This was a mind blowing weekend. Like 20-30 mph of mind blowing. The season has come to an end and it couldn’t have ended any better. Tough conditions, my fastest bike ever, the hardest race of my life, and a big ‘ol W!
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The soundtrack to this race report – the song I had in my head most of the race. It makes you as pumped up as the dude on the cover of that Fifa video game.
Richie already talking trash, as usual.
I arrived on course Friday afternoon to some conditions Winnie the Pooh might call “very blustery, indeed.” Convinced it would be good to “test the conditions,” I flailed my way out into the water. After about 8 minutes of thrashing, I realized there was a large crowd gathered along the pier, and, they were all staring at me. I’d describe the look on their faces as “about to witness somebody drown.” Needless to say, that freaked me out, so I swam back in.
If Pooh thought that was blustery, he’d have flipped his [split] on Sunday.
Race Morning Change-A-Roo
Come race morning, there was no debate to be made. The 20-30 mph winds, coupled with the rising moon, and the vortex formed from the gravity of my uncut hairdo created a rip-tide that the Coast Guard deemed unsafe for anyone to swim. The Rev3 crew was told to cancel the swim and that was it. So instead, they replaced it with a 1.5 mile run. Rev3 Florida would be now be a duathlon.
Contrary to what you might think, I did not immediately grab the megaphone and yell to my competitors, “No swim! Booyah! HAHAhahahaha. HAHAHAhaha. HAHAHAHAhaha,” (Dr. Evil style). Obviously, not having a swim favored me and a couple other of the non-runners, but as a competitor, you never want to have a result with a star next to it. It was a bummer for Rev3 and the people that trained for the event, but this is the nature of triathlon, sometimes races have to be modified for safety. It’s more important that people finish the race alive than go exactly 70.3 miles.
No, I didn’t do this after I found out the swim was replaced by a run.
Run #1 – Taking Me Back, Run #1 Splits/Map
Richie showing some veteran cornering skills.
It was pretty awesome to run fast with a big group for the first time in a decade. That head to head fast competition is definitely something I miss, and I got a little too excited. I think we all did. We came screaming through the first mile in 4:45, which included a hard 180 degree turnaround. I looked at the guys around and thought, this is freaking rad! I think I was first to my bike, but somehow my frenemy Richie Cunningham beat me once again out of T1. Damn it, Richie!
Bike – Out Strong
I think the excitement of the run carried over to the beginning of the bike as I went out hard without even realizing what I was doing. I figured that with the flatness and tail wind of the first 25 miles, it would be hard to separate the group. I didn’t want the other guys to get a benefit from riding behind me, so I just kept the throttle on and slowly gapped the rest of the runners. Before I knew it, I was alone.
All smiles, at least for the first 20 minutes or so.
This is how I felt before Andrew caught me. (I’m in the boat).
Waiting for the Shark (Stark)
But like Jaws, with the music, duh dum, duh dum, duh dum, I knew that the shark of my race was on his way. CA fans, Meet Andrew Starykowicz. Andrew was the 2011 Rev3 Series winner, but has been injured since an insane crash/jail visit in Abu Dhabi. He is the one of the top few cyclists in the sport, and holds the bike course record on the previous 70.3 World Championships venue in Clearwater, FL. He convincingly won his first race back just a couple of weeks ago at Rev3 South Carolina, where he put almost 10 MINUTES on Richie and Terenzo Bozzone on the bike. Needless to say, I knew that my race would come down to limiting the damage he did to me on the ride. I guessed that if I was within 3-4 minutes of him, I’d have a chance to run him down.
Sure enough, 15 miles in, he came ripping by me, and two things happened. 1) I decided that I was going to do whatever it took to stay with him for at least 30 minutes, thinking it would be tough for him to put more than 4 minutes on me in just the last half of the bike. 2) He blew through the first aid station without grabbing anything. Worried I wouldn’t be able to catch him if I slowed down, I tried to grab some water from a random (elderly, yes, it was Florida) volunteer…at about 33 mph. FAIL. It was a miss I knew I’d pay for eventually.
This is how I felt after Andrew caught me. (I’m in USA shorts.)
Hold on for Dear Life
With Andrew setting pace, I took a deep breath and prepped for some pain. We started things off with 5 minutes at about 380 watts (if you don’t get this, see “***” below). Yes, that hurt, but I knew I could handle it, just not a whole lot more of it. He’d push and then relax , push and then relax. I imagined myself as Rocky Balboa, taking big hits from the gigantic Russian dude in movie #4 (the best one). I saw him look back a couple of times, which gave me tiny moments of victory in a fight I was obviously losing. Yep, I’m dying, but I’m still here.
Going All In
At 30 miles (which we reached in 59 minutes!), he slowed briefly for the aid station. Thank God. That was 30 minutes of bike-boxing at roughly 345 watts, Throw in the towel, Mick! But then I heard we had over 2 minutes on the rest of the field already. Decision time. I knew that as soon as Andrew broke away, it would be impossible for me to maintain even close to this pace. I was pushing so far out of my comfort zone, I couldn’t do it to myself without having him in sight to motivate me. At the rate he was going, he might still ride too big a gap if I let him go now. I risked blowing up, but my only chance of winning was to stay with him a little longer. I was all in.
I shouldn’t have listened to John Candy.
Andrew made me pay for that decision. He came out of the aid station like Drago all kinds of fired up – 5 minutes over 400 watts. BOOM! My legs were screaming. Just stay with him another 5 minutes. POP! Oh my god, maybe I made a mistake. ZING! BLAM! (I’ve shifted analogies here to old-school Batman). Each time, I’d see him go and push as hard as I could until I yo-yo’d him back.
Over the next 30 minutes, our lead increased to 3 minutes on Ben Collins, and 6 minutes to the main chase pack. It didn’t feel like a triathlon anymore. It felt like a bike race. I averaged 360 Watts for that 30 minutes, and 350 watts for the hour with Andrew, nearly equaling the pace I held on the bike to win Rev3 Maine (which was less than half the distance).
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Paying for It
As we approached the final aid station at mile 45, reality set in, and my left hamstring cramped. Oh boy. 11 miles to go – in the bike – and I’m already cramping. This is bad. Missed bottle? An hour all out? I’d played my hand, and now I had to deal with the consequences. My focus shifted from winning to finishing. I had to let up or my race was over. So I grabbed a bottle at the aid station and backed it WAY off. In a matter of minutes, Andrew was out of sight.
The next 10 miles felt like garbage. I was alone, and seriously worried about cramping. Did I make a mistake? Go too hard? I should have known better. I tried to prepare myself physically and mentally to run, something I normally look forward to, but after this effort, was absolutely loathing.
Suffering alone. Thanks Eric Wynn/Rev3 for this and all the awesome photos.
As I approached T2 on the bike, I took off my left shoe and POW, major hamstring cramp. Oh boy, this is bad. Then right shoe, BAM, same thing. With both hamstrings locked, I literally couldn’t pedal. At all. So like a car completely out of gas, I coasted in for the last ¼ mile or so. It was so bazaar. People initially cheered for me, but as I slowed and slowed and slowed, it got super awkward because I was going by them so slowly. I swear my speed the last 150 meters was no faster than a brisk walk. People were like, “You can do it, buddy! And by ‘do it,’ I mean only finish this bike ride because there’s no way in Hell your running 13 miles.”
I WALKED into T2 3 minutes down on Andrew. Good Lord, he put 3 minutes on me in 11 miles? I managed to get my shoes on without cramping too badly. I grabbed an extra water bottle I had luckily left in transition in my backpack and stood up. Here goes. I walk/jogged out to the first aid station and grabbed water from every person I could, I took a few deep breaths and slowly started to jog. As I left the crowd I heard I was now 3:35 down on Andrew. Going backwards.
Please Body Let Me Finish This Run – Splits/Map
I spent the next 2 miles gently easing my body into the run, thinking purely about finishing the race. I carried the water bottle with me, drinking as much as my stomach could tolerate. I walked through each aid station to take water with my EFS and Pre-Race (caffeinated), which stimulated my body enough to reduce some of the cramping.
Every minute without a cramp was like a gift, and with each step small bits of my confidence returned. Around 3 miles, my internal monologue began shifting. Maybe I WILL finish. Maybe I CAN still catch him. Maybe…I can WIN. For the first time in the run, I looked up. No more staring at my feet. Now, it was time to chase. I’m the shark. At 4 miles I was 2:30 back. Mental running math – 2:30 is 150 seconds divided by 9 miles remaining is 17 seconds a mile. Keep it going. I picked up my effort ever so slightly. 6 miles, 1:45 down. Still on pace.
Pretty proud of my combo massive fro AND deeply receding hairline.
At 8 miles, I could see him, roughly 50 seconds down the road. I was still totally exhausted, but for the first time since mile 15 of the bike, I was excited. I pushed hard into the next stretch and by mile 9, was 25 seconds back and could see him laboring. I’ve got him.
Watch out, camera dude! My eyes are closed!
Run-Limp Your Ass Off
Then, disaster. A major cramp in my right leg. The same muscle that stopped me cold at World’s. Schizo-WTF-do-I-do-Jesse started yelling. Dammit! Should I stop? No! Keep going! What if I tear it? Who cares, the season is over! Just Go! But I can’t run! Then just run-limp, damn it! So I literally half closed my eyes and just kept run-limping, keeping my right leg half extended with each stride, every step waiting for it to completely lock.
Just before mile 12, eyes rolled into the back of my head, I finally passed him. I made a half-assed attempt to pass “with authority” as my running coaches and dad used to say, but honestly, I had nothing. Just over a mile left in your season, WAKE UP AND FINISH THIS!
That was the longest mile of my life. There was no internal celebration and excitement. I was DONE, and worried I might collapse. Every step felt like uphill, into the wind, in deep sand, pulling a tire, with a walrus on top it. With just a half mile to go, Andrew closed in to where I could actually hear him behind me, so I kicked it in with everything I had and pulled away just enough to run through the chute unchallenged. I gave a half-hearted attempt at some hi-5’s, but mostly just stumbled across the line. Deep, deep inside, I was very happy, but the pain of the moment shielded the realization of it. That was, hands down, the hardest race of my life.
As I crossed the finish line, I was surprised to see Fred Flinstone in sandals. Thought he only rolled barefoot.
***Quick side note because some people aren’t familiar with “Watts.” I use power (watts) to measure my bike effort, just like swimming or running pace. My target half ironman power (2+ hrs) is about 320 watts. So all the numbers here are comparable to that number. For added perspective, my target Olympic power (<1hr) is about 360 watts. If you want to be like my cousin Loren, just give me crap every time you see me by saying, “Dude, I pushed soooo many watts.”
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If you’d much rather watch a few minutes of recap than listen to all my blabbering, the video above is PERFECT.
I have many people to thank profusely for the season in general – which I will do in an end of the season recap in a week or so. But for now, here’s some huge shout outs for the help specific to this week.
- Andrew Starykowicz – Dude, you pushed me to a new level on Sunday. Thanks for the incredible race, and classy sportsmanship before, during, and after. The way you put yourself out there on the bike is a TOUGH way to race. Respect. I think if we swapped that run for a swim, result may have been different. Next time. I hope you take my comparisons to Jaws and the Russian guy from Rocky as compliments on your strength. Good luck with your next few races.
- Charlie, Eric, Ashley, Mary, Sean, Stu, Chris, Greg & the rest of the guys at Rev3. You guys are a super classy, fun, down to earth organization and I’ve had a blast racing with you this year. Way to handle a tough day out there and create the best possible experience for everyone involved. I appreciate the encouragement and look forward to more races down the road!
This picture to me shows how awesome Rev3 is. You’re here, at this top notch event, working your tail off, and there’s Charlie (aka “Bossman”) running by you in a wig. At any level, competing should ALWAYS be fun, and they keep it that way.
- I went for the bottle while celebrating with Sunny. Thanks!Sunny and Michael. Sunny, thank you so much for the generous hospitality this weekend. The convenience and comfort of your home played a huge role in my result. I also appreciate the time you spent hanging out, having dinner, and a bit of celebrating! Good luck with everything and thanks a ton!
- Coach Matt Dixon – Lots to thank for, but in regards to this race, thanks for not only giving me a risky strategy that (barely ) paid off, but prepping my body to actually handle it. I never thought I could/would race like a cyclist, but you gave me the tools to at least flirt with it. More to come, but thanks.
- Mallory, David, Bobby, Mark, Chris, Aaron, Joe “Spider Monkey” and all the guys at Specialized – 2:03. Holy Crap. Honestly never thought I’d ride that fast, ever, much less this year. The SHIV is fast, and the new Fuel Cell is dope. Thank you so much for the support. My fastest bike ever!!!! (You knew it was coming).
- Geoff, Kody & all the guys at Pearl Izumi. Thanks as always for the HUGE support this year you guys. I appreciate the quick send for some shoes just before the race, a huge help and my feet felt great. Looking forward to next year!
- The guys at Rolf Prima. Same thing guys, 2:03. Nuts. The wheels were super fast and held up great in the cross winds. Thanks again for all the support guys, looking forward to some chill hanging out this winter in Eugene!
- Robert at First Endurance – There’s no way I would have finished this race without your products. Obviously, missing 20+ oz of water to start the bike kind of derailed my 70.3 Nutrition Plan, but the Liquid Shot & Pre-Race on the run saved my race. Thanks as always.
Fueling up the Shiv with some EFS. Booyah!
- Steve at CycleOps – Whoa! Huge power PR on the bike this week, over 330 for over 2 hours, also something I didn’t think was possible this year. Thanks so much for the equipment necessary to train and progress my way there.
- Rob & Kurt at Roka Sports and Gerry Rodrigues at Tower 26 – Didn’t need much swim help this week, but as always, appreciate all the help and prep going into it. Lots of work ahead and looking forward to doing it (after a nice break of course…).
- Oh, don’t worry, I didn’t forget you guys. Last and anything but least – my wife, my family, the rest of my support crew, my newsletter subscribers, twitter and facebook peeps – all otherwise known as the CRAZY ASS FANS! Don’t worry, you’ll get a proper tribute in a couple of weeks. But as always, thank you for your support and encouragement along the way. I got to meet a couple of you this weekend and as always was a blast. All you crazy ass fans seriously make it all worth it. Thanks a bunch for your support and encouragement!
Read more of Jesse Thomas’ past blog posts at: