I’m not going to sugarcoat things, this trip did not go how I had hoped it would. From travel to the race, there seemed to almost constantly be stress or something going awry. Rebekah, Charleigh, and I are now back in Colorado after an exhausting venture, but at least made some memories on the way.
I had work off starting the Wednesday before the race and our flight was to leave from Grand Junction that afternoon to head to Dublin, Ireland. Immediately upon boarding, we were informed that the flight was to be delayed 4-5 hours, meaning we would definitely miss our connection. After a couple hours of trying to figure out a new plan, we were able to get a new flight plan leaving the following day that would have us arrive to Cork, Ireland Friday afternoon. Not perfect, but still technically enough time to do everything required before the race.
We arrived Thursday to the airport for round 2 and managed to get through our 3 flights with a fussy Charleigh and nearly missing our connection in Paris, due to some errors that had happened during the re-booking of our flights. Friend and fellow racer Danny Freeman was amazing enough to pick us up from the Cork airport upon our arrival, as well as sharing an amazing house for us to stay at in Ardmore. We finally felt like we could relax after arriving to the house which was only 15 minutes from the race. Until we opened our bag to the “Sustain” incident.
Just before we had been set to leave for Ireland, I realized that I had just run out of my drink mix, Hydrawin. Rick Kattouf pulled through and sent me more Hydrawin via Next Day Air to make sure I had everything I needed for a great race! Normally, I mix this with another Team Kattouf product called Sustain (pure maltodextrin) to up the amount of calories in my drinks. Apparently, TSA felt the need to not close my container of Sustain after opening it. Leaving literally everything we had packed in our bag absolutely covered in Sustain.
This meant that Rebekah and Charleigh got the pleasure of washing everything that we had brought on the Saturday before the race. Meanwhile, Danny and I ran through the logistics of setting up for an Ironman at transition and the race expo. After the Pro meeting we were able to return back to the house to spend some time with friends and eating plenty of food in preparation for the big day!
Finally we get to the race! The forecast predicted the weather to be nasty, and it was correct. In typical Ireland fashion, the temperature was in the mid 50’s with rain and 15-20 mph winds. This was pretty much what I was expecting though and had picked this race knowing that these conditions were likely. What I hadn’t expected, though, was that Ironman had decided to cancel the swim due to a combination of cold temperatures, wind, and rough water. The ocean admittedly looked intimidating when looking at it that morning, and I wasn’t too surprised really. It seems to be happening to my races more and more lately and I have conflicted feelings. I work hard and put quality time into my swim training so I was looking forward to seeing the results. Instead, we had another random draw to decide our starting order, and once again I found myself almost last on the list.
We finally got to line up after a lot of time spent standing around in the cold and rain, and finally the race was on! I started about 7 minutes back from the first athlete Justin Metzler since they were starting us every 30 seconds (though the tracker and results never adjusted for that) . Despite the pre-race stress, the body and legs were still there and I found the opening miles smooth and exactly to plan. Then things got bumpy.
During the first (of two) laps I only saw and passed one other athlete. I was doing my best to pace well and not overcook things too much. Towards the end of lap 1 when turning the corner to the infamous Windmill Hill, that went out the window a bit. Maxing out at a 21% grade, Windmill Hill was packed with spectators lining the course yelling and equipped with plenty of cowbells! It was definitely the best part of the race and likely of the entire trip. I hit 501 watts for 1-minute and 435 watts for the 2 minutes climbing the hill. My rear wheel slipped on the wet road at one point during the climb, but I was able to save it and continue on as the crowd cheered.
I set out on lap 2 hoping to keep the pace about even or just under. I was able to hold power decently well, but not quite as well as the first lap. Fortunately, I had learned the course a bit better and was able to maintain about the same speed at less power (NP 279 watts for lap 1 vs 266 watts for lap 2). I ended up passing at least 3 Pros on this lap as it seemed like many were succumbing to the conditions and fading. I barely made it up Windmill Hill the second time and cruised the remainder of the ride to transition, hoping to execute on the run and pass some more guys.
Heading out on the run, my lower back was a little tight but I otherwise felt great! My legs were super responsive and energy was flowing. I focused on not getting carried away, but was still clicking off low 6 min/miles. At the first turn around of the 4 lap course, I noticed a few guys not too far up the road. Considering they had all started ahead of me, I was likely right about even with many of them. I continued on and soaked in the amazing support on the course which was lined with tons of people cheering throughout. A couple miles into lap 2 of the run, I started to get the urge to use the bathroom. Finally, at mile 10.5 I gave in and jumped into a port-a-potty hoping this would be the only stop I would have to worry about. After nearly 3 minutes of wasted time, I was off again.
But things were progressively feeling worse now with no signs of improving. My legs started to shut down and my energy just died as my stomach continued to rebel against me. I pushed hard hoping to rally and continue on the the great result that I knew I was capable of, but nothing would respond. The final 2 laps were absolutely dreadful as I couldn’t make anything work right and resorted to slow running, walking, and the occasional bathroom stop. There was no way I was going to pull the plug on this race with everything I had been through to get there, but was super frustrated knowing that my fitness was at a much higher level than what was now showing.
I finally found my way to the finish line with a personal slowest 3:48 marathon finishing as the 7th Pro. This race was brutal to the Pro field with nearly half of the Pro males DNF’ing. I’ve reflected since the race and highlighted a couple things that likely caused my downfall during the run. I’m certainly disappointed in my result knowing that with proper execution I could have been at least in the top 5. But that is Ironman racing. The fittest person doesn’t always pull through, but the one that is the smartest and most prepared on the day. In that aspect I failed during this race, and got my punishment in the low moments I experienced on the run course. I’m now hungry for another shot, and am looking forward for my redemption at Lake Placid in just over a month.
The following day involved packing and heading to Dublin where we flew out of Tuesday morning. I got the pleasure of learning to drive a manual car for the first time on the drive to Dublin while on the left side of the road, and ended up stalled on the road more times than I’d like to admit! The way back to Grand Junction was a bit smoother than our previous flights, but still arrived home completely dead after midnight. I’m already back to work and looking forward to recovering for the next block. Starting with hopefully a ton of sleep!
Congrats to everyone I know that did this extremely tough race in those conditions. From a bunch of old friends that came over from South Carolina, to the new ones I met that weekend. Despite not having a swim, these conditions and that bike course were by far the toughest I have ever experienced, even beating Alaskaman from a couple years ago. I don’t know if I’ll be back yet, but this race was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. And because I can’t say it enough, HUGE thanks to Danny Freeman for being a lifesaver before, during, and after this race. I don’t think I could have pulled this one off without him!