So why do you race? This is something I’ve been asking myself quite a bit the last two weeks. Before my last race at Chattanooga 70.3 – and even still a bit now – my answer would have been probably similar to what many would say: I race because I love competition and it provides me an opportunity to test myself. But what if those opportunities have not proven to be a good means to test? In other words, does racing lose its value if does not present an opportunity to get the most out of oneself?
Let me step back a little. I absolutely love training. I love the challenge of writing a workout and executing it to the best of my ability. I love the juggling act of fitting in workouts around my responsibilities of being a father, an attorney, and a husband. I love the sense of fulfillment that grinding out a hard session – all by myself with no one
And this season, my training has been going really well. I’m swimming faster than I have since college, my bike power is as good, if not better than I’ve had before, and my run endurance and durability is about as solid as I can recall. Problem is, my performances in my two races this year have been far from what I have been doing in training. St. Anthony’s – my first race as a pro – was decent for me. I went 2 hours for an Olympic race and I certainly wouldn’t consider it a bad race. But my swim, bike, and run numbers were not at all what I was hoping for based on my training. And so, as many of us do after a not-ideal race, I shrugged it off, backed off my training to make sure I was rested, and got ready for the next one. And going into Chattanooga 70.3, I felt good.
But it did not go good. In fact, it was anything but good – my slowest half Ironman by 50 minutes – complete with a full 7 miles of walking on the run. My swim started off similar to St. Anthony’s – exiting the water almost at the back of the pro field, far behind others who I know I can swim with and quite honestly, I should be beating out of the water. The bike was grueling. Many know that I have been dealing with back issues for several years and it was as bad as I can ever remember. Ten minutes into the bike leg my low back was cramping up which forced me in and out of aero for the remaining 52 miles. And my legs weren’t fairing much better. When one part of you is in discomfort, it makes it that much more difficult to push past the pain that you are feeling in other parts and I just couldn’t get anywhere near what my power has been in a handful of training rides this year. By the time I got the run I was mentally and physically spent. I tried to regroup and get into a decent rhythm, but after a few miles of slower than expected run splits, I just couldn’t push any more. I started walking and that is where I stayed for the remaining 7 miles. It was the first time in my career I walked like that. And it was a long walk. I felt that I needed to pay respect to the race and other participants so I just kept walking. Also, from a somewhat masochistic and selfish perspective, I wanted to expose myself to the humbling experience of getting passed by hundreds of people over the course of those 7 miles – something I won’t soon forget.
So here I am, a few days out from toeing the line at Eagleman 70.3. In many respects, there are not a lot of differences comparing the prep I did before Chattanooga and what I have been doing the past few weeks: I hit some key sessions, took a little rest, and am once again excited and optimistic to race. But perhaps the biggest difference was taking an entire Saturday off to spend some one-on-one time with Gavin and Grady – which not surprisingly, was a great reminder that there are things much more important than triathlon. Maybe that little perspective check is exactly what I need going into the next race. Maybe that perspective will allow me to perform a little less fearfully and more like I have been in training. And maybe that is part of the reason why I race – simply because it helps me grow as a person – whether the race goes well or not.