ITU Championships – Part 2

We slept early and this insured us yet another good night rest. We dined room style with our groceries and had a view of the cold windy rain hitting the area. Can’t worry about it. Certainly not the hot conditions I hoped for, but there are 1000 of the world’s finest in the same boat. Gina had her knots in the stomach feeling, but we raised the heat a bit in the room, prepped for our morning plan, and lights out by 9:30.
Quiet the mind. Rest. Focus on your game plan.

We awoke at 4am and with the past nights sleep, we were raring to go. The rain had stopped and it was 45 degrees out. No joke. Since the bike and gear bags were already required to be checked in yesterday, we knew that there was a possibility that my bike clothes to change into from the swim would be wet. I packed extra and we left the room wearing what would be like a ski trip. I had my cozy new TeamUSA parka with my Odwalla warm gear and G wore 3 layers herself. We walked the mile plus as we have been to transition and as we approached, overhead 2 Australians say the swim was cancelled. Sure enough the announcements were being made. Due to the water being in the low 60′s and the air in the low 40′s, to prevent hypothermia on the bike, ITU rules state the swim needs to be cancelled.
Holy crap! Not that I minded, and neither did G, but it created a frenzy of everyone making adjustments now, some even calling it a day since it wasn’t going to be an actual championship triathlon. The new format would have us leaving at 5 second intervals according to our numerical bib numbers starting at 7:45 with the pros. I grabbed my gear bag, of which contained now damp socks, gloves, etc from last nights rain, and with 2 hours now till start, G and I took the free hotel shuttle back to the room.
There we had a half hour to blow-dry my clothes, swap with another set and this time we took our Rav4 to the parking area next to transition. Unreal. But we adjusted and regrouped to get ready to race. Well, even with the sun now risen, it was windy and still below 50, in fact, it never got warmer than 55 the entire day. The goal was to stay warm on the bike by staying in a moderate heart zone, and enjoy the views, then strip everything down and run with emotion. G just wanted me to race well, and come back in one piece. At this point and in this cold, she knows I can have trouble staying warm and her knots were still there as she saw everyone lining up by their bikes shivering.
I donned compression socks, toe warmers in my shoes, my uniform, my Odwalla jacket, a wind breaker, gloves, hand warmers, thin mittens, and a skull cap. No joke. I wasn’t gonna get cold. Dude, I saw folks freezing waiting to start!! Listen to the Sherpa.
I was “relieved” with a quick Porto visit and lined up. I took 3 deep breaths, gave a kiss/wave to G, and listen as my countdown began. Do it for Pops if anything. 5-4-3-2-1.

As I rode, I got loose, tried to warm up, just be steady. The wind wiped in certain directions, but this course is unrelenting. A turn here, some wind to the back, but climb after subtle climb. Vast desert. Nothingness but the road. And the humming from the Black Widow. An actual comfort zone for me. I started to dwell and feed of all the emotions I brought to the table. The “what ifs, the why’s”, the deep, soul turning feelings that I try to gain wisdom from, try to extort the power from behind the answers. The scenery was awesome. By mile 20, I took the opportunity to stop at the aid station to strip a few layers and take a leak. I now only had the gloves and Odwalla jacket. Some volunteer made off with some nice swag for sure. But now I started to roll. Just focus each 10 mile point. I was flush. But with it still cold providing a chill, I find myself ” relieving” at every point. I consumed only 4 gels THE ENTIRE RACE!! I was releasing so much water, I adjusted, knew what zone I had to stay in to maintain warmth. I was fine, but the ride became just that – a bike ride.
The final 25 milers are killer hills. I’m into this 18% incline when a New Zealander yells in his accent “mothafucher” several times in a row as he joins me in the climb. In my native Brooklynese, I smile back and yell, “Whadda UP, son!!”

Great police and volunteer support as we roll into town and neighborhoods at some good speed towards the final miles. I am done. It is time to run. Shift focus. Off the bike I go in a pedestrian 4:13, but I am intact, if not mentally clicking. I take my time in transition as I have to take off everything. I am now only in my USA uniform and Polar visor. Off I go. I get to stop and give a kiss to G which drew a few Awwwww’s from the crowd. The run was a 4 loop course, half uphill, half downhill. I used the first lap to establish a good pace and feel the route out. Wind in the face one way. Tough climbs, even steeper downhill, pure quad ripping. Casualties- walkers- were evident already. I gave a point to G at each lap. I pushed the pace. I got additional cheer from Shaun McGrath, from NY on the sidelines, in town helping out. Chants of “Go USA! Go Carbone!” were inspiring. I knock off a few 6:00 miles, but by the third lap, knew my quads were slammin. I didn’t know it till later, but a blood blister formed on one of my toes- but didn’t break. I eased a bit, took sips of my gel flask, no water or Gatorade at all on the run. Flush. I was mentally running the last lap for all. All this year, for Pops, for G, the day’s suffering and year of racing coming to an end. I rock the last mile under 6:00, and cross the line fist pumping in a time of 6:17, with the run portion at 2:00 flat.

I find G and spend the next hour hugging and kissing her, walking around to regain equilibrium, and gather something to drink. I used two cans of ice cold diet cokes to secure in my tights and ice my legs. I tried to soak up the sun, but staying warm wasn’t in the cards. G watched me like a hawk and questioned me to make sure I was ok. Awesome. Done. But mentally fried like the burnt crusts on a cast iron pan. But smiling.
No one got a finishers medal. G mentioned the Verizon athlete tracking promo was failed. many athletes started their displeasure with ITU and the race in general shortly after. I didn’t care one bit. For me, I tackled the course and conditions as best I could, and I feel I accomplished everything. To me, the emotional struggle and shedding within was all I needed.

We were able to get my gear and change after recuperating somewhat, and since G parked at the Whole Foods as planned, I changed there and we devoured a pint of vanilla and espresso gelato!! Hey, it wasn’t Rita’s, but sure close enough and it went down sooooooo good. As if that wasn’t enough for our day, but more importantly, we then drove to Mass at St. Thomas Moore at 4:30. I’d be lying if we both barely made it, but we prayed thankfully for our day and outcome, and our trip in general. We went back to WF for dinner to take back and heck, with the stuff we ate, we came away with several dinners to recreate at home. Serious props to Whole Foods. Gina and I also picked up a whole wheat flour cake for 2!

Stretched, showered, get cleaned. BioFreeze, Aquaphor on the blister. My race number tattoos are still branded on me. Yo. Into our room issued luxury bathrobes we slipped into and dinner was finally eaten. Washed it down with a bottle of sangria, then cake. Priceless. I expended some 5000 calories at some 5 hours or race time spent in my heart rate zones 3-4-5 based on my CS600 (yes, I ran with it in my hand after the bike). By 10pm, it was lights out for us. And with an extra hour, we’ll take it and set no alarm. We fell asleep exhausted, but in each others arms, both intact and in one piece. Amen.

Thanks to a 2am Tylenol bubble gum chewable aspirin, I was up and feeling ok by 6am. Gina never really was able to get off eastern time, so she was up as well. But we both slept well again and by rotating beds, heck, that’s how we are able to roll. We packed up, had some breakfast and headed to the strip. It was raw cold out still, in the 40′s still and just was bearable for us to walk about an hour and a half checking the sights. It was amazing to see, but certainly not our style, given you can smell smoke in some of the hotels where the gaming was, it was dark, and pretty much the same in each hotel. We got some great pictures, but Gina was cold and disappointed as well, indicating it was a bit seedier than she remembered, but admittedly, also is so much in a small area, too much to cover. We relaxed, G took a nap, we did some free laundry, and will dine one more time in the hotel. We leave tomorrow morning and with the time zones, will be traveling all day. I will post a final journal come Advent with a year end summary of race results. It’s been a great race year again.

Thanks to Odwalla, BioFreeze, Aquaphor, and Polar for their continued support. Props to Charlotte Running Co, EPEC, InsideOut Sports, Rita’s Matthews, and Molly Almquist Massage for everything they do. Big shout out to Eimear and Dana for watching Holmes for us, and of course SERIOUS props to the IronSherpa, my wife, Gina, for all the roles she continues to take on with me. Cor muem dabo.

I placed 149th overall out of some 1000 of the World’s best.
I placed 32 out of 72 in my 35-39 age group.
I had the 7th fastest run split overall.
I had THE fastest run split in my age group.
I was the 58th? American out of the some 350+ on the team.

YO.

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