Well its mid July and I’m finally getting around to writing a race report! I remember the pre-kids days when I’d have time to actually sit down and write the day after my race, do spell check and edits and make sure what I wrote was somewhat coherent… now I’m just excited if can sit down and remember what even happened in the races! Nevertheless, if you plan to read this you may want to get out some coffee, sit back, and prepare for a long read. The good, the bad, and (and if you make it to the end) the ugly of the season so far…
My training season usually gets a start sometime in December after a few weeks off in the fall. And this year, the 2017 season started off with a baby! In December, Alice and I welcomed the arrival of our second son, Grady Wilson Burns.
Having two kids under 2 years old is challenging for anyone, and perhaps even more so for two parents who work full time jobs (Alice works a fuller than full time job) and also juggling the demands of a fairly demanding training and racing schedule. While part of me was pretty nervous how it would all fall into place, I kept reminding myself that I had similar fears when we had Gavin in 2015 — turns out the 2015 and 2016 seasons went better than I ever expected.
And after 6 months of working, training, and working and raising two boys, I can say that IT IS HARD. And this is considering the fact that I am lucky enough to have an amazing wife who frequently takes the boys on Saturday morning outings by herself so I can train, and super supportive parents and in-laws who have come to the house on multiple weekends to help out with childcare. Perhaps the most challenging aspect is not the ability to fit in time for training, but somehow managing to get some rest and recovery so the training counts.
So challenging are the weekday evenings, I often give myself a peptalk on my bike commute home from work to prepare for the 2 hours of chaos from the time I walk in the door, until the boys are fed, bathed, put to sleep, and all the toys (and food) is cleaned up. And although I’m usually fortunate enough to get 6 to 7 hours of rest a night, many of the nights were broken with Grady wakeups. How Alice manages to repeatedly get up to feed Grady, change his diaper, and then get up at 4:30 am every morning is absolutely astonishing!
January through April training went pretty much as expected. Some really good sessions, some really frustrating sessions, and an ongoing effort to do as much training as I could, while still focusing on being a loving father and husband, getting my tasks done at work, and getting just enough rest to stay healthy (well, with two kids in daycare, the minor headcold seems to be a constant).
Rev3 Westfields sprint triathlon was the kick off race for my season. After a frustrating performance at a road bike race a few weeks prior, and getting my butt kicked by a speedy highschooler in a local 5k, I was ready to race by the time my first triathlon of the season rolled around the last weekend of April. Summing up Westfields, I was very pleased with my race. I had a solid swim, good bike, and consistent run. Thanks in part to my new Rolf Prima Wheels and Salming shoes, I was able to shave off more than a minute on my bike split and two minutes off my overall time when comparing to my race at Westfields in 2015.
After Westfields I had two weeks to complete a little fine-tuning before the Kinetic ½ Ironman. Getting back to race at Kinetic was something had been on my radar for a few reasons. In 2013, I raced at Kinetic and came in a close second. It was my first ever half Ironman, and had always to come back. And in 2016, I was fully prepped and ready to race, only to break my toe a few weeks out and have to watch from the sidelines standing in my boot and crutches. Suffice it to say, I was eager to race.
The days leading up to Kinetic went exceedingly well – almost too well. And in retrospect, they may have in fact gone too well! I felt fit, rested, and mentally sharp – ready to race. Unfortunately, the weather Gods had other plans for us that weekend – temps were in the upper 40s with heavy rain.
The swim started off just ok. While it wasn’t a terrible swim, it wasn’t great either. The only thing I can recall with certainty was that I just didn’t feel psyched to be racing and I wanted to swim to be over. “Get me to the bike” I kept repeating to myself over and over as I finished the 1.2 miles.
Soon enough, I found myself out of the (warm) water and into the (cold) air, running to transition and then off onto my bike. I started in third place and within the first few miles managed to sneak into second. Not too long after that, probably around 30 minutes into the 2+ hour ride, I noticed that my back was starting to tighten up. While I had occasionally had back issues on the bike, never before had it become problematic in a race, and especially not so early on in a ride. For the next 90 minutes, the back got tighter and tighter and tighter. The soreness started pulling on my on the outside of my right leg (likely my psoas) and became excruciatingly painful. Standing up gave me momentary relief, but as soon as I sat down, and especially when I was in aero position, the back just hurt.
I had managed to move into first place around mile 20, which was helpfully motivating. I honestly am not sure how I would have keep pushing if I had been out there all alone with my lower back feeling the way it was. And just as with the swim, I couldn’t wait for the bike to be done — I found myself saying, “Get me to the run” over and over as I finished the last half of the ride. My power numbers somehow managed to stay within the lower end of my goal – I think I finished the ride averaging around 260 watts. Even still, because of the fact I was standing up so much and that it was pretty windy, my split was much much slower than I had hoped for. Between the back and the cold and my bike split time, I was pretty frustrated. Nevertheless, I came into T2 with renewed hope that the back would loosen up during the run and I’d finish with a win.
My run training leading up to the race had been going really well and with all the hill repeats I had completed in the months prior, I was optimistic to see what I could do on the hilly course. Even still, knowing how I was feeling mentally and physically thus far, I took the first mile particularly conservative. My legs felt surprisingly good and my pace quickened as I moved from miles 1 to 2 and then suddenly, out of nowhere, my stomach started to churn. And churn, and churn, and churn. By mile 3 I felt terrible. I absolutely had to go to the bathroom. I assume if you’ve read this far you are either a family member or a close friend, but if for some reason you are neither, I am adding in a disclaimer: Continue to read at your own risk…It gets ugly! As I ran, I came up with two options: 1) Stop at a port-o-potty and somehow try to peel off my one-piece skin suit and go. 2) Keep running and just go in my pants. I had no clue how far ahead I was from second place but being that my swim and bike splits were probably a 5-10 minutes slower than I had expected, I assumed, at best, I had a 2 minute lead. Choosing option 1 meant that I’d maybe manage to keep myself clean (I had no idea if I stopped whether I could actually go and get it all out), but I’d concede the first place and likely second place too. Hours
and hours of run training in an effort to quicken my run split down would be lost. Choosing option 2 meant that I’d go in my pants. And then have TEN more miles to run. Passing people. With people taking pictures. Multiple miles of nastiness. Without much more deliberation, option 2 it was. And I went. And went. And went. I honestly had no idea that much crap could have been in my system (before the race I had already went to the bathroom twice). It was un-real how much I went. I kept running and went some more. Around mile 5, the race staff lead cyclist came by and guided me out the remaining 8 miles. I kept wondering if she had any idea what I was going through. Or what was going through me! Each person out on the course I past, each fan that was on the side of the course cheering races on – I kept
wondering if they had any idea what a mess I was. At one point, I had tried to reach back and see if it was coming out of my race kit and somehow got crap on my run mitten (it was cold enough to want gloves). Each time I took a little squirt (no pun intented) of GU gel, all I could smell was nastiness.
As the miles ticked away, my stomach cleared up (well, there really just wasn’t anything left in it) and surprisingly, my pace got quicker and quicker. By mile 10 I actually felt the best I had all day. Well, except for the fact I had sh*t running down my legs. I managed to hold together a pretty decent run the last few miles and fortunately got to the finish line in first place. I was pretty shot – mentally, emotionally, and physically. Not so much in that my legs were thrashed, but I had been battling a sore back and an upset gut for the past 4 hours. The mixture of emotion of being so happy to be done combined with the embarrassment of having pooped myself combined with somehow having won the race was really quite a lot. Oh, and the chafeage was absolutely unbelievable. It was so bad it took me the better part of a week until things were anywhere near normal again – showers for the next 3 days were an agonizing painful experience. Lots of Desitin, baby powder, and bandages. Not fun at all.
I guess in some ways it made the first place prize of $500 – the first time I won a prize purse for a race – all the better.
After Kinetic I laid pretty low for a week or so to let the body (butt) recover. I also needed some time away to recharge mentally. And because it seemed that each season for the past few years I peaked too early, I wanted to make sure to take some time to really rest. I also spent some significant time working with a physical therapist on my back issues. Thus far we’ve used chirporacitc manipulation, dry needling, rehab exercises, and even an ultrasound guided trigger point in injection – I guess time will tell if any progress has been made.
I started building back up my training and managed to get in some solid sessions the weeks after Kinetic. The week before my next race, Rev 3 Montclair, I was firing on all cylinders. My swimming was about as strong as it had been since my peak in 2016, my biking was solid, and my running continued to feel good as it did before Kinetic. I felt so good the few days before Montclair, I started to get nervous. I hadn’t rested all that much and I just felt too good. And too good I felt… As soon as I got on my bike for warmups the morning of the race, I could tell my legs just didn’t want to be pushed. Before the gun went off, I took a few minutes to remind myself of the goals I had set out for the day – swim well and have fun. And looking back on the race, I managed to do both of those. I got out to a quick start on the swim, paced myself well, and came out of the water just a few seconds behind the guy first out of the water.
My transition went reasonably smooth, and despite feeling pretty sluggish on the bike and having my average bike power closer to that of my ½ Ironman distance pacing, I maintained smooth peddling, stayed in aero position and moved into the lead a few miles in. I knew I wasn’t riding all that well, so I just tried to stay consistent and save some mental and physical energy for the run. Out on the run course, I felt pretty good. The legs were strong and mentally, I was excited. Even still, each time I looked down at my watch I couldn’t believe where my pace was… I just couldn’t get going faster. After the first two miles of trying different things with nothing really working – focusing on my leg turnover, calming my breathing, driving my arms –I decided to go back to my goal of focusing on having fun. While I didn’t “give up” I certainly didn’t go all out the last mile like I usually would. Reflecting back, I felt like I cruised a good portion of the bike and the run – something that I just don’t ever remember doing for a sprint triathlon. Usually its all out from start to finish. And to take home the win, I was really just feeling pretty surprised. I write all this since it was a bit of a struggle the few days after the race. I really wanted to focus on the gratitude that I won a race – but my mind kept going back to the fact that I didn’t give it 100 percent and I felt disappointed in myself. I felt sort of like a coward – that when the body wasn’t feeling good I just took the easy way out and backed it off. And I felt like once again, I didn’t deserve the win – that I was just lucky.
As with most races, the more time that distances me from the event, the more grateful I feel. It seems that time helps put things in perspective – although I did back off a bit, I had still worked really hard in training leading up to the race; I swam well and put myself in a position that I was able to bike ok (not terrible, not great) and run ok (not terrible, not great) and still manage to win the race. I met my goals – I swam hard and I had fun. And I even got to spend some really quality time with my boys and my dad on fathers day….
Next up will be the Maryland Duathlon and as with any race that has a prize purse, I suspect the competition will be really steep. I’m looking forward to focusing on some 5ks and trying to improve my bike and run power, before turning my full attention to the final build up for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in September!