Race Coverage

"You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up"....

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By David Leard

You’re probably not going to read too many IMOO Race Reports that start off: It was lunchtime on a Thursday in July 2017, and I took a walk down to Dinky Town just to get out of the office….

I stopped into a bike shop there and discovered they had the exact Continental tires I was looking to buy for my race wheels. Later that afternoon my boss saw the tires sitting on my desk and said “Hey, I have an idea. Let’s all bring our bikes in tomorrow and go for a ride in the morning.” I agreed. He had just bought himself a new bike and was wanting to show it off to everyone.

The next morning, about a mile from our office in the Armory Building at the U of M Campus, riding along the East River Parkway and about to stop at the Franklin Ave intersection, I downshifted, and my rear derailleur swung in and clipped a spoke (I must have bumped it out of alignment bringing it in that morning). Going from 15 to 0 in nothing flat is not an experience I’d wish on anyone.

I rolled through it and bounced right back up to my feet. Playing football growing up and Airborne School in the Army have at least taught me how to hit the ground successfully. After checking that my shoulder wasn’t broken, and while waiting for my bike to stop bouncing, I told myself “That was too close. You need to sign up for another Ironman ASAP.” ...

The following morning, I woke up, got out of bed, tried to take a deep breath, and bent over in pain. Most people don’t even know they have intercostal muscles between their ribs. I’d just injured mine for the THIRD time. My 2017 Tri season had just ended.

Forward 5 months. Not being quite as young and dumb as I had been in the past, I gave my ribs plenty of time to heal this time. In December I stepped on the treadmill to attempt my first real workout since the crash. Within just a couple minutes it was apparent I couldn’t to do my normal warm-up let alone a normal work-out. That’s when the voices in my head started talking. “Well, you gave it a good run. You’ve been doing Tri’s for 14 years. Placed in your age group quite a few times, even won it in a couple local races, ran a few marathons, did the Ironman thing in 2013. Not bad. But it looks like it’s over now. You’re too old to come back from this one. And just think of what you can do with all that free time.”

Never race again? For a few moments I was hit with a wave of panic as I thought that voice might be right. Is this it? Then the other one chimed in.

“Hey, Idiot! You aren’t getting off that easy. You aren’t hurt any more and you know damn well you know how to train back from this. So, we’re just going to stay on this treadmill for another half hour and get started.”
2018 didn’t go quite as planned. In April I stepped down off a treadmill wrong and tweaked my knee. Nothing serious, but it kept me from doing long runs. No Half’s this season.

In 2019 after a successful return to Chisago Lakes Half in July, when IMOO 2020 registration opened, I jumped on it.

A few weeks into 2020, my Ironman training seemed like it was going nowhere. Then 2020 ‘went all 2020’ on us, and it didn’t immediately matter. I put the time to good use, did some research, tried a few new things, and re-designed my training plan.

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Late August 2020 I hit the hard-reset button on training for what is now Ironman Wisconsin 2021. Over the next few months things started clicking. But two things bothered me. My tune-up Half race in June got cancelled again, and I had to cut a few long bike rides short because of all the crazy 90-degree days over the summer. I opted for better to be a little undertrained on race day than to make a trip to the hospital with heat exhaustion. But overall things went well.

Race Day.

While setting up my bike in Transition, I reached down to grab a bottle of chain lube and felt something pull in my lower back. You’re kidding me.!A year of injury free training and I hurt my back on race morning setting up in Transition? I knew right away it would not be a problem on the Swim, and probably not on the Bike. But the Run… In 2013 my back was the one thing that tightened up on me unexpectedly during the Run. Well, we’ll see what happens in about 8 hours.

I had three goals for this race 1) Finish, 2) Try to beat my time 0f 12:22 from 2013, 3) Try to finish under 12 hours. Goal 3 was going to require a perfect day. “Perfect” took a big hit reaching for the chain lube.

The Swim went well. Maybe the best race swim I’ve ever had. At least it felt that way. I came in within seconds of my 2013 time.

The Bike. Three miles in I had to stop and tighten the strap on my saddle bag that popped loose in all that rough pavement at the start of the race. At least I didn’t flat. Mile 28, I bee got in my bike jersey somehow and stung me on my left side. I’m not allergic, so FIDO! (FIDO is the Army acronym for “Frack It. Drive On”) The rest of the first lap went well.

On the second lap my water bottle fell off about the same spot the bee stung me. I had to stop and retrieve that. It started raining a little and the wind picked up. The rain wasn’t bad. The wind was. Wind stayed up the rest of the way. Goals 2 and 3 slipped away. My back didn’t hurt but was probably weighing on the back of my mind. Got through all the hills. Made it back over the rough pavement and into Transition without any incidents. Time was not great, but not horrible.

For someone who prides himself on practicing his transitions before EVERY race, I knew I should have practiced this one by putting all my gear in a plastic bag and pulling it out just like I would during the race. I didn’t. I couldn’t find things that were right in front of me. It cost me time. Lesson learned. Enough said. Onto the Run.

As soon as I started off the parking ramp and ran up towards the capital building, my back started talking to me. Yeah, we’re going to have to play this one smart or it’s going to be a LONG afternoon. Got conservative and started walking the hills right from the start. Which sucked because going in I thought the Run should be my best leg.

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I started getting a slight headache early on. Couldn’t decide if I was dehydrated (didn’t think so), this was just normal, or whether it was because I had had only one cup of coffee that day and that was at 4 AM (probably). Thought about taking an Advil I was carrying but wasn’t sure if that might give me an upset stomach. (Something else to practice next time.) I accidently grabbed a Coke at one of the aid stations. Coke and other fizzy drinks have never worked well for me during or after runs. Luckily this had no ill effects.

The rest of the run went uneventful. Just keep cruising. Walk when you hit a big hill and easy through the aid stations. Pop a gel about every third one. Remember to drink. The chicken broth came out early and I was thankful of that.

I was feeling pretty good after Mile 20. My back never got any worse and seemed to loosen up during the long stretches where I was actually running. I thought about picking up the pace, but I kept getting this image of General Ackbar from “Return of the Jedi” in my head saying, “It’s a trap!” So, we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.

With a couple miles left, with the big hills done, I skipped the walking part, got into stride, and decided to cruise on in and get this over with. I knew some relatives were following on the Athlete Tracker App and I thought maybe if I went a little faster at the end, I could mess with the “ETA to Finish” and sneak through the finish line without anybody noticing me. Didn’t work. The video has been posted to Facebook.

Around the capital building and into the Finisher’s Chute. A little boy had his hand out for a High Five. I wasn’t passing that up. Got the call from Mike Reilly. Medal, shirt, hat, picture. Just get me some food and a place to sit. I’ll celebrate after that. Sometime after collecting my bike and gear and getting back to the hotel, I realized I had never actually saw my official finishing time. Didn’t much care. I’d finished. It had only taken 4 years.

Monday after driving home, while I was putting my bike away, it occurred to me that the tires on my race wheels where the same ones I bought the day before the crash in 2017. You just can’t make this stuff up.

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