Part I: Roll With It, Baby
When I wrote my pre-race plan for this past weekend’s Ironman California 70.3 and included my best-case scenario goal of finishing with a 5:14:00, I didn’t think it really would happen. Too many things can go wrong in a longer race, or any race for that matter. No, a 5:25:00 would be far more likely, especially considering that teammates of mine whom I consider to be better triathletes finished the race last year closer to 5:30:00-5:40:00.
For once, this is a story of happily proving myself wrong.
Yet to do it, I had to let go of a few pre-conceived notions and pre-race rituals. Here is how what I consider to be my best race performance came to fruition.
Ironman California is held on a Saturday, which poses problems for working stiffs like me. Typically, I like to be locked and loaded mentally before an event at least two days beforehand. Since IM California is located about a two-hour’s drive away, I figured I could leave work Thursday afternoon and be through registration by the evening. This would leave me all day Friday to relax and focus. Not the best-case scenario but close enough.
Stephanie and I didn’t arrive to my friend Rusty’s parents’ house until close to 10 p.m., and weren’t in bed until 11. I was grumpy. Instead of sleeping in I’d have to get to packet pick up quickly to avoid long lines.
It worked out fine though. There were practically no lines and I was home by 11 a.m. after hanging out at the expo. Of course, I was a little late because of pre-race jitters caused partially by Rusty’s gorgeous tri bike, especially the Firecrest 808 carbon clincher wheels. I was afraid that Rusty and all the other carbon-toting triathletes were going to kick my ass on race day because of superior equipment. So off I went to seek out race day rental wheels, to no avail. I’d have to go with what got me here. Sigh.
My outlook wasn’t helped when Rusty, his father Russ and I went out for a Friday 30-minute bike ride and 15-minute run. I figured Rusty and I were fairly evenly matched on the bike but that was quickly proven wrong when he dusted me on a few sprints where it felt like he wasn’t even pushing. I couldn’t keep up. It was going to be a long day for me.
Further, I replaced my typical pre-race pasta lunch with turkey sandwiches and PB & J. I was so far out of my normal routine that I’d be happy just to find the race site at this point!
Finally, Rusty recommended a 3:30 a.m. wake up call for Saturday morning so we could be on site by 5 a.m. at the latest – shortly after the transition areas opened. I typically get up around 4:30 a.m. on race day – how would the hour less sleep affect me?
It turns out quite well. I got a great slot on the bike rack, found no bathroom lines and plenty of time to just relax and get into my appropriate mental race space. Rusty knew what he was talking about!
In sum, going with the flow and not trying to control every pre-race detail wasn’t the recipe for disaster I feared. I credit Rusty and his family for showing me a different and enjoyable way to prepare. We laughed a lot, talked a lot, watched the sun go down together while hot-air balloons sprung up in the surrounding foothills. We enjoyed a home-cooked dinner, were far from the race site and all the anxious athletes. It could have been a mini-vacation. I still plan to map out my pre-race activities, but if my schedule changes I will rest more comfortably knowing that’s OK – maybe an unexpected twist or two may actually help me.
Coming next: Swim, Bike and Run Recap