In May 2018 when building out our IRONMAN Arizona training schedule, I looked to see what races we could include in the lead up. I found a nearly half-iron distance race at Lake Mead outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. Fiona and I were there in February competing in a half marathon in Boulder City where I ran a 1:27 on the net down hill and knew the area was absolutely beautiful so we signed up at $185/entry and planned on taking another RV adventure in the last weekend of September.
As the months continued on, we were happy to be able to time the event with Fionas sister, Jennifer Collier, making her way from Stawell, Victoria, Australia to Tucson, Arizona for her first visit to see us. As a girl who likes to spend her time cycling around Thailand, Canada, and Australia, or hanging out at Chris McCormacks’ training camp, Thanyapura for months on end, I knew this former IRONMAN athlete would be keen to sign up. She opted for the Olympic Distance while Fiona and I entered the long course race which consisted of a 1.9KM Swim, 48.4mile Bike, and 12.4mile Run; essentially a half ironman swim, and the doubling of an Olympic bike/run.
2 Weeks prior we ran the Sandia Crest marathon in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was wiped out for a week and had some tightness near the top of my calf muscles; I had never been so sore in my life from the 3:17 run. Fiona also suffered with more than 2 weeks or time needed to recover. 1 Week prior we did Big Day Out. I covered 3.8km in 59minutes and biked 112miles in 4:50 at 266NP. We ran 2 hours the next day.
After a long work week, we packed up the RV and drove 6 ½ hours North from Sahuarita, Arizona to the Lake Mead RV Park 1 mile from the Race Transition. We set up the RV, drove 30min to Henderson, Nevada (site of the old 70.3 IRONMAN World Championship), and picked up our race packet. Back to the RV and I finished off a Bottle of Champagne and a packet of Rice. We had planned on veggie lasagna but it would have taken too long. In bed around 9pm, I was just so knackered.
I never slept so bad before a race. I had the chills half the night, was tossing and turning on the bunk above the cab as we let Jennifer take the bedroom. I was up every hour. When we woke 2 hours before the race start at 4:30AM I just felt awful. I had “the runs” and was in no mood to eat anything. I felt very bloated, was warm and cold at the same time. I had a banana and some of a redbull but just felt awful. I was thinking, “this is going to suck”.
We 3 headed on the bikes in the dark seeing the trail of cars depart from the highway, into the oldest Recreational National Park in the country and down towards the ever-descending Lake Mead water front. We racked out bikes in the 400meter long transition and hit the loo again. It was quite warm; around 75F in the darkness; why is this race held in September?
Wetsuit on and we started walking towards the water. It was impossible to walk on the sharp, jagged stones and with what I thought was 8 minutes to the 6:33am start was really only 5min. I ran back to transition and grabbed Fiona and my running shoes. As I ran back to the water, Fiona yelled that to me that they were calling us to the water. We put out shoes by what we thought was the unmarked swim exit. I enter the water on the rough stones and hear the countdown while I’m still trying to turn my Garmin to Triathlon mode. As I’m walking forward, the gun goes off, and I press start on my Garmin
SWIM Official 1.9km 37:16; Unofficial (2.11KM) 35:02 (2nd Overall)
The water was warm. I couldn’t believe it was wetsuit legal. And I was pissed about the hole I found in the arm of my wetsuit just before the start. I’ve been doing 30-32minute swims this year and knew I was in around 29-30 shape. As the gun blew, I swam strong with 2 other swimmers. We tried to find the line but it was rough at the start just between the 3 of us. By the first turn of the rectangle course, 1st place was 30s ahead. I dropped the 3rd place male shortly after. The first place guy couldn’t sight for shit but the course was horribly marked with small buoys that were hard to see. I sighed off the 1st place male and came out of the water in 37:16, which was 1:10 back. But, I recorded 35:02 and I had to swim towards the start line where my shoes were at. I was hoping Fiona hadn’t moved them on me. I had some of the Sprint/Olympic athletes telling me I was going the wrong way and me replying “I gotta get my shoes!”. I felt good in the water and was disappointed with the time but knew that it was long. I’m assuming my 1.9km would have been around 31:40. Note, I puked small chunks once tasting the Clif Shot Bloks I ate before the race.
I found my shoes by a generator, I was then easily able to run up the jagged rocks to transition. At my bike, Helmet on, bike shoe on, glasses on, and go. Note, since Transition was slightly up hill (old bank of the depleted Lake Mead), I opted to just put shoes on rather than try putting feet into clipped shoes; this would have been rough. Ran with bike thru transition past spectators and subsequent athletes throughout, WTF.
Bike 48.4miles, 2:42:45, Unofficial 48.6miles, 212NP/183avg, 1.16VI, 2.2w/kg, 62%IF, 3,675’ of ascend. (5th Overall)
I was so excited for this bike. Lake Mead is amazingly beautiful. The lake’s dark blue color is in stark contracts to the desert/barren landscape. And for the first 3 miles it was OK. The volunteer told me there were 9 athletes ahead of me but believed I was 2nd out of the water. Those other athletes were from the Sprint and Olympic. So, I had no idea where I was at all day. I was ticking off cyclists every 2 miles but then I was soon passed by a guy from Mexico. On he 8% descent I hit 49.4MPH. The road pavement was perfect. The winds were worse than Kona. And the heat was already 77F at 7AM. The temp averaged 85F and peaked at 91F just before the run.
After 14 miles I was “chicked” i.e. getting passed by a girl. “This should not be happening” As I failed to even catch the girl on the descent of many descents I realized “I’m just going to have to rely on my aerodynamics”. My legs had absolutely nothing; I was sick. I was trying to puke multiple times, heaving it up but only managed a little bit of chunky liquids. I had a headache and just wanted to go to bed. Then I realized I had 12.4 miles to run and I was saying out loud “This sucks!”. But then I saw a guy in a crash on a $10,000 Diamondback. (I think he was blown over since that stupid-ass bike is like a giant sail). I also saw lots of first timers and overweight people giving it a go and said “No, F that. You do this shit”. While I wanted to just quit multiple times since the legs literally had no gas in them, I knew that I wouldn’t because Triathlon is about finishing what you start. NO EXCUSES!
I continued to get passed and saw 1hr24min in Zone 1(recovery), 51min (z2 – easy/steady), 20min (tempo), and 4min at threshold. I was going so easy that even on major hills with wind I was holding 170 watts. It was depressing but I was sick; there was nothing I could do.
I didn’t eat any of the shot bloks, I had 2 bottles of Gatorade; and I knew this was going to be an even bigger issue…. I wasn’t eating and was in the midst of a 5+ hour race. Recipe for disaster.
I saw Jennifer on my Zipp Wheels, I saw Fiona out there going ok too.
I was 30min back from 1st. I should have been there or faster if my legs were functioning. My power was 35% lower than would I held for double the amount one week ago.
T2 – 2:52
I kept cleats on again since surface was rough. I had to run past a lot of idiots hanging out in transition and got to the bike. Socks and shoes on, cap, and race belt that of course ripped as soon as I put it on.
Run – 12.4 miles – 2:48:05, (13:42/mile), 1,132’ of climb (1st LAST OVERALL)
Yes, you read that right. Something I hope to NEVER EVER Have again. For Fuck Sake! So I knew my legs had absolutely nothing; they were just not firing at all. The course started on the crappy rock surface again, into strong head wind, climbed to an aid station. Tail wind, then up the road where I saw Fiona about 26min back. I yelled “Run me down, you can catch me today!”. The next aid station with lots of walking I saw Coke. I was excited and started pounding down. I kept run/walking dominated by walking. I would run 25 steps and walk 200. I would run to the next sign, then walk to the next hill. On the descent, Fiona was 16min back. By the turn around She was 6min back. She caught me walking up the hill and said she was done and would be with me for the race.
We both were shot from the Marathon, Big Day Out, and being sick. She stuck with me and we continued to walk a TON. I was still trying to puke it up, still feeling fat and bloated.
Close to the finish line, Jennifer passed Sydney off to us and we ran across the line as a family.
Fiona surprisingly finished 3rd female overall. There were only 8 female finishers, 4 DNS, and 5 DNF. I also surprisingly finished 1st in my A/G OF ONE, only 1 DNS. I finished 9th Overall of 13, 1 DSQ, 8 DNF, 12 DNS. Jennifer finished 2nd Female Overall in the Olympic and was actually 13th Overall out of 97.
I should have won this race. Looking at past results and seeing the quality of the field, I knew I had a good shot of winning. But waking up sick, destroyed all of that. Instead, it gave me a complete slugfest. One that continues to show me that I will not stop, I will continue to push forward.
The organization of this race was a bit all over the place in one of the most amazing places I’ve ever raced. And, I just do not understand the lack of Quality athletes in this field. I mean, this race is Hot, Windy, Tough, and Gritty. Why no Kona bound athletes are here is besides me. Are there no quality athletes in Nevada? This course is a challenge but I just don’t understand where everyone is. Not only was this nearly a half ironman, in a National Park, in LAS VEGAS, but the roads were perfect, the views were unrivaled, and it was Lake Mead! This race does need to be on your bucket list.
7 weeks till IRONMAN Arizona. I’m motivated to get the suck, out of this body. Back on the horse I climb.
And now with the 6 month range of a 4:29PB at Oceanside 70.3 to my worst ever race at the Las Vegas Long Course in 6:13, my message to any mid-pack and back of the pack age-grouper is simple… TRAIN TRAIN TRAIN, racing is way more fun when you are FIT and can SWIM BIKE AND RUN and Mind, Heart, and Legs all FIRING at ONCE!