We arrived in Cleveland a few days prior to the race and checked in to our Air BNB. This was definitely the right call as there was so much more room in this place than any hotel we had stayed at. We set up bikes and checked in for the races. Alexa and I did a lot of relaxing and hanging out in the apartment before the race saving up for the big day. AJ and Whitney came over and hung out for a while and tried our Air Relax system and we went to Pier W for some incredible calamari. If you want THE best calamari you’ve ever had, that is the place to go! The next day we tried to make check-in fast as we did not want to sit in the sun too long. We checked the bikes in and tried to get a quick swim in, but we were cut off. They cancelled the swim race that was scheduled and got all of us out of the water. We all thought it was for rough waters but after looking it up, I found out it was due to the E.coli bacteria concentration being very high
Race day was here, and it was go time. AJ and Whitney picked us up and we headed to the venue. We were unsure if we were going to swim or not as the waves were not too bad but rising, as well as the E.coli had not been measured. All three of us went to go set up our transitions and then headed to the water. I stopped at the expo on the way to the water to pick up some speed laces for my race shoes. I tried them on the night before and they were impossible to get on with normal laces, so I laced up my shoes quick before going to the swim. Finally, we found out the swim would be a shortened swim. 750m swim and the rest of the distances would be normal. Wetsuits went on and we went to the start! I was in the first wave, which was super nice because every turn I would get to see where I was overall and not have to guess at people’s ages. We stepped into the water but the course was not clear on which buoy we were supposed to head to… finally someone pointed down the beach and we saw an orange buoy 200 yards down the beach that we were supposed to start at, but we only had 1 minute until the gun. All of us got out of the water and sprinted down the beach to the buoy and the announcer had no idea what to do. Finally everyone realized they didn’t even tell us where to line up correctly and gave us another couple minutes to prepare and get to the real start 200 yds down the beach. The heartbeat grew loud and fast before BOOM. The race had begun! I tried to grab some fast feet and hopefully pull a good swim split but the swells kept throwing me off the feet I was trying to stay on. Sighting was a real challenge with the swells and getting the timing right was tough. Once we rounded the first buoy, as usual, I found I was definitely in the back half of the race. Sighting was twice as tough now because we were swimming into the sunrise, so instead I found some feet and kept my head down. Rounding the last buoy I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me. I got out of the waster a couple minutes later and it was time to play catch-up.
On the bike I locked in as fast as possible and began throwing watts around. I was not going to stick around with anyone on this ride. One guy in my age group went back and forth with me but we both made sure we kept our 5 bike-length draft zone. About 6 miles in I dropped them and never saw them again. At the 8 mile mark I passed a VERY large group of guys all drafting off each other clearly taking turns on the front. I saved up a couple seconds, took my nutrition before getting to them, and laid out around 400 watts for the next minute while passing them. Only one guy reacted and grabbed my wheel, and not like he jumped on and used me as a pacer, but actually hopped on and drafted off me. Nothing pisses me off more than cheaters. I tried to lose him around some corners but he gave everything he could to suck my wheel. We reached the turn around and as I counted I realized I was WAY back. Like 30th or worse. I took off again, went around the turn-around and tried to make up time. The guy on my wheel was pissing me off so much that I sat up, pulled off to the side and made him go around. His comment as he went by was “Ill try to do my part for a while now” which made it clear he thought this was a draft party, and I was going to draft. He tried to pace as I sat back 6 bike lengths back and was barely hitting 200 watts. This was WAY too slow. He clearly couldn’t bike well without the help of someone else. So again I saved up and went around him 3 minutes later at 400+ watts. But he came out to suck my wheel again. I held over 330 watts for a few minutes but he wouldn’t get off the wheel. For those that don’t know, drafting can reduce the effort needed by over 20-30%, so he was doing 2/3 the work I was to keep up, as long as he stayed in contact with me. I continued to look back and shake my head at the blatant cheating that was happening and he kept yelling back “you're fine” so I sat up, turned around and told him “Get the f*** out of the draft zone.” He stayed on for another minute, so I sat up and yelled again. Finally he backed off a little and within 2 miles I turned around and he was nowhere in sight. I cruised up to the next pack and found them a few miles from transition. I put in another big effort to get around this group of 12 guys and left them up the final hill. I came to transition alone and threw on the run shoes. I needed to have a top notch run that I knew I was capable of to even break the top 20 at this point.
Mile 1 was good but really hard. It was uphill and caused my legs to feel super heavy. Seeing my buddy Andrew running as fast as he could with 2 cameras in dress shorts, trying to get in front of me to take pictures, was literally my favorite thing i saw all day. Dude is completely dedicated to making incredible shots and its awesome. I took in nutrition as much as I could and grabbed every cup available at aid stations to throw on myself and take little sips. Mile 2 was downhill and the legs opened up really well. I started to pick people off one by one and kept my legs rolling. Mile 3 and 4 flew by and before I knew it I had one mile to go. I could see a bunch of guys in my age group so I continued to push and pass people. I came to the finish feeling strong but that I had more to give and places to improve. I went from 95th overall to 39th overall during the run and secured my spot on Team USA with a 16th place Age Group finish.
Wake up, same thing different day! Its race day again. Legs felt great despite the race yesterday and I was pumped to get another shot. After looking at my age group there was a very very small chance I would ever see the podium at this distance as the swim would be the same length, but I had half the time to make up ground. We set up the same way and I realized I forgot my race chip… so we went to the start, I found a new one and got pumped to race again!
The water was so calm this morning which meant great things for me!! The gun went off and I was thrown into the washing machine of every male under the age of 30 going balls out to the first buoy. The group pulled me along like a dog owner yanking the pup into the vet. I barely had to swim to the first buoy and I knew I was making much better time. I got kicked hard a few times and had to sit up and get out of where I was and all the sudden I was spat out the back of the group. I found a couple other guys and we cruised to the beach taking over a minute off my time from the day before on the same course. But now I needed something special to get me to the finish as fast as possible. I hopped on the bike and my legs were nowhere to be found. They were absolutely dead from the Olympic and the hills were a bit of a struggle, I found my power falling off a bit and having to remind myself how quickly this would be over. Half-way on the bike I realized I was actually up near the front, already in the top 20! I held decent power all the way back and sprinted into transition. That was the best power I have ever held but I knew I could have done way more. Overall 15th fastest bike of the day
Running shoes were thrown on in a hurry and I took off. I came off the bike 26th overall and 9th in my age group. This was a sprint, and I was going to have to sprint this whole thing if I wanted that podium spot. I have been to nationals for 3 years in a row, last year I was kicked off the podium by one spot after an hour of thinking I was on the podium after the race. I was not letting that happen again. First half mile was 5:20 pace. Not going to cut it. I pushed harder and passed more people. Next mile I cut down to 5:13. Better, but I needed more. I saw Alexa as I passed more people so I slowed down to pat her on the back quick and offer some words to keep her going. One kid saw me slow down and latched on to my side, running extremely close to my and breathing down my neck. I knew I could leave him so I pulled an old XC trick. I settled in at a 5:40 pace for a couple hundred yards, I let his legs adapt to that pace, and as we went around a turn, I cranked it up to 4:30 pace for the next quarter mile and got the separation I needed. He was done. I saw 2 more guys in my age group with a half mile to go. I pushed as hard as I could but a huge downhill limited the ground I was making up. I passed one of them around 30 seconds later, and pushed as hard as I could. I was within 30 feet of the next guy when I ran out of space. I crossed the tape and knew I had put out a good run. Travis Wood came over to me and all I heard was “ I did it….OMG I DID IT” we both celebrated Travis absolutely crushing the field and becoming the Overall Sprint National Champion! A few people came over to me and told me my run was insane, I had no clue what I had done, so I pulled up my watch. I had run just over a 16 minute 5k and ran my way on to the podium!! My run was the top in my age group and 2nd overall for the day. I waited to celebrate my 5th place in my age group as this showed on the results last year but somewhere an hour after I finished, I ended up losing a place, so I waited for Alexa and cheered her in to the finish. Alexa ran one of the best runs of her life and ran her way to a Team USA slot! She also controlled the bike course with a top-20 overall women bike split both days! I never lost my spot on the podium and after 3 years was able to step up and share it with my buddy Travis, couldn't have asked for a better day at the sprint!
We celebrated our wins and the weekend and are now gearing up to head to Europe!! Many special things going on in the next month so stay tuned! We fly out of the states on august 26th and will compete on the 1st of September in the ITU Standard Distance World Championship in Lausanne, Switzerland! Then we will be headed to France where I will compete 7 days later in the 70.3 world championship in Nice France.
Thank you all for your amazing support!
Chris Heise with Americna Family Insurance
And Sanford health
For all you do!
THE DAY WE MADE LEMONADE
Where to begin. Oh maybe with the worst thing possible to start a long race!! We woke up at 2:45 and left the hotel at 3, we dropped bags in Boulder and made our way to the reservoir to get everything set for the race day. When we arrived, we got our body markings and went in to transition… then the fun began.
I walked up to my bike and looked at it, something wasn’t right. It had rained the night before, so I had covered my handlebars and seat, but my handlebar bag was taken off…. I thought “whatever it was just the wind” and unwrapped my seat. I looked at my gears and thought I should maybe move 1 more gear over for when I hop on it out of transition in the race, so I clicked for it to shift…. Nothing happened. I have electronic shifting which for those of you that don't know, it is little electric wires and a battery that shift for me. you need to charge your battery and all shifters and the derailleurs (piece that shifts the chain around) are connected to each other and the battery. It is a great thing to have in most instances but when you have problems, it is a big issue. I checked connections and tried again. Nothing. I thought maybe water got in my battery somehow and it shorted out which was (what I thought) worst case scenario. I brought it to the bike techs and explained everything, they thoroughly questioned me to which I gave a 100% certainty answer to each one ruling out possibilities like old battery, wasn’t charged, Etc. We did not have a charger to run diagnostics so finally he said he was 90% sure it was a battery shorted out and without the charger we couldn’t know for sure. They did not have a backup battery or anything to help me at that point. I prayed hard and ran into Bonnie who is simply the sweetest person ever. I asked her to pray hard for something good to happen and to have an incredible day in case I couldn’t. I rushed over to Mike Reilly and asked him to announce that we needed a charger and headed back to the bike tech tent in hopes someone found one. I called my parents with the bad news, that I either was going to need to borrow one of their mountain bikes, or I wouldn't get to race. I also helped Alexa get ready for her race, but we were both furious and in no mental position to prepare for a race. As we were prepping her bike, the bike techs found a spare charger in one of their cars! We ran up to a generator and plugged the bike in, Nothing happened and an error reading came on. “yup, battery is shot” he said to me. I started to tear up thinking my day had ended before it could begin but something told me to try again. I asked him to try a couple more times. Error reading..... then another error reading...... then CHARGE LIGHT!!! This meant I had power so we tried shifting the bike…. But nothing happened. He double checked and confirmed I had full power in the battery so we went back to the tent to keep looking for the problem. He thought it could be the wires inside the bike around the crankset that were missing a connection or got wet, so he pulled off my crankset, bottom bracket, bottom bracket shell, and pulled out the wires from there. I could tell he had found something and he asked “how competitive are you? Like are you competing today?” I thought it was a funny question and replied we are all here to compete today! He asked a little more sternly if I was competing for kona to which I said absolutely. At the sound of this he looked me in the eye and said
“well someone tried to stop you, because this wire has been cleanly cut”
I stared in disbelief. He showed me the cut, clean and right in the middle and it was put back to make it look the same as it normally would so I would never notice. Furious, frustrated, sad, a mix of emotions came over me as I asked what he could do and what we could do. We came up with a plan to not have a front derailleur so I could have a rear. I would be stuck in a 55 tooth chainring all day (one of the biggest used on the road, you use big rings to go fast and little ones to climb hills) meaning the hills were going to be brutal today but I at least had a chance. We would have to re-route the whole bike, tape the battery to the outside of my bike, and hope it lasted for 5 hours. As he set it up for me I called my parents with the news and checked the time. It was 5:45 and the races began at 6:05. It was going to be tight. He finished up just in time and I began to fill my water bottles to prepare the bike as he finished the final touches. For some reason today I took a sip out of my bottle… I never do this but for some reason I did today and this AWFUL taste hit me. I spit it all out and tried again. Same awful taste. It was like the WarHeads sour apple spray you got as a kid had been dumped all over and inside of my bottle. I told Alexa just to confirm and she said she could smell it just standing there. WHAT THE HELL. ?!? I rinsed out my bottles 3 or 4 times and filled them with the proper liquid. Then we headed off to the start line after pumping up the tires. Because time was so tight, i never had time to put my bike back to where it was, the seat was not right, seat post was not right, who knows what else wasn't, but if i wanted to do this i had to get to the start line immediately. I didn’t know how the day was going to go…but I was going to finish this damn race
We started the swim and it was time to compete again. Using this anger to fuel the day. I raced a conservative but a good swim at 1:07 or so. Nothing really happened as I swam alone the whole time along side of a few other guys (sorry yes theres a boring part in here)
Transition went well and I hopped on the bike, immediately freezing. For the first few miles I just sat there while my whole body froze. The air was barely 50 and while riding around 23mph it was absolutely freezing, I held great power and found my groove. Being stuck in the 55 tooth I knew I needed to conserve some energy for the 3 big climbs in the course. I headed into the first one and it was not too bad, I joked with a few racers as I went up and it didn’t phase me much. I rolled along holding great power and came to the second one. Legs frozen and fingers not working right, I knew this was gonna be a challenge. This one required 400 watts for around 45 seconds just to get up the hill. Took a huge toll on my legs as I was aiming to stay around 180-200 today for watts. I took off on the downhill and then saw my family! Dad gave me splits to my age group guys and everyone cheering kept me going strong. I came up to the third and final hill…. This was brutal. It was a gradual increase in incline and kicked you in the face at the end. I got up to almost 500 watts just trying to stay upright on my bike. I kept clicking my shifter hoping there was another gear but it never came. I reached the top and used the next 3 miles of downhill to recover. I was out of it already and although I had been fueling and pacing great, the hills were just too much for my big ring in the front. But we pressed on to lap 2.
I started lap 2 with one goal, conserve energy so I don’t need to walk those last 2 hills. I was REALLY starting to feel the bike position was not correct. my hips were pinching, my knee was starting to hurt a little, and my ankle was not feeling good. I backed off my power and really forced myself to hold back and make sure I was eating enough. Around mile 60 I warmed up and everything started to feel better. I came to the first hill and got up with just a little extra fatigue. I used the downhill to heavily reduce my watts and recover I came to the second hill. I told myself “just two to go. Two really F)#*@ing hard minutes and you can recover the last 10 miles” I approached the hill and asked my legs for one more minute. They did not have much of a kick in them but we made it up the hill, much slower than before but we made it! Again using the downhill to recovery I took some nutrition and deep breaths. I saw my family again which was really needed as my legs were starting to feel these giant surges. ONE. LAST. HILL. I came to it knowing this would be the hardest part of my day. I started up the hill, asking the legs for one last minute. There was nothing there. No answer. I literally screamed out loud in pain as I climbed this hill. Nothing left in the legs, 95 miles in, and I was asking everything I had from my legs. I crested the hill and let out a big scream. i also cried a little because I was so happy i made it and was done with these hills. I did not pedal for almost 2 miles after this. I had nothing left. I coasted and pedaled easy for another 5 miles just trying to get home. I was over being on the bike and didn’t care about anything but getting off it. The last few small hills felt like they tripled in size as I struggled to climb anything. I slowly crept into town and made it to transition. 4:57:44. Good enough for today haha
Now for the “run” I came out of transition and felt decent. The legs were weak, and not stable. I took a few bad steps and my hip began to hurt. I knew I was in for a long day. The first few miles I was able to run and jog but around mile 3 the pain began to be too much. I walked basically from mile 3 to mile 26. Miles 3-6 I tried to run at least a quarter of each mile to keep times decent and not be on course too long. By mile 6 I was having no part of that running thing. I decided to just get my moneys worth of food and beverages on course and had a 1 mile picnic 20 times! Each aid station grabbing coke and Gatorade, cookies, pretzels, chips, grapes, and just munching until the next one! I also made it my goal to say something positive to every single person I passed for the next roughly 4 or 5 hours. Just because it wasn’t my day didn’t mean I couldn’t help make someone else’s! so I cheered loud and hard for every amazing person around me. Walkers, runners, limpers, or anything in between, positive words do wonders, and everyone no matter the speed could use them. So on I went, eating, cheering, pumping people up, and limping inch by inch, foot by foot, mile by mile. I saw dad around the corner finally and he walked with me for a bit. I told him my racing day was done but I was going to be an ironman later today, that’s for sure. Just getting my money’s worth of time on the course 😉 it was nice having the company and he told me Alexa was just a couple miles back so I would probably see her in just a few more miles. Mom also walked with me for a mile and we talked about the day and she kept me company as I continued on, I gave her a hug before heading off towards the half way mark. I continued my goal of cheering on every single person and eating as much as possible, also having a blast with the volunteers and joking around all day long. At the turn around a medic asked how I was doing, I told him some ibuprofen and Tylenol would be life changing. He told me all he had was infant asprin and I said load me up! I walked while he made sure doses were right and when I returned he asked if I was a pro or trying to get to kona, I said not a pro yet and at this point kona is nowhere to be found, even if I were to skip the whole second lap. He informed me that taking this made me ineligible for a kona slot and I responded to that by asking “so how many can I get” . I was focused on finishing now. Hopefully a little less pain, not kona, not winning, just finishing. I confirmed I was not disqualified, only ineligible, which he said correct and I downed those baby asprin so fast. And off I went! Since it was a u-turn I saw Alexa was about 1.5 miles back and gave her a big hug and kiss. I and figured I would have to go a little faster if I wanted to have a chance of making it to the finish with her which i thought would be super cool since we were both having off days. I decided to run a little bit. My watch was set to give me splits every half mile, so I decided I would walk 0.4 and run 0.1. which was about all I could manage. I kept this up until mile 14 and my hip slowly started to loosen up, so I stretched it to 0.12, then 0.15, even got to 0.2 miles. But every time getting shut down by the pain. I had some great watermelon and jogged a little more until I came upon a table on the side of the path, I yelled out “ RED VINES?!?!?!?!?!? I LOVE RED VINES” the lady at the table laughed and said take them all! To which I gave an evil grin and said “don’t you tempt me. I got a 3 hour walk still. I’ll kill em all” She decided to change it to take a handful which I agreed to and walked off in heaven.
I walked the following 2 miles just cheering hard for all around me and saw my family again, I gave them all hugs and went off on my beautiful walk! A little later I saw someone familiar run by, it was Sam that I coached a few times in a cycling class! I caught up and felt good enough to run with him for a while (baby asprin kickin in) and we talked and caught up. We chatted about our days and helped each other along through 2 or 3 miles. My hip acted up again so I sent Sam off to go become and Ironman and rooted him on as he ran off. I knew I was finally far enough ahead where I would meet Alexa at the finish, which would be a blast and be a decent end to our not so great day. I saw Alexa at the turn around again and she was slowing down too so I gave her another hug and kiss before heading toward the finish…slowly. Still cheering on every single person I made my way to mile 23 when I saw dad again, he said I was somehow still in 4th place and if I wanted to be on the podium I probably just needed to jog it in! Honestly this was so far out of my mind and I was completely over the podium, I just wanted to finish with my girlfriend which would mean so much more than a sad 4th place time. He said she was just behind me so he ran back and jogged with her up to me! We walked/jogged together the final two miles before coming to the most memorable finish I could’ve asked for. A couple of rough days, coming together to finish together in an incredible moment crossing the line together.
Because hey, when life gives you lemons.... lots and lots of lemons..
Today had taught me so many things. It has taught me to roll with the biggest of punches. Pray when life gets hard. It taught me to fight harder, look for solutions not excuses. Finish what you started no matter what it takes. And most of all, laugh. even in the hardest of times, find that happiness. My marathon took me 22,000 more steps than usual, it was more painful than anything I had ever done. But I did it. I walked/ jogged/ hobbled 54,467 steps to be and Ironman again. Today has taught me a lot, and today is a day to remember, no matter how it started. Because it ended in a victory in my mind.
Congrats to Alexa and her dad Brett for becoming an Ironman again!! Was a blast watching you guys race and hearing about your days!
Thank you Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Hunter, Miranda, and Eva who came all the way out here to almost not watch me race, your unwavering support is amazing. I cant express how much this means to me.
Thank you Ayla and April for running around like crazy all day for us too!!
Thank you all for your prayers, thoughts, support, love. I am so beyond grateful to have so many of you out there that truly care about me. Your prayers were heard and felt throughout the long day. Thank you to all my sponsors that made this day possible, even with the problems you guys are just another support system I am so grateful to have picking me back up and getting me going again!
Scheels, Bell Bank, Bicycle Makeover, Sanford Health, and American Family – Chris Heise agency. You are all awesome! i was so proud to represent you for those 12 long hours.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you enjoyed the read as much as I enjoyed being out there!
I have filed with the regional director of ironman to have this thoroughly looked at and it will have severe punishment for the person that did this. Probably (and hopefully) never race ironman or any USAT race ever again. For those asking, there is security at the event and especially at the bike racks. Only athletes are allowed in, which means it was done by a competitor. As for how closely they are watching, there are over 1000 bikes there and we were ALL in and out working on our bikes all day, it would be very easy for someone to pretend my bike was theirs and pretend they were “working on it” and it would look totally normal. We are looking into this in the coming weeks and again we have narrowed it down some, so ironman will be helping me figure this out. I have nothing but the greatest respect for anyone that attempts anything like Ironman and I hope I have not wronged anyone to the point where they feel vandalizing my bike is justified in any way, and in turn ruining the thousands of dollars I have spent on this race in time, entry fees, hotels, transportation, time off work, etc.. I will keep you all posted on the results and updates on what is going on with this.
Thank you again for taking the time to read all of this!