August 31, 2012

2 years ago!

Ah the memories!  --  Feel free to read this blog post from my first sprint triathlon - 2 years ago this weekend!

It is actually really entertaining, funny, and even a little sad!  But the amazing thing is how my perspective has changed.  Not just from my times and expectations, but including my preparations, nerves and confidence. 

I'm far from being called a veteran triathlete, but I'm proud of what I've been able to do in 2 years time. 

Supposed to be a rainy day tomorrow, but we will make the best of it, and celebrate the journey that has renewed my spirit for living a healthy lifestyle!

Have a great weekend everyone!

August 20, 2012

Steelhead 70.3 Race Recap

This is my recollection of the race weekend - it is unedited and raw - you are likely to say "TMI" multiple times - read at your own risk!

Main Characters:
Chris Day - first time 70.3 athlete with Hero Support Captain/Wife Molly Day, complete with 3 children, Morgan, Emma and Carter
Pete and Amy Olson - Athletic Supporters extraordinaire
Chuck Alfrey - first time 70.3 athlete and wife Staci
Sara Fauquher - Aquabike athlete rockstar and husband Andy who are celebrating their Anniversary by running this as a relay
Gary Thomas - veteran triathlete and training for 140.6 with wife Amy
Lucas Smelser - Muncie Area Fun Squad (MAFS) founder and faster than fast triathlete with his wife - Lisa Smelser who is equally as fast amongst the women

Location:  Jean Klock Park, Benton Harbor Michigan

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Not a bad place to watch a race!

Hero Support Vehicle is gassed up and ready to roll, we meet up with Team Olson for an 8:30 departure, and race our way to Benton Harbor.  There is a 1:00 athlete briefing that I think we can make even with a quick Pizza Hut lunch stop.  We drive mostly straight to the park, and get parked easily.  Short walk over the dunes and behold the beautiful Lake Michigan!  This ain't Prairie Creek y'all!  Find a bathroom and walk into the meeting as it begins.

The outdoor picnic table seating area was standing room only.  The meeting was very informative and helpful!  I'm feeling comfortable with everything around me and was thankful to have Molly by my side while Olsons took the kids down the beach to the water.  Meeting is over, and time to register.  Smooth and easy with great volunteers, and I'm into the merchandise tent.  One of my favorite shirts from Muncie is the M-dot logo with all the athlete names on the back.  It's soft, comfortable and super cool!  Thankful to grab one for half price via Molly's Ironman connections.  Bump into Chuck and Staci for the first time in the merch tent.  They had just arrived in time to check in, but had yet to attend the meeting.

I will carry it...
...cause it will carry me
Olson's have returned with the kids, and it's time to make a plan - We all walked back to the van and retrieved my bike, my wetsuit, and Pete's mountain bike.  Pete brought it so that he could chase us around the course easily.  I walked the bike to transition and racked it without riding at all.  Pausing of course for the obligatory bike over the head photo!  I had read the course was hilly, so no need to exhaust myself today.

Ran into Sara and Andy who came up last night and had already taken care of their logistics.  Their anniversary was yesterday, and their relay team name is "Happy Anniversary, Honey"!  I found a changing area and slipped into the wetsuit while Pete took off to explore the course for us.  The kids ran the beach chasing seagulls, while Molly and Amy grabbed their chairs and sat on the beach while I swam.  The meeting informed us we would swim South to North with the current.  Didn't take long swimming a couple hundred yards in each direction to realize what they were talking about.  Lots of boats on the water made it quite choppy and I was getting rocked around as much as I did in the Ocean at Kona!  Not fun!  20 minutes is all I need, and I'm out of the water and drying off.

Pete returns to break the news that the run course may require cross country shoes, and a hiking backpack - as I feared, there are some hills!  Changed clothes and back to the car, our work here is done for the day.  We've got some time to kill so we chose to drive the bike course.  Hills are certainly the name of the game around here - 100 feet of gain right out of the gate.  But the road conditions became the story once we turned off the Blue Star Highway.  The best I can describe it is when a road is being grated, and they take that top layer of asphalt off before they repave it.  When you're driving it, your tires make that HUMMM sound the entire time?  Yeah, it's like that!  After about 15 miles into the bike course I've seen enough so we abandon that plan and are now seeking the nearest Target store!

No one "forgot" anything, but we didn't pack the kids' swimsuits because we knew there would be no time at the hotel for swimming - What we failed to realize was that we would be sitting on a BEACH ALL DAY while I'm racing, and the kids can swim - Thank you Target for your 50-75% clearance racks at the end of swim season!  Mission Accomplished and it's dinner time!

Lasagna = Carbs = YUM!
Gary Thomas had made reservations for 17 at the local Papa Vino's restaurant for the MAFS crew at 6:00.  We were first to arrive with Olson's followed by Alfrey's.  They took us back to a private party room set for 19.  Fauquhers showed up, and an acquaintance to many, TJ Tryon came too.  TJ has been helping Chuck quite a bit, and many of know of TJ as being a USAT official.  Gary Thomas (GT) and his wife Amy show up with Luke and Lisa Smelser all sporting their official MAFS shirts!  (should've gone back to the car and put mine on too)  Smelser's brought their hero support too, and Scott Hubbard and his girlfriend Brenda Skoczelas round out our group of 20!  Dinner was awesome, and I may have eaten a little more than I should have, but I had not snacked all day since lunch 6.5 hours ago, and was not eating anymore before morning.

We shared great conversation and stories with all, and it was hugs, high fives, fist bumps, and well wishes all around as we went our separate ways!  It's about a half hour drive to our hotel, and Olsons were 5 minutes beyond that.  They followed us to ours and we coordinated our plan for race morning before checking in.  Once checked in, everyone showered, jammied, and hit the sack.  Lights out at 9:30!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Alarm goes off at 4:20.  I'm up and showering while everyone else sleeps.  Ate a banana, and granola bar, and drinking about 16 ounces of Gatorade while getting ready.  One of my biggest concerns race morning is having a good poop before the race, and I didn't get it first thing, so hoping the food will wake the stomach and get the bowels moving.  No luck yet.  Pete and Amy are coming to the room at 4:45.  Pete is picking me up and Amy will stay behind with Molly and the kids to come later.  Gather all my things, we're out the door, and while in the elevator I realize - oops - I left the car keys in the room, and I'm going to need to get in the car to get the rest of my gear - elevator down - elevator up - keys - elevator down, and now we're loaded and on the road by 5.

It's very cold this morning and I sat out a sweatshirt to bring for this very reason - problem is, it never got packed.  Pete literally gave me the sweatshirt off his back to keep me warm, thankfully he had a long sleeve tech for himself.  Heat was on in the car the whole drive in, and it was a very quiet ride.  I was still in a meditation mode.  Doing mental reps in my mind and thankful to be able to lay my head back and close my eyes while Pete did the driving.  We drove straight to the parking lot which is about a mile South of transition, but near the swim start.  Shuttles were provided to get athletes from parking to transition, and then back for the swim start.  I grabbed all my gear except for the wetsuit which Pete offered to take since I didn't need it until much later.  Pete said he would just walk over while I shuttled over and got set up in transition.

No wait for a shuttle, and as the door closes, I hear from the back of the bus, "Chris Day!" - Smelser's are all smiles in the back of the bus.  I probably looked silly as I was wearing my bike helmet, but my hands were full with bike shoes, towels, nutrition, etc.  "You got your bike helmet?", I respond, "Roger that!"  while shaking my head side to side so it wobbles on my head which draws a laugh from the athletes, I'm truly all smiles, and starting to get a little anxious about the day ahead.  Bus drops us off VIP-like and it's a short walk to transition.

Transition area is literally a quarter mile long!  Bike are lined on the left and right with one rack right down the middle.  The sun is no where to be seen, and only the portable halogen spots illuminate the area, but the music is on and announcements are nonstop.  I have until 6:45 to get my things set up, and it's barely 6:00 right now.  My bike is racked near the end of transition, so it's a long walk to the bike, but there she is waiting for me.

First order of business is to get some air in the tires.  I knew others would have their pumps, so I didn't mess with mine.  Unracked my bike, and propped it up against a monument nearby, and easily found and borrowed a pump.  115psi in both front and rear today.  Brakes check well, Gears turn fine.  It's in an easy gear, so I rerack it and start unpacking my gear.  Towel out, Running shoes off and set, Bike shoes out and set.  Gatorade in both bottles on the bike.  Nutrition loaded on the bike.   Gels on my bib belt, and bib...bib...where's my bib, oh yeah it's in the white envelope with my timing chip and swim cap...chip...cap...bib...should be in the bag...this bag...not in ....what....where....  OH NO!!!!!!!!!!


Think - think - I must have put it in the other sling bag, the one that I left for Molly to use today - in the hotel room!  Grab the phone, place the call, and calmly ask for the whereabouts of said envelope.  "Yep, here it is, I've got it right here, and yes, here is your bib, cap, and timing chip"  - Where are you?  We're leaving the hotel right now - 30 minutes away - It is now 6:15 - transition closes in 30 minutes - This means there is no possible way it will be here in time for me to do anything with it.  Before tucking my phone in my bag I called Pete to inform him of the issue and tell him to stand by and wait for the call.  I'd meet up with him in a few minutes.

Think - think - I don't need my swim cap until I get in the water - my wave doesn't go until 8:05 - she'll make it!  I don't need my timing chip until I start the race at 8:05 - she'll make it.  I don't need the bib until I start the bike - but how will that work if I can't get it attached to my bib belt before the race?  Answer:  There will have to be a coordinated handoff as I come out of the water.  This can work, this will work - don't panic.  Okay dear, call me when you get parked and we'll figure it out.  In the meantime, I'm going to seek out a race official and ask for alternatives.  They have told us before that if we lose our timing chip, just ask for a new one.  Swim caps should be easy to come by (Muncie has thousands leftover every year), but the bib remains the concern.  You must wear it for the bike and the run!

I ask a volunteer where I should go, and they suggest the finish line where the timers should be stationed, but there's no one there - I return to another storage area and ask some other staff who reply it's too early for anyone to be there.  Maybe it was the panic, maybe it was all the walking, but that was when mother nature decided to call!  There were 30 portapots lined outside of transition and the line was moving swiftly.  I jumped in line and took care of business.  Relief!  Glad to have that done.  Probably not eating or drinking anything else, so should be fine.  "Transition closes in 20 minutes" is the announcement followed by, "Early waves should be headed to the swim start".  Now I'm getting panicked that I can't even get an answer - - that's when God threw me a curveball - - in the form of Matt Hay!

Matt is a friend from summer church camp when we were in High School.  We reconnected last year as he made his quest to become an Ironman.  He stayed with us last year when he raced Muncie 70.3 before completing 140.6 in September.  Matt lives in Northern Indiana and came with a friend, but as he says when asked what he's doing here, "I came to see you!" - HUGS!  Matt, meet Pete - Pete, meet Matt - the two of you talk while I find an official.  I finally found a fast walking, radio carrying, collared shirt female that gave me 10 seconds while walking fast.  "I've lost my timing chip, where do I go?" - "They're at the swim start" - "okay, but I've also lost my bib" - "You're screwed!" - No seriously, that's what she said - "You're screwed!"  WHAT!  Are you serious - Shocked, but determined, I offered my solution - "if my bib gets here in time, can someone hand it to me as I get out of the water, and I'll carry it to my bike?" - "Yeah, sure that should be fine" - Should be?  Can you be a little more reassuring?  And with that, she was on the radio to someone else and making her way to the swim start.  "Transition will close in 10 minutes"

Dealing with the reality that there's nothing more I can do but execute the plan, I grab Pete and Matt and we make our way down the beach to the water's edge to begin the 1.2 mile walk to the start line.  Along the way, Matt and I are small talking.  How calm the water is; how big the houses are; how neat the sand dunes are.  He says to me, "I'm resisting the urge to catch up on life with you, realizing you've probably got a lot on your mind" - To which I say, go for it!  Maybe it will help me relax.  He mentions an IU/BSU game that we should coordinate on, and we talk about what he's got coming up as far as races.  Half way down the beach the phone rings, and the package has arrived at the parking lot, now they're trying to figure out how to go straight to the swim start.

We pause on our walk as we are within earshot of the National Anthem, and 2 minutes later, we hear the cannon go off, and can see the pros running into the water!  It's 7:00 and this thing is underway!  2 more waves get off the beach before we arrive and meet up with the package.  All is well, and I can relax.  The plan will work.  Hugs from the kids and a kiss from Molly remind me that we're fine.  I spot Chuck on the beach, he looks ready and has only 20 minutes until he's in the water.  With a deep breath I realize mother nature was calling again - or maybe it was Papa Vino's calling (I knew I ate too much) - bathrooms are over the dunes, so I make the trek.  1 bathroom with 1 stall and 5 portapots.  I opt for the bathroom and it takes me 20 minutes to get through the line, but success is had!

   Chuck is already in the water as are all our females - the pros are out of the water and probably working mile 10 on the bike.  Back to the beach, and finish pulling the wetsuit on.  Hugs, high fives, and fist bumps all around - the music is loud at the start line, I'm hopping, jumping, shaking out the arms, etc.  Morgan asks if we can go put our toes in the water, so we do.  Water feels great, and I get in waist deep.  Back out and we've got time for a couple more pics with GT and Lucas who start in the wave after me (5 minutes later).  At that point I made a promise to everyone - "THIS (pointing to my smiling mouth) stays with me all day, no matter what!"  Thinking back to Coach Armando's final words of advice - "Smile allllllll the waayyyyy, it's easier that way!"

Yellow caps in front of me are in the water, and the fluorescent green caps are in the queue - that's me!  Adjusting the goggles and wetsuit one final time, the announcer reminds us that the water level is very low and we can essentially run to the first buoy - 10 seconds later - AIRHORN and we're off


He wasn't kidding - I jogged easily to the first buoy before I was even calf deep, and then continued walking to the second buoy before I was nipple deep and found room to take that first diving stroke into the water.  Once in position it was crowded as I feared.  Had several close calls of flying elbows, kicking feet, and right hooks swinging near my face.  The large red buoy turns us parallel with the beach and there are 8 yellow buoys, followed by 8 orange buoys before we get to the final red buoy to turn us back toward the beach.

I struggled to the second yellow buoy before I felt like I was able to get into a groove, but once I did, I found comfort and was able to focus on my stroke.  Each time I found myself on someone's heels, I held position to see if I could pick up a draft, but often found my long reach would tangle me with them, so I would pass.  I always breathe on my left which is looking away from the beach, and so I only lifted my head forward to spot the next buoy and hold the line.  I made an effort to touch or brush up against each buoy so that I knew I was holding a line closest to the shore and not fanning out into the lake to make this thing any longer than it needed to be.

I actually found myself matching an identical pace as another green cap, and I hung on his right hip so that as I took a breath on my left I was looking right at his legs.  This was a great position and I stayed with him for several buoys and minutes.  I think I may have gotten too complacent in this position, and stopped "racing".  I was just sort of swimming, but was feeling good as I caught the slowest of the yellow caps that went off 5 minutes ahead of me.  It was about that exact same time that the orange caps behind me caught us!  There was a pack of 3 or 4 that went by so fast they left a wake, then a bigger pack behind them before a stream of them were mixed in with us.

At the first orange buoy I checked my watch assuming I was halfway - it read 24 minutes - I had said I'd like to do the swim in 45 minutes, so if this were true I was a little slower than I preferred.  Sticking with the plan, and reaching longer and pulling harder at times, by the time I got to the 4th orange buoy a stream of red caps were coming by now!  These were athletes that started 10 minutes after me!  Wow!  These guys are fast!  Somewhere around this time I looked around and counted at least 6 different color caps in the water with me, and that's just what I could see.  By the time I reached the sixth orange buoy, I was ready to be done!  Bored isn't the right word, but I'm just going through the motions at this point, and thinking ahead about "the handoff".

As I hit the final red buoy and make the right turn toward the beach, I'm wondering how long I will swim before I hit sand.  I had read that I need to continue swimming until my hands are dragging bottom before I stand up with the idea that you can swim faster than you can walk in water.  But at this point, as soon as I see someone standing, I'm reaching for the bottom.  I finally find it, and stand right away.  Pull my goggles off and try to gather myself and focus on the shoreline to find Molly.  She was wearing a colorful sweatshirt that made her easy to find.  I was expecting her to be half way up the chute that leads to transition, but she was at the water's edge.  It occurred to me that I should go ahead and pull my arms out of the wetsuit so that once she hands me the bib I don't have to risk ripping it or getting it wet by pulling it through - came out of the wetsuit easy enough on top and get a successful handoff!


Running up the beach was difficult as the sand is very fine and loose.  The chute is surrounded by cheering fans on both sides, and with the relief of having my bib and being done with the swim I am once again smiling ear to ear - so much so that I hear people commenting, "love that smile", etc.  The swim was long and arduous, but I'm not too upset with the results. 

Swim = 47:15 - 934 overall - 696 men - 124 division

Heading out on the bike
Into T1 - I make the long quarter mile barefoot jog to the bike.  Over the fencing I spot Amy Olson and Matt Hay both running with phone/camera in hand.  They were able to get inside the finish chute to stand on the other side of my bike as I transition.  I also spotted Luke at his bike which meant he'd made up the 5 minutes on me in the water, and then some as he was about to exit with his gear - First order of business - get that bib attached - it probably only cost me 15 seconds, to bend down and secure it to my bib belt - then get out of the wetsuit - push and pull and then just step on it - threw it toward the fence and sat down to put on my bike shoes, helmet, and sunglasses - grabbed a drink of gatorade - is that it?  yep - I'm out!  Short jog to the bike exit and ran past the congestion at the mount line to hop on the bike - T1 time - 4:33


I felt pretty good coming on to the bike, but I knew there was a long climb ahead of me in the first 5 miles, so I kept it in the middle ring and kept the cadence high to get my legs under me.  Took my first gel right away and just a swig to chase it.  The first big climb was challenging, and I can see on my Garmin data that I only managed a 14.5 mph pace on that climb.  Somewhere around mile 7, I heard a familiar voice -  and here comes GT.  Just like at Muncie, he caught me quick, but he's moving much stronger than I am and he and several others were by me in a hurry.  I'm getting killed on the hills, but am reminding myself to settle in for a long ride.  While mile 3 was the slowest of the entire ride with that first hill, I got a pay off at mile 13 with a downhill that Garmin clocked at over 35 mph!  Now that's movin!

My nutrition plan was executed flawlessly - Every 15 minutes, I'm drinking - Every 45 minutes, I gel - and at the 1 hour and 2 hour marks I eat half a payday candy bar!  The aid stations were spaced pretty well, 4 in all, and I took water at the first one but pitched it immediately, and took water again at the second one, and kept it while pitching one of my own bottles, then pitched that empty water for a full gatorade at the third one.  Skipped the 4th.

The Blue Star Highway was nice to ride on despite the hills, and before we turned off of it, I spotted the leader coming back - he was working mile 45-50 and I'm barely past mile 10.  But once we turned East onto the county roads the rumbling began just as I had suspected it from the drive yesterday.  The rumbling was so bad that gear was flying off of bikes everywhere.  water bottles, gatorade bottles, CO2 cartridges, flat kits, etc littered the road and became obstacles on the ride.  As many are talking as are not, other than the obligatory "on your left" passing comment.  Mile markers were out every 5 miles, and the course was well marked.  The only interesting thing that made me smile, was at the halfway point, someone had painted the road with the words, "56 divided by 2 = 28"!  Somewhere around mile 32 there was a stupid steep climb.  For the first time I actually geared down to the small ring.  It didn't last long, but it was painful, and my cateye showed I was down to 7 mph at one point!  That's slow!

The remainder of the bike course was a struggle to stay in good aero position as my back began to ache more than usual, and my man parts were rubbing raw.  I applied the skin strong slather before hand, but between the swim and the sweat I'm sure it was wearing thin - probably didn't apply generously enough - the other realization was that the chamois in my bike shorts (that I train in) are a little thicker than the chamois in my trisuit - this caused some discomfort in the saddle that I wasn't used to in miles 40 and beyond.

I kept thinking I would catch someone I knew - maybe Chuck or Sara - they had started 30 minutes ahead of me and maybe I could have such a good bike that I could make that time up, but as I turned south onto the Blue Star Highway for the long stretch back, I was met with a headwind that remained the entire last 15 miles!  This was frustrating as I was now working much harder to maintain the same speeds.  I was doing the math in my head early and thinking I might break 3 hours on the bike, but knew it would be tough to do so now.  I traded positions with several riders off and on with legal passing to break the wind.  I can only assume they were working with me intentionally, but after doing most of the work, I left many of them behind.

Within the last 6 miles, I began to think ahead to T2, and opted back to the middle ring for a higher cadence, but with 3 miles to go I found myself about to charge down that same first hill that broke me early - back to top gear, and one last push, but with the wind, I could barely get it to 25 mph.  Geared down and made the turn toward the beach.  They funnel us up on a sidewalk that is marked "No passing Zone", this is a good half mile stretch on a narrow sidewalk with sharp turns.  I decide that since there is no passing, I will use this opportunity at a slower pace to come out of my shoes early.  I've done this successfully before and believe I can do it.  Unstrap right shoe, and grab heel, pull out and land the foot back on top of the shoe.  Around a corner, and do the same with the left.  I'm out of the shoes and rolling smoothly to the dismount line.  Even overheard some comments from spectators pointing at me "Look he's out of his shoes already too"  Both socked feet on the ground and dismounting when the rider in front of me (shoes still on) dismounts his bike by throwing his left leg up high enough to clip my right wrist - OUCH - he apologized quickly and sincerely, but I was fine.

Bike = 3:03:14 (18.3 mph) - 844 overall - 669 men - 123 division

Into T2 I'm running like a champ - shoes still clipped to the bike - running in my socks - quarter mile jog all the way -  I spot my fan club cheering loudly - I'm still all smiles and waving - I hear a "How do you feel?" and simply yell back "AWESOME!"  I really did feel good.  Made the long jog to rack the bike and again sat to put the running shoes on - helmet off, visor on - check the glasses and go -- but first, I need sunscreen!  Sadly, the aid station was behind me and not at the exit, so I had to jog back about 25 yards.  I yelled ahead "who's got sunscreen?" and someone turned around with their gloves covered and slathered my neck, shoulders, upper arms, and even the tips of my ears (thorough) while another volunteer handed me a cup of water.  Chug it, pitch it and go - T2 and out in 2:46 - very efficient!


As I exit T2 I spot Amy Thomas taking pics, and I yell out with arms in the air and a smile on my face!  "Look at me, I'm really doing this!"  It was a crazy good feeling to have the bike done and know that equipment issues would not ruin my day (lots and lots of flat tires out there today), it was only my legs that could fail me now.  I'm into a good groove early, but recall Pete reporting about the monster hill at mile 1.  If he's right, then I've got to run well to it in case I need to walk it.  As I cross under the Blue Star Hwy bridge, I recall the best sign of the day - simply said - DO EPIC SHIT!  Go Gabe -  I smiled and laughed and pointed at her - she pointed back and yelled, "It's not just Gabe, You do epic shit too!"  As funny as it was, it meant a lot!

The Garmin beeped at me exactly as I crossed the mile 1 marker - 10:26 - and then I turned the corner to locate "the hill"  It wasn't super long, but it was super steep - No question I'm power walking this one.  Others are running down the hill and are only a mile from their finish - I am 4 hours into my race, and these people could have had as much as an hour head start on me, so they could be 5 hours into their race - Lots of respect for these athletes.  At the top of the hill, I get a short jog in before I hit the first aid station.  It is well stocked with water, ice, gatorade, cola, and snacks.  My routine would be the same for every stop.  Grab a water and the ice, mix the two - drink the gatorade, then swig the water - dump the remaining water on my head and dump the ice in my trisuit.  Add in a swig of cola for miles 5 and beyond.  I committed to walk every aid station and run well out of each one.  This allowed for some consistent early miles - the first four were all between 10:26 and 10:56!

Pete found me around mile 3 on the run, and updated me on who all he had seen (nearly everyone), and was enjoying riding around watching us.  He anchored himself at the entrance to the Whirlpool World Headquarters where we enter their campus and run a walking trail inside the campus.  As I entered the campus, I spotted Luke who was on his way out...for the second time.  The course is a double loop about 5 miles around and I could easily calculate that he was working mile 10 and was therefore almost an hour ahead of me.  As I entered the campus and walked the next aid station, I did the quick math in my head that with less than 10 miles to go and being 4:30 into the race, I could run 12 minute miles in and finish under 6:30 - this would be a dream come true since I had said all along anything around 7 hours would be okay with me.

I could take nothing for granted knowing that my late run miles are often much much slower than the early run miles.  I pushed on and continued out of the campus passing Andy who was working his second loop confirming that I am the last of the MAFS out here.  Coming out of the campus, Pete was still waiting on me as I faced the dreaded hill!  I could see everyone was walking the hill, and I was comfortable to do that as long as I could run again after.  I continued to make jokes with people as they passed me - "Is this your third or fourth lap?" - "This is so much fun, I think I'll take a third lap", etc - Anything to make myself and others smile!

When I got the merge point, and faced the sign that said 2nd lap straight, finishers turn right, I was a bit dejected thinking of doing this 5 mile loop again, but I felt plenty strong enough and continued on.  I spoke first to almost everyone I passed, but one female in particular was walking and spoke to me first.  We had just passed the mile 7 point, and exchanged a short howdy, and good luck.  10 seconds could not have gone by when I hear this woman behind me let out the most blood-curdling scream I have heard since I don't know when.  It crescendoed from oh, to OH to OOOOOH to an all out AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!  As I turned to look she was already flat on her back with her leg in the air gripping tightly to her calf muscle.  I stopped in my tracks and turned to walk back, but 3 others raced past me (in the wrong direction) to get to her first.  One gentleman in particular yelling as loud as he can "PUSH AGAINST IT - PULL YOUR TOE UP!"  I paused momentarily debating what I could do, and chose to continue my race and offer a quick prayer for her.

As I neared the next aid station, the athletes around me were communicating the news to the volunteers who passed the word on to the police blocking the intersection who responded swiftly to her.  Would love to know if she was able to continue.  I grab all the aid I need here and a little extra ice (TMI WARNING:) I have been feeling like I needed to pee for the last mile or so, but don't want to take the time to stop at a port a pot to find out, so for the first time in my life I achieve the amazing sensation of urinating...on my trisuit...while walking...yes...while walking...just little bowed-legged shift and it's running down my leg - Again, I grabbed extra aid, so a quick rinse of water down the suit, and chased it with ice as always - hey my socks feel a little soggy now too.

After turning this corner, I spot a familiar pair of neon compression socks ahead!  Those were unmistakable, as they stuck out in my mind when they raced by me at mile 7 on the bike, but could it really be?  "GT?!" I yelled, and without looking he throws his hand in the air as if to say, "yep, you got me".  As I jogged nearer I became greatly concerned for what he was dealing with, and searching for the right words I said, "That was nice of you to wait for me" - okay, probably not the right words, but my goal was to make him smile.  No such luck - he may have rolled his eyes at me.  "What's going on? Stomach, Legs, What?"  He replied that he had fought a hamstring injury for quite some time, and today it got the best of him.  He'd had an amazing bike split (over 20 mph) said he had a rocket 8:20 first mile, but that was about the extent of his race.  I reminded him that he was wise to slow up as there was a bigger picture out there for him (140.6 in November), but then he started speaking of quitting - No, I said you can't quit - But then he said that he had nearly fallen twice, and I knew this was real.  We exchanged conversation about how others were doing, and how my race was going.  I told him I thought I could get in under 6:30 and he said "well you won't get it done walking with me."  I asked if he'd like to jog just a little with me, but he said he could make it 4 steps and would surely have to walk again.  With that he gave a firm hand grip and I told him as sincerely as I could - "I can't thank you enough for helping me get here - I don't know what's next for me, but whatever it is, I need you."  He humbly snickered, but I repeated myself - "I NEED YOU!"  I still don't think Gary knows how much he means to my motivation.  I look up to him like a big brother.  Thanks GT!

I'm on with my race, and feeling good.  When I reach the campus entrance Pete looks confused - why is he seeing me before GT?  He asks, Did you see GT?  I reply yep, he's coming up behind me here - Don't let him quit!  He has to finish - no matter how bad it hurts, or how slow it is, he can't quit!  I worked my way into and around the campus loop and as I hit the 10 mile marker I do the math in my head that I only have to run a 40 minute last 5k to break 6:30 - I got this!  One last peek at Pete as I exit and he escorts me to the base of "the hill" before I begin walking up it and he retreats to encourage GT to the finish.  Walking the hill proved to be costly as mile 11 clicked off as a 13:02 mile, my worst of the race.

Once to the top of the hill, I resume my pace and my conversations.  The next couple to speak to me first was very encouraging, "Looking good!" he said as I jogged up on them and with them for a bit.  The wife asks me "How many of these have you done?"  And I laugh replying, "This is it, my first and...well...I guess I won't say only" - They reply that it's their first as well, and we have a 5 minute "how proud are we of us" session!  Ultimately my pace was faster than theirs, so I went on.  Next to the last aid station, and I take on all the fluids I need, and press on quickly feeling strong and knowing I can make it under 6:30.

The last aid station is near the mile 12 marker and walking one last time I'm committed to running it in - double fisting ice and water, and...well yeah, I may have pushed a little more out of my bladder (I'm telling you I could barely control any of my muscles), but feeling the ultimate relief I begin the last jog of the day.  Remember the big hill at mile 1? - now I get to go down it!  I'm now passing more than are passing me, and I am listening intently for the finish line music, but first....I hear Pete - yep here he comes one more time - what are you doing?  where's GT?  He's fine, I wanted to see you come into the finish chute and then I'll go check on him.  He rides ahead and jumps off the bike for one last photo as I cross my 70th mile of the day!

As he leaves, I hear the obnoxious sound of Amy Olson's cowbell (don't you dare get my kids one for Christmas) and alongside my favorite Hero support photographer Amy Thomas!  Nothing left to do but continue what I've done all day - smile and wave!  I can see the finish chute - I can hear the music - And as I make the final turn into the chute, every comment means 70.3X more than the one before, "Way to go" "You did it" "You made it" "You're here" "Congratulations"

Somewhat overcome with emotion I'm grinning ear to ear.  I check my shoulder and there is no one behind me - The spotlight is all mine - The moment is mine - I'm pumping my fists in the air, and looking for my family - I hear them first - Then see them - They're all there - I'd love to stop and chat, but we'll settle for a high five - this starts a chain of high fives from dozens and dozens of fans down the fence row, and then I actually hear it "Put your hands together for Christopher Day from Yorktown Indiana" - I think I jumped in the air - still pumping my fists - still smiling!  Still smiling!

Run = 2:30:17 (11:28 pace)

OVERALL = 6:28:05 - 911/1499 overall - 694/1057 men - 127/159 division

I traveled 70.3 miles for this!
As I lowered my head to receive my finisher medal, I grabbed my face, but there were no tears - I'm not sure there was enough liquid in my body to cry, but the emotion was very raw and very real.  I heard my son yelling, daddy, daddy, and when I went to the fence to give him a hug - he said "Daddy, you forgot to high-five me when you won!"  You can bet I gave him that high five, and a kiss, and another and another!  How lucky am I to have had my wife and kids there today.  I admit I didn't want to bring them for the hassle of it, but looking back at these pictures of the fun they had, I'm pleased they were able to share the moment with me.

We took our time packing everything up, (she made me throw my socks away) even enjoyed one more dip in the lake.  We got to see Gary finish, and got all the hugs and congrats from our MAFS friends that stuck around.  Many had a great day.  Several PRs (Luke by over 11 minutes) and even some hardware for the incredible Lisa Smelser - 5th in her Age group!  Congrats Lisa.  And couldn't be happier to share my first 70.3 with Chuck finishing his (and crushing my time at that!)  The car ride home was long, the muscles were tight.  We shared the driving responsibilities, and Carter caught a few Zzzs.  When we finally got home and tucked in - I asked him if he had fun, and he answered in that 4 year old voice "Yes, And can I do an Ironman Race Sunday?"  Too which I smiled and said, Maybe not Sunday, but definitely someday!

August 17, 2012

Steelhead 70.3 Prerace Final Thoughts

I asked Coach Armando if he had any final words of wisdom for me,  and here is his response, "it's your first 70.3 enjoy this one! next 70.3 you are going for the win...;-) have fun and smile allllll the's easier that way."

Friday night, and getting everything ready but taking a little break to journal my thoughts.

Injury Report:  I pulled something behind my left knee last night as I was standing up out of my chair.  No clue what or how or why it happened, but I grabbed it immediately.  It remained very tight and I iced it before bed.  Each time I woke up last night it was still painful when I tried to straighten it.  An easy 3 miler this morning loosened it up a bit, but as soon as I stopped, it came right back.  All day it has remained tight, and now I sit here with it on ice concerned that it may not loosen up.  Not that it matters...I ain't got time for pain!

Gear Check:  Bike is wiped down, tightened up and loaded.  Gear and nutrition are laid out and ready to go.  Bus is gassed up, and the family is busy practicing their cheers!

Papa Johns in the belly, and Gatorade by my side.  Tomorrow night we will have Italian with the entire MAFS crew!  17 of us in all, and half of us racing!

My drive and motivation has come back in the last few days, and I believe when my feet hit the beach nothing else will matter.  The weather appears to be near perfect, very cool, low humidity, calm(er) waters, and winds.

I have told myself that I'm willing to push my body to a place it has never been.  I'm ready to lay it all on the line and let it all hang out.  There are no other races firmly on the calendar, and there's no reason to save anything.  That being said, I have to run a smart race.  Push too hard too soon, and suffer early.  Don't push hard enough, and ask "what if" all the way home.

Excited to have my biggest fan, my wife, on this trip with me; and appreciative of her decision to bring the kids.  I can't let them down.  I might be their hero.  Also excited to have so many of my best friends and workout partners on this roadtrip.

It's going to hurt, I'm going to cry, but it's going to be worth it!