(Edited by Brad Minus) The Decision My 3 years of running experience started with multiple injuries including a couple of ankle fractures. However, I still managed to complete a marathon, a 50K and...
Obviously, Ironman Augusta 70.3 is one of my favorite races, since this is the third year in a row I competed in it. Why?
- The 1.2 mile swim heads downstream giving those of us that are not great swimmers a little push.
- There are two main sporting events in Augusta. The little golf tournament called “The Masters”, and the Ironman, so the whole city seems to show up to support it. The Ironman doesn’t have near the amount athletes or the out-of-town spectators, but it doesn’t seem like that when you are competing.
- The 56 mile bike course is beautifully scenic with rolling hills which makes it somewhat challenging and a lot of fun.
- The run course is two-loops around the center of town which is loaded with spectators that are cheering and holding signs with sayings like “If Triathlon was easy they would call it football.” It gives the competitors continuous motivation through a the 13.1 mile completion to the challenge which depending on the temperature could be grueling.
- The volunteers, all three years I have competed, have always been amazing. There are aid stations every 10 miles on the bike and every mile on the run, so there are a huge amount of volunteers that are there for a very long time.
- The expo and check-in have always been run very professionally and smooth. It is probably one of the best run expos I have took part in.
The weekend started off with a caravan of amazing people up to Augusta including my buddy Pete, Kari, Jaime, Kat, Chris, Kate, Matt, Jeff & Miranda. All of them great people and athletes.
The ride up was uneventful with one stop at Cracker Barrel to fuel up and a couple of minute stops for gas and essentials. We went right to check-in and surprise, surprise, the Marriott opened their new convention center so there was so much more space for check-in and the expo than last year. In the past everything was in a series of rooms, now it was in one great big room that allowed for more vendors and more space to move around. There had to be at least 50% more vendors than last year. It was amazing. Of course my favorite part, as always, is the atmosphere. Super charged with excitement and enthusiasm.
After getting settled in are hotels, Chris, Jaime, Kat and I had dinner at this little restaurant of an old hotel called the Partridge Inn. The meal was incredible, and for the first time I got to try Shrimp & Grits, which of course Jaime was astounded I had never tried. It was really amazing. Paleo? Not in the least, but it was delicious. We ended up splitting our dinners, of which mine was a 16oz prime rib that was cooked to perfection. It was an amazing choice, indeed. (Patrons of the hotel had much less to say of the hotel though.)
The next day consisted of quick workouts, bike check-in, race prep and another awesome dinner at Charlie-O’s Steak House. We had a much larger crowd for dinner which not only included the caravan gang, but some members of Tri-Psych as well. It was the perfect crowd to spend the evening before the race. Everybody was calm, cool and collected on the outside, but some pre-race anxiety seemed to be looming over all of us.
I was surprised at how well I slept that night. I usually never sleep the night before a race. Of course I still didn’t get eight hours, but the 6 I did was a very hard sleep. I woke up even more refreshed than I thought. I had the opportunity to dress, eat and be ready with time to chill out and motivate myself.
The transition area was crowding fast as usual, and since last year I had a very early start, this year I ended up more in the middle waves, so there was plenty of time, to relax and get my bike and gear ready, without feeling rushed. As always there were plenty of people who caught up with me either from, home, past races, social media, or my blog. It was awesome. Race morning has to be one of my favorite times of the race, just because of the excitement and the convening with friends and acquaintances. Those of you podium placers probably are in your own little world at this point, and it makes sense, but to a lot of us just trying to beat our past times and finish comfortably, this is a great time of the morning.
The shuttle took us to the host hotel, and as it was in the lower 50s at the time, we decided to grab some coffee and hangout in the lobby. Finally, it was time to head over to the start, drop my “morning clothes” bag in the truck and enter my corral for the start. I found Jaime, which calmed my nerves a bit. He races with Team RWB of whom I am honored to call myself a part of as well, but he is much faster than I. Usually about 20-30 minutes faster. He is an amazing athlete, motivator and all-around person. We only catch each other at races, but he always is able to motivate just that little bit extra.
The time came and they moved us to the dock, the
gun went off and we jumped in and started swimming. I have been working on my swimming so I adopted my rhythm as soon as possible, and found myself right with the majority of the pack the first 800m but then I fell short. They swam past and I ended up, as usual, in the back. Around the 1200m mark the pack behind me caught me and by time I finished, the fast women, two waves behind me, caught me. I still ended up beating my swim time from the year before by a minute, but it was still slow.
I ran up the ramp to transition and without any incidents I grabbed my bike and headed out and just as I was about to leave transition, mother nature called and I made a quick decision to use the portlets. I still ended up with a four-minute transition, but I was a little disappointed. Around the three-mile mark I started to feel something new; quad burn. I was astounded I was feeling this so soon. Usually, it took 40 to 50 miles of hills before I felt it this bad. I must have over-used them in the swim. After another fifteen minutes I took a Honey Stinger Gel prematurely and the burn subsided meaning that I must have depleted my glycogen levels just enough to feel it. My cadence kicked up and I started passing people, and while I was still getting passed by the elite cyclists in the waves behind me, I was doing more passing than getting passed. The hills were as I remembered and I didn’t have any issues with them until mother nature threw me a curve ball. She added the wind. I was thinking the whole time, I just wanted to average 20mph. That would get me into T2 under 3 hours. I did make it to T2 with that goal, but I fell short of my 20mph average at 19.44 mph.
Unfortunately, because I wanted that 20 mph so bad and I had not accounted for the wind, I spent a little more energy than I wanted and I felt in on the run. At first I felt a little tight, but I was used to that. In my training it took till mile three to get my legs back, so I pushed through and bided my time until then, but at mile three, the tightness didn’t go away. As a matter of fact, the tightness never went away. I ended up doing a run/walk of 1 mile on and sixty seconds off. It worked but I faltered on even doing as well as I did the year before. I was under two hours in 2012, but this year I ended up 2:05 which is the exact amount I was off my over-all time: 5:42 off from 5:36. I cared for a while, but I assessed what I learned and what I needed to take away in order to be successful at Ironman Florida which is the ultimate goal for the year.
I caught up with Pete around mile 11 and we ran into the finish chute together. Of course we were passed by Master’s champion runner, Jeff Lessie who was doing the bike and run as part of a relay. What made it really embarrassing, was that Jeff started an hour behind us and he still caught us. He is an amazing athlete, and when he ran passed us we thought for sure he was just on his first loop, but when we saw him in the finish area, both of us looked at each other and then down at the ground. After a couple of nanoseconds we lifted our heads, found him and gave him a hearty congrats. We both still did pretty well and we knew it.
On to the next challenge, for me, the Chicago Marathon, and for both of of us Ironman Florida, Panama City Beach.
The crazy thing about not running “Best Damn Race”, was I felt like I needed another race to replace it. It wasn’t very long after I got home on Saturday, that I had typed in the URL for the Rock n’ Roll series and registered for the Rock N’ Roll St. Petersburg Half-Marathon. I have no idea what the driving need was. I have plenty of races on the calendar, so what was another half-marathon? I decided to chalk it up to the hype of BDR and the fact I wanted to race. Is that a distinctive trait in all endurance athletes? I have no idea. I humbly request that you take a few seconds, put yourself in my shoes and let me know if you think you would’ve done the same thing.
I always get excited to go to the expos. It isn’t the free stuff, or the vendors, it is the aura, the environment and the excitement of the race. This expo was no different. I wasn’t excited about any of the vendors or the new technologies, I was just excited to be there and take it all in.
Road ID did something new this year. They were engraving on-site. This was the first event I attended where this was an option. What a great idea, and it was so easy. Several kiosks were set up with their software running on it and all that had to be done, was pick the product (wrist band, dog tag, ankle band, etc), type the content of the engraving, slide your card to pay for it and they engraved it for you
After hanging out with Pete and the gang and seeing a lot of friends at the expo, it was time to head home and chill out for the night. Afterall, not only was I at the expo but I also did a little training ride on the bridges of Clearwater.
The next morning brought on the same excitement as always. I didn’t wake up with the overall feeling of competing, I was more content with the positive anxiety rolling through my body at the idea of running. Period. I love races like this, especially since when I walk around either the start or finish I always seem to find someone I know.
Driving to the event was not an issue. My plan was to just find a place near Tropicana field, on the street or a cheep garage between the start and finish line, but at the last second I decided I really didn’t want to deal with it, so I ended up parking at the Trop for fifteen bucks. This is one of the things I am not crazy about with the Rock n’ Roll race series. Everything is an extra charge. $15 dollars to park at the expo, $15 to park at the race, $5 for a shuttle from the finish line back to the start, $1 per runner you want to track, $5 for the runner to allow others to track and not to mention the $110 race fee. I do enjoy the local races just for the fact they are usually all-inclusive. Best Damn Race was the cure for all of this. One price which even at full price was cheaper ($70), and it included parking, all the good food you can eat, and all the beer you could drink, but I digress.
My first perception was that this race was already increasingly superior to last year, at least for me, because mother nature was giving us a beautiful 57 degrees that morning vs my last experience with the race which was a very cold 33 degrees. This for me was absolutely perfect. The temperature would rise but by the time I finished it still would not have hit 70. A small breeze filled the air with a clean scent, but I could not consider it wind. Even though it was still a little chilly I decided to tough out the wait for the start in just my race attire instead of bringing anything extra for gear check. As I turned the corner around Tropicana Field the start-line events came into my line of sight. There, looking down on the parking lot, were three huge banks of port o’ lets, a few tents for info, volunteers, water and food, and of course the corrals. My heart rate increased a little as the anxiety started to ramp up.
The Mini-Marathon was starting first, which was a 5k, and then the main event, the Half-Marathon, would start about 25 minutes later. Making my way into the arena, recognizable faces started coming into
view. This running community, no matter how much publicity it gets, is still relatively small, so racing seems to promote seeing the same faces at most of the events. Even though I didn’t know a lot of the athletes by name they were recognizable, but of course it is not uncommon for someone to come up behind you and give you a big hug, or tap you on the shoulder to say hi. I ran into Margie and her friend she was running with, as well as Cheryl, Stephanie, Mike, Wibke, and a bunch of others which calmed me down tremendously. I decided that I would race this for fun and just let my legs decide what they were going to do. What I decided and what happened were two totally separate ideas.
Around 7:25 the corrals were filled and as I was bib number 1062 I was to start in corral number 1. The crowd noise was diminished to a slight whisper as this 13-year-old girl gave us a beautiful rendition of our national anthem, the gun went off and we were on our way.
My legs felt really good, my breath flowed easy and my form fell into place. I was listening to my iPod, but the volume was low enough for it to be drowned out by the local bands that were playing on the course every couple of miles. As I passed the first mile, I looked down at my Garmin which read 7:28 which was around 10 seconds behind the race clock, which made sense, but the pace was a little fast. I decided to keep on going and let my legs decide. My Garmin alerted me of my 7:30 pace at the end of the 2nd mile which turned out to be about a tenth of a mile
before I reached the race clock. This is not uncommon with races. The GPS signal grabs satellite data every three seconds and within a city, sometimes it does not make a connection for a few passes depending on buildings, and a variety of signals that can interfere with the accuracy. I where a foot pod to record my cadence as well as fill the gaps when the satellite is not available, but the algorithm that fills the gaps will not do so until I have recorded the history at the end of the event.
When I crossed mile three at a time very close to my 5k PR time, I knew that I was at a pace that was way too fast for my fitness level at this time, but I was feeling really good, so against my better judgement I continued. My pace stuck at a range in-between 7:26-7:40 until mile 8 and that is when it caught up with me. Even though I was sticking to my nutrition, I started to feel the ache in my legs, and the tightness in my chest. I got a hold of my breathing checked my posture, leaned in a little more and kept going, but unfortunately, my pace for the next 3 miles steadily increased. I was pretty consistent with the people around me up to this point. I played cat & mouse with a few of the runners, and I was passing people here and there and feeling pretty good about it, but for the last few miles, I would start to get passed. Between, nine and ten, I saw Ben
Mena on the side taking photos. A familiar face usually helps, so I turned toward him and mucked for the shot, pretending I felt a lot better than I actually did. My legs started getting heavier as we headed toward a small bridge, and I noticed Jessica Crate heading the opposite way toward the finish line, along with a lot of other familiar faces in that elite athlete group. Just on the other side of the bridge my watch alerted me to mile 11 and a lap time of 8:31. Out loud I yelled at myself, “Are you f***ing kidding me?” which gained me a few smirks and a couple of double takes from the others around me. I assessed my form, and my efficiency and noticed I was pretty much jacked up, so I slowed my breathing, lifted my arms to put me back in the right posture, tucked my hips and leaned from my ankles. I glided through the next mile at was alerted that I covered it in 8 minutes flat. “Better”, I thought to myself, but I was weakening and I knew it. I only had 1.1 miles left and while no matter what the finish line would be crossed, but it would be the longest mile of the race.
In a period that felt like two minutes went by when I saw Jessica running the opposite way, which could only be her cool down run, when I yelled and waved and before I knew it, she was in front of me. Yelling at me to stay with her. Her commands kept calling my ego to release anything I had left. “Bring your
arms up, relax and let’s do this!”, is what I heard from her as I started leaning more and lifting my legs. “400 meters Brad kick it into gear, c’mon let’s go!” is what sparked my kick. I could see the finish line, it was right there all I had to do was take everything I had and just push to get there. Jessica’s last words to me were “50 meters left, GO!!!!” and I took off with everything I had left. Honestly, it hurt, but the pain subsided the nanosecond I crossed the timing mat. The race clock said 1:45 on the nose when I crossed and I was disappointed in my time, but not in my effort.
My chest was tight, my back started to twinge a little as I retrieved my medal, took photos and started gathering after race treats. Water, Gatorade, chocolate milk, bananas, strawberries, granola bars were basically shoved into my hands and I hadn’t even left the finish corral. I didn’t know what to do with it all, but I thought the race should really hand a plastic bag to the finishers so it could be collected without effort. After all, we all just ran 13.1 miles, the blood isn’t exactly flowing to our brains.
I found a nice secluded spot to drop all my goodies, and start my post-run routine of lunges, stretches and squats before I started socializing. I caught Jessica at the VIP tent and thanked her for bringing me in and then proceeded to hang with Tara Lee, Cheryl, Karen, Teresa, Holly, Mike, Brian, Stephanie and who knows how many others at the beer tent while we listened to Sean Kingston play live on the stage of North Shore Park.
I didn’t pay for shuttle ticket out of principal, and I kinda decided prior to the race I would just run back, which was probably going to be more of walk by the way I felt. I said my goodbyes to friends at the beer tent and headed back to the VIP area to say goodbye to Jessica, when she told me that she parked at the Trop as well, so we could just run together. “You know, I don’t run as fast as your slowest jog.”, I told her, but she just blew that statement off and we ran back. When I say we ran, I am not kidding. This girl runs like the wind and even though we were keeping a good pace for me, I know she had to keep looking back and slowing down. I will say, when I reached the car, I felt
pretty good. Looser and more agile. This was a feeling I was going to have to remember. All in all, 16 miles for the day wasn’t to shabby.