Toughman Minnesota (Chisago Lakes) Half Iron – July 24th, 2016
Going into Toughman Minnesota, I’m attempting to race two half ironman’s in back-to-back weekends to cap off my summer racing. Considering I was pretty banged up from racing in Door County the weekend before, this was not going to be an easy task. I’ve been dealing with a nagging calf injury and messed up my lower back after dropping my handlebars days before racing DCT (not a smart move…). Considering the circumstances, I was able to put together a clean race and had another top 5 finish.
My parents live in Somerset, WI, which is about 35 mins from this race. I always like to do this race to get home and see the family and let them come watch me without having to travel too far. Saturday morning I went for a ride with my dad. I had to remind him that this was an “easy” ride for me, the old man can still crank some watts!
My little brother’s son, Walter, was baptized the day before so we had a gathering and church which took up most of the afternoon. My oldest brother made the trip from North Dakota for the baptism. It was great having the whole family home which can be quite difficult with everyone’s busy lives. Having everyone home also meant I was going to have the most dominate cheering sections on Sunday! They had their GoPros and cameras ready for an action filled weekend.
On Saturday, I couldn’t sit for more than 15 minutes without being in significant pain from my lower back. I told my coach I would pull out of the race if I wasn’t 90% on Saturday and live to fight another day. Well, I wasn’t even close to that… Throughout the day I would go back and forth trying to figure out if it was a go. Finally, I decided to give it a go and just race SMART and CONSERVATIVE! If I started to feel significant pain, I’d have no shame in pulling out of the race. Game on.
My morning was the usual routine. Wake up at around 4:30, pound about an 800 calorie smoothie, and hit the road. I got to the race site and set up my transition. I felt very relaxed, likely because I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself to perform well. Definitely a different attitude then I had racing in Door County. At this point I learned that the lake temperature measured at 81 degrees and would not be wetsuit legal. Great, I’d be swimming 1.2 miles in a hot tub… I got a little warm-up swim in and was ready to go.
Swim – 1.2 miles
Having never raced without a wetsuit, I didn’t really know what I could expect for time or how much more difficult it would make the swim. My race plan, which was the theme for this race, was to go out moderate and swim my own race. I pretty much lost feet right out of the gates and just swam very comfortably, thinking about having a smooth stroke and comfortable breathing. I could tell I was pulling a few other swimmers around the course with me. I didn’t try to separate and just stuck to the script. This was definitely the most comfortable I’ve been in a swim, likely from swimming a little easier than I have in the past. I came out of the water around 12th place in the elite wave, close to where I’d expect to be. I’m guessing swimming without a wetsuit added about 2-3 mins to my time.
Results: 19th out of 487 – 33:35 (1:36/100y)
I got through transition pretty quick. After having a disastrous flying mount in DCT, I was very hesitant to attempt it again. This time I took a different approach, however. I jumped on my bike out of T1 but didn’t worry about put my feet into my shoes right away. I wanted to get away from the transition area and then slowly put my feet in which would limit any mistakes. Everything went according to plan. I’m starting to get my transitions down where they are becoming a strength of mine.
Results: 6th out of 487 – 0:49
Bike – 56 miles
This bike is a fairly fast course with a long descent and climb right around the halfway point. I knew we would have a tail wind for the first half and a head wind for the second. My plan was to bring my power down about 10 watts from the weekend before and to try to minimize any power surges. I planned on 235 watts and pretty much stuck right on it.
About 15 miles in, the felt backing on my armrest came completely off. There was absolutely nothing holding my armrest pad onto my aero-bars. At this point, it was not a matter of if I was going to lose my armrest, but when… When this happens, I will be forced to rest my elbow (and 40% body weight) on a hard carbon fiber post and the rough side of Velcro. Not only that, but now I would be lowered even further on my aerobars. All I could think of was how bad my lower back was going to hurt! After performing acrobatics on each turn trying not lose my pad, I made it to mile 30 before it was gonzo. Luckily it was on a bottom of a hill where I had a chance to rip off the Velcro from the aero-bars.
The last 20 miles were pretty tough with the headwind, I just tried to get as aero as possible and started roping in more and more riders. With swimming being my weakest sport, meant I wasn’t passed by a single biker. It also means I usually have no clue in what place I am in heading into transition. Judging by the number of bikes, I believed I was in 4th or 5th place (I was in 5th).
Results: 5th out of 487 – 2:18:14 (24.4 mph)
I was in transition all by myself, with no sights of anyone in front or behind me. I had a feeling it was going to be a fairly lonely run…
Results: 5th out of 487 – 0:53
Run – 13.1 Miles
I told my family it was going to be a fairly flat and fast run course. I probably should have looked at the run course to find out it was different this year… At this point in the race it was 80 degrees, full sun, and HUMID! The first three miles were uneventful as I headed out of town with still no sights of anyone. Luckily, my injuries weren’t giving me much troubles early on. At mile three we turned on this open, loose gravel road with constant rolling hills. It was very desolate and open with no signs of shade. Hydration was going to be a problem…
I ran past my family at around mile 5, it was definitely a boast I needed. Most of the race there was no signs of racers, spectators, or anything else which would get me through this run… Not sure how my family made it back on this dirt road, I’m pretty sure it was blocked off. I won’t ask! At this point, I really wanted to get off this dirt road and onto some pavement again. Considering it was an out-and-back course, I realized that was not going to happen…
Getting close to the midway point, I finally saw my first signs of racers. The lead guy had about 7 mins on me. I was probably 3-5 mins back on the 2nd through 4th guys. They looked like they were clipping at a pretty good pace, I was doubtful I could bridge the gap today. After I reached the turn-around I had a good look on the racers coming up from behind me. It seemed like I had about 3 minutes on the next guy so I wasn’t overly concerned about getting caught at this point. That would change…
At mile 8 or so, things started to change for the worse. The heat was really starting to get to me and it felt like my shoes were made out of concrete. Each aid station I would dump multiple cups over my head which meant I was running in completely soaked shoes (I’d later lose 2 toe nails because of this…). My brother passed me in his car and told me the next guy was still a ways back so I tried not to panic and just keep running steady. I tried not to think about what was going on behind me and just put one foot in front of the other.
Just before mile 11, I peeked over my shoulder and saw the 6th place guy about 30 seconds behind me. Great. This guy must have been hauling pretty good to have made up over two mins on me. At the time, my pace slowed to over 7 min miles while my HR was crazy high considering the pace (175-180). I knew that if I let this guy beat me, I would have been extremely disappointed in myself and my race performance. I couldn’t let that happen… At this point, I gave it everything I had, near maxing out my HR at 185 bpm. I didn’t want to peak over my shoulder to show any signs of weakness. I’d try gauging how close he was by the cheering as we came into town. At one point, he must have been within 15 seconds of me. I cranked it up another notch to a pace I really didn’t believe I could sustain for another mile. This was definitely the deepest I have ever dug in a race and a lot of things started to blur out for me near the finish.
I crossed the finish line 15 seconds ahead of him and only 1 min back on the 4th place guy.
Results: 8th out of 487, 1:29:25 (6:50 min/mile)
I went into the race pretty banged up and just wanted to have a clean race with minimal errors. I’m pretty pumped I was able to lock of another top 5 finish, especially considering the level of competition we had in Chisago today. Although the run was brutal, and nowhere near enjoyable, it gave me a chance to test my mental toughness. I’ve been reading a good book on sports psychology called “How bad do you want it?”. That phrase is what got me through those last two miles. I’m sure I’ll be asking myself this question again in future races. Hopefully the answer remains “bad enough”!
It was so awesome to have my entire family there cheering me on today. I was in some pretty rough spots on the run today and you guys helped to keep me going. Thanks Mom, Dad, Liz, Andy, Bobby, Shiann, and Walter for making the trip! Thanks again to coach Blake from BBMC for getting me ready for this double.
I have nearly three months until my next race, Ironman Louisville in October. This time off from racing will help me get my body back healthy and get some solid Ironman focused training in. Although I am quite happy with my race performances so far this year, I am extremely confident that my BEST race of the year is ahead of me. Watch out Louisville, I am coming for you!
Overall Results – 5th out of 487, 4:22:57