Which brings me back to Syracuse. The weekend started on Friday as the girlfriend (my biggest fan) and I made our way up to Canandaigua (I had to google that just to be sure I got it right Coach), NY where my coach and I finally met! Honestly, I feel like I've known him (you) forever and coming up for the first time could have been the 500th time. We quickly got to work by nerding out on all things triathlon and then made our way down to a local lake for a quick swim (remember this) and then out for a quick ride to shake out the legs. He and his amazing wife, Bonnie, treated us to a monster dinner at a local italian spot to make sure the glycogen stores were topped off for the big weekend ahead. Later that evening, another coached athlete and friend of mine, Phoebe, made her way to Coach's house with her friend Shirley. Phoebe would be racing her first 70.3 at Syracuse (which she rocked). After a big pancake breakfast thanks to Chef Dan we made the hour drive to Syracuse to get myself and my bike checked in and then headed to dinner with my family - my other biggest fans!
Xterra Vendetta wetsuit at Coach's house. I think subliminally I left it on purpose hoping to create the same mojo. I immediately called coach, and as always, he eased my anxiety and assured me I'd PR the swim because of this little snafu. Plus, he was coming to the race and said he'd be sure to have it to me before the start. Crisis averted. It was finally time to sleep which I did little of which is unusual as I typically sleep soundly the night before a race.
Race morning started at 4:45 AM. I got a quick shower to wake me and then we were quickly out the door and headed to the race start. I found a combination for breakfast that seemed to work for me at Steelhead so have kept it in rotation - one large banana, one large plain bagel and a bottle of chocolate Ensure. Ensure? Yes, Ensure. Its quite calorie dense, high in carbohydrates and electrolytes and because its liquid, digests quite easily. Plus, I happen to think it tastes quite good as well.
Setting up transition is typically a rather uneventful time but apparently upstate New York cools off considerably over night in September. We were greeted with 44 degree temps that I was not prepared for. Again, I forgot to pack other shoes (recurring theme?) so found myself bare foot in damp grass with 44 degree temperatures at 5:30 AM. My feet were numb before the day even started and it wasn't until 5 miles into the run that I finally regained feeling in my toes. Apart from the markedly cool weather and lack of wetsuit for the time being, set up was actually uneventful. It does involve a lot of staring at your transition area as you run through the setup of everything and double check that everything is laid out in a way that allows for speedy transitions as evidenced here (notice the bare feet):
Coach arrived with my speedy Xterra Vendetta wetsuit with plenty of time to spare, but I quickly donned it as it was so cold that hanging out for 40 minutes in my wetsuit seemed like the best way to stay warm. We talked before the race but also on race morning about me pushing a little harder on the swim today as I felt that I was holding myself back in previous races. This is us talking right before my wave went off:
Kiwami Amphibian literally does not absorb any water so I kept warm even after stripping the wetsuit. (It somehow does this while also being incredibly breathable.)
First Endurance EFS Drink and EFS Liquid Shot throughout the ride and I took a big gulp of some Liquid Shot and quickly was back on the grind. Although, unexpectedly and very shortly after, I was passed which rarely happens on the bike leg. I'm not trying to boast but it just doesn't typically happen. I made a glance to my left and quickly recognized who was making the pass. James Chesson is a northern New Jersey triathlete and an exceptional talent. I took a 4th overall at an olympic earlier in the year that James took first at. Super nice guy and on his way to grabbing up his pro card. I stayed with him at a legal distance for a few miles but eventually backed off a bit. In hindsight and after Coach's review of my power file, I should have stayed with him all the way back to T2 as my variability index was 1.02 and I actually got stronger over the course of the 56 mile ride (meaning I was producing more power with a lower heart rate at the end of the ride than I did through the first 3/4s.). I managed a second best bike split of the day despite falling below my power goals for the ride.
I breezed into T2 feeling super fresh and ready to attack whatever the run had to throw at me, or so I thought. And this is where I made my first mistake of the day. Having not driven the run course or even knowing what to expect considering that it was a new run course this year, I started out way too hot. Within a mile of exiting transition you're presented with the first steady and moderately long climb. Again, an error on my part, but I attacked that first hill and all subsequent hills on the first loop of what would be a two loop course. After the first, came a bit of rolling hills and then after cresting the last of the rollers are presented with what appeared to be a vertical wall just ahead of a big downhill section. My first thought upon viewing this "hill" was, "no way we're going up that...twice." Sure enough we were and once at the base of the climb it wasn't as bad as it appeared. By no means was it easy and having trained in NYC all year, I've seen nothing like what the course presented, but, should have expected the unexpected! Coach was on the course at various points giving me updates on where the rest of my age group was. At or near the beginning of the run, I was still racing in first. It was on the start of my second loop that I was passed. Admittedly, this is crushing. I'm racing in first for the majority of the day and then get passed three and a half hours into the race. Never mind that it was also about this time that the erroneous vigor I started the run with started to catch up to me. I'm seven miles into 13.1 already finding myself having to dig deeper than I should have to gut out the rest of the day. I struggled from mile 7 all the way home. Shortly after the first guy passed, around mile 9, the second pass was made. Another shot to the gut. I'm sucking my EFS Liquid Shot and taking down coke (for the caffeine) from aid stations hoping to snap out of it. Not on this day. With about 2.5 miles to go, Matthew Curbeau made the last pass of the day. Matthew is a Rochester area standout with an exceptional run and a bright future ahead of him. Try as I might to stay on his feet, I had already burned up all my matches earlier in the run and had to let him go. I was in a very dark place those last few miles and you can see it on my face here:
As mentioned, Coach insists this was my best performance of the year. I'd agree, but argue that I didn't get a complete chance at Steelhead. Regardless, every race is a chance to learn something new. I surely took away some key learnings at Syracuse and can only look forward. My biggest race of the year still looms in the distance and is what all the racing and training for the last nine months has been geared toward.
Next up. Ironman Arizona.