Race Report by Athlete Brian K.
White Lake Fall 70.3
It was a strange week leading up to race day, I was calm. I wasn’t nervous, the taper wasn’t even bothering me. I was confident. I felt strong. For the first time in as long as I can remember I was going into my “A” race healthy and mentally prepared. I didn’t think I was going to have a good race, I KNEW it! As my coach, Jay Hamvas, says “You put in the hard work and suffering into training and race day becomes a reward”. He was right, there was plenty of hard work leading up to this race and I knew I was set up for a successful day.
Race morning, we got to White Lake and it was chilly, 58 degrees or so. Water temp was in the mid 70’s. I remember saying I couldn’t wait to get to the swim so I could warm up. Pre-race went smooth, plenty of time to check in and set everything up. Jay and I did a walkthrough of all the transition entrances and exits to be familiar with them come race time. The overall atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. I was ready.
Swim time! I got into the water a little early to do some warm up strokes. The wind was blowing pretty good and the lake had some chop to it. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, that will change shortly. There were 3 swim waves and each one was small. That makes for a nice and easy mass start. The gun goes off, we start and then the wheels fall off. We start on the 2-loop course and it is directly into the chop. I made it about 100m before I start to panic. I got kicked and a couple face fulls of water and I’m frozen. I can’t swim, hell I can barely breathe. I immediately turn over and float on my back. So many negative thoughts are shooting through my head, I know one of them was to call over a support craft.
Then something happened. A random guy stopped his swim and asked if I was okay. He didn’t know me, and I will never know him but that one sentence was enough to pull me out of my dark place that I had put myself in. I put my face in the water and swam. After a few strokes and a couple successful breaths I started to get into a rhythm. When I got out of the water I wasn’t tired and overall, I felt good. My time wasn’t what I wanted but considering where I was 50 minutes ago I was satisfied.
The run to T1 was long but I was able to get on the bike in only a couple minutes. My plan on the bike was to take the first 10miles easy and slowly ramp it up from there. Here comes the wind! I started fueling and hydrating early and often. It was good to be on the bike after that swim. I’m comfortable on the bike, it’s my strongest leg of the race. Miles were flying under my wheels, I only looked at my speed a couple times. I held to the race plan. My HR and perceived effort were my focus. Coming into the last few miles of the bike I took some time to assess how I felt. One word: Amazing! I couldn’t wait to get on the run.
T2 took a little longer than I wanted. I had so much dirt on my feet from T1 and I needed to get that cleaned off or I knew I would pay for it later on the run. I left on the run and I was shocked to see that everything was lining up perfectly. Pace and HR were exactly where they needed to be. Legs felt strong. I had this…or so I thought. The aid stations were spaced very far apart, too far for me and it was getting hot. I was able to tick off my first 5k in 27-28 minutes which was perfect for my race goal. Then I tried to eat my gel and my stomach said “NO”.
I really don’t know how I made it through the rest of the run. It was horrible, I was in pain. I was hot and more importantly I was disappointed in myself. I got to the turnaround at mile 7.5 and looked at my elapsed time. With some rough calculations, I figured that I could run 12:00 minute miles and still make my 6:00 hour PR goal. I had this, nothing was going to stop me from that. I put my head down and just ran as hard as I could. I would go from traffic cone to traffic cone. The last mile was the most painful I have ever run.
I was so happy to see the finish line. I can’t believe that I snuck in under 6 hours with a 5:52:30. I will take it! Looking back, I would like to think that I would’ve pushed myself that hard on the run if I had gone through all the training alone, but I didn’t. My coach had just as much invested in me as I did and I would be damned if I was going to let him down that close to my goal. I know that without his help and preparation I wouldn’t have been able to be in the position to have 2 of the 3 legs of my race go horribly wrong and still get a PR. I knocked almost 24 minutes off my old record! That folks is a good ending to a very hard and trying day. I went to bed happy that night….at 7:00PM.
As a #coachthatraces I know how hard tough races can be as an athlete. But I was a little surprised at how hard it was waiting for one of my athletes to cross the finish line. I started getting worried when Brian hadn’t finished when I expected him to. I started second guessing all of his training. Wondering if I had done something wrong and could have done things better.
Ultimately every race is an opportunity to learn. For the Athlete and for the Coach. There are no bad races. Only learning experiences. So here are a few Coaches notes and my takeaways from Brian’s race.
Positives: Great T1 and T2 times. Transitions are free time if you use them properly and Brian did. Awesome bike split. We had a plan for the bike leg and Brian executed it perfectly. All the training in the world can’t always perfectly prepare you for race day. Things happen. He had things go wrong in his race but he dug deep and gutted it out. That in of itself is a huge Win. Plus a new PR! Congrats.
Things that need to be addressed: I should have encouraged Brian to do more Open Water Swims. The swim was very choppy and I didn’t prepare him for that. We should have done more “worst case scenario” mental training. Practicing visualizing how things might go wrong, and how you would handle them, really helps on race day when things go sideways. We need to address his nutrition on the bike and run. Even though he felt good coming off the bike, it’s possible he was already behind on calories. Better heat acclimatization and fueling on the run will also be addressed and perfected before his next race.