Hello from Lubbock, Texas where the temperature at 5 PM was 111 degrees. It was only 105 when I finished the Ironman 70.3 earlier today. I came to Lubbock with two objectives. First, to win my age group and second – by winning my age group, earn a slot to the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii (on my 60th birthday.)
Steve Smith, (ranked number one by USA Triathlon for the 60 – 64 age group last year) won the age group and I came in second. Steve beat me in the swim by 2:44
and on the bike by 12:44. While I beat him on the run by 9:04, his impressive margin coming off the bike was too great. However, I met Steve tonight at the awards banquet and learned that he already had a Kona slot. So the slot rolls down to second place and I am going back to Kona.
As far as the race goes, I tried a new swim technique I learned on Wednesday …what was I thinking …and it worked. I had one of my best swim times ever. Larry, Steve, and Curtiss’s swim coach – Sonni Dyer came to our Wednesday “brick” (a swim, bike and run practice – took one look at my swim and asked one question. “Why are you breathing every third stroke? You probably are not getting enough oxygen and need to breathe every other stroke.” My answer – “I did not know and I had spent 5 years perfecting the alternate side breathing because I thought that was the best.” (Lesson – Your greatest weakness is in the zone of not knowing what you don’t know. Sonni found my blind side in less than 5 seconds.) I should also mention that Jack Spartz also contributed to the better swim by encouraging me to reduce my stroke count and get more power out of each stroke. But that is still work in progress.
I came out of the swim feeling great, but made my first strategic mistake of the day…and I know better. I did not walk through the swim finish to the bike in advance and ran the wrong way though the corral. Stupid…and it cost me 30 seconds and a near heart attack since I could not find my bike.
The bike ride, other than being hot was very unexpected. Lubbock is very dry and very, very flat. I bet there are only six hills within 100 miles that are caused by natural canyons. The race director found all six hills. But that was not the biggest challenge. Neither was the heat. It was the stiff wind. With the wind at my back, 27 miles per hour was easy. With the wind at my face…which seemed like most of the time, 15 miles per hour was impossible. The bike course ate me alive. At about 50 miles, I was pooped and started to get intermittent cramping in my legs and had trouble staying in the aero bars. In the bike to the run transition, I made my second mistake. I guess I fried my brain because I put a running shoe on one foot and bike shoe on the other foot. Fortunately, I did not get too far. The good news is that I was able to get strength from the heat and actually ran faster as the day got warmer. I ran the first 6.5 miles at an 8:25 pace and the second 6.5 miles at an 8:09 pace. The volunteers were outstanding providing water, Perform (a sports drink) Coke and ice every mile. I poured ice down my shirt every chance I got and drank aggressively at every station.
Today was another great day. While I lost to a great competitor, I won a slot to the Ironman World Championship. I was also inspired today by two people. Tyler Lorenzi whose memory continues to remind us all to live an exciting life. And Jimmy Spartz who reminds me to celebrate all the victories, no matter how big or small.
Special thanks to my wife Nannette, who is my biggest fan and fought the heat all day to be there for the brief couple seconds just to yell, “Go Mike!” We celebrated our 36th anniversary last week. Putting up with me for 36 years…now that is a real iron woman.