“Johnston.” I said with a smile. I hopped back in line to give him a hug. It was only fitting to run into CJ at Johnny’s Irish Pub on friday night at 6pm for the packet pickup for The Runnin O’ The Green. For some strange reason I had thought this would be less crowded time to grab my race number. I mean who goes out on a Friday night to a bar when there is a race the next morning?

Apparently…… a lot of people. And…. not everyone is a runner! Who would have thought!

It’s an old bar and packet pickup was in the back. “It’s not the most organized pickup” Johnston commented. I smiled.

“It’s Bill Kehoe though.” And he nodded. I would do just about anything for Bill Kehoe. Including standing in a bar on Friday night. Bill Kehoe is one of Rochester’s most legendary race directors. He’s the last of the old school. Some of his races have chip timing, some don’t. Packet pickup is the best. Race number, T shirt. Cotton long-sleeved T shirt. No baggie full of ads I don’t look at, lotions I don’t use……. it gives me the chance to step back into the way it was.

To be waiting with Johnston made it even more nostalgic. The man’s a 10 hour Ironman but prefers to adventure race with Grimm, harass me non stop…… one of our oldest friends. I remember him and Grimm taking me mountain biking in the late 90′s and I thought they were insane when they made me walk across a log with my bike on my shoulder. That’s chump change compared to what they do now.

I love the history of our sport, including the running history.

When I saw Bill Kehoe I have him a hug. Best man in the world. He looks good. His voice is still deep and distinct.

On the way out I ran into one of my athletes Matt…… and I marveled at the new school combining with the old school. Some days I wish Matt could have been here from the beginning. For now he has to rely on my stories of ‘The old days’……… not because they were better or different…… to me sport history is fascinating. I really got to see our sport change through the ages. In a positive way.

When I raced the Subaru Series when it was the President’s Choice Series you were given a wristband with three pieces of velcro. At the end of the swim you ripped one piece off and handed it to a timer, same with the bike and then with the run. I remember wearing my first timing chip and wondering how this would work.

My love for sport history allows me to have an even deeper appreciation of where we are now.

Back to the race.

I was not happy when I looked at my pacing and fueling plan from the Wizard. My instructions were to run 7:30 miles for a goal time of 37:45. I had done that last year and beaten that time. What? I was frustrated. But I understood, there is a greater lesson here and what is my weakness, running and especially pacing it. Within the plan were the instructions that at mile 3.5 if I felt good to run as fast as I can.

Then coach, at mile 3.5 I am going to run 7:15 for the last 1.5 miles. That would be my I’ll show him. Sometimes the lessons we need to learn are the ones dragged out of us. At least me. Never in my life had I looked at a race plan and thought that was too slow. Perhaps….. that was the plan.

Saturday morning I woke at 6am (this is a sleep in for me) and looked out the window. They are supposed to be removing the pool cover at the pool today and there is more FREAKING snow on the ground. But the roads are clear. I would be wearing shorts. I will never run Johnny’s in tights. I hate running in tights. Shorts and no socks. Just the way I like it. (I might freeze to death but this is my way of giving winter the big old middle finger. Yeah….).

The temp was 33 degrees, race didn’t start until 10:30am (Late… I am usually done with training by then!!!). At 8:00 I embarked on my traditional QT2 pre race breakfast. for those of you dying to know what we eat ….. here you go (the amount will vary by race distance). My disclaimer here is this…… Many athletes will see this and think it is strange. There are a lot of good resources to help you determine what is the most optimal blend of CHO, PRO etc for your race. Because they think it’s odd…. they deem Jesse (the Wizard) as some guy who just pulls this stuff out of his ass.

I don’t think Jesse has ever pulled anything out of his ass except for other people’s head’s. There is nothing that he hasn’t not only researched, studied,  data collected on, graphed in a bar, pie, dot graph, tested seventeen ways from Sunday. That’s the thing about QT2…. it’s not made up. It’s so thoroughly gone through, and with the case studies that result and the reasoning they provide, well it’s really right there in front of you. You go by the protocol and then they tweak it to fit you just right. It’s like a good pair of jeans that fits, but could be better. They tailor them to you.

2.5 hours before this particular race:

1 scoop whey protein
1.5 Cups of unsweetened organic applesauce
1 banana
1 bottle Powerbar Performance.

Whey protein: studies have shown that branched chain amino acids as found in whey protein are extremely helpful in race performance. Of course there are studies that show that it does nothing to enhance performance but aids in muscle recovery after performance. Because of the extensive testing and data collection QT2 does with their athletes and every.thing.they.freaking.do……. I am inclined to buy that it helps. Plus, I like it!

Applesauce…. there are a few reasons for this. On our team we joke that it cleans you the heck out! Another reason, it may help to neutralize the GI system before an event. The trick is that you want unsweetened, not sugar. The whole applesauce thing has worked really well for me since I began with QT2.

The banana…. easy 27 grams of CHO (carbohydrate) and easy to digest.

I mix all of these ingredients together in the Magic Bullet. I don’t like applesauce, but when mixed with the above it just makes the shake a little bit sweeter.

One hour before the race:

caffeine, about 150mg worth.

15 min before the race:

1 powergel with water.

I got to the race with an hour to spare and quickly found my peeps. The change to the Blue Cross Arena compared to where were in 2010 was excellent. There was room! Until the starting line. Whoa. I tried to make my way up further to the front but when I say there was no room, there was no room. It was so jammed that I could not even pick my hands up over my head. People who were obviously walking were ahead of me.

I decided to just not allow it to affect me.

The race began and naturally it was crowded a bit for the first 800 yards or so, but I quickly found room and settled into my pace. My first mile was just below 7:30 and I felt very good. Nothing went through my mind at this point except the words strong, smooth, form. When I am running I don’t really notice others around me, so when Miss Rae came up to me at some point she cried out “Irish car bomb?” And it took me a minute to realize what she said. FaceBook joke. It’s never that I am rude, it’s just that I look straight ahead at someone ahead of me and I just don’t notice who is around me.

Mile 2 was fine as well, mile 3 seems I dropped back 10 seconds. I don’t know why. I didn’t notice that I was. My intention was at mile 3.5 to drop to sub 7:20 pace.

Mile 4 was 7:47…… whoa, I thought to myself, what am I doing out here? I just didn’t have another gear. The gear I have had all through this training block. The one where I was throwing down a few 6:58 mile repeats. I was rested coming into this.

Mile 5: 7:49, whoa, when I had last looked at pace I was at 7:20. I won’t spend a race looking at my watch. I thought I had the feel down.

When I crossed the like at 39:05 for a pace per mile of 7:43. Way off the 7:30 I was planning on keeping. Waaayyyyy off the 7:15 I was thinking I could run.  I was disappointed to say the least. What happened out there…. was what I asked myself. I thought about the training I had just put in. The 7:15 pace I easily kept at a race just a few weeks before. The gains I have made in training over the past 8 weeks.

The excuses I am tempted to use:

I have only run on the road once in the past eight weeks. I don’t think that makes a difference.

It was cold. It wasn’t cold

It was a different course. It was still a pretty flat course. Who cares if it’s three feet down the road.

So what do we do? we look at the things that affect our performance:

Preparation, which is training. I have been spot on with training. One week got ditched due to illness. That’s not enough to skew a race.

nutrition: We are right on with body composition. Yes, I have more weight to drop but there is a plan. Part of me wants to drop it all right now, but I know that this isn’t how it all works.

Fueling: I followed fueling to a freaking T.

Pacing: I could not hold pacing. I dont’ know why.

I got a boatload of compliments on my running form and that I looked strong. Which I suppose means I look good when running. Hey that’s an improvement!

When those four things seem to check out……. you sit back and wonder. Did I just have a seriously off day? I could write a 500 page book with those. It’s no secret my performances have been all over the map the past few years, it’s not something I am ashamed of, it’s part of life. It’s part of sport. It’s what you do with those that matters. You can allow them to define you or you can grow from them.

I choose to grow from them. I have done a lot of growing.

What I do know is this: I am with the right coach. While I have some off days still we are gaining ground. I am on the right plan. It fits me. It exposes my weaknesses and helps me to take them on while at the same time strengthening my strengths. It allows me to build with the season. Geez in April of 2010 I did a flat 70.3 race 25 minutes slower than I did in September on a hilly course. I know my gains come in August and Sept.

It’s one of the reasons I have been around so long. I have faith. I have dreams. One thing I walked away from that finish line today was…… was desire. I want an improved run so badly I can feel myself boil. I have lived so long in the paradigm of “I am a swimmer not a runner” that I believed it for a long time.

Gordo once said this, which might be my favorite quote of his of all time.

I really like Ironman racing as a metaphor for life. It requires a level of emotional maturity that most will never achieve. When you pull it off…you really learn something!” Gordo Byrn

I have done so much Ironman racing, that absolutely rings true for me. It’s why I keep coming back for more. It’s why I will never stop trying. This level of experience has brought me something I can never explain. You stop sweating the small stuff, like what people will think, like the fear of being a failure (or a success). You gain incredible insight to who you are as a human being.

The variables are all lining up. I can see a few places where I can tighten the screws. I am on this path for a reason. I have never been allowed to have the easy way. Where I win everything. Where it’s easy. It has always been an obstacle filled path for me. I like it that way.

Shake it off Eggers. It was an off day. These are the days you draw on. These are the days that are really the most important ones. Keep your eye on the prize, keep your sight in front of you.

Keep your chin up.

Because Eggers…… when you do nail it, you will appreciate it more than anyone in the world ever will.

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it – but all that had gone before.” Jacob Riis