March 22, 2020 - Traveled to Florida to compete in an ultra Dualthlon (224 mile bike and 52.4 mile run). Then DNF'd....
I am not a great swimmer. I am not a good swimmer. I do not know if I would really even break the level of decent. I may considered myself a fair swimmer, but on the lower end of that. So triathlon has always been tough. I usually see the "parade of colors" during my swim, meaning if I start in the first wave of a triathlon, I am going to see every color of swim cap pass me by the time I exit the water. Which is usually around the time the safety boat is picking up the bouys.
But what ground I lose in the swim, I gain back on the bike. I love the bike. I am good at the bike. I have a clydesdale riding a bike tattooed on my leg. But in triathlon, every good bike is followed by a run. I am sure you can tell, the run is my medium sport. But the run is the most fun, the most interactive. After racing with the same people all day and maybe getting 3 seconds to say "no, I am not drowning" or 4 seconds to yell "onyourleft,haveagoodrace!", now you have a chance to actually speak to your brothers and sisters, overcoming the same adversity as you (and somehow looking better doing it).
But back to the swim. You see, the swim is why I have not completed a full distance triathlon. It is why I do not have an Mdot tattoo. I am working towards that goal and I will get there. Just probably not this year (#thankscovid19).
What does this have to do with DNF'ing an ultra DUathlon, not triathlon? Well, in 2016 I got involved with a family of athletes under the USA Ultra Triathlon flag. Here instead of an "Iron" distance triathlon, they have a "Anvil" distance. It is still a full course triathlon, just lawyers are not involved (anymore). But instead of "Iron" distance being the top, here they take Anvil and multiply it 2....3.....even 5 times. What people do in17 and a half hours, this organization multiplies the time and distance and brings in it in the world of Ultra.
Well long story short, the Race Director, Steve approached me and my friend about doing this dualthlon. She swims worse than me. One thing led to another and we were both in Florida, 10 AM on a Friday, toeing the line, ready to start our 224 mile bike ride, and follow it up with a 52.4 mile run, while finishing by 8PM Saturday night. With our crew and tent set up, our pace chart memorized, we set off.
And since when are there hills in Florida?
The bike consisted of a 6 mile loop. 3 miles out, 3 miles back and over the line, which is at the end of the tent city. There are two 3% grade hills, one at mile 1.5 and another at mile 2. Then you hit them again at mile 3.5 and 4. How do I know? I rode them 37 times.
My plan was to be off the bike by 3 am. However, just after midnight, I will had around 80 miles to go. At this point, my wife had had enough playing. She was tired and throwing up (more on that later). She went and slept in the car until the morning.
The night was wearing on me. Physically, I could ride. But mentally, something was breaking or had already broke. At 6AM, I finally crossed the line and threw my bike down. I was done and al I wanted to do was run. But I was tired. More tired than I had ever been before. In my job, I have had the opportunity to stay up for days, operating on 10-15 minutes naps. But this wasn't even close; this was worse.
I changed into my running gear and hoped that the new day would change my mood. Me and my training partner were able to get in 8 miles before the sun came up and the heat with it. We stayed hydrated and kept eating. Frozen halo or cutie oranges are amazing, by the way.
But I was still tired. I had enough Red bulls over the night to kill a bear, so I couldn't bring myself to ingest anymore caffeine. After about mile 14, halfway through on the one mile loop, I stopped, squatted and stretched my back. I may have fallen asleep, because as soon as I stood up, my partner said those magical words: "We need to sleep."
We finished that lap and immediately found our chairs. We told my wife to wake us up in 10 minutes. And after 30 seconds of sleep, she did. We asked for 5 move and didn't even wait for an acknowledgment. 10 seconds go by. Time to wake up. I down a coca cola and get up. I look at my phone and have 1 missed call and 4 text messages. All from work. My training partner had about the same. But we do the right thing and ignore it.
As I start moving, I realize I feel completely refreshed. We look at each other and knock out 5 miles. Easy. We go back to walking and start doing our race math.
We just finished 20 miles.
32 to go.
8 hours to go.
4 miles an hour.
I look at my partner. "We aren't going to make it."
I explain that my fastest 50K was 7 hours and 55 minutes. And that was on fresh legs, a full night sleep, and started at 5PM. At best we will be 40 miles by cutoff.
So the decision was quickly made. We would get a marathon in and call it a day. It was hot, work was calling. And it just wasn't fun, nor rewarding anymore. We had learned all we could that day. But now it was time for beer and showers.
1) If your crew is not 100%, you aren't 100%. When your head cheerleader, crew chief, and chef is sick, you have to get your own bottles.
2) If you train in Virginia for a Florida race, you are gonna have a bad time.
3) Always calculate the best and worse you can do. Or have your crew know those numbers (see #1).
4) If you are gonna fail, fail around family, so you don't fall. Even through we DNF'd, the amount of support we got was amazing. I was immediately ready to sign up for the next race.
5) Sometimes pure luck and skill runs out and you actually have to train.
We gorged ourselves on Outback steak house and fell asleep holding half a bud light. The next day work phone calls came in full force. The Department of Defense was restricting travel due to COVID 19. Time to go home.