A Readers' Lesson Learned During His First 70.3

>> Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Back in July, I posted a letter from a reader about how he accidentally found my blog by searching for "hot men in speedos." (There's none of that here. If he wants "HAIRY men in BRIGHT speedos," he'd maybe find something...)

Anyway, this same reader just sent me this note yesterday after completing his FIRST HALF IRONMAN!! His bike ride got a little bit interesting.... Check out his story:

Hi Steve,

It's your favorite gay speedo-lover from Houston, CrashHouston. I completed my first half Ironman yesterday in Austin, TX. It was 44 degrees at the swim start which is about 30 degrees colder than I would have preferred. The water felt good at 71 degrees. It was my first ever swim in a wetsuit, and it took a few minutes to get used to it. I wore a lovely full-length sleeveless number and felt sorry for everyone with sleeves. I think sleeves would have been too hot. My swim time was decent - 2 minutes lower than my goal, which I attribute to being blind as a bat and unable to site.

T1 was really slow. I'm a pansy when it comes to cold weather, so I took my time drying off, changing out of my wet swimsuit and layering up.

When I finally got on the bike, I discovered that my bike computer was dead. It was working just find the day before, so I pulled over and tried adjusting the sensor. It was definitely dead. The heart rate monitor was still working, so I decided I'd ride at 130-140 beats per minute and that would keep me at a 20 mph pace. About 5 minutes into the ride, the heart rate monitor flatlined. Good times! So I decided that I'd just ride hard and back off if I started breathing heavily. That worked well and I was feeling ok until I had a tire blowout at about the halfway point. Not a tube blowout, a TIRE blowout. It sounded like a gunshot. I pulled over to the side of the road and discovered a 4-inch gash in the tire wall. Can't ride on that. A nice lady who had also stopped at the same spot to eat said she would ride to the next support station and ask that they send a bike tech to me. One hour and 45 minutes later, the bike tech arrived.

I saw something yesterday that I never imagined I'd see in my life - I saw the police escort who rides behind the last rider. The police escort arrived right behind the bike tech, and the last guy in the race passed me up while the bike tech was adjusting my rear brake so that the loaner wheel would fit my bike. It took the tech about 15 minutes to fix up my bike (with a sweet-ass loaner carbon State Cycling Wheels aero wheel that was much better than my Roval aluminum stock wheel), and I was off again.

Out of 2539 racers, I was in 2539th place.

When you are waiting on the side of the road watching everyone pass you by (and I mean everyone), you think about a lot of things: dropping out of the race, being angry at the Continental Gator Skin tires that I put on the bike a month ago because they are supposedly durable tires, whether you should keep eating every 45 minutes even though you've stopped burning calories, not making the cutoff, crying, laughing, where to pee (there was no private place to pee), the money/time investment we make to be triathletes, whether you really want to run 13.1 miles at 2 in the afternoon when the sun is at its peak...

I passed only 6 people on the remainder of the bike course. I knew I was far behind, but I didn't realize I was that far behind. My expected bike time was 2:45. My actual bike time was 4:48! I made the bike cutoff with a little time to spare and thought again about quitting. I knew I'd ridden pretty hard the last half of the bike to make up for lost time, my quads were really sore, my eating/water intake was jacked up.

The run was a 3-loop course, so I decided to run the first loop and see how I felt. I had a a good 1st loop and despite the hills (it was really hilly and I'm not used to hills), I felt ok. So I started the 2nd loop and decided to run 9 minutes and walk 1. The 1st two cycles were good, and then, my quads started cramping and my right hip started screaming at me (IT band issues have been dogging me on long runs for a while). Ugh. I've never cramped in my quads before, so I tried running 4 minutes and walking 1. That got me through the 2nd loop, but I knew I was several minutes off my first loop pace (I forgot o check my watch - I cold just feel that I'd slowed down quite a bit). When I started the last loop, I was jogging slowly and walking often. But I was passing people up which felt really great. I definitely wasn't going to be in last place! When I finally saw the 12-mile marker, I knew I had to run it in. And although its no fun being on a course when the volunteers are cleaning up, I was happy that I was going to finish the damn thing. There were still spectators on the course cheering the last few of us on - I felt the urge to stop and tell everyone who was yelling for me to keep it up just what had happened on my bike and that really I should have finished two hours ago and that I'm not that slow, but of course I didn't. I finished and didn't come in last. I didn't know whether I wanted to cry or laugh or get my gear and go.

On a side note, Andy Potts' name was announced shortly after mine was announced for finishing. The awards ceremony was going on as I finished - he won the male pro division. It's the only time in my life I'll ever hear Andy Potts come after CrashHouston! I'll take it.

I learned a whole lot about running my own race yesterday. When you aren't gunning for a time or a pace or a place or to beat a buddy - when you are racing just to do it even though you had a lot of bad luck and a bit of an injury and nothing is going your way and you have that police escort behind you signifying you are in dead last place - that's when you realize just how much you love, really love, competing in triathlons regardless of where you finish. I wanted to share my story with you because you've been a big inspiration to me. We could all use more positive influences in our lives, and you provide a positive influence to me and, I would imagine, many of your readers. Yesterday's race - it was by far the best race I've ever had. Even better than the one time I finished in 2nd place in a sprint tri. I can't even begin to describe how strong the urge was to quit yesterday and how satisfied and happy I am that I didn't.

Keep up the great work, Steve.


Holy hell, CrashHouston... that's AMAZING. Last place in a 70.3? (Even if just for a bit?...) That's a special kind of skill. :) And I LOVE that bit about Potts - LOVE your attitude! Ha!

It's those tough races that are the ones to remember. I had a tough time in the middle of IM NOLA 70.3 in 2009, but then I ended up running a 70.3 run-split PR as I was getting "misty" at the end of that race. It wasn't as epic as this, but you can still click here to read it - it gets interesting in T2 after I wrote "This is when the shit in the fan.". Check it out if you like a nasty race that turns out OK.

CrashHouston, thanks for sharing your story! I looked up your results, and it's pretty astounding to see your average bike pace and your average pace / mile on the run were nearly EXACTLY the same number! (To those reading, think about that - those numbers should be VASTLY different, like 18.0 - 21.0 mph and 7.0 - 9.0 mins / mile.) I wish you MUCH better luck during your next 70.3!


SteveQ 10:18 AM, October 30, 2012  

Interesting! I've only been in last place in 2 races (of 600); once when I fell and hit my head and was unconscious for a while and once when two of us figured out there was an award for the last place finisher and we tried out-waiting each other.

I get another chance this Sunday to be last!

HairbyJenniferC 11:42 AM, October 30, 2012  

Loved reading this! I actually finished very last in my first 70.3 this past summer. A lot of things factored into that last place finish, one being that I was 7 weeks pregnant. On most of my run, the water stations had already been packed up and put away and the volunteers had cleared out. Some really awesome volunteers stayed out there knowing I was still on the course to give me water and Gatorade. They even stayed letting traffic back through! I eventually finished and am already looking into my redemption 70.3 to do after the baby comes. I did discover that finishing last wasn't as bad as it sounds- that's lots of people there to cheer for you at the end because they already finished! I hope CrashHouston gets his redemption race soon too!

SteveQ 2:15 PM, October 30, 2012  

Have to make a correction before anyone else points out that I have been last in other races - notably my first 100 mile race finish, where I was more than an hour behind anyone else (and I led at one point).

Anonymous,  4:37 PM, October 30, 2012  

I love CrashHouston! What an awesome guy. Great story!

calimechengr 6:54 PM, October 30, 2012  

And here I though my beau and I were the only gay triathletes out there.

Great job to CrashHouston for finishing his first 70.3. My first 70.3 will be in Galveston in April 2013. I did a 70.3 relay a few weeks ago where I did the bike and the run. I sympathize with the feeling of wanting to quit. Halfway through the run I was ready to sit on the side of the road and wait for someone, anyone, to pick me up and take me back. Fortunately I found the strength to keep going.

CoachLiz 4:16 PM, October 31, 2012  

CrashHouston, I want you to come out and talk to my athletes!!! Pick a Saturday in December and we will make sure we are at Memorial Park. I have some athletes that need to hear your story.

Coach Liz
Houston, TX

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