Welcome to Bike Rack Multisport, the District’s most exciting team.
Bike Rack Multisport is the 2013 USA Triathlon Mid-Atlantic Club Champion – Division II. Congratulations to all of our members that raced at the Jamestown International Triathlon to bring home this illustrious honor for the second season in a row.
This was the most challenging, most spectacular race I’ve ever done. Many of you have heard stories, read articles, and seen photos. These don’t begin to do justice to this phenomenal event. If you’re interested, here are my thoughts on the inaugural IMLT. And if you want in, registration for 2014 is open – sign up for what will surely be a powerfully rewarding race in one of the most beautiful places in the country.
Pack a down jacket. Or buy another one. Maybe two. You’ll wear them both at once and still wish you had more clothes. Or that you hadn’t trimmed down to race weight.
When you can’t see the buoys, follow the feet in front of you. Until kayakers are yelling frantically for you all to get back on course.
Breathe. Through a 10-foot straw.
Look around. Impressive fog. You didn’t really want to see the beautiful snow-capped mountains anyway; it’d just remind you how cold T1 is going to be.
Change into dry clothes. Because missing out on the packed tent full of shivering, quivering new best friends would lessen the experience.
Change into dry clothes. Because wearing your wetsuit on the bike is just asking for chafing. (curious to know how it worked out for those guys…)
Wear more clothes. The forecast will be wrong and it will NEVER warm up. Or watch your fingernails go the way of your toenails. Much more socially awkward.
Wear a jet pack. Because there’s no such thing as easy spinning on an 11% grade at the top of a Cat 2 climb. For the second time. At mile 90.
Thank a volunteer. All 3000 of them. And wish them well in next year’s race.
Thank your sherpa. And hope that someday you’ll be wise enough to decline an offer to do a race like this.
Run. Because it’s colder when you walk.
Ditch your long sleeve shirt at the last aid station. Because it’d get in the way of your glory shot.
Live it up. This is your day. All 14-plus hours of it.
Put on your Go Pro and get on your bike the next day. Have someone drive you to the top of the climb and pick you up at the bottom. Because that descent, flying over the bluest lake in the world, will convince you to do it all again.
For perhaps the first time in my racing career, numbers didn’t matter. I’m a data junkie, analyzing everything to the point of irrelevance. For triathletes, if we can put a number on it, we do it. If we can obsess about it, we do it. What can’t be quantified, though, is arguably the most important. Who helped you get there? Who waited all day (or week, month, or year) to cheer for you for three seconds? Who put up with your ceaseless banter about all things physiology, racing, and nutrition? How did it feel to silence your doubts and fears? How can you describe the midnight atmosphere at the finish line? There’s no place for numbers here. This is a heart thing.
I’d never been really scared about a race before Tahoe. With training, albeit often haphazard and seemingly incomplete, and the advice and support of friends, I’d felt a comfortable finish was always within reach. Times may vary, some may hurt more than others, but ability was never a question. Tahoe presented a host of new challenges that, especially in combination, slapped me in the face with fear and doubt. I’m not ready. I can’t do this. I’m not going to be able to finish. I looked at cutoff times for the first time in my life. Riding one loop of the bike course the week before the race was humbling and terrifying. Even with ample rest breaks (local ice cream at mile 46? Yes please!), I was completely wasted. And my speed was as low as I’d ever seen it. In six days, I had to do two and a half times that, and follow it up with a marathon. [expletives and depressed sighs] What have I done? More importantly, what am I going to do?
I took a hard look at my race plan. Throwing some numbers around and imagining near-worst-case scenarios, it seemed a finish was doable, but would require an entirely new nutrition plan for an extra 2 HOURS on the course I hadn’t anticipated. The first set of climbs was hard – and I hadn’t done the entire first climb as it includes a closed section through a gated community. I could only imagine doing that again after another 45 miles. Ouch.
Time to change focus. This IS doable. You ARE ready for this. Throw away the numbers and get on your horse. You’ve worked all year for this. Don’t let the race beat you before you even start. It’s going to be a long day, but what an INCREDIBLE day. How lucky you are to toe the line, to have mom and friends to cheer you on, to have a catered race day, and to be a part of something magical – the inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe. There’s nothing else like this. Get after it and enjoy the day.
Saturday brought crazy winds, the first clouds we’d seen all week, cold rain, and snow at the summit (!). The forecast for Sunday, though, was miraculous: clear, calm wind, no precipitation. Cold but manageable. I’d take cold over 30mph winds. Turns out there was talk about delaying the swim and shortening the course on account of the cold and potential ice on the roads. I didn’t hear about this until race morning chatter. Yes, ignorance is bliss. Race morning brought impressive fog hovering over the lake that might as well have been a hot tub relative to the 27deg air. And a full 140.6mi course. We may be cold and scared and unsure, but to attempt any less than 140.6 would have felt like we’d been cheated. We’re here for the challenge, let’s do it. Scrape the ice off your bike (!), be grateful for your down jacket, put your game face on, and let’s do this.
The water is crystalline, clearer than any I’d ever seen, and today, clearer below the surface than above. The National Anthem always brings chills and fires up the engines. Organize by swim pace (actually a welcome change from the 2500-man mosh pit), cross through the arch, and walk/run/skip/dolphin dive out to the only buoy we could see from the start line. No joke, I couldn’t see the next buoy. Ever. But I followed the pack in front of me – until I heard frantic calls from kayakers to go right. Still not able to sight anything, I had no idea how far off we were, but I was comfortably embedded in a swarm of swimmers. Finally we found yellow buoys just before the first turn. I never had clear water and was never really drafting, but somehow felt carried along in a current. Mauled once at the second turn was as bad as it got. The second loop was a little smoother as the sun started to rise over the eastern mountains, really just enough to hint at clearing the fog but not doing much to actually aid our sighting. Not once did I count buoys or wonder where the finish was. I could have swum in that water all day. But I reached sand at the finish and pulled myself up into a sub-freezing reminder of the cold morning – and the cold bike ahead. But that swim…phenomenal.
T1: Take your time, but you don’t have much choice since your hands don’t work anyway. Thank you, incredible volunteers, for your dexterity and your patience. The women’s tent was crazy, and I heard the men’s was worse. My favorite quote on the bike, between two guys: “I dropped my glove and seriously debated leaving it there.”
In spite of a complete set of dry clothes, I wished I’d had more. My legs felt like frozen logs and my fingertips might as well have fallen off. The sun that had peaked over the mountains was hidden behind impenetrable clouds. The first two short climbs that I thought would warm me up in a hurry did little to relieve the numbness. A cyclist’s dilemma: pedaling harder to warm up initially feels even colder. Fear not, I had plenty of climbing ahead, but I couldn’t feel my toes until most of the way up the first major climb – mile 40. Wow, the climb through the gated community was a monster. False flat. Up. Descend just a bit so you can climb more. Up. Up. Switchback. Descend and pay it back again. Up some more. Then start the Cat 2 climb. Unzip to climb, zip up to descend. Lather, rinse, repeat. First loop done, finally comfortable except for the descents. Wasn’t about to drop my jacket. I focused on spinning easily, hoping that patience on the bike would pay off on the run. It’s humbling to watch everyone else go by, but I reminded myself that it’s still a long day, and that this is a personal challenge, not a race. [That doesn’t always go over well for even a pseudo-type A.] Spin it out. Shift down. Spin. Shift down. Spin. Shift—–?!? No way that’s my lowest gear. Slow your cadence a bit, this shouldn’t be hard. Man, this is hard. This is really hard. Do they make a cassette bigger than my front ring? Would that work? Can’t do physics right now, just enjoy the mountains. Riding in an avalanche hazard zone?!? That’s a first. Look, snow! How about skiing? Snowboarding? Sledding? Yeah, I’d take that ski lift right about now. Can I fit my bike in the gondola?
I stopped at special needs to refill my crack bottle and to pee. Even being able to pee was a good sign. I stopped again to remix my bottle. Otherwise I was pedaling. No, there wasn’t a mechanical. No, I didn’t have a major meltdown. No, I didn’t walk the hills. I was really just that slow. Longest bike ride ever. But cresting that last hill, you’d have thought I’d won the Tour. I’d beaten my demons and trounced my doubts. Whatever came from here was easy. I had all night to do the last 26.2. I was going to finish this thing.
T2: Never happier to throw my bike into the arms of a complete stranger. Running shoes felt like a dream after so long on the bike. Bring it. I would be an Ironman today.
Spending all day on the bike left my stomach unhappy and longing for solids, so I walked the first few aid stations to try to find the magic combination that would settle it down. Saw Mom and Sean within the first few miles, which was a nice pick-me-up. Always good to hear “you look fabulous!” when you feel like trash. Yes, we appreciate the cheers and blatant lies. I wasn’t running well – “running” might even be generous – but I was moving forward. Martin and Jeanne were both looking strong. It is so nice to have friends out on the course. I didn’t know anyone coming out here, but found a new impromptu group through Martin and his sister, and that made a huge difference. Individual schmindividual; this is a team sport. Back from the first out-and-back was probably my strongest section, chatting with a few people as we fell into step, appreciating the remarkably beautiful course and still reveling at having conquered the bike course. I grabbed long sleeves, a hat, and headlamp at special needs because the sun was setting quickly and the temperature would go down with it. Getting cold would become more of an incentive to run, but dwindling light – and subsequent complete darkness – would force a slower pace to avoid a misstep and rolled ankle, or worse. We become a more friendly bunch as it gets later and the fatigue more prominent, seeking and sharing motivation, encouragement, and determination. With no attention to pace, time, or distance, I ran when my legs and stomach would allow, and walked when they wouldn’t. And somehow I made it to the final aid station, after which I felt nothing. That last mile up to and through the village, drowned out by the lights and Mike Reilly’s voice, was painless, effortless. The turn into the finishers chute lit up the crowd. Lights. Cheers. High-fives. Clouds replace the ground beneath your feet. You can’t see or hear anything. Might as well be heaven.
Always, always go back to the finish line for the final hour of the race. This is where determination is visible, where success is palpable, where faith is restored, and where magic is evident. These people worked for 17 hours to realize their dreams, and their smiles light up the night. Time doesn’t matter. Pain doesn’t matter. For a moment, they are invincible, and that feeling is contagious and intoxicating. There’s nothing else like this.
The numbers say “you finished.” “You are an Ironman.” But they don’t tell the whole story. They can’t capture the beauty or the grit or the strength it took to dig deep when everything else says you can’t. They say nothing about living your dream or breaking down walls. They’re not what gives you the confidence to take on the next challenge. This isn’t a numbers game. This is a heart thing.
*Don’t be afraid to change up the nutrition plan last minute IF all the ones you’ve tried before haven’t worked.
*Build in some advance time to get acclimated to surroundings and the course.
*Don’t take other’s words for experience. Drive the course. It will make all the difference in expectations and experience. I heard everything from it’s not that bad to It’s far worse than IMLP. And remember: Hills always look worse from a car. Really.
*Stick to the plan. Patience on the bike WILL pay off
*Learn to pee on the bike. Seriously.
*Stay flexible. Something can and will go wrong or not as planned. Being nimble helps you shake it off.
*Avoid drama at all costs-a peaceful house is a happy house
In general, IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant was the best venue of the four I’ve done so far. Even the finisher’s chute lived up to IMLP’s. The town is a bit manufactured/Disney-esque but the people are genuine, friendly, and eager to help. The setting is beautiful and if you want some old charm there are a number of smaller towns just a few minutes away (you see them on the bike and run courses). Without qualification, I recommend this race to anyone wanting an unparalleled experience.
We arrived on Wed. afternoon and got into our house which was beautiful with a great view of the ski mountain and village. It had more than enough room for 11 people so we were very relaxed and happy to get settled in. If your budget allows, I highly recommend getting good accommodations. We did the usual pre-race visit to the expo, registration, etc…Nothing remarkable there. But they did have reading glasses for those older athletes to look up your number as you headed into registration. I mention this as it did seem to be heavily-weighted in the 40 and older crowd and almost 75% were men. That was a real shift in the demographics from previous Ironman races I’ve done.
Given the above demos, the change in the swim start did penalize the faster swimmers. I started in wave 5 and I spent the entire race swimming over people-not bumping into them but over them. However, the water is crystal clear and the temperature was perfect for my sleeveless wetsuit. There was a bit of glare once the sun came up over the mountain but after the turn it was no longer an issue. It was not my favorite swim experience but it wasn’t horrible. 1:02 (2nd fastest) and Darren Rentch blames my old man face mask goggles for not PR’ing. I blame the wave starts and people I had to swim over.
It’s a long (300m) run to T1 but lined with people and they were really into it. Saw Darren and heard my name shouted out a couple of times which always gets the body moving. Got into T1 and other than the very helpful volunteer spraying sunscreen in my mouth and all over my sun glasses (thanks Darren for lending me those). I was out and on the bike. It was cool so I had a very light vest (thanks Jenn Rentch for that) and arm warmers and together with the adrenaline, I was very comfortable. The main thing to say about the bike is that it is deceptively difficult. With only one major climb out and back, there are almost no flat sections to speak of. The cumulative effect is profound. You do get to rest your legs in some sections but not for very long. I didn’t find it daunting, it just wore you down. Also, if you don’t train in the wind, you should. I try to get some practice in head winds so as not to be undone by them when they inevitably appear in a race. I’m glad I did. The first loop was not bad but the second had an annoying headwind that added to the relentlessness of the feeling of always going up.
If you are Debi’s client, you know that you have to pound the fluids the first hour and keep a steady intake throughout. Luckily this and middle age have taught me how to pee on the bike which was good b/c I did so no fewer than 20 times. I was the envy of many guys out there-I know this as more than a few times, I heard, “I wish I could do that”. Together with 10 Gu’s (note: make sure to taste test which ones will go better in what kind of conditions. For instance, Espresso love, while delicious at 9am is pretty bad at 1:00 and 75 degrees. Also-following that with Pomegranate-berry is really not recommended). But the nutrition worked. I stayed fueled, hydrated, and did not get nauseated or bloated. 1 dropped chain (user error) and of course that is where my training partner Jenn passed me (Dude-are you peeing?) and one dropped bottle right next to a moto-ref on an uphill so had to dismount and reclaim it. Finally into T2 6:22. Only 2 min over my PR which was at Arizona and had I not had the chain and bottle mishap, I’d have been under 6:20 which is a damn good time for me on this course. 6400+ feet of climbing.
T2 went well enough (total T time was a PR for me) but my HRM strap appeared to be broken (even the volunteer thought it was) but it wasn’t. Left it behind rather than worry about it (see note above about staying flexible). Also, I couldn’t pick up satellites so I thought trying to figure out my pace will give me something to think about on the run. Fun. Walk out of T2 which was easy as there is almost immediately a short but very steep hill. Started the run at the top and was amazed, let me repeat, amazed at how good I felt. It is worth noting that the first piece of Nike gear Philip gave me when he started working there was a shirt that says, “Running Sucks”. It is my mantra. Swim, Bike, Run can be summarized with Love, Like, Hate. However, not this time. I felt great. I was smiling AND I was running. Who am I?!!! Other than trying to remember how many KM are in a marathon (I totally missed all the banners hung for the event that had the KM for each sport on them). I finally remembered a 10K is 6 miles so by the time I made it there, I estimated I was running a 9:20 pace. I was worried that I’d started out too fast with just perceived effort so I tried to slow up. The run course is nice but again, deceptively hilly. But it’s two loops out and back so I got to see a ton of people I know. Except Philip. He was completely under-trained for this and it was the first time I’ve ever seen him worried about a race. It wasn’t until I was well into my 2nd loop that Darren let me know he was off the bike and on the run-his 49th marathon. Phew! I could relax. Only now I was really starting to hurt. I change my shoes out at run special needs shifting to running flats (I HIGHLY recommend it-it’s like getting a fresh pair of legs half way through). At mile 18, I started having to walk up the hills but I knew I was heading for a PR. I wasn’t nauseated so I was able to drink and eat chews and that was a huge success as well. With a mile to go I decided I would try and really run but I had nothing left so continued my trot to the finish. Racing down the cobblestone streets of the village and there is the split for the 2nd loop/finish line and I look to the guy on my right to see if he needs to move over for the finish and it’s Philip. I put my hand on his shoulder and say, ‘hey’. He tells me, ‘Go be an Ironman. Again.’. High point of the day. Run: 4:44. 15′ PR in an Ironman marathon. 2400+ feet of climbing.
Final time: 12:23 also a 15′ PR entirely on the run. That had been my goal and I couldn’t believe I did it-and actually enjoyed the run. I would say this is the hardest course I’ve done and the best trained I’ve been. It paid off. I had a blast with my friends training and during the race experience. Thank you to Debi and Team Orange as well as the Bike Rack Multisport Team for all the support and fun. This was so great, I think I’ll be doing 2 next year.