I was standing close to bike pick up last weekend in Hawaii, face buried in my shirt, trying to hide what was happening after having just qualified for the Ironman World Championships when legend Greg Bennett walked up. We shuffled the grounds of the Orchid talking about the race, about October, about Lance. He congratulated me and I congratulated him. I was in Waikoloa. The waves were crashing. The sun was caressing. Alcatraz is one of the world’s great races and still I should have prepared - nothing would come close, so close. In my head, I wanted to see #1 here, was desperate to see it without fully considering the course or my strengths. But that’s what I do.
The reason I love 70.3 is that it suits me. My swim still has a way to go - as does everything, but I’m talking in relative terms. With a 56 mile bike and 13.1 run, I can catch people that put space on me swimming. At Alcatraz, there just wasn’t any room. The swim took 36 minutes, bike and run both somewhere low 50’s. I was expecting to come out of the water somewhere around 28 after doing it in 31 last year. When I looked at my watch, I thought I took a bad route. For some reason this year, currents were slow over the 1.5 miles. Everyone was 5-6 minutes slower than last year’s times. Longer the swim, further back I start. For anyone unfamiliar with Alcatraz, the course is a brutal 1.5/18/8. Bike is an all out attack on sharp, rolling, somewhat technical hills. Run has 2 flat miles at the start and finish, then 4 of dirt and tunnels and sand and mountains. It’s an incredible test with zero mental breaks. 8 miles into the bike, I was falling apart, certain Honu was coming back to haunt me. But I fought out and had a run split over 5 minutes faster than in 2011.
Assuming same swim conditions as 2011, I thought I could go under 2:20. And I actually came close considering my course was about 6 minutes slower. If someone told me before these last two weekends that I would go #2 and #3 and have my ticket punched to Kona, I’d ask them again if they were sure, then again, then again. So this is good. Sometimes I lose perspective and think I am just going to keep breaking through and through and through, even after 7 days between races. I know I live sometimes in a fool’s paradise, but that’s okay.
I wish I had the commitment and toughness to train for such a punishing event, not to mention the courage and strength it takes to actually complete it. I’ve found myself getting tired and deciding to quit while waiting in line just to take the ferry ride to Alcatraz for the tour, so I couldn’t imagine swimming in the San Francisco Bay (and that’s just the opening leg!)
Fitting that a little time has passed since last Sunday, a little time to not get too caught up in the race, a little time to take a step back, realize that all I have is a lewd near nude post race photo to lead into how it went down. Fitting that I’m watching the movie on TNT right now, at the end of a quiet, ass-kicked week.
I had a strong race. Feels good to say that after getting stomped in St. George. I had arbitrary aims to finish in the top 100 after finishing around 250 last year out of around 2000. Came in at 103 overall. Something like 250 in the swim, 40 in the bike and 110 in the run. Overall, I took 10 minutes off last year’s time, which is significant on a course so short. It’s been a year since I began running triathlon and feel like I’ve come some way. Also, I’m beginning to see low numbers in my age group, like 3rd in the bike. Low numbers are good for the heart, good for seeing myself places in the future, like stumbling onto an eventual podium or reaching the world 70.3’s in Vegas, something I need to someday crack.
If I’m beginning to learn anything, it’s to let go of the fear. Fear of going into a race, fear of breaking down, fear of failing. Running always used to be my strength. Now, there’s soon to be a changing of the guard…if there hasn’t already been one. My experience is eventually going to level my times, that’s what I’m hoping. I think the day I find success is the day I find harmony between the three, and my understanding that I can hammer the swim and not fail the bike, hammer the bike and not fail the run, then hammer the run. This was a shorter race, 2:33, so it’s easy to talk composure. Still, I can feel my head shifting. I’ve been to ugly places now, and back (CamSur, Cozumel, St. George), and will continue to go to ugly places (Kona in October). Maybe someday I’ll become quite fast. Maybe not. In the meantime, there’s a 70.3 about 6 hours north of me called Vineman a couple weeks into July. I’m going to see if I can hammer for about 4.5, see how things hold up, see if my chin is still up at the end. It will be. I’m ready to fall in love with the 70.3.