So I thought I posted this but apparently I never did. Better late than never…
As soon as we arrived, I registered. It was smooth and had no issues. Not crowded at all.
Well, the trip started like most race travel. Then it started, we were going to go eat dinner, but decided not to. Thankfully, we did. Our tv caught fire. Called the hotel twice, and after 12 minutes, they told us to come down to the desk. We demanded a new room and they mad e us remove all our stuff and turn in al keys until they would give us a new room. Whatever.
We then ate dinner at Friday’s in the hotel and headed to the park for some fun. Most of the rides were cosed. No big deal.
The next day was my prep day. As soon as I was able to, I got the bike checked in, checked out the expo again, and went to the athlete meeting.
I went back to the room and packed all the bags: swim to bike, bike to run, bike special needs, run special needs, and dry clothes. I spent nearly five hours packing and repacking and going over and over trying to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Well, I did, but more on that later. In hindsight, I would pack these at home in storage ziplocks or labeled plastic bags.
At dinner, I began doing a sodium loading protocol that I’ve always done and followed it precisely. The rest of the family went to the park and enjoyed themselves. Somehow, after they all came back and there 12 people in our little room, I managed to fall asleep and slept very well…
I walked the distance to transition and set up the stuff that I had to do. It was a clean transition, so there wasn’t much to do. During the walk, I began my caffeine loading protocol.
While in transition, I heard them announce that the swim was, indeed, moving to the marina instead of the normal swim location.
I decided the night before to add my Generation Ucan to my bottles on race day unlike any other race day. Since my bottles were still frozen, I figured I walk my backpack, etc. back to the hotel since I still had a significant amount of time to wait.
The swim was moved from the lake to the marina. No big deal. It was actually better because it was a time trial start instead of a mass start. It made it even nicer because you didn’t get beat up.
The swim went perfect for me. The cross thru to get back to the channel was extremely choppy. However, thanks to practicing in the chop at the lake, I was used to being able to adjust my breathing to manage through it. The best thing about swimming in the marina was the channel afforded you great sighting. All you had to do was look left and right to see where you were. If there wasn’t anything on your left side with a few yards, TURN LEFT! It was that simple!
During races, you witness a lot of things and make comments to yourself. One of the things I saw was a woman lost her swim cap and I thought to myself, “look how stupid! Who loses their swim cap in the water?! How is that even possible?!” Well, as I got out of the water, I reached to get my swim cap off and realized I had no swim cap! Apparently, when I took a stroke, my thumb and caught the back of it and I peeled it off my head without even noticing! I definitely remember striking my head with my hand but I never noticed the cap coming off! Fortunately, I had it over my goggles so it could have been much worse…
The run to the transition was half a mile. We were able to have shoes staged so I had an extra pair waiting for me. I got out the water, went to grab my cap and it was gone. No big deal. I passed the strippers, took my wetsuit off, and jumped in the shoes. I then ran the half mile to transition.
Got to the transition, grabbed my bag, and opened my bag…
CRAP! Where’s my Generation UCAN?! Ugh. That’s when I realized. I forgot to add my UCAN to the bottles on my bike! You see, due to the change in swim venue, I got all caught up in it and distracted. My bottles were still frozen so I hadn’t been able to fill them. Then when I got back from dropping my stuff off at the hotel, I forgot to do it. So I had to go with a Plan B…
I quickly got changed into a cycling top and bottoms. Yes, I didn’t wear tri shorts. I knew how long this race was going to take and didn’t think 30-60 seconds was worth ruining my race. I got lubed up with the body glide I had and was ready to rock. I just didn’t know what I was going to do about nutrition but would figure it out.
Jumped on the bike and took off. Power meter read that I was doing 140-150 watts but it sure didn’t feel like it. It felt really good and a lot less effort that power meter was reading.
Since I didn’t have any Generation Ucan, I had to adjust my nutrition. I decided to slow down, pop three caffeine SaltStick capsules at the aid stations, grab a Gatorade, drink as much as I could through the aid station, and chuck the bottle.
Everything was clicking until shortly before the first lap was over. First, a front came through bringing light rain and a significant amount of wind. This hindered everybody on the course. I just had to grind through it. Any time I turned North, the wind slammed me nearly to a halt.
Around mile 30, the Edge 810’s readings for power and cadence disappeared and never came back. Thankfully, with all the rides I have done using a power meter and cadence sensor, I had a strong idea what I was actually doing.
The next surprise was how the freshly chipped and sealed road slowed us down. We were all cruising along just fine until it came up. It felt like riding through molasses.
A few miles prior to the end of the first loop, I heard a police officer chirp his horn. I look back and who do I see? Club mate Christian Kurilko being escorted by police. He’s in first place! Christian slowed down for a minute or so told me about his race so far and gave me some words of encouragement. It was nice to see a familiar face for the first time in over four hours.
I got to the special needs station and grabbed all the Generation Ucan I had in the bag. I went to rip a packet open and, damn, it didn’t open. I had to stop and open it with both hands. I ended up getting it all over me and the bike somehow. How many times had I done this and it never happened? Of course it was only when I’m wearing all black on a black bike.
I managed to down the bottle of Ucan but after drinking mostly Gatorade all day, it wasn’t too appealing. On the other hand, the Gatorade tasted so dang sweet and syrupy. I had to take swigs of water after each drink of Gatorade because it sat so thick in my mouth afterwards.
The second loop was definitely worse than the first. The wind was relentless on the second loop and just kept getting worse as the sun got higher in the sky.
Towards the end of the last loop, there was a hard left turn. I had noticed this turn before because there was sand on it and had made a note of it. Unfortunately, the second time through I gave too much brake and almost dumped the bike. The back end swung out from underneath me, but I didn’t panic and let off the brakes and saved it. The spectators all started clapping. I guess they were impressed that I saved it. Hearing the cheering boosted my confidence.
Miles 95-105 another athlete and I started racing each other. We kept leapfrogging and while it was fun in the beginning. It became annoying quickly.
Miles 105-112 felt like I was going the wrong way. There weren’t too many signs, if any, giving you guidance and started to make me worried. Once I hit the “Cedar Point 4 miles” sign, I felt more comfortable. In addition, I could see two athletes ahead of me. Thankfully, the wind was being blocked by the dunes to the right of the road. I made it a mission to hunt down the two athletes ahead of me. So, I did. I managed to catch the first one after about two miles. I caught the last one about ½ a mile from the dismount line, right before the chute for the bikes.
Power meter and cadence never came back on.
Grabbed my bag off the hook and went into the Change Tent. Sat down, ripped my cycling shorts off and threw on my tri shorts. Thankfully I didn’t have any hot spots.
Then I realized I didn’t have any of the surgical tape that I cut the day before. I accidentally left it in the Dry Clothes bag because I had planned to put it on my aerobars so I could just put it on during the bike ride. DON’T PANIC! LOOK AROUND! Ah ha! There was cans of Tri Glide sitting on the table. I sprayed it under my armpits like deodorant to prevent any chaffing and sprayed it all over my nipples hoping it would work decent to prevent nipple chafe. Put my top on, changed to my transitional glasses, and threw my TCGa visor on. Then I grabbed my water bottle and took off.
I headed out of transition and saw my family! My son actually ran up to me ringing his Rev3 cow bell as loud as he could. Apparently he thought I was finished and wanted to run down the chute with me already.
Then I saw the aid station. A wonderful volunteer noticed by bottle and said, “Come here. You need to fill your bottle up!” Thanks, because I sure wasn’t exactly thinking about it. I got the bottle filled and took off. I also ate the peanut butter powerbar I had grabbed out of my bag since I didn’t want to start out hungry.
Surprisingly, my legs felt great off the bike. I had the slightest, dull cramp in my left hamstring which remained for the entire run.
I stuck with my plan and ran between aid stations aid stations and only drank water the first three miles. Every 45 minutes I was taking my caffeine capsules to maintain my caffeine load.
About 4-5 miles, I saw Molly, the Volunteer Coordinator, who Coach Harvey introduced me to prior to the leaving for the race. Seeing another friendly face was nice and encouraging.
I ate about 1.5 bananas throughout the first 13.1 miles. Between 3-5 miles out from the start/finish, I ran into clubmate Brittany Bankers. We slapped five and shouted encouragement to each other. She was apparently going out on her second lap.
I made it to the 13.1 miles and requested my special needs bag. I changed visors from my TCGa visor to my TriAugusta visor. I WANTED MY REWARD! I packed Sour Patch Kids in it! (It’s my favorite as well as my sons. We devour bags of those together at movies.) I walked until I finished the bag off and began running again.
And who is so cruel to put the turnaround point so close to the finish line? Seeing the finish line and having to turn around to go do another 13.1 is just a cruel, sick joke! Who does that?!
I tried my best to avoid the distance signs greater than 13 miles. I wanted to focus on the shorter distances rather than how much I had done.
At around 16 miles, I changed to SaltSticks instead of the caffeine ones so I could sleep that night. Shortly after, I started grabbing the Coke to give myself a treat.
I ran into Molly again at about 18-19 miles. Seeing a friendly face again was encouraging. I had no idea at the time, but I just ran through and destroyed “the wall” that I usually hit during training at miles 17-18.
At approximately 20 miles, I saw clubmate Christian Kurilko, his family, and friends at a Pub. Christian inquired how I was doing and his wife, Natalie, ran up and insisted on giving me a hug. I knew I was disgusting at that point so I had to laugh. Who the heck would want to do that?!
And then BAM. That’s when it hit me. The moment that I realized I was going to finish this goal that I had been training nine months four. I had less than a 10k to go. The emotions were overwhelming. I won’t lie, I started to cry. I quickly realized I needed to get over the feeling quickly because I still had another hour at least and the moment fleeted from me thankfully. I thought, “You got this. This is what most people do Saturday mornings. You have no worries. If they do it, you can do it.”
The next aid station I grabbed a pretzel stick because I wanted something different. Not necessarily needed it but wanted something to change up the monotony of the run.
More than 22 miles, what do I see? A van honking and cheering! It’s Christian and his family! I explained that I was starting to cramp, but was popping salt capsules left and right to do my best to prevent them. This was the furthest I had ran in any of my training runs but the adrenaline and caffeine was making me truly feel invincible. Christian said, “You don’t have much to go! See ya at the finish line!” and that’s exactly what I was planning on!
About mile 23, I ran into Molly again. I asked her where the next aid station was because I was out of salt. I wanted to get a little more salt in me so I didn’t cramp up before the finish line and I knew there weren’t many left.
Molly asked me if I was going to run the rest. I said, “no.” She then took a few pictures and had to leave. The volunteer hollered out, “I got ____ with your name on it.” I don’t recall what it was but I saw a portajohn at the end of the aid station, pointed to it, and said, “No, but that’s got my name on it!” Ran in quickly and peed. That’s exactly what I needed. The last bit of discomfort was gone and I felt fresh again.
I began running again. Running to the park entrance was nerve racking. I know the road had various imperfections on it. I tilted my head down to block the headlights and be able to see the imperfections. I managed to miss on the grates, etc of the road.
At about mile 24-25 I came up on the last aid station. I’m not the most religious person, but at aid station had been blaring contemporary Christian song that I’ve heard so many times in Church. The lyrics were saying “how great is our God.” That is exactly what I needed to hear, I thought, “heck yeah! I’m doing this!” The volunteers were begging me to take something from them. I kindly shook my hand “no” and just said, “thank you” to each one that I passed. They started hooting and hollering saying, “you got this” and “you’re the man!”
I made it past the special needs area and was ecstatic to see the pedestrian crossing because I knew the blue painted paving meant I was coming down the finish chute! It was so cool hearing the people scattered down the fences cheering and rattling cowbells.
I then made the turn and heard my wife, Sara, shouting, “Go Todd, GO!” and my kids screaming, “Go Daddy!” I ran up to them, stuffed my water bottle down my back, zipped my top up and said, “you ready kids?!” They took off! Sara did too! I was hoping Sara would go with me but she headed to the finish line to catch a photo. My father in law had the baby, I wanted to take her but the older kids had gotten too far down the chute for me to go back by the time I realized it was them.
We hit the last turn hand in hand just like Knoxville. Hearing the DJ announce here comes William Nixon all the way from Evans, GA was awesome. I saw Christian and his crew on the left, and Sara in front snapping photos. The DJ announced, “William Nixon… Welcome to… THE REVOLUTION!” and hit us with confetti.
I ran up and gave my wife a hug. I went up and hugged Christian. I couldn’t believe I did it. I was quite pleased with the day. I honestly thought I was going to be out there 15-16 hours according to my training. So to finish in 13:51 is simply mindboggling. It was the first race this year that I NEVER considered quitting.
140.6 miles DONE.
On a side note, I learned a very valuable lesson that day. Even if I don’t have to or may want to, I need to stick around and see my teammates and clubmates finish. I loved seeing my family there at the finish was something that I expected. However, seeing Christian, Natalie, and the gang there at my finish was something that blew my mind away. I never, in a million years, expected to see them there. I simply didn’t expect for somebody to wait that long for me. That gesture will forever be engrained in my memory and cherished forever…
And I need to thank the best coach in the world, Harvey “Slayer” Gayer. I couldn’t have done it without him. A coach, mentor, friend, and family. I don’t know how he does it but he always knows the right thing to say to me at the right time. Hard to believe that we’re 90 minutes from each other. I am blessed to have much such a wonderful person. Thank you my friend, for everything…