This is a trip I will never forget. My family decided to take a RV trip down to Tennessee to this race, we thought it would be a fun time and a great way to travel down! Little did we know we were in for the trip of a lifetime! We picked up the RV on Wednesday, and from there we planned to drive to Rockford Illinois. Our generator went out 30 minutes into using it and after numerous calls, texts, youtube videos, etc, trying to fix it… no luck. We made it to Rockford and as we pulled into the campsite we realized IT WAS CLOSED. They took our reservation but didn’t tell us we needed to be there by 8pm. So we ended up in a Walmart parking lot (still no generator). The next day we drove to Nashville TN all still without a generator, upon arriving in Nashville we went straight to the KOA, plugged into our site and charged everything and made food!! We played a little yard chess and checkers and jumped on a trampoline pillow until Hunter ripped his foot open so we called it a night and went to bed, In the morning we went to a Cummins dealer (ask mom to pronounce “cummins”… its hilarious :D) and they were awesome enough to drop everything and fix it for us while we ate waffles! After getting it fixed we went to Chattanooga! The drive was so beautiful the whole way. After arriving in Chattanooga we went to the river to swim and see how strong it was. I loved swimming in the river! I went for a quick jog and we set up camp for the night….where we soon realized we lost the keys that open all of our hook ups so we couldn’t plug in! ended up having to call a locksmith to make us a few extra keys. FINALLY got hooked into a camp site and to bed! The following day was bike check in so we went to the landing and I set up my bike, attended the athlete briefing, the pro panel, and got my Normatec compression therapy in! After going to church downtown (and praying I made it out in one piece) we headed back to camp and it was time to rest! I spent all day tracking the awesome runners in the Fargo Marathon. I was a little jealous as I hadn’t missed that race in years. Shout out to all the amazing athletes that competed in Fargo! Blake crushed a new PR, Steffan knocked his race out of the park, Leigh and April both had great halfs, Ivan Gave up juggling to take on a full and performed well!, Anthony and josh both rocked the half, Jessica killed it for her half, and there are SOOO many more of you that were a blast to watch. This was a great fuel to my fire and got me so excited to race! That night I had a quick chat with Corey who was racing the next day as well, we wished each other well and talked briefly about goals and the courses we were about to face, then it was bedtime with a massive day ahead!
Woke up at 3:30. Being in a RV we needed to get to town early if we ever wanted a chance to find a spot. I got dropped off in the village and mom happened to find a spot a block away from the village!! I set everything up and, went through transition mentally a few times, grabbed a morning bag, dropped my extra stuff off at the RV and went to the bus that brought us across river to the start. The bus was a little tense and it really helped get me into the racing mindset. My stomach turned a little bit and my body set up for a race! After arriving across river I went to the bathroom for the first time (my body empties before races, no excess weight for 70.3 miles!) and then I went to set up in line for the swim! I had NO idea what to expect out of myself for the swim. I set up at the 33-35 minute sign. I looked around and thought to myself “ok I know I can outswim these people” so I moved to the 30-33 minute sign. I did some stretches and stopped at the bathroom again. After I got through the massive line at the bathroom it was almost time to start!! So I got my body glide on, put the wetsuit bottom on, and they sang the anthem. We watched the pros head out and instantly the heart rate rose. Everyone zoned in and the people went silent. It was a rolling start so we all hopped off a dock and once you hopped your time started! I had to pee again so I peed in the wetsuit to warm it up before jumping in, threw on the goggles and before I knew it I was launching off the dock! The swim was around 200 yds up stream before heading diagonal downstream and across to the finish. In the first 200 I realized I lined up way too far back, I was swimming over, under, around everyone I saw. I got to the turn way faster than I expected and then it was all downstream from here!! I continued to pass people the next few hundred before I felt myself slow a little. At this point I took the time to focus on my form, 10 strokes per thing. I thought of all the things Ryan and Alexa had taught me and effortlessly moved up the stream of people and down the shore of the Tennessee river! Towards the end my calf cramped just a little but I still had a ton of energy left. I was saving up thinking it would be a lot longer but I was already almost done! I stopped at the bridge to look for mom before finishing up my swim around the dock and into the stairs.
Swim time : 23:38 (yeah I’m still surprised too)
The volunteers were amazing. Racine cancelled the swim so I had no idea all the amazing help you get out of the swim! Before I could realize it, I was out my wetsuit was unzipped and off my shoulders! I ran to the strippers and they had that thing off in a second! I ran to transition and it was time to test out the bike. I threw on everything I needed and headed out of transition, I was extremely worried for this as I had been having knee and ankle pain lately and didn’t want to ruin my chances of finishing. I had been trying out a new saddle that i loved, but couldnt get the position right and was in a lot of pain lately. I had just gone back to my old position and seat the day i left so this would be...interesting!
I locked my feet in and started to take off on the course. I passed a ton of people the first few miles and then a little knee pain started. I downed a little stinger waffle to calm the stomach and then sipped a little drink mix to start my nutrition. I was not going to bonk today. I took a few miles to focus on the way my knee was tracking and found the angle I needed to keep it at. Around mile 10 I saw the black and white kit and Bike I was told to watch out for! Zach Eagle blew by me and had no intentions of looking back. After backing out of the draft zone I hooked on to his wheel for a few miles but lost contact when a few riders hopped between us. I went back to my racing power zone and kept plugging away, my calf didn’t feel quite right and I was worried about how the rest would go. Not long after, around mile 20 I saw Zach hung up on the side of the road. I yelled out and asked if he was all good, I saw him go towards his front derailleur and chainring and I knew I couldn’t help much with any of that. If it’s a tire I’ll gladly stop and give out a part or help but I have no tools to help up there so I went back to plugging away and pushing out some watts! My leg slowly relaxed and I finally felt comfortable on the bike. I was out-climbing everyone, easily going up any of the rollers and small hills the course had and I started to feel great! We hit the halfway point and I did a little math, the second half was a downhill so I knew I could come in around 2:20 which was the goal. A group of us got together and took turns surging and setting the pace. We approached a small town around mile 35 and a car pulled out in front of me and then slowed down to 20mph (I was doing 28 at this point) and then puffed his cigarette out the window and shook it at me…. The group passed him and left him with some choice words. We got back to pace and just floored it towards town. Around mile 44 we hit this little hill and at the top I looked at a guy I had been riding with for 20+ miles and asked “was that it??? Was that the one everyone was worried about?” we both thought there was no way but after cresting the top and seeing the downhill we realized that was it! We sped down the back side and into town after hitting the last aid station. There was one at mile 15, 30, and 45. I took a Gu pack right before each (toasted marshmallow is the bomb) and then took water to wash it down at each station. I measured out the exact amount of fluid I needed on the bike and it was just 3 oz more than I held in my bottle I had between my arms so I took and oz or two every aid station to wash the gu down and I would be set! After the aid station there wasn’t much more talking between the group. We put the heads down and finished the strong bike. I started to catch a few female pros as we all entered town, before I knew it we took the feet out of the shoes and trotted into transition!
Finished the bike in 2:20:37, 24.2 mph
Transition was smooth and fast. I took a little extra time to make sure I was set for the run, grabbed a base salt tube and a pack of shot blocks and headed out of transition with the game face on, ready to execute. . I cruised the first mile, hit a bad hill and the thighs absolutely locked up. I was so worried this was how the whole run was going to go. I threw away the base salt tube and the shot cliff shot blocks, I absolutely HATE holding stuff in my hands while running. I keep my hands and shoulders as relaxed as possible. I hit the first aid station and took water, pretzels, water, and they had iced sponges :D threw two of those into the kit as I ran off choking on pretzels. Bad idea, wont do that again, couldn’t wait to get water. The following downhill opened up the legs and we settled in. Much better pace, much better feeling, much better form. I hit the next aid station and cleared that stupid pretzel out with water, water, and some ice down the back. Then changed the sponges out. Legs opened up again and I repeated that sequence 2 more times before realizing I needed Gatorade or something that wasn’t straight water and I had been totally forgetting. All the sudden a big kicker of a hill came up… it ruined me. I walked aid station at the top and took 2 Gatorades to make sure I was set, also took a bunch of ice down the back of the kit which was great until it went ….down. That was a …different feeling. Running across the bridges was great, felt smooth and everything was working really great. I passed Ramsey (a pro lady) and her coach kept yelling “stay with this guy and then drop him!!” I smiled at that thought but also could use the company so I kept encouraging her and even let up a little bit so we could run together shortly. Kept cruising by people and started lap two! Was holding back a little lap one so we opened up and let the legs fly. Kept seeing Ramsey’s coach which made me smile, we exchanged a few words every time I went by, I kept drilling Gatorade and water and ice until I hit little Kona for the second time. This was one of the aid stations that was Kona themed after the world championship in Kona Hawaii. I stopped to give two kids in wheelchairs some bracelets to say thank you because they made me smile so much with their enthusiasm and high fives, I started feeling a little weak so I remembered talking to Andrew "Starky" Starykowicz after Racine and I took his advice. I stopped, had a glass of coke, then Gatorade then water, then continued. It was amazing how instantly it hit me and gave me a second wind. I did the same at the next aid station and it was so much needed. Then I hit the hill again…. My thighs locked up completely. I walked up it to regain my composure and get my legs back. I walked the aid station at the top of it and took red bull. Wow was that a punch, I took off running down the back side of the hill and never stopped after that. I felt incredible after my legs opened up down the back side of it. Saw Ramseys coach again, and the best signs on the course on the far side of the bridges. My Favorites being “is that a gu in your kit or are you just happy to see me?” and “smile if you peed in your wetsuit” which I totally did so I laughed extra hard at that one. The smile fueled the last little push up the final bridge then it was downhill from there!! Under the bridge I saw the chute open up and the crowd lining the finish. I started welling up and my heart wanted to explode with happiness it was so overwhelming. I looked at my watch and realized the time I was about to post and almost cried tears of joy and pride, I had put so many hours and paychecks into this and for me to be able to post such an incredible time means so much to me. I saw my family and just had to stop. I gave them all a hug or high five and headed off to the finishers chute. I did it. And It had gone so so well.
Run time 1:24:42
Total time 4:12:51
2nd age group 18-24
2nd non-pro athlete
I had blown away all expectations I had for myself except the run leg I was hoping for a 1:20 but with how the rest went I couldn’t complain. I found mom and asked what place, she said second and my heart sank. I thought for sure I had won my age group. I looked to her phone to find out the only guy ahead of me in my age group was also the only other age group racer to finish so far… I was second overall too! My heart climbed back to happy and couldn’t wait to see if anyone bested that time or If I stayed in second. After a half hour we checked again and it was certain! I had placed second overall for age group racers. I had never imagined doing something like that and I couldn’t be happier about it. The whole experience was incredible and I am so ready to throw down in South Africa!!
I can’t thank you all enough for the support through facebook, Instagram, text, calls, etc. you people are incredible and it means so much to have so much support behind me. Thank you to my family for making the trip especially mom for driving the while 36+ hours alone as we had no other drivers.
To my sponsors once again I couldn’t have made any of this possible without you. Bell Bank, Scheels, Holden, Table rocks, Chris Heise with American Family insurance, My awesome Team at Bicycle Makeover, and Sanford health. Having you behind me is such a great feeling and I was so happy I could represent well this weekend.
The bad luck did not stop there though! The rest of the trip was capped off with Panels of the RV falling off, thunder storms the whole way home, the printer breaking when we turned in the RV as they were applying our discounts, and someone pulling out of a gas station with the nozzle still in the car :D that’s right we were the hilarious people you see in videos breaking gas pumps. To say the week was an adventure would be a huge understatement. But its family and you have to love it!
Now for the best part!!! I have a huge announcement to make.
Because I was the top 3 age group racers at a race with a Pro heat and over $20,000 cash prize,
I HAVE QUALIFIED FOR MY PRO LICENSE!!
That’s right! Next year, the 2019 season, I have the opportunity be racing as a professional triathlete. This is something that completely caught me off guard as I never thought I would reach this point this quickly. Thank you Justin Mendoza and Zach Eagle for helping me realize that I just qualified for it!! As you can tell I am still very new and had no clue until they told me. I hoped to get my pro card at some point maybe at 27 or 28 years old as I grew in experience, but to get it this early in my career and on my first full 70.3 has me speechless. I can’t wait to finish my last year as an age group athlete and I’m so excited for what the future holds! The plan going forward after receiving this news is to finish the year out as an age group athlete in all the races I have paid for and signed up for. Based on my finish in IMAZ, I will either continue one more year as an age grouper, or on the first of next year I will apply for and receive my pro license!
Thank you all for taking the time to read this and sharing this journey with me!