Going into the week I still wasn't sure what I wanted to do for the rest of the year. Part of me wanted to train hard and get back into shape and part of me wanted to just take the rest of the year off and get going again in December for next year to compete as an amateur. I was really at a Crossroads. I put in so much time training and with my kids getting older I don't want to miss out on watching them grow up. I've been able to balance it well up to this point but know it will only get more busy as they get into more actvities as they grow older. From the day in 2008 when I decided to go all-in to find out my potential in the sport of triathlon I have always had 3 things I said would get me to cut back the training and resume normal life as an amateur triathlete, husband, father, and teacher. I knew it would be time to scale things back if any of the following ever occurred...
1. Training got in the way of my committments to being a great husband and father
2. Training became something that I viewed as a chore and didn't look forward to...i.e...It wasn't fun to train
3. I saw my progress as an athlete coming to a halt (I felt like I had reached the end of my rope improvement-wise)
Last week as I considered those three things I was finding that 2 of the 3 had occurred. I felt like I hadn't really improved so far in 2012. A season that started off with so much promise and had me thinking I was going to shatter my 2011 performances had really fizzled out. The training that accompanied the races was also becoming something I did not look forward to. Even after my week off a few weeks back I was still really struggling mentally. My confidence I guess you could say had reached rock bottom and I am one that realizes the importance of confidence when it comes to big races.
I was signed up to compete in the Crossroads Triathlon in DeWitt, Iowa on Saturday. On Friday I wasn't sure I wanted to do this. I had trained with my good buddy Adam Bohach who was in town Monday through Wednesday. Adam just kicked my butt in everything we did. I was worn out. We ran intervals on Wednesday and he was running circles around me. I went to the Wednesday night group ride that I had always felt so strong on early in the summer and I got dropped while about 12 people remained in the front group including a local female rider. It wasn't even a very fast ride by the Wednesday night standards. I really didn't think I should be racing and almost decided not to. I had some super deep quad soreness stemming from plyometrics last week and then running the Bix on Saturday. Every step of my running was sore. I went to see Dr. Kaminski on Thursday to help relieve that and then coupled it with a massage from Mike Eskridge at the Life Fitness Center in Bettendorf on Friday morning. Mike has great rates at $25.00 for 30 minutes or $45.00 for 1 hour appointments. Give him a call if you are looking for a massage. His contact info is located on the home page of my blog under sponsors. On Friday night I opted not to get my bike ready or pack my bags incase I decided not to race on Saturday morning. I set the alarm for 4:00 am. When the alarm sounded I decided to give it one more go this year and perhaps call it a season after the race. I got the Zipp 808 front wheel and Zipp sub-9 disc put on the bike and got my Xterra bag packed and loaded the car before driving to the race site. I warmed up about 5 miles on the bike and did 10x30 sec. hard to get my legs going. I then ran about 1.5 miles before putting on the Xterra Vendetta wetsuit.
SWIM: I went in the 2nd wave behind the females 30 and under. We started 3 minutes behind them. I have only swam 4 times in Racine 70.3. I was wearing my size Medium Vendetta because I am too big to fit into my size small right now. I am about 15 lbs. over normal race weight and that was part of my lack of confidence. I also couldn't fit any race jersey on so I went with just the Kiwami race bottoms. Knowing that my swim fitness was not going to be good I knew it would be important to not start out too fast. I wanted to concentrate on long smooth strokes that my swim coach Stacey Zapolski always preaches. When the gun sounded I took off into a nice comfortable rhythm and found myself at the front of the wave. I did my best to site well but the humidity caused my goggles to fog a lot and I don't think I took the best line to the turn bouey but it wasn't terrible. I got to the first turn and started passing some of the females from the wave ahead. I stayed in a comfortable rhythm to the end of the swim and exited 1st in my wave with a time of 7:26. The overall ranking was 6th out of 140 athletes. I was very happy with that given my recent committment to swimming. I maybe cost myself 20 seconds from what I could have swam a month ago but that 20 seconds was worth the countless hours I saved not going to the pool.
BIKE: I had a good transition onto the bike and I started shifting to harder gears. I took in fluids which is very easy with the Specialized Shiv since the water is held inside the frame and it's easy to drink from the straw that comes out of the fluid reservoir. I don't have to carry any bottles in a sprint which is nice to cut down on wind drag created by bottles and bottle holders. I got to the turnaround and was averaging 24.5 mph which I didn't think too highly of but after getting dropped on Wednesday night's ride I wasn't expecting a whole lot. At the turn is when things began to change. Immediately after turning I could tell I had a wind at my back. This was encouraging knowing I had just averaged 24.5 into a wind I didn't realize I was riding into. I continued shifting to bigger gears and even stayed in my aero position up every hill. I could tell I was putting more power into the pedals than I have had in months. I was riding back at 28-30 mph and began to really feel good about things. We made a right hand turn at mile 10 and headed into town. I knew there was one big climb ahead. Even this climb didn't seem tough and I stayed aero the entire time powering up it in a big gear. I clicked through my computer settings to my bike time and saw I was having a ride that was faster than last year. Last year I came into this race in tip-top shape probably at the peak of my fitness all season. Now here I was overweight and out of shape putting up a better bike time. I finished the ride with an average speed of 26.2 mph which was the fastest of the race. I still had some questions to answer with the run to come.
RUN: I have only run 5 times since Racine so I didn't know how this was going to go. My last run had been on Wednesday when Adam just killed me on an interval session. I was thinking during the week there was a chance I would run a 20 minute 5k. I put on the GPS and headed out just trying to find some kind of rhythm. I checked my time through the mile and I was at 5:40 which was better than I expected. After that I found myself getting into an even faster rhythm. At one point I was running just under 5:10 pace. After the turnaround it was about 4 minutes before I saw anyone so I knew I was ahead of everyone who started in the waves behind me by over a minute so I relaxed just a bit but still tried to stay fast knowing I was racing far ahead of where I thought I would be. Last year I ran this course in 16:38 when I was at my best. This year I finished the 5k in 17:04 which was the 2nd fastest run of the day. I was really thrilled by it. Complete results with splits from the race can be found by clicking here. The race was extremely well run by new director Kevin Benes. It was awesome seeing so many people out there competing.
I know I'm a LONG way from peak fitness and for me to race that well was a VERY good lesson learned. I learned that a fat, out-of-shape Jeff Paul that is not overtrained may be nearly as good as a learn, super-fit Jeff Paul that is overtrained. My finish time was 1 hr. 15 seconds which was 5 seconds faster than last year although the swim last year was long so I would have been about 20 seconds slower if that was evened out. Either way, I'll take that. I went from almost calling it a season to being super excited about getting back in shape for some fall races. Part of my problem was not having a race plan for the fall. I do now. I am going to race Branson 70.2 on September 23rd in Branson, Missouri and then come back and do a full-Ironman at either Beach 2 Battleship in North Carolina in October or Ironman Arizona in November. I know I can race extremely well at these two events if I get myself back into race shape but the biggest key factor of all is to get lean and in shape without getting myself overtrained. I will have to be extremely careful to eat healthy but eat enough to replensih the fuel I'm burning through in workouts. My longest bike ride all year had only been 80 miles until Sunday when I went out and rode 105 miles. It helped so much to have Ryan Coon and Cassidy Moulton along for the ride. Thanks guys! I went to sleep last night excited about racing in Branson and I woke up this morning with the same excitedment. I'm not sure why but life always seems more fun when you're chasing a big goal...a BIG DREAM...and I want to be on the podium in 7 weeks. Lots of work until then. I recieved a lot of support over the past few difficult weeks and I'm thankful to know there are a lot of people out there who have been inspired by the journey. It means more than any medals, titles, or any ranking. Thanks for reading! DREAM BIG!