I have of late refrained from race reporting due to the fact that without trying carefully, they come off as “look how awesome I am” stories. This one is a quick recap on how if you try, you can make what most would say was a bad day, into a good one.
I signed up for this race undertrained and had no real time goals. I even forewent a bet with a time handicap with my boy Cullen Talley, as I knew one, he was going to crush it, and two, he wasn’t up for giving me 40 minutes. After a bunch of hemming and hawing on the way to Galveston, my race day strategy was to do what I always do. Balls out until I popped, limp home on the run.
Enter Sunday. The day was hot at 5 a.m. so I knew it was going to be a suck fest on the run. I got in the water and after about 5 minutes decided I would use the swim as a warmup. At one point I actually realized I was loafing and had to pick it up. I got out under 30 min and ran to transition. I got my gear on and jumped on the bike. I made a decision at the beginning of this ride to ride smart, which I never do. I set a heart rate and power number and committed to staying there. Per usual, there was a bit of drafting and a big headwind on the way out. At mile 18 or so Lance Armstrong and the pros started rolling by in the other direction. I stayed conservative and felt good. As I rounded a turn at the 20 mile mark I heard a pop followed by fffffffssssssssssssstttttttttt. I had flatted. I pulled over and began to change my rear tire. This is where my day changed.
We all have our ups and downs and as positive as I try to stay, I am human, and when things go bad, my attitude can go south just like anyone else. As I sat changing my tire I thought, “Well, that’s the end of this.” If the tire is gone, you are calling it a day. I got the tube in and promptly burned my first co2 canister without getting a breath in my tire. I used the second, put my wheel back on and got back on the bike. At this point, I could have probably mailed it in and road easy the rest of the day, but instead I resumed my plan and kept going. I even had to hold back as I was instinctively pushing to make up the lost 5-10 minutes of changing my tire. I got to the turnaround and got a tailwind. While I knew I wasn’t going to have a great finish time, I thought, “You always tell people to suck it up. Race hard and finish it best you can.” I kept at it and was getting back into it when at the 40 mile mark my rear wheel began to wobble and I could feel it was flat again. I rode another couple miles and it was no longer rideable. I pulled over and without any tubes or co2 left, figured my day was done. I began walking it in.
After about a half mile, a cop pulled over and asked if I was okay. I told him I was fine but had my second flat of the day. He radioed in to the support crew and I settled in to wait. I hung out and cheered and visited with someone who was waiting for their daughter to pass when Jim from the Bike Barn of Houston and the SAG crew showed up. He got the tire changed and aired it up, only to find the sidewall of the tire had been blown out in the first flat, hence the second one. 40 min later I am back on the bike. Suffice it to say that a 40 min break is not good for you during an event like this. I got on the bike and it took 2-3 miles before I was back up to speed.
During that period on the side of the road, I thought, “You know what, you can call it day if you want and no one would blame you, but really why? Go run hard and finish it. You owe it to yourself and to the spirit of the race.” This was one of the best decisions I have made in sport. It would have been easy to shut it down and catch a ride in. But really, I was there to race my best, which wouldn’t have gotten me in the top 10 had I pr’d by 10 mins. So really I was there to do a triathlon, to go hard, and to have fun.
I won’t bore you with 13.1 miles of running talk, but I had a great run. Not fast, but for the first time in my half ironman career, I was patient, upbeat, controlled and ran the whole time except for aid stations. I finished happy and on a positive because my last 4 miles were my best. I finished 5:51:11, an hour slower than my best and felt better about this race than any prior.
Perhaps this story is a no brainer for a lot of folks who race, but for me it has taken 12 years to completely not take myself too seriously. 12 years of expectations that couldn’t be met, 12 years of being pissed when a race didn’t go well, 12 years of wasted angst on a hobby. Go hard, DBAP, and have fun. It really is that simple.