by Mike Roberts
I try my best not to live by a strict schedule, except for the weeks leading up to an Ironman. But my general “plan” for 2007 was, race as much as I want through June, rest for a month, then start focused training toward Ironman Florida. So, I did. Disney Marathon in January, a miserably-cold 18-hour adventure race in February, a 24-hour adventure race in March, two half marathons, a 5k and 4-mile road race, a sprint tri, and an Olympic tri. That seemed like plenty; I would take a month off, with only the Shawnee Mission Triathlon during that span. But Anita wanted to do a half ironman. And Dave already had the Cutting Edge Half Iron on his calendar, as it fit his training schedule perfectly and it was close to Carolyn’s family’s place near St. Louis.
As the date grew nearer, I thought more and more about doing it just for fun, with Anita and Dave. Anita and I both got a cold a few days before the race. She pulled the plug, but I felt OK, so she encouraged me still to go and at least keep Dave company. I hesitated and, in a NyQuil-induced haze, accidentally missed the registration deadline. The next day, two days before the race, I emailed the RD. She said, come race, bring a check. So, off we went toward St. Louis on Saturday. We arrived, and I organized my race gear at about 3:00 p.m. – all good. Dave, however, waited until 7:00 p.m., at which point he discovered that he was without a minor piece of equipment – his bike helmet. His 3-year-old son had decided to take it out of the car and hide it, literally, under the wheelbarrow. So, off to Dick’s we go, and Dave bought a $20 helmet. Luckily they had one other than the Disney Princess model, though that one would have complimented the WMS race jersey nicely.
Because race day was supposed to be 95 degrees and “very humid,” I refused Dave’s incessant attempts to get me to drink beer that night. Instead, I hydrated properly for a really hot race and was asleep by 11:00 p.m. Alarm blares at 3:10 a.m.! Throw on some clothes, grab my bag, and meet Dave in the kitchen for some final nutrition blending. Out the door by 3:30 for the two-hour drive to Effingham, Illinois. When we arrive at 5:30 a.m., there are two cars in the parking lot, and the first of several volunteers were erecting the race shelters. Pretty laid back. Very soon, more and more people started showing up. We checked in with the RD, Becca, I wrote my $110 check, we got our bibs and chips, and we unloaded our gear. For a smaller race, the organization was really quite remarkable. Dave, on the other hand, made the cardinal error of using unfamiliar equipment on race day. Namely, Scott’s tubular tri-spoke race wheels. The front was flat race morning. Tried to blow it up, but we couldn’t get the pump valve to work, and the tire would lose a lot of pressure as we removed the pump valve. So, Dave changed the tire, but we still had trouble getting air in it. Eventually, about 5 minutes before race time, Dave used CO2 to top off the tires. Cross your fingers and hope they can last 56 miles.
I go to pre-race meeting on the beach; Dave shows up soon thereafter and asks me about the swim course. I told him we had to weave in and out of the buoys, the first one on our left, the second on our right, all the way to the finish. What?!? In reality, the swim was a two-loop affair, with a beach exit between loops. Water temperature was 80, so wetsuits were banned. All the men would start knee-deep in water, swim out 50 yards, take a sharp left, and start the big loop. All the men in the first mass wave? I knew those first 50 yards would be brutal. So, Team WMS lined up in the front, with Dave right behind me, saying he’ll try to draft off me as long as possible.
Gun! Full-out sprint toward the buoy. I get there second and make an easy turn. Now, we could swim. But it got pretty rough, in a hurry. Lots of aggressive swimmers. At about 300 meters, I’m feeling good, but I see Shultz pass me. What the he