BSLT 70.3 – PART 2

The night before the event I get maybe a few hours of sleep, then lie awake until the alarm clock rings. I had a nice dinner of Wade’s pancakes sandwiched with some turkey and melted cheese. Yum! I stared at the ceiling fan and visualized the race. I did a body check and everything felt fine. At 4:15, the alarm rang and we were ready to start what would be a 20 hour day. Usual pre-race check, Aquaphor up, get the Polar set, put on the AAA gear. I was using the GU Roctane drink in my sole water bottle, shook it up, and checked the weather. It was drizzling! Gina was already set and ready to roll, and was looking at extended forecasts. Wade met us in the kitchen and we packed the Black Widow in the truck, along with a few ponchos and towels. The weather was in the the upper 60′s and a slight wind. Deb took a few pictures and off we went. I hoped that wearing my Texas Tech hat signed by Madonna Buder brings us the blessings she herself always imparts.

It rained for maybe five minutes and then, thankfully stopped. That was it. Gina was still checking the weather forecast and now it was to be all cleared and a great day! Upper 80′s and the usual 10-20 mph winds. Wade is an expert in the course wind directions and said it was great weather for racing. He was actually going to be a bike official for the day so I would be seeing him on the course a lot. By the time we got through the long parking line into the lake and entered the transition area, I had about 45 minutes to set up. Wade went about his duties while Gina and I went through the routine. I had minimal stuff for transition and was all ready in a few moments. No bathroom issues, stayed hydrated, and did some dynamic stretching. Gina and I made out was to the beach start and got into my Blue Seventy Reaction suit. Super snug fit and was the first time wearing it, I tried it on the day before and moved around, but this was a fast suit for me! Soon it was time to race. The drove of athletes occupied the beach. I gave a deep hug and kiss to G. “Just come back in one piece!” I was in Wave 8, so I had the time to see several starts and positions. The trick was the first turn buoy was 100 yards off shore where we then made a right. Seeing the first few waves go off, I initially was going to try and make a quick straight shot by lining up right. Then the wave before me lined up. It had like 250 people in it and the spread a few rows deep on shore. Crap, this could get physical. I quickly started to view the WAY left side of the shore. There was a 3 minute gap between waves so I entered the chute and made my way on shore. I got knee deep in the warm 74 degree water and splashed my face. I made sure I was right up front, way left. I looked to my right and saw the swarm of others in my group. Bring it. Three deep breaths. Race time.

I churned to get some room before possibly getting trampled. I eyed the buoy and with just a few brushes, made the turn. Wade forewarned me that we would be into the sun for that turn and seeing the buoys would be tricky. He was right on. Navigating here was key. I was able to make a beeline to the buoys but finding real estate was harder. It got rough the first few minutes. Relaxed, I was doing my share of “clearing out” and still was able to see. The sun was bad and I knew others were having issues as I caught people in the prior wave before make the second turn. Once that happened, the sun was no longer an issue. I was able to find a nice rhythm and stroke away. The suit was super comfy and I glided along, warming up nicely and focusing on the rest of the swim. Before long I was catching people in the 2 waves ahead! When I am in the water here,  I just stay relaxed and push, kick, stay in a good breathing pattern, avoid any unnecessary contact. I had no more issues so the rest of the swim was clear streaming. As I approached the dock, I quickly replayed my transition in my head. Lets do this.  1.2mile swim: 28:30

They had a GREAT crew getting people out of the water. Since its a small dock point, you have to step up onto a sand bar type and then dry land. They had volunteers hoisting you out, then right behind then, a girl grabbed the back of my wetsuit and starting unzipping it for me! Serious! Awesome! In five steps I had my suit half off, dropped down on the floor, and two other “strippers” yank off the rest of it for you. Volunteers like that are at some of the good local big events but this one has the best efficiency. I thank them and grab my suit for the jog over to my bike. There, smooth as you can get in 2 minutes time, had all my stuff on, activated the RCX3, and was mounting the Black Widow. Gina got a good spot where I saw her. Right out of transition, you have to make sure you are in easy gear because you climb a 7% grade right away. I pounce already prepared and ready to roll. I see Wade on the motorcycle on top of the hill and give a shout out. Now I begin the BSLT 56 mile bike course.
Get the feel. The wind is key on this course. Every 10 miles you get a huge climb  followed by some flats, but the gusts are key. Fortunately the winds were gusting mostly from the sides, and a few aided sections where you can crank. This helped heart rate wise as I had speed, distance, and heart rate all at my view. I hammered up every hill and then was able to work my gears to make sure the winds weren’t an issue. And it wasn’t. Having the aero helmet was like having a built in tunnel vision mechanism. I dialed in the whole time. Taking sips of my Roctane every 5 miles, and a gel at 30/50 mile mark (including a standing “relief”), I was ready to run the legs wild. The GPS was spot on to, making it easier to gauge fuel. felt I could not have rode so strategically this race. Granted looking back I know I had more in me to crank, but for this course, with its hills and wind, plus some rough road sections, well played yo! I had a good tailwind the last stretch and with the final big climb just at 54 miles, I cranked it up and down into transition. Hopped off and now the fun to begin. Bike 56 miles: 2:48, avg. speed 20mph.

A quick transition within the 2 minute range and I was out. I saw G just as I turned out and all was well. I ran the first miles in the 6:05 range, had the speed gauge on my Polar, and locked in the heart rate at 150-165. Breathing fine. Legs fine. Get a grip. I started the pac-man game quickly, and knowing this course, broke it up into 3 mile segments, knowing you had 2 HUGE climbs out and back, and the lava like flat stretch covering miles 5-7. Alternating aid stations, which are also well supported by big time volunteers, I grab, ice, water, then some Perform. I climb the second huge hill into the lava stretch and now it’s on. Nothing but hot, wind, and your crumbling mind. The wind was to my back going to the turnaround, so I stay pace, closely monitoring everything within. I pick it up. Still clicking 6:20 miles. At the turn, the wind is now in your face. I tuck and pick off each runner in front of me. I grab an espresso GU and at mile 7, suck it down. BOOM! Here we go! Exiting out of the field, a downhill has me at 6:00min pace. As I approach the final biggie hill, I swing those arms and hammer it up and over. From here, it’s time to crack what’s left. Heading back to the lake, coming in the opposite direction on the back or a 4 wheeled John Deere, is a volunteer with a styrofoam cup of ice for me. Going 10 mph myself, I grab the cup and it immediately crushes, yet I get the ice inside my jersey. Now it is few ahead of me to reel in, and as I pass mile 11, a HUGE cramp pulls on my right calf. Status alert. I immediately slow the pace and assess. If I push it can be bad. But at 7:00 pace, I can stay on target. I still pass a few. But I am so deep entrenched in every signal my legs are giving me. I down a cup of Perform, I breathe with each right leg impact. I push off harder on my left leg. I run the tangents of course. At mile 12, I get internal clearance that if I keep this movement pattern, I will be ok. I resume speed. Now with half a mile to go, I crank. All out. I come up on a woman who is going all out trying to catch a dude in front of her. The crowd is egging her on to pass that guy. I crank and pass her, so now she’s is chasing me! I am chasing the dude. He turns around and sees us coming. If he sprints, I won’t match it, but he doesn’t budge, he lets us BOTH go by. But yo, no one passing me now. I cross the line and inside am elated. I do the 13.1m segment in 1:24, at a 6:25 pace.

I quickly make my way through the finishers tent. I grab a few can of beer believe it, not for me, but as ice packs as I put them in my tights for my legs (I did give one each to Gina and Wade). I catch Marti Greer, race director, and thank her again for putting on a solid event. It’s a winding route out of the area but I get back to Gina and give her a huge hug and kiss!!! The Ironsherpa she is, she had an athlete tracker app, Irontrac, and had all my stats. I finished in the top 60, came in 5th in my age group, and a time of 4:46!! A PR for this course for me by almost ten minutes!!!! I was on cloud 9. We walked a bit as I needed to move my leg around. We got back to the swim start and I jumped into the water to cool off. Then it was the easy retrieve of my bike/gear, grab a few more goodies from the finish area, and make my way back to Wade and G. Looking at my Polar RCX3, I burned 3600 calories and was scattered in all five zones, nicely. The Training Load number winds up being in the 700′s. As Gina commanded – I come back in one piece.

We walked back up to the car (and yes, it’s that first big hill too), sharing all the days stories. Wade was busy on the official end, and had a few good ones. Gina was able to get around transition, and spectator wise, all legit. She had a folding chair that Wade gave her so was able to chill a bit too. Once in the car, I cracked open a can of Monster, blasted the Wobble song on the stereo, and we made our way back home. It was only 12:30.
Back at the house, Deb greeted us and was all aware of the events through texting she was doing with Gina and the computer. She said I may have very well earned a slot to the World Championships. That wasn’t a goal for me as I felt I wouldn’t have placed as high as I did, and there were only 2 slots allotted to my age group. I couldn’t think of that possibility now. I wanted to stretch, get out of my gear, keep hydrating, and have a pancake-Pocketfuel buttered-banana sand which, and finish my Monster drink. I only consumed some 500 calories during the race. It was important to continue to monitor everything as I iced my leg and moved around unpacking the morning stuff. Everyone was still exchanging stories and it was time to celebrate. Jacked up, I went right into hosing down the Black Widow, packing up the bike, and doing the laundry from our days here. I had another round of a sandwich, vitamins, and some DPepsi Max to continue the neural surge. I iced again and by 3:30, got the chance to say enough (and with Gina’s mandate), to chill. Wade was done and took a nap with Deb. Gina started her round of packing, but also chilled. Now it was a matter of time to see if I actually won a slot, but we had to attend the awards ceremony at 6pm.

We hug out for an hour before the event began. Our plans were to have homemade pizza that Wade was known for, some frozen sangria-margarita, and just let the day end. As they announced older age groups first, after the Pros got their deal ( on peeve here is that most of them weren’t sporting their sponsored gear), some slots weren’t taken, making them available to the next age group. Deb and Wade we’re excited. Gina was tough to gauge. She kept it cool. For me, I took the whole thing in as one of those many self-actualized moments. I was in a position I didn’t expect to be in, but one that I could now direct with my decision, and shape another path. As my group got announced, turns out I came in 4th! I got on stage as they awarded 7 deep. I won a bottle of wine as an award. As we all stood there for photos, dude next to me said he hoped I ran in college cause I smoked it. I told him “Yeah, but I had to catch all ahead of me on the bike!”  They had 4 slots now for my group so it was a given. The announcer asks “Mark, do you want to go to Vegas? ”
I say “YES!” And with that I am in representing the USA again atthe World Championships 70.3 on September 8th in Vegas. Gina and I kiss and hug. Deb and Wade are elated, and will try to come too, as we all went when Wade and and I qualified in 2009. I get directed to a room for entry processing and get to see and talk with some of the other winners. Many of these people are going for the first time, most are repeat heavy hitters. I get my ticket and now time to REALLY celebrate.

Wade made 2 slamming pizzas. I must have drank 3 glasses of sangria. We had a great evening. Talk about blessings. As I said a prayer before we ate, it truly was a blessed vacation for us. We have such special friends in the Wilson’s who opened their home for us yet again, and to go back to 2006 and even recall how we met them in St Croix 70.3, the script is no draft. I lasted until 10:30 before calling it a day, and to think I didn’t even drink a sip of coffee (but trust what I substituted was much stronger). I tried to finish all email updates to sponsors, friends, and crew updating them all, but it was time to lay down. It was a tough night to really sleep as I was sore, still burning up, but with a smile on my face. I kissed Gina good night and stared again at the ceiling fan I did some 20 hours ago. Circulate the air.

Got up normal early time. Did some dynamic stretching and went for a nice walk to just get some air, give thanks, and soak Lubbock in one more time. The toll on the system is a strained calf, one bruised toenail, a scrape on the big toe, clogged ear,  sore neck, and some sniffles due to a weakened immune system. But I feel ok, knowing I have a few days to recover (that is before racing as the Karhu Bear in the Firecracker 5K Wednesday). Deb got some donuts and Wade made the java. I had a little of a huge apple fritter that was the bomb yo. Took the other half for the plan and another for Tuesday! We did a final pack and then it was goodbye. Wade was driving us to the airport, so we gave Deb and her daughters a big hug. We dropped off the bike at a local UPS store near their house and were at the airport by 9am. We said farewell to Wade and it was good to see him energized from this weekend and he now is feeling good at getting back into the racing. Him and Deb were heading to their lake house for the rest of the week, so it was a nice tie in for that. Gotta get him some nice Polar toys for his bike too!!!

I am now on the flight to Charlotte. It’s been another long day but we both look forward to getting back into the swing. We were off the grid for the most part and enjoyed it. But she is looking forward to getting home, as traveling in the airports just reminds her of those “stupid folks” out there, she longs for seeing Holmes, and getting a good nights sleep before we start work again Tuesday. For me, I have to inform the team I was going to do the Blue Ridge relay with the news that I won’t be able to race. I also am planning to change my calendar as now, training for the Vegas race with be my priority season type end, replacing the Ironman I was going to do in Florida come October. It will be easier to train for and finishing my 40th birthday year with this Championships makes for a better replacement and sponsor exposure.
For US, we get to return to the same area and hope for an even better time than last, unlike our venture there for the ITU World Long Distance Championships in 2011. Advantage being we know what the layout is, hotel, and should make the travel plans easier this time around. I also want US to be able to get away again, sooner rather than later, as we know come Fall and holiday time, the chances will be few. A new self has emerged from the shedding. A renewed self-actualization.

Full race results here:

A major shout out section here: EG for taking care of Holmes for us. My sponsors this season AAA Carolina’s,  Polar, PocketFuel, 110%, Aquaphor, our rep Al Tunstall for the GU fuel, Badger Sports for the TEAMMC shirts, Melissa over at InsideOut Sports with bike shipping assistance, Sports Massage Therapy for keeping me intact, the crew at Charlotte Running Co.  for holding down the store, and to TEAMMC members for all their support accessing gear. Word yo, Amen.

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