So I never really got around to publishing this one last year. But I had to write about my first DNF before I could write about my second. Please forgive the mixed up tense. I started and stopped writing this at least half a dozen times.
Okay, so the story of this race starts about 3 weeks before the race itself. I had been working pretty hard a upping my biking intensity ever since CDA. I was really starting to feel it working, but could also feel my mind starting to wander, becoming less focused, ready for a taper. Well, about a week after my last hard weekend of training I kinda fell off the deep end. You could say life got in the way; I had some difficult work travel, I spent some time with my Mom when she visited, but it was really pretty easy for me to miss 5 straight days of working out.
I got back in the swing of things, not really worried about having lost any fitness. I felt rested and healthy, but rusty instead of sharp. Exactly seven days before the race I went for a run around the neighborhood. I probably started out to fast and/or chose the wrong route, because by the time I reached the top of the first hill my right calf had started to tighten up. Instead of just calling the whole thing off, like I would have if I hadn’t just missed six days in a row, I found a way to manage it by changing my gate slightly. Calf cramps/strains/pulls are an old nemesis of mine and it usually means something is wrong with my mechanics anyway. Well, I finished the run feeling glad I’d found a way to manage it without making anything worse.
Fast forward to race weekend and my calf still isn’t feeling 100%. I tried, pretty successfully, to not worry about it and just ‘see what happens’. It definitely felt a little weird to be so relaxed, dare I say nonchalant, about racing a fullRev, but that’s pretty much how Cedar Point felt. I traveled by myself, stayed in a house with a bunch of Rev3 teammates, most of whom were racing the half and pretty comfortable with their race prep. It was a great environment for staying relaxed. I began to worry that I was too relaxed.
So I started the swim with 400 other full Rev participants, which was really quite pleasant. No bumping or jostling. In fact, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I could have used a few more people around because I couldn’t swim straight to save my life. I wish I could blame my 1:17 swim split on the calf somehow, but I can’t come up with anything. I just felt weak, a bit rusty, and all sorts of discombobulated. I stopped once to de-fog my goggles and at least three other times to secure my swim cap. Hard to believe I just learned this, but don’t shave your head the night before the race! Add a little sunscreen and you swim cap won’t stay put. I don’t know what anyone else had on their garmin but mine said 2.79 miles. I honestly don’t know if the course was a little long or if I was that crooked. Either way, I exited the water with a bad feeling. Then I looked at my garmin and the feeling got worse.
Focusing on the mechanics of T1 did a pretty good job of clearing it out of my mind. But starting the bike I saw a few people I recognized and knew and immediately realized it wasn’t a long course, it was me.
Since CDA I’ve been focusing A LOT on improving my cycling. Increasing my average wattage on the bike was definitely my biggest goal for the day. A lot happens over 112 miles, but here’s what I remember: Riding solid at the low end of my target wattage range for the first 20 miles or so. Then focus on eating and drinking for the next 40 miles or so. Then having a hard time staying under the top end of my wattage range for 35 miles. Then paying for it for the last 20 miles. I think I finished reasonably strong, but my neck and shoulders were getting reallllly uncomfortable and I was certainly less focused on my cycling. Overall, mission accomplished! I added 15 watts to my average power from CDA, which combined with a much flatter course, took almost 28 minutes off my bike split. Now, if I could only run.
The run started off okay, but don’t they always. The course is insanely flat and entirely on roads/bike path. About 3 miles in my right foot started hurting, at 4 miles I stopped to adjust a bit of extra padding I had added beneath the insole. At 5 miles I stopped and ripped it our entirely. At 6 miles my left foot started hurting in the same manner. At 7 miles I stopped to adjust the padding, at 9 miles I trashed it entirely.
Somewhere around this time the weakness/strain in my calf started to talk to me. I adjusted my gait and it went away. Another 2-3 miles and it didn’t seem to make any difference what changes I made, I could feel it give way increasingly often. I was approaching the end of the first loop and my mind was seriously messing with me. I tried to tell myself that if this was a one loop course I wouldn’t even consider calling it quits right now. I made the turn and started out on my second loop. I stopped to use the restroom at the mile-14 aid station. When I resumed running the calf let go again big time. I knew I’d be walking/hobbling the last 12 miles. I’ve done that before and decided not to repeat it. I took the next available ATV ride back to the finish, which just happened to be with Rev3 owner/founder/bossman Charlie. How embarrassing!
Also embarrassing; walking through the wrong end of finisher’s chute to turn in your chip, turning down volunteers at they try to give you a finisher’s medal and t-shirt, and to top it off, telling everyone that you had to drop out. I distinctly remember discussing with my wife how glad I was to have finished IM Canada two years ago even after walking the last 14 miles. When people asked if I finished (and many did), I was proud to say ‘yes’, even if I came up short of all my other goals. 90% of people didn’t care about that, only that I finished. It was kind of a cool feeling, a reality check, I guess.
I certainly had some remorse after calling it quits. But, I did a good job of drowning my sorrows with my awesome Rev3 teammates afterward. And the next morning I knew I’d done the right thing. I could barely walk because of my calf. I don’t ever want to DNF again, but I can’t imagine how I would have even walked the next day if I’d shredded it for another 12 miles.