My total official race count is now well into the triple digits and I can promise you that for me at least there is no such thing as a perfect race.
Indeed in my eyes the real test of an athlete is not how he or she performs when all is going well, but how they handle themselves when their day gets on the fast train heading South.
So with this in mind here are all of my race excuses, travails, and mishaps that marked my third attempts at the Chicago Accenture International Triathlon. Perhaps some of them will sound familiar to you?
Excuse # 1: Hours of sitting
When I was driving from Boulder to Chicago with my race buddy Dave I couldn’t help but point out the nifty navigation system in my little electric hybrid car.
“Look Dave,” I said pointing to the navigation screen. “See that’s Highway number 74, that’s the one that goes to Peoria. But why are we on it?” I added a bit confused as I looked out of the window.
“Hey, we are in Peoria,” I almost shouted with a sudden realization that I had just driven us about 2 hours South instead of North to Chicago.
Dave was not amused as you can imagine as we had just spent something like 1800 hours sitting in a car before his only race of the year and my “A” race of the season.
Excuse # 2: Going too hard on a training workout right before the race
To make up for this lack of mobility we decided to go for an easy run on Friday night as I had now been cramped up in the car for two days straight.
We started out slow but about a mile into the wooded run in the Chicagoland forest preserve we met up with a pissed off skunk. He was by the side of trail with his tail up and it was definitely locked and loaded for some spraying action.
I asked Dave how far a skunk can spray and he said about 15 feet. For some reason I figured he should know because he’s a doctor, and after all and they deal with skunks all the time…or at least that’s how my thinking went.
Our trail was about 4 feet wide with little to no room to go around the Pissed Pep Le Pue. Dave graciously let me go around the skunk first…or so I found out after I went around and noticed that Dave had not.
Unfortunately for Dave his clever plan backfired as the skunk was really angry now and decided to take it out on the guy behind him. It would not let Dave pass. As he moved to the right side of the path so did the skunk. As he moved to the left side of the path so did the skunk.
It wasn’t until I almost laughed so hard that I peed myself that Dave, with a superhuman burst of speed, managed to get around the critter safe and smell free.
But the damage had been done. Our adrenaline was now pumping and we pounded the rest of the 6-mile run way too hard for a being just about 36-hours out from our race.
By the way, a bit later on the run we were passed on the trail by a mountain biker who brought with him more than just a whiff of angry skunk stink.
Excuse # 3: Poor eating and upset stomach.
The next day at the Chicago Tri Expo Dave and I decide to graze on the free samples as we somehow forgot about lunch. Perhaps I had forgotten about lunch because after our skunk adventure I decided to carbo load with a rack of ribs at one my favorite Chi-Town rib joints. Did you know that ribs were a great source of carbs when eaten in Chicago?
Anyway I freely mixed free samples of this and that carb / protein / hydration / nutrition / recovery drink with free samples of chocolate/ caramel /vanilla / raisin / oatmeal / chocolate chip / bar for a deadly gastro intestinal cocktail.
Excuse # 4: Too much time on my feet before the race
So on top of this stomach bomb I decided that Dave might be interested in seeing the city and the course from a bird’s eye view. Dave’s a good Kansas boy so I though I’d impress him with my hometowns skyscraper architecture.
So we set of from the Hilton to the John Hancock building’s 94th observatory floor on foot. This turned out to be an hour expedition down Michigan Avenue that involved the crossing of thousands of busy streets, a river, and fighting our way through the hoards of high end shoppers on Michigan avenues’ one magnificent mile.
We arrived tired, dehydrated, and disheveled. The view of the city and the race course was spectacular, but the damage to my race day had been done.
Excuse # 5: Lack of sleep
The night before the race I managed to stay up until eleven watching a movie with my high school friends. Never mind that I had to get up a 4:00 a.m. to get to the transition area.
In fact I would have loved to have 5 hours of sleep. But after I went to bed a noisy neighbor kept blabbing on his deck just outside my window and I didn’t manage to fall asleep until well after midnight.
Excuse # 6: Technical problem
To my absolute horror when I went to blow up my rear tire on my bike I noticed that I could not get any air into it. What had happened? When you have a full or partial disk wheel like I use, you also need valve extenders. These are little extenders on the valves that make it possible to blow up the tire.
I suspect that the little screw on my valve had closed itself (you leave this open when using valve extenders) and so I couldn’t get any air into the rear tire. To make matters worse coming from altitude at Colorado I was already down on air pressure as we have less air here to begin with.
My choice was to take the tire off and fix it or race with it as it. I went with racing as is, so I suspect I raced with about only 70 pounds in my rear wheel. It was a bit squishy and certainly a bit slower.
Excuse # 7: Terrible wave start position
In fact I was in the worst possible wave…dead last. OK, I’m not being completely honest here, the relay teams were behind me but as far as individual competitors go I was dead last.
Wave number 51 was my Clydesdale wave.
That meant that I started a full four hours after transition closed at 5:45 a.m. with nothing to do but get nervous and wait in huge lines for the pathetically few bathrooms that Capri Events (the race organizers) provides the 8000 athletes.
Thank heavens for the company of fellow raceathletes Bigun, Dave and Tim, to name just a few who waited with me for their waves to start as well.
Excuse # 8: Capri and Timberline Timing.
I could have never seen this one coming in a million years. Last year at this very same race I took second in my age and weight group. Only after the race when I was back at home did I discover from a friend that they had called my name at the awards ceremony. It was my first ever victory and I felt great
Since that day I have trained very hard to move up one podium position. It was the thought of sitting at the awards ceremony this year and getting the top podium position that motivated me when the alarm went of at 5:00 for all of those crazy early runs.
It was the thought of the awards ceremony photo as a thank you to my sponsors and coach that kept me peddling after hour 10 of the triple bypass this year.
It was the thought of that magic moment that kept be swimming, cycling and running hard long after my weary body said to stop during the race. (BTW: I really surprised myself as I actually managed 22.5 mph average bike time during the race which just happened to be 4 minutes slower than Michelle Jones.)
And it was that year long dream that I waited to fulfill as I sat in the boiling hot sun for over two hours waiting for the awards to be announced in Chicago on Sunday. Once again the Clydesdale division was last to be announced, but I waited because I knew I had won. Accenture had posted in on the Chicago Tri web site and I got the confirmation via email using their racking systems.
So you can image how surprised I was when they announced the winner of my division and it was not me. It was a guy who went 2:40. I went 2:36 and beat last year’s time by almost 4 minutes to take the top spot on the podium…except that somebody else got my medal, prize, and, moment in the sun, while I got nothing.
In fact when I asked the Capri race organizers about the mistake they said nothing could be done. Those were the results they got from timberline timing and they would check into it this week.
I pointed out the row of Accenture computers just a few feet away that had me (and have me listed) as the winner of my division to no avail. They said they need to contact the timing company. I suggested that cell phones are plentiful and perhaps a phone call was in order to correct the mistake. They suggested I fill out a form and wait to hear from them.
On the empty handed walk back to get my stuff out of transition I wondered if this same mistake were to happen to a pro they would just dismiss it so easily.
I wondered if they really cared about us big guys, us everyman types as much as they say. I wondered if they really cared about the age-group athletes who make up the bulk of their race and profits.
I wondered how the first and third place medal winners would feel when they checked the web site results and figured out they were second and fourth. They would certainly be surprised to be second and forth.
But mostly I wondered how they had so casually snatched away the one moment that I had worked for this entire year. Sure they had said that if a mistake was made they would sort it out and order a new medal and send it to me.
But for me getting a medal in the mail six months from now holds little value. I wanted to thank all of my great sponsors with an awards ceremony photo, and I wanted that moment in the sun for myself.
But in the end I guess it just goes to show that not matter what you do…
Even when you win…
There is always something that goes wrong at every race.
But please don’t fret about me, I’m not taking it too hard. In the end, I’m just so very blessed that I have the friends, family, sponsors, and health to do this crazy sport.
In the big picture of life here in Boulder, this everyman has everyday in the sun.