A bit further removed from the race than I typically like to write up a report. But travel and life business got me pushing it back until I was finally able to catch a breath. Which is where we are now only 2 weeks later!
Challenge Miami was my first multisport race since Powerman Arizona and the pandemic hitting shortly thereafter. 2020 was obviously a roller coaster of a year, but I had gotten a lot of consistent training in the months prior to the race. And some big sessions that were giving me a lot of confidence leading in, despite the legit world class field lining up. It was to be an interesting distance of a 1 mile swim, 39 mile bike, and 10.5 mile run. All to take place inside the Miami Homestead Speedway.
After a harrowing drive over I70 I barely made my flight, but got to Miami in one piece. Including after picking up my rental car from a very “interesting” company, in a less cozy part of town. But the athlete hotel was quite pleasant, and I was conveniently located directly across the hall from the Covid testing room. I built up my new Orbea Ordu that evening which went relatively smoothly, other than accidentally snapping a bolt, which was able to be remedied the following day. Everything was otherwise new and fresh on the bike ready for race day. Including brand new DT Swiss ARC 1100 80mm disc brake wheels, a fresh Ice Friction race chain, and a perfectly running SLF Motion Oversized pulley wheel cage.
Thursday (day before the Friday afternoon race) went well with a few easy workouts feeling decent across the board. I made my way to the track to check out the course for the first time and see some of the BASE guys and girls at the expo. I was also introduced to some awesome people with Speed Hound who I’m looking forward to working with more soon. Back at the hotel I was able to see and chat with Coach Jesse Vondracek, known as “Uncle Jesse” to Charleigh. I was pretty relaxed and hopeful for the following day. Though certainly still a bit anxious to see how I would do against this field after nearly a year of hard training.
I slept in Friday which felt a bit strange being that the Men’s race was to start at 3:15pm. Much later than my typical race start, but allowed for plenty of time to take care of logistics. I arrived to the track with plenty of time to spare, and was set up in the Speed Hound recovery lounge relaxing while the Women’s race began. Many of us were watching the live feed and it was interesting to see how much of an effect the windy conditions were having on the swim and bike. Before too long it was time to head down to the small lake for the swim start and I felt pretty ready to roll!
After the top 10 ranked guys (out of 50ish starters) were called into the water, they let everyone else pile in to take their places at the crowded start line. Just a few seconds after I entered the water, they announced 15 seconds to go, and everyone soon set into a panic to find a good position! I hurriedly found my less than ideal spot and the race began! It was a typical blood bath of flailing arms and legs with people fruitlessly climbing over each other in an effort to stay in a good position. I seemed to find myself in the middle of a solid pack of guys, and noticed that Coach Jesse was immediately to my right. About halfway through the first (of two) laps, he moved up to the right of an athlete that I decided to tuck behind. I settled into what seemed like a hard but sustainable rhythm here, but had to make sure to stay present to not lose my position directly behind this athlete. A little ways into the second lap of the swim, I noticed a bit too late that the pack was slowly pulling away, but I didn’t have the extra energy to pull around and latch on before it was too late. So I worked hard to stick in my position and eventually came out of the water in 22:57, about 2:30 down from the leaders and 30 seconds down from the pack that had crept away in lap 2.
I may as well have been drunk going through transition one, and the ability to use a zipper had exited my mind. As I wasted way too much time unzipping my swim skin and zipping up my Epix Gear one-piece. I eventually found my way onto the bike and the real suffering of the race quickly began. My legs suddenly seemed like they had lost the ability to put out any significant amount of power. I attempted to push on anyways in hopes that the blood would return to my lower body and I’d be able to get into a rhythm soon. It was still pretty windy, and since the bike course was 17 laps on the somewhat technical road course, that meant that there were many changes in power as I was either riding into or with the wind at any given point. I was still able to take just about all of the turns in the aero position as the road was typically pretty wide, so I stayed relatively efficient. But the legs still just did not cooperate as expected. I finished the ride in about 90 minutes with a Normalized Power of somewhere around 290 watts (power meter dropouts skewed the data some) which normally would not be nearly as strenuous.
I was pretty disappointed coming into transition 2 after the mediocre ride. I have sometimes been able to pull off very good runs after sub-par riding in races, but I could quickly tell that wouldn’t be happening. As soon as I stopped to rack my bike, my right quad seized up which took a few seconds to resolve. I still maintained some sense of urgency though, and made my way out onto the run course which was on the outer portion of the track. I was able to click off the first couple miles in just under a 6 minute/mile pace, but nowhere close to the 5:20-30 pace I had been initially been thinking would be doable for the race. The legs and body continued to feel worse as fatigue set in and the pace began to slow even more. I occasionally was able to put in a decent surge, but nothing ever “clicked” like it has in some of my better races. I finally found myself finishing out the 7th and final lap of the run and was relieved to be able to finally end what had been nearly 3 hours of what felt like fruitless pushing. I was amazed that I was somehow “tasting” lactate at the finish despite running such a relatively slow pace.
While I ended up finishing in 30th place, I’m less focused on that and more disappointed in my own execution and performance on the day. I felt that my preparation leading in was solid, but I just came to the table empty-handed. I am certainly rusty when it comes to racing, and I’m hopeful that the training will show itself down the road once I can get my head back in the game on the race course.
I spent the next day sleeping, stealing some time in the Speed Hound compression boots, and volunteering handing out medals and awards at the kids races. Seeing all of the kids having a great time and trying so hard is pretty much always the highlight of race week for me, and this was no different! I also soon learned that my planned flight to Denver was cancelled due to a winter storm. This meant getting to spend a couple extra days in Miami with BASE all-stars Matt Miller, Jay Weber, and LJ Stephens. It was awesome seeing them in action over the weekend juggling all of the logistics of running one of the largest multisport teams out there. Including running the BASE expo tent, being the on-course nutrition sponsor, supporting the huge number of BASE athletes racing, taking care of pre and post event team responsibilities, and running on practically zero sleep the whole time. Props to them! I enjoyed getting to know them and the whole team better in the time I was there.
In typical fashion, travel back to Grand Junction was insane. I finally arrived back to Denver after multiple flight changes, only to find my van had been trapped in the parking lot by the handiwork of a snowplow. After 2+ hours of digging it out mostly with my hands, I finally escaped the Denver airport and started on my way to GJ. The normally 4 hour drive turned into nearly 10 hours though with all of the crazy conditions in the mountains due to the winter storm. Having me getting home a little before 2 am exhausted and ready to pass out.
I’m finally getting back into somewhat of a rhythm with training again, and since the cancellation of IRONMAN Texas, I have decided to race St. George 70.3 on May 1st. It will be just as competitive as Challenge Miami, but I won’t be shying away from big races anytime soon. I’m just hoping my legs will come along for the ride next time!