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Mountain Man Olympic Race Report

In every season of racing, there’s the good (e.g., my run from Lake Stevens, finishing Ironman St. George, etc.), the bad (e.g., missing Half-Ironman World Championships at Ironman Boise 70.3 by two minutes), and the ugly (e.g., the weather at just a few of my races this year, Mountain Man Olympic bike leg). Often, you can find a few factors that likely played into those determinations, like 40mphs winds at Ironman St. George or shivering and freezing for 56 miles at Ironman Oceanside 70.3.

However, and annoyingly, sometimes you just have to scratch your head in wonder. That pretty much sums up this past weekend’s Mountain Man Olympic in Flagstaff Arizona. While everything seemed on the up-and-up, after mentally reviewing the race and reviewing my leg profiles, I feel utterly confused and irritated because I cannot point my finger at one or more reasons why my legs opted to take a nap while I was riding my bike. Regardless, it was frustrating, but I cannot change it now! A quick video and then onto the report…

Pre-Race

(I have reviewed the course before and you can read this HERE.) Race morning was pretty mellow. I awoke early, ate some oatmeal, changed, and headed to transition. Given it was an olympic distance, setting up transition was pretty simple. I got my bike ready, did a quick warm-up run, and donned my wetsuit. After that, it was time to head to the swim start.

Swim

While no race can ever be won in the swim, Mountain Man can easily be lost. Since the race happens as about 7,000 feet, going out too hard or fast can be kiss of death. Just like every other year, I pushed my way to the front and, after the gun, began swimming with long, smooth strokes.

Almost immediately, many yellow-capped fellows (my wave) passed me. And, I mean flew by me. I just chuckled thinking, “I’ll see you soon boys!” Reaching the first turn buoy, I began to increase my effort slightly. Unsurprisingly, I began to pass people breast-stroking. Ahhh, the joys of poor pacing decisions! I quickly settled into a good rhythm and felt great. I could tell I was having a good swim simply by the number of people I was passing but more so because I could only see a few wave-start guys around me. I knew there were some seriously talented swimmers in front of me, but I was largely free of any others, which felt great.

Upon reaching the last turn buoy, I started upping my effort again. The last leg at Mountain Man is tricky. You turn from a “parallel to shore” direction to a “barely headed towards shore” direction. Kinda like this (its the yellow line):

It can be tricky and tough to stay on target. Swimmers have swum straight towards shore, only to walk or head back out (read: wasting time) or swim back along the buoy line before heading in (read: wasting time). Fortunately, I could see a few strong looking swimmers and, given that this was my fourth year doing this race, I knew pretty much where to go. I followed those I thought looked good and, soon enough, was pleasantly greeted with the last sight buoy. As soon as I saw that red, little inflated hockey puck, I went all-in for a bit and jammed to the boat ramp.

I knew I had a great swim and was stoked when I saw my final time, 21:09. That placed me 11th overall and 2nd in my age group to a dude who swam in the Olympic Trials when he was younger. That was a PR for me in that distance and I am extremely pleased.

Transition 1

Exiting the water, I did what I always do: sprinted to my bike while stripping my wetsuit down to my hips. Reaching my bike, I removed my suit in a few pulls, put on my helmet, grabbed my bike, and was off! The only annoying thing was that the air was a little wet so I put my sunglasses in the back of my race kit. Yeah, they quickly fell out, leaving me squinting and dry-eyed for most of the ride. (Side note, I was awesomely lucky to get my glasses from lost-and-found after the race! There might still be some nice people remaining in this world!) T1 time was 1:30; not my fastest but moving up one spot in the overall standings. Gotta love stealing time like that…

Bike

And here’s where the day goes down the toilet. Leaving T1, I was next to a friend of mine and thought, “Awesome! He’s a strong cyclist and I can pace off of him (note: pace, not draft) until he drops me.” Still don’t know why, but the “drop” happened immediately. I mean, seconds after leaving T1, he was gone.

Almost immediately, I felt wrong. My heart rate was fine, my effort level seemed normal, but my power meter decided to pass on reporting data. Regardless, I’ve been racing/riding long enough to know how I feel and my effort was good. Nonetheless, I started getting passed by many, many athletes. The whole bike became a slog through a morass of crap. I would be working like normal and some dude would simply fly by me. And I mean fly. I kept checking my bike, my wheels, my brakes, my gearing, everything. I was fully expecting to find a brake pad rubbing, a gremlin tearing spokes out of my wheels, or some ghost in the machine taking my power to run his illegal moonshine factory. I found none of that. Even after the race, I threw my bike on its stand and searched for a while to solve the “Toby sucked at biking today” mystery. No solution anywhere. Somedays, things just don’t work kids. Sucks, but that’s life I guess.

Pathetically, my bike took me from 10th overall out of T1 to forty-third overall with a less-than-stellar time of 1:13. Seriously. It was that bad. I didn’t just lose a podium, I basically lost all pride, self-confidence, and mojo on that ride. Someone else found it and, assuming it was worthless, threw it in the garbage… or something like that. I flat-out sucked and I am still annoyed by it. Sigh…

Transition 2

In spite of wanting to Norman Stadler my bike into a ditch (see this VIDEO), I was determined to make every dude in front of me work to beat me. I knew they had big leads, but I didn’t care. They better be running or Locomotive Toby would mercilessly run their asses down… and probably laugh while he did it. So, my T2 time was 1:05, 12th fastest overall and fastest in my age group. Not bad for a dude who has had all racing motivation taken from him.

Run

I started the run pissed, angry, and wanting something to batter. That “something” became every racer I could see. I would target one guy, catch and pass him, and then focus on the next. I didn’t care who they were, I didn’t care if they were in my age group, I just wanted them to pay for passing me on the bike. (Side note, you can read about the run portion of Mountain Man Olympic HERE. In short, it is tough.) Looking at my mile splits, I was obviously a little focused as my first 1.5ish miles were at a 6:30-6:45 pace, not a comfy, warm-fuzzy feeling at 7,000 feet.

Reaching the hill, I decelerated to a manageable pace and settled in for a long climb. My heart rate began to climb as I ascended the hill. No surprise here. Sadly, I only had two targets during the ascent and had largely relinquished my animosity. I simply didn’t have enough real estate to take down enough dudes to get on the podium. So, rather than continue to be pissed for no reason, I shifted to trying to give anyone I knew some positive energy. Stunningly, this turned out to be fun! Who knew that being nice was so entertaining… (sarcasm here.)

I hit the turn-around, passed another athlete, and focused on having fun for the last 3.1 miles. Each time I saw a friend ascending the hill, I tried to shout something encouraging or bring some levity. A few people were told they should hurry because I was coming back with some Motivation Rocks. (These are rocks you throw at people to motivate them. They work really well. Yes, I am kidding. Ok, kinda kidding.) I reached the bottom of the hill, decided that “Lots of Pain” was enough for this day (rather than “My Eyes are Bleeding Pain”) and cruised to the finish.

Final run time was 46:02, taking me from 43rd overall to 32nd overall (and good enough for 26th overall fastest run). Given that I wasn’t working as hard as I could have, I am pleased with this. I had more fun than normal, even with the frustration of the bike. I ultimately finished 8th in my age group. Yes, this is disappointing given that I have taken 2nd the last two years, but that day was simply not my day. I didn’t sacrifice effort or mail it in when the bike went south. Rather, I gave what I could, worked very hard for the first half of the run, and then opted to enjoy rather than suffer for the remainder of the day.

Even when things don’t “go my way”, I still try to find those moments of value. Can I help someone else who’s in a tough moment? Can I find a new goal that’s worthy and motivating enough for me to torture myself? There’s always something, it is just a matter of having the mindset to find it. I wasn’t even close to a podium, but I had a great day, set a PR for the swim, and (hopefully) helped some people climb the hill a little easier than they otherwise might have.

Thanks for reading!

Two of my FAVORITE Support Crew Personnel! Wait, who’s supposed to be recovering here???

Seriously, they make it all worthwhile!

My Coach, Bill Wilson

 

 

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