Bend Leadman Epic 250 Race Report
It was great to get back to Bend again and get to the starting line of another race healthy and itching to see where I am at. . . Bend has so much to offer and the people there are seriously so nice. I am looking forward to heading back with the team year after year and maybe racing Where’s Waldo or High Cascades next summer.
I will have another post about some feedback for the Lifetime/Leadman group so hopefully future races will be an improvement from this years but this is how the race went down for me personally and some key take aways that I can learn from for next time. I did not make my time goal to get under 9 hours (my first time really having a time goal for a race) but still managed to get a big buckle and learned a lot from focusing on this list below durning and after the race. When I honestly look back at my race, I really feel I had a good race and executed close to what I thought I would do but more importantly what I was capable of on that day. One of the most rewarding things is knowing you gave it everything you had for every minute that clock is ticking away and your still racing. The fact that you can enjoy the experience is even better. I had a lot of fun! Although I made some mistakes I also got very lucky and there is a lot of room for both of those things in a race this long.
Some key things I took away from this race were:
– The best training for racing is racing (time for me to get to more starting lines again)
– Plan ahead! but always be open to changing your tactics
– Positivity to delayed gratification
– Have goals to keep you honest and a backup to keep you going
After getting ready in the morning cold of the low 30’s the 60-61 degree water in Cultus Lake felt good and it was super clear. Fun! We had visibility over 20 feet deep and the two out and back loops were very easy to navigate (but apparently I was still a bit squiggly from the gps view). I started in the second wave 5min back and got clean water just about the entire time. There was one guy off the front and I was on his feet for about 800 meters but then let him go. The recent swim races have really been a help to dial in what pace I can sit on for a long swim!
Although this was a longer than IM swim (5K/3.1 miles), I felt stronger and more efficient with my new swim training and didn’t feel a fade at the end of the swim. We had a small run between laps running up and around the boat launch and I was stoked to see I knocked out the swim in about 1:04 knowing I was ready to rip the bike. Heading back from the final lap I thought we had to swim around the start buoy again but I guess I was the only one doing that… Bonus strokes!
T1 was quick – I had planned to wear the only jacket I had (skinfit shell) and grab my helmet from my transition bag and get on the bike. Unfortunately, the cheap timing chip strap provided had broke when the wetsuit strippers yanked my suit off so I ran back and forth to the touching it to the timing mats and then put it into my bento box on my bike. I still made it out of T1 in under 90 seconds but this would cost me a lot of energy and eventually time by the end of the day. I noticed the top 5 guys all had about 4min T1 times because they were getting prepared to ride in the cold. Tahoe IM times in T1 today were the same. Smart, prepared athletes!
The air temp was in the still in the 30-40’s (moving up to low 50’s?) but the wet from getting out of the swim and rain later in the day would take it to an entirely new level for me. Epic suffering! This was my big mistake for not being prepared for the conditions before the race but not much I could do now so I got on my bike and got on with it.
The first couple hours were really cold. It was a fast section, there was still some frost on the ground, the sun was not completely up yet and I was still wet from the swim. Good times. What is the wind chill when your riding along at ~15mph in that cold soaking wet? I tried not to think about it. I remember riding past some controlled forest fire burns and looking into the flames and thinking warm thoughts… However, before long I started to make the climb up around Mt Bachelor and warm up. The sun was poking out between the clouds at times, I was gaining on the leaders and taking down hundreds of Vitargo calories. Executing the plan. Then, I started getting cold as we climbed into the clouds around the top of the climb and realized what comes up must go down.
The first descent was pretty bad and the wind picked up but then it started raining and everything was going downhill fast. By the time I got to the mile 90 special needs aid station I had stopped for the first and only time in the race. Cold, desperately shivering and and losing unnecessary time and energy. To make a long story short, I ended up climbing into my special needs transition bag to have a waterproof vest for the rest of the ride. It worked and I cannot say I lost too much time from the cold but I wont do that to myself again. The course was hard enough. It was 223 kilometers for starters and we were rolling on wet roads the entire time. I also found the grade of the climbing difficult. Not that it was steep but that it was not steep enough. I could not pick up enough speed on the descents to stop pedaling so although there was a lot of climbing the continuous pedaling felt like more of a challenge because there was not a lot of rest build into the course besides the few very long descents which I was on the brakes because of the cold and wind. Challenging.
Another good change for me was even though I was frozen getting off of the bike and thought I would be toast for the run I actually felt pretty good. My triathlon races usually start with me close to the front pack out of the water. On the bike, I typically move up in the field and the run has been changing for me over the last couple years. Its good to be able to change it up and trust you can still have a good race even if it feels like your strength has gone downhill. I really tried to stay positive and know that although I felt like crap on the bike and I was not catching people I still had a good run in my legs if I could just warm up. I was very pleased to get down in elevation, out of the rain and get off the bike.
On to the run. The first few miles were rough! My legs were frozen and I felt like I was sucked right into mile 18-20 of the marathon at an Ironman. A strange place to be with fresh feet but dragging an 18 wheeler of fatigue behind. Monique told me I was about 10min back from the leader so I kept focus on chasing, staying positive and the overall time. However, the reality of me not breaking nine hours started to set in. This was hard on the mind because I had been so focused on it for so long. I also had to pee and kept negotiating with the devil on my shoulder about stopping. Just being honest here but it is funny how simple yet complicated you can make staying in motion sometimes when your really hurting. The devil on my shoulder was telling me I was not going to break nine, had plenty of time to still finish and did not have anyone close behind me so I should just take a break…things like that back and forth. Your body can be screaming at you to stop or slow down but you can keep things simple and positive you can tell your body to just_keep_going. If you have been there you know what I am talking about. For me, I just kept thinking “delayed gratification” and it is the same with saving money, going to bed early and all the boring stuff in life that gets you the bigger goals. It is often not fun at the time but if you can see the end result it sucks a little less (when I did finish I actually did not have to pee bty #mindgames).
Once I got halfway through the first lap my legs started to come around and my form actually felt really good. At one point I was telling myself “you have a lot less than 22K to catch these guys now”. That literally had me LOL but it got me smiling so it worked. I headed out for lap two and Monique said I was 9min back but there was also a new leader. At that point, I knew not much was going to change in the race. Another tough spot to be in. When the game is changing it is much easier to get your mind in the chase or run scared. I knew I was going to continue to run alone and just hold pace with the only hope that between 9min there was someone who started in the first wave 5min ahead of me but I was not sure. No time goals, no running for a win, no other real backup except for the default of all racing goals….RACE! When I look back at this race I have more satisfaction knowing I gave it everything I had until the finish line.
Another key positive thing I tried to focus on was what the result of my training would be from my last two months. I leaned a lot about where I am at swim, bike, run, nutrition and mentally at this race. This was another key point that I really feel you need to race often (or often enough) to get your head right around running with Mr Pain and know your threshold limits. Real limits that you only experience in a race. Besides getting lost after dark on Mt. Baldy (which turned out to be a survival run – maybe even more specific) a few weeks ago my longest training runs have been 8 miles. I did two of them but they were high quality. This race has been my longest run since Cabo back in March and I was stoked to see that I held form and got faster on the second lap. Moving in the right direction and no need for mega long runs.
I finished up holding my place in line and ran in 4th at just over 9 hours and 17min. The eventual winner, Ray Fiori, finished in 9 hours and 10min and one guy in the top 3 started in the first wave so I did end up 3rd overall(edit – results are up). Buckle time was adjusted WAY down and they probably handed out over 100 of them. I got mine.
Good experience and thanks for taking the time to read this. Hopefully you can learn from some of my mistakes and find some inspiration to get out and be prepared on your next epic. I could not have done it without the support from Monique, my team mates and sponsors who keep me positive. THANK YOU!