Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3 – World Championships??

It has been 3 years since we traveled down to Lubbock, Texas to see our good friends Wade and Deb Wilson. This year marks the 10th anniversary of our meeting in St. Croix, so in January we planned to go and as customary when we visit, also compete in the Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3 half-ironman. We met then at a similar race in St. Croix. Wade competes in triathlons and is a beast in his age group, actually even since he turned 50. We have done this race in 2009, 2011, and in 2013, ironically (no pun intended) also been able to qualify for the World Championships each year. It’s a tough course with plenty of hills, heat, and wind. Expect at least a 90+ degree day and 10-20 mph winds. The Wilsons are also friends of the race directors, Marti and Mike Greer, whom we also have gotten to know well each time we visit. They put on a great event, in fact, now 27 years running, and is a staple on the Lubbock race calendar that draws around 100 participants. Being in Lubbock, we also have become Texas Tech Red Raider fans. Guns up! Red and Black! (My favorite colors too)

With Fathers Day also past, I used it as a nice memorial for my Dad and a way to honor him. I have done races in the past around special days, birthdays, and this year I had him in my memory. It just so happened that I was race number 225, which added to the theme as this was Gina’s dad’s birthday so I had him in mind and labeled on me! Play those numbers Arthur!

The past few weeks were perfect adapting weather in Charlotte as we often woke up to 70 degree/80+ humidity mornings which burned up to 90-95 come afternoon. After a week of this I was ready and sweaty enough for anything Lubbock had in store – which forecast was to be just that. I had a great taper planned with some frequent swims and a good weekend before the race (even working 6 days straight) and Melissa and her crew at Inside Out Sports prepped and shipped the Black Widow2 that Monday (we weren’t leaving till Friday and the bike got there Thursday!) both Gina and I did not get much sleep the week leading up to our departure as we both were busy at work, tried to get certain chores done, and probably averaged about 5-6 hours of sleep each night. Not ideal, no, but our anticipation for an actual vacation kept us motivated. Big thanks again to Jody Dennis¬†who offered to check in on Holmes each day we were gone. We may have been spent mentally and as little sleep deprived, but we were ready Friday morning for sure!

Southwest has been our airline of choice recently and this trip didn’t disappoint. Right through TSA check, connecting flights smooth in Dallas, and got to Lubbock all set for some fun. Even had a moment in the airport to plan my race strategy.

They picked us up and man, even though we communicate by email, 3 years seemed like yesterday. We got caught up, settled into our guest room complete with Red Raider swag, and took care of the basics. We got the Black Widow 2 out of the case which was expertly prepped and shipped by Melissa, Greg, and crew at InsideOut Sports. Had a quick eat, shower, and nap before Wade made everyone his homemade pizzas for dinner (and wine!) it was a great evening to get adjusted (time an hour back so sun sets after 9pm here) and just dine with great friends. We tried to make it an early night and get some solid sleep.

Woke up around 6:30 as Wade and I went for an easy run and bike ride. All systems felt good and laid out everything needed for race day. Wade made us some slamming pancakes, eggs, and sausage (we made the coffee). We then all headed to Texas Tech for a few hours at their aquatic center. Two of their daughters and a friend joins us as they also were staying to cheer on their Dad, so it was a true family affair this weekend. We remember when they were just young teenagers. The college has a lap pool, lazy river, slides, and diving board area where we got to all refresh and get wet before the heat of the day. A fun afternoon of just chillin’ in the water. It was important though not to overdo it and just lie in the water as race day was the next day. We got everything we needed for race day at the packet pick up center and were now set to gear up mentally for race day.

By the time we got back it was time for a quick eat and nap. Gina slept well as I took the time to shower and just do some reading. We went to church located a few blocks away to get the spiritual side race ready before making them a nice dinner of pasta/shrimp/olive oil. Wade made a homemade rosemary bread (his family owned a bakery) and we enjoyed a few glasses of wine. We made all arrangements for race morning and with a 4am wake up looming, we made sure 10pm was bedtime.

I know I am ready to race when I get a few good hours of deep sleep, yet awake at around 1am and start to await the early wake up. I spend each hour checking the time and getting no sleep beyond shutting my eyes. I start the body checking. Mind alert, race planning. Gina still sound asleep. I shut off the alarm at 4. Gina got up quickly too with no problem. Ironsherpa was ready. Weather was 75 and already 80% humidity. Wade and I prepped our gear, pumped our tires and loaded them up on the truck. We saw flashes of heat lightning but soon each was followed with a rumbling boom. Say it ain’t so. As we all loaded the truck, within a few minutes of the drive it started to rain. And lightning. A little concerned, but as we got close to the entrance of the Buffalo Springs Lake park, everything stopped and that was the end of any rain threat the rest of the day. Since the Wilsons knew the race directors, we had a VIP parking pass and were able to set up close to the transition area. It’s a routine process that takes less than 30 minutes: get body-marked, rack bike, set up your gear, double check transition plan, get out without bothering to look at anyone. Portojohn visit and done. Wetsuit on, give Gina a kiss and big energy hug, and walk to start. Works well for me.

I was in the 7th wave start while Wade was in the second. We got our wetsuits on, kissed our beloved wives and made our way to the beach start. Each wave went off every 3 minutes so I studied certain patterns and the best lines to take. I decided to try and go wide left and get in front. Soon I walked the bridge to the timing mat and positioned myself on the beach start line. There were 116 in my wave. I got knee deep in the water, look around me, and knew I had to get a fast start or wind up playing football to the first buoy. I took 3 deep breaths. Game time.

It’s a rough start indeed. You blast out, heart rate up, arms churning all while trying to breath and not gulp water. Then you get hit on your left, on your right, and have to climb over the person in front of you. If not, you risk someone climbing over YOU from behind. I didn’t get a chance to slow down until the 2nd buoy and had to introduce a few guys to the football side of triathlon in a polite way. But I got clear water and was able to sight my lines clearly. I overtook a few people from waves ahead of me (each had a different color cap) and had a relatively nice paced swim after that. I did have a few sips of water during it out, but I got my mind set on the controls. I was warming up in my wetsuit but was able to get done before feeling too warm. I exited the water, was able to get “stripped” by a volunteer and made my way to the bike. Marti Greer gave me a slap on the butt as well. I carefully tip toed to the bike, got set, and rolled out. SWIM 1.2 miles: 30:06

I got to hear Gina and Deb as I made my way out of the canyon and onto the big climbs awaiting us within the first few miles. I had my Polar RC3 measuring every beat, speed, mile, and clock now and once I got onto the open roads out of the park, it was time to find your gearing and lock in mentally. The roads of the course are flat at times and out in the open. Nothing special to see here. It gets mixed in with 2 serious climbs and also a game of navigation finding wind direction. I took a sip of my drink “concoction” every 20-30 minutes and had my bottle of Xrcel in my skin-suit. That was my fuel. I was riding very well and putting out some good speeds. The wind was very favorable to us and the temps didn’t get as hot as 85. Only a few sections did the wind hit us, but I knew the direction (SE) and knew where to prepare. The climbs were easy and used them as a chance to get out of the saddle and make up some ground. I passed a lot of folks. For the most part I was in good conversation with myself and executed its commands. A few “relief” spots while in movement were flawless. At the 24 mile marker turnaround I spotted Wade (his wave was 15 min ahead of me). It took me another 6 miles to overtake him and once I did that I knew I was having a great ride, however he mentioned he was having trouble with the bumpy sections on the road and his brake pads were slightly rubbing. Sure enough a mile or so after passing him, I hit a bump which caused my Clean Bottle AND cage to fly off my frame. I didn’t think it was that loose, but now I had no hydration except for my 100 calories Xrcel. I had consumed one bottle of it before the race so I was metabolizing that very efficiently to this point, however now I had another 26 miles to go and only one aid station to get fluids. Panic. No. Opportunity to gather my mind and pace effectively – yes. And I did. With precision. Lots to think about out there and I was able to draw from the energy the course presented, and deep within spiritually of WHY I was out there, out there racing. I immediately twisted off the cap with my teeth, chugged half of it and without being able to cap it again, positioned it upright back in my skinsuit. My focus and mental strengths now went into pushing the pace with the wind aided sections and at mile 50 as I entered back into the lake, finished the second half of the bottle. Guns to the pedals I cranked it. Busted up the final 2 climbs and now got into run mode as I descended into transition. Weather was warming up now closer to 90, but manageable. I got off just as the dude in front of me miscalculated his dismount and side planted to the ground. His fault though and I just shook my head trying not to laugh. I entered transition, racked the bike, and talked my way through the steps: socks on, sneakers, visor, go. I had another bottle of the Xrcel ready to go and stuck that one in my suit now. I saw Gina on my way out and she got this great shot. Time to play PAC-man. BIKE: 56 miles – 2:44 @ 20.7 mph average. Negative split second half of course.

Now it was going to be a test. Easy the first 2 miles. I felt what could have been the onslaught of a cramp in my right calm, but calmed it down which told me my mind-body connection was solid. I gauged everything up and down those first miles and prepped for my onslaught. There is a killer hill at mile 4 and once I got over that fluidly and made the first turn at 5K, it was game on. Lots of carnage already and I steadied my form, used the aid stations to simply throw water on my head, and sipped from my lone source of fuel every 2 miles. I was going to try and do this run on just 100 calories? That’s how confident I got with my pace. Knowing with the undulating hills on the course and it being a 2 lap deal, I knew after the first lap what to plan for. Gina and Deb were at the bridge next to an aid station that was playing Metal music. Guns up!!! That was invigorating enough as I made my way to the second lap. I was in tune to each breath, each step, each arm swing. I eyed the person/group in front of and chomp. I got onto the big hill one more time and saw one of the wheelchair athletes working his way up the hill BACKWARDS. No joke. After that, I was stoked. I knew I was negative splitting this 2nd half. I caught a glimpse of Wade walking as he looked to be at mile 6 and tried to give him strong encouraging words. Once I got to mile 11′ it was time to just let it out. Past mile 12 and once more over the bridge and heading for home. Gina and Deb were stationed now right by the finish area and I gave them a salute and sprinted through the finish. Awesome. RUN 13.1 MILES: 1:27 @ 6:40 pace.

My total time was 4:47, placing me 6th overall in my age group and 60th overall. I was excited and didn’t know if it would be a high enough placing for a World Championship slot, but I was extremely happy with how I raced. I had to take the long walk around the transition area just to get back to Gina and when I did it was a long hug and wet sweaty kiss!!! She told me Wade dropped out of the race after 6miles on the run which dampened the mood a bit, but he said he just didn’t have anything left out there. We both had to get our bikes and gear out of the transition area but there is a nice area of water you can go in and soak sore muscles and it felt refreshing. Many athletes were here if not in the medical tent, which looked like a reservoir of hanging IVs. Wade and I talked more about the race and gathered our gear. I thanked Marti for another wonderful race experience. We got back to Deb and Gina, walked back to the truck, and heading back home. I wasn’t thirsty nor hungry but after reviewing my Polar, burned 4000 calories on only 400 calories of fuel. It was time to eat, drink iced Java, and stretch out quick.

After a good stretch, it was time for a big PB/banana sandwich, Half a MetRx bar, and a tall iced Java. That primarily kept me wired and fumes running for another few hours. Gina, Wade, and Deb took a nap and I finally tried to lay down around 3:30. Results were in and now it was just a waiting game till the awards dinner at 6. I managed to lie down for only 30 minutes. I took a nice cold shower which felt really good. We made our way to the host hotel and didn’t eat much as we enjoyed some musical entertainment instead. They start with the older age groups and offer slots based on the number of participants in that group. Some people bypass their World Championship slot if they already have one. Sometimes if a slot is vacant in an age group, it gets moved to another. Mine had 2. I knew the winner of my age group was a semi-pro stud and wouldn’t be taking his. As each age group was finished, the tension and nerves begin. When my age group was announced, the first 2 placers weren’t there. Being in the top 6 in my age group, I won a bottle of wine regardless!!! Sure enough as I grabbed my choice of wine, the announcer said I was next in line to accept a slot!!! I looked over to Gina and smiled. “Honeymoon!!??” She smiled and I looked to the announcer and said “Yes!” As I made my way on stage for the photo and car acceptance, I was so excited we did it! I said thank you again to Marti the race director and she was happy for us to earn a slot again. I went over to Gina and gave her a long big hug and kiss. Close to 6 years of marriage in October and we have never been on a honeymoon. We achieved a big goal today and in great fashion. Together. NOW it was time to celebrate. Off to get some frozen yogurt ice cream and cap off the evening with a big glass of wine. The sun set just after 9pm and wasn’t long before we set down for the count also.

Woke up Monday morning and went for a nice walk with Gina. Packed up the bike and dropped off to Fed Ex before spending the rest of the day resting, reading Phil Knight’s book SHOE DOG, journal writing, and watching cable! I eventually crashed and mentally ¬†fried by noon which resulted in a long hour nap. Gina took advantage of this photo as the Wilson’s dog Bear joined me.

I felt the DOMS in my upper neck and traps. Legs were fine, just a little sore. But rest, true rest is in store the next 2 days before we head home. The Wilsons have a lake home the go to this time each year and we are spending the next day and a half there. R&R to recharge before heading home. I did eat one of my burger/fries meals at Cracker Barrel just before we got here as Gina and I had a bet prior to: if I finish well, I have to have a burger. If I qualify, I have to have another. Tonight I will complete it, and happily so. Oh, and more wine. I am so fortunate to have been able to race and do well enough to have the opportunity to take Gina on such an adventure. She deserves so much from working so hard, and her hustle inspires me each day. The Wilsons have been a blessing to meet 10 years ago and staying with them each time we come here allows us to always have fun, share in loving friendship, and get that “escape” needed. I won’t, nor do I care to start getting prepared for the WC until next week, just to allow ample mind/body rest.
This will be my 6th WC event in triathlon, so I know the drill. There is much to plan yet also regrouping to do. And the rest NOW is needed. Amen.

I’d like to thank Polar, AAA Carolina’s, InsideOut Sports, Jessica Marriot at Sports Massage Therapy, Xrcel, Clean Bottle, and Ritas Italian Ice, for their continued support to TeamMC, and into the next 10 weeks leading up to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Yo.

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