It was dark, somewhere in the distance an owl hooted. The warm breeze associated with the Cayman climate at this hour was none existent. My eyes were still heavy with sleep having gone through an all day bike mending marathon session the day before. Something that is becoming all too familiar when traveling with Danny Cummings. Our mission to arrive in the nether regions of Wisconsin were somewhat thwarted by a 14 hour travel day missing connecting flights, but thank all the gods our bikes and equipment had made it to the race start with us.
Our hotel in Racine was palatial and not what we were expecting. Its situation on the shores of Lake Michigan made it very idyllic and the sunshine and clear skies of the Saturday before the race left us no clue as to what was in store the next morning.
I love arriving at race destinations the buzz and atmosphere around an endurance event is like no other. There is respect from all competitors, respect that comes from the knowledge that you have put in time and made sacrifices to be here, the cost itself is a major part of that. To give non-triathletes a sense of what that cost is I’ll break it down quite simply:
“It would be cheaper to run a formula 1 racing team than do an ironman”
Ok I may be over egging it slightly but having winced at the $375 charge to get my bike on a plane with me (on top of our flight charges, hotel, car/truck hire, food, mechanical and various miscellaneous costs) its no wonder people only do these things once! For me however this was my 3rd such event and probably the one I was least prepared for. Having had travel interrupt my training schedule followed by a nasty chest inflection that I only just managed to control the week prior to the race, my prep and fitness were really an unknown. This was not going to be a PB for me but more like a battle to the finish.
Traveling with highly temperamental bikes (i.e the parts get broken in transit) meant that on the Saturday we spent a good portion of it readying the equipment and driving to a few bike shop to get spares or repairs, no bother its part of the fun and making sure that your racing buddies (in my case 4 of us from Cayman) are all set for the next days adventure. The non-fun part is handing over yet more cash for said spares or repairs!
4am – Alarm goes off – I think I got to sleep around 1am – bad times, but I just find it incredibly hard to sleep the night before a race, my brain is just wired with excitement and anticipation – Will I have a good swim, can I run with my bad chest…. On it goes….
4:15 – Second Alarm goes off just in case, but I am up first of all stretching then trying to force some toast and oatmeal down, its difficult, mainly I’m just trying to wake the gastro-intestinal tract to make sure I can “loose a few extra pounds” because no one wants to use a porta potty on race day… its seriously not fun….
We set off for Bike check in around 5am the sun just raising over the harbor it looked glorious – we took a few pics – it was the calm before the storm. Once we had checked in and got our stations ready the sun had given way to a dark sky filled with ominous clouds the wind had picked up and although we couldn’t see the beach from where we were we could see the flags, lets just say the poles were not standing to attention. Hummmm this isn’t looking good. Then over the speaker the announcer informs us that overnight the water temperature has dropped to 54 degrees….. my god that’s cold. Considering our training takes place in the warm waters of the Caribbean I know this is going to hurt. Danny and I had braved the waters the day before when they were at 64 degrees and it had taken your breath away you could not swim sustained in that without a wetsuit for more than 5 mins tops. People were looking anxious, I was feeling anxious and to top it off I had now caught site of the beach where large waves were waiting to great us into the water. The announcer informed us that the start was going to be delayed while they watched a particular weather front come in.
Groans were heard all around, you see our fueling plan starts when you wake up, it’s a science, if you know your going to be exercising vigorously for 5+ hours then eating becomes a science. I had taken on slow burning carbs my drinks on my bike were all prepared with various gels and supplement’s. But we are on a time line, I know my wave is/was due to start at 7:43 therefore I know roughly what time I would finish the swim and thus start on the energy drinks fueling towards the half marathon. If you burn your breakfast off before you start your fueling plan has to change. You’re going to need more on your bike. It may not make a huge difference but its stuff like this that can get in your head during a 2-3hr bike ride and leave you wondering whether that stitch on the run is due to needing more fuel etc… Anyways… The heavens darkened the weather worsened and all participants were told to take cover and seek shelter as severe thunderstorms headed our way. The Swim start was cancelled. A tough call by any race organizer but the right one, it was simply too dangerous.
Once the weather had cleared the race started with the bike and was followed by the half marathon run. It was not what we wanted but we were here and we were going to do this. We had all gone back to the hotel where a good breakfast had been eaten you know bacon, sausage egg…. Just what you want prior to doing 4 hours of exercise! The race didn’t start for us till around 11am so fueling plans were out the window it was a case of make do and get it done.
For me that was no problem – I went off with a bang with the pent up energy of a cheetah being released back into the wild I had a great bike ride and felt pretty good, that was until around 2 miles into the run when I revisited that big breakfast with very little warning! At the same time that I was regurgitating said bacon and sausage did I not get cramp in both quads causing me to fall over just as the medical cart went passed me, triggering what can only be described as a very panicked code “a” someone collapsed response. After several reassurances that I was ok I hobbled back off down the course much to their surprise. There is a bit more to this story but will leave that for the beer debrief.
This setback obviously affected my run and it was a disappointing 2 hour 40 half marathon. But at least I knew what went wrong!
I finished the 2016 Racine Ironman 70.3 cheered on by the other members of our team who also did outstandingly. I never tire of the good sportsmanship and friends I have made whilst doing these endeavors and am now in full training mode to complete the Miami 70.3 Ironman in 12 weeks time. Thanks for following thanks for the support and please do give what you can to the Mountains and Marathons challenge in support of the Cayman Islands “Have a Heart” Foundation. http://www.mm4hh.com