Bakin’ in Macon – Coliseum Half Ironman

 Since I wouldn’t have a race scheduled from June through August in order to prepare for Ironman Battleship,  I decided to enter the one half-ironman race on the map that occurs in late May – the Coliseum Rock and Roll in Macon, Ga. It is a race that’s in its fifth year, is known for being extremely hot, and has a good rolling course that would offer me a chance to see what needs to be worked on this summer and to get race situations handled and analyzed.  I’ve been doing well training wise even racing a few 5K’s since Racefest. But I haven’t even gone on an outdoor ride yet and the pool just opened this week so it’s been all UBE work “swimming”. Did I mention the race was on G’s birthday?

She was all for it. We haven’t left the state on a road trip since we got here and we needed a vacation of sorts from work (Thanks Seligman for managing the store). As TEAMMC protocol, we took out the maps, located/reserved the hotel (AAA is great), found a church, and even a Cracker Barrel. But this time, we were bringing along a TomTom to enhance our travel directions for the 5+ hour ride. Friends kept saying there wasn’t much in Macon (but that it was a good race), and we were looking forward to the adventure.

We left early Thursday morning and were way on time. A pretty good straight shot, the TomTom “lady” was nice to guide us through. G got scared each time she announced a turn and by the time our trip was over, she was ready to change the feature to a guy. We got to the hotel early than check-in and from the looks of the area, showed the reminisce of a tornado that hit the surrounding counties 3 weeks ago. Roof shingles were missing, many trees down, and some business weren’t even reopened. But our place was fine. We headed over to Cracker Barrel for lunch (breakfast actually), then walked around the nearby mall. Never reserve a room just because a race site features it as a “host” hotel. It was right across the road from us and nothing pertaining to the race was happening there.

Our room was nice – big, micro, fridge, etc. We jumped in the pool for a dip and showered up. It was mild in the 70′s and overcast. We took it easy and headed over to Olive Garden for dinner to celebrate her birthday. It was a normal travel day.          

I couldn’t sleep much. Maybe it was the pillows – they had these long 3 foot ones but only one each side of the bed. Or the AC humming which we needed since it was humid out (but I like that noise). I got up around 7:30 and did a good short run on the treadmill. Things felt fine. Sweated a bit since I got an idea of the early morning conditions – 70′s, low wind, and humid. We took our time and headed to do some grocery dinner shopping before heading to the Lake to check in. The site was about 5 minutes away. I had to bring the bike since it was mandatory to check that in at the same time. I took a quick swim in the lake and it was lovely – warm, no currents, and by now it was almost 90 so it was refreshing. I didn’t think they would allow wetsuits. The only problem was the long run up a hill from the beach to the transition area – that was unique. I had LadyAC checked since I felt the front wheel wasn’t true. The mechanic on site looked it over and said – “Bro, you got some serious rust all over that thing. You’re wheels are fine – i’d just lube that bike all over.”  LadyAC has been all over the world the past 6 years – she wasn’t offended.

You could also see the damage the tornado did to the park. A “thank you” to the race event and park crew for making this place manageable. It was a mess in some areas.

We checked everything in, got what we needed, and G surveyed the area for notes. To avoid baking in the heat, it was back to the room for more “chillin’. We had everything we needed, so after a short walk, we made dinner in the room and sorted things out for the race. Bed early once again.

Same sleep pattern, but I still was fine. Not dreary or sleepy when we got up at 5. I love being able to wake up in shorts and just walk outside feeling comfy. It was already in the 70′s and slightly breezy. We were at the site by 6 and parking was a breeze and would prompt G to eventually give this race great grades overall from her Sherpa point of view. I set up my area and we had time to relax a bit, view the crowd, all the while calming things down before the race. I put on my new wetsuit since it was legal due to the water temp being 77 degrees!! Just gonna sweat some more.

I was in the second wave, so after singing G happy birthday and giving a kiss/hug, I positioned myself to the front. Since there were relays, Aquabike, and 2 age groups in my wave, it was a crowd. They also started everyone on the beach so it was a run-in type start. I got to the far left and knew I would be able to get real estate early if I churned it good. Three deep breaths. Three exhales. Time to race MC .

I planned it well and headed out front and stayed with it. “Comfy, nice rhythm, good strokes” – repeat. The suit made it easier to kick so I gained momentum on the back half of the 1.2 mile swim. Didn’t get hit once. I was out of the water in 30 minutes, and ran up the hill. G managed to do the same and get great shots. No problems peeling off the suit and heading on the bike. Time to take a nice ride – outdoors!!  

The big 56 mile loop was rolling, with most of the hills in the early half. With only 3 aid stations you had to plan right. I had a Nathan belt on for reserves and pedaled away. After aligning my heart monitor and handlebars, which were a little loose, I found a rhythm and stayed in a good range. I do need to up my crank combo since on the flats and downhill I am forced to spin faster to catch up. The hills here were no problem. I knew it was getting hotter, but I didn’t feel it. Can’t think about that. I was hydrated and my mind was fine – often checking out the scene or focusing to push the pace when needed. A few Shania twain songs did manage to hit the cerebral ipod, but whoa, enter Axel rose real quick.

The terrain offered much more of a Long Island type ride than Georgia.

I knew I didn’t want a 3 hour ride, so I pushed the final 20 miles to come in at 2:50. It was in the upper 80′s by now, but I didn’t feel it. Quick transition, body check, and out I went. The last sounds I heard was G saying “Make sure you drink!!” The course was deadly. Blacktop roads in the park area exposed to the sun with little shade. A few inclines to keep things honest too. Best part was a few out and back sections so I was able to see the leaders and count how far I was behind. I was clipping sub 6:30 miles so I didn’t get anxious. Didn’t say much either other than “thank you” to the volunteers at the aid stations for drinks. Even to the dudes I was passing. If they said “nice work” I hear it, but didn’t respond. I just kept my focus ahead, stayed in my Zone 4, and constantly reminded myself that the weather was quite comfortable. By mile 10, I was on 6:00 pace and started to push it. Anyone in sight, I tried to catch. I passed a guy at mile 12 and really picked it up. Sure enough, off in the distance I saw a dude. Flashback to Racefest – I can do this. With about ½ mile to go, a kid was yelling at me that I “can catch him, he’s yours!”  I kicked. Hammered was more like it. Closer, closer I got to him. Saw him wave to some friends. G was going crazy. He looked back and only then saw me coming.

“$&^!” He knows I coming and he started to kick. “Use that 5K speed” I yelled inside. With 25 yards to go we were neck and neck but he cramped up and I drove past the line. YESSSSS!!!!!!!! (that last mile was 5:28). I pumped my fists, yelled like crazy and quickly got nauseated because I realized I ran a 1:21 while finding out just exactly how hot it really was. G came over and with a welcomed hug and kiss hovered around me to make sure I stayed upright. From here I thought about entering the medical tent to make sure I was fine, but she managed to use a few cold rags, made sure I stayed hydrated, and that we both take a re-dip in the lake to wash off. It was in the 90′s now. Elated, exhausted, and taking all the DPepsi and Red Bull cans (sugar-free naturally) I could collect from the refreshment area, we spend the next 3 hours baking waiting for the results. (ed. note – I was out of Monster).

I won 11th overall and 2nd in my age-group! The guy I beat was 3rd.  I also had the fastest run split by 6 minutes over the field. The award was unique – a guitar on a stand indicating the placing that came with its own guitar case. I was happy to have done well for G on her birthday and come away with an award. This trip was great and she enjoyed it all. We even had enough energy to go to church that evening and chow down at a China Buffet afterwards. She took me to one on my birthday so it was funny to return the treat. It didn’t have soft serve which was a bummer but a DQ did the trick.

This week I plan to get back into the usual workday routines and I look forward to using a gym facility – EPEC Fitness – to which I purchased with G a membership. It is a semi-private fitness center right near work. I will train there most of the time in preparation for Ironman. I am pleased with my results in such conditions and now have a solid 5 months to pour into this one. I took all my race notes on the drive home and will mentally recharge this week. I feel fine and now look forward to another summer here – yes it has already been a year since we moved. We found ourselves answering “From Charlotte” to questions at the race of where we live.  We turned to each other and smiled each time.

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