I could see all the people I was in front of... that felt good... see the definition of shadenfreude.
That said, I was hurting as much as they were (if not more). My legs were gone and the mile markes seemed to get farther and farther apart. By the time I was into mile 10, I was doing anything I could to keep going. The hills seemed steeper and all the people around me seemed to want to walk them, but not me. I was determined to hold my head high and say that I have never walked in any race and I was not going to start now.
Now, mile 12 was not coming..... called but no answer.... I tried, but nothing. It seemed as every step I took towards it, it took one in the opposite direction. What a bummer. I knew it was all psychological warfare at this point, but I was not going to succumb to the pain gnawing at my brain. As well, my right hammy had now begun a campaign to keep my on my toes (pardon the pun) by going into a micro spasm. These spasms had started at the turn-a-round and the contractions were 10 minutes apart and slowly growing closer in their duration. By the time I had tackled the mile 12 marker, they were about 2 minutes apart. I had to finish this race, and I had to finish it now, or I was going to be a screaming mess at the side of the road clutching my leg.
As I made my way into the final stretch, I came across the cheerleaders. Thank god for cheerleaders. They truly were the only thing keeping me going. I guess I was in a pocket by myself, so they gave it their all to make certain I would make it to the end. That was mile 13.
I now had the "point 1" to run and it was a long straight stretch of gravel with a slight rise. I put my cap down and headed for home. As I crested the rise I saw the clock. I was there. I gave a high kick and sprinted for home.
As I made my way into the finish chute I double fisted the banner...... I have conquered you and I am done!
Nothing can take that feeling away... I felt good, but then my addled brain started to process that the time posted was the Wave 1 start time. I was in there in just over 5:30..... this beautiful course handed me a Personal Record.
As I made my way to the volunteers, they asked for my chip.... if that chair was not there, I would have fallen over.