Thursday, April 5, 2012

Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome (Oceanside 70.3)

We had a great week in California as a family.  After a few days at Disneyland we made our way to Oceanside in preparation for the first race of the season for RODS Racing.  The last 4 months have been filled with some very serious training.  This was to be my 3rd half Ironman and my first time racing the Oceanside course and my first time racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome.

The weather was overcast with a misty feel to it.  Tempature was around 55 degrees with an expected high of 63 for the day, perfect for racing.  Race morning started at 3:30AM for me.  Not necessarily because I needed to get up at that time, but the anticipation to get to race was ever present.  I remember feeling this way when I was a young kid on Christmas day as I waited for my Mom and Dad to wake up. 

I rode my bike down to T1 from where we were staying.  The transition area was brightly lit.  Athletes were filing in pretty heavily when I got there.  I immediately started to setup and the pre race excitement continued to grow.  It would soon be time to put the months of training to the test.


My wave was number 21 out of 22.  There was almost 3,000 athletes that would start before me.  Total wait time was 1 hour and 5 minutes from the time the pros started to when we got in the water.  It was hard to see athletes start, finish and be on the bike course before I even finished putting my wetsuit on.

I passed the time by listening to some songs that I typically trained to.  Songs such as How Far We've Come by Matchbox 20, This Town by O.A.R, Watching You by Rodney Atkins, and of course Hearts on Fire by John Cafferty.  I also took a moment to think of why I was doing what I was doing.  I thought of Eli, Megan and Maggie, our little orphans across the world that we've been trying to help.  I knew that no matter how hard the race got, I would not give up because these kids depended on me.  The anticipation was building.

Finally, it's go time.  As I entered the water, I was reminded that indeed this was salt water and it was chilly, around 57 degrees.  We swam out to the start line and before I knew it, the gun went off.  We were off and the race had started.

I felt I had improved greatly in the offseason as a swimmer, but for whatever reason, things were not clicking that morning.  There was a lot of contact with slower swimmers from other waves and as we got out to the turn around we were dealing with heavy ocean swells.  I felt comfortable the entire time, but this was definitely a different element.  Swimming back to the bay I knew I wasn't going to have a good time, but I knew my best disciplines were still to come.

I came out of the water and sure enough, I didn't have a good swim.  38 minutes flat.  I didn't allow it to get in my head and I committed right then and there that I would put the swim behind me and only focus on the rest of the race. 

The bike transition was smooth and before I knew it I was on the course.  My legs felt great and being at the very back of the pack because of my wave start time, I started to pass a lot of cyclists.  This always builds confidence and this went on the entire bike course. 

Conditions were perfect throughout the bike course, but it was very congested with other cyclists.  This made it difficult to pass in many of the tight spots as well as the no pass zones on a few of the downhills.  I had a lot of fun on the course and felt great throughout the entire 56 miles.  Most of the bike course was on the military base Camp Pendleton which was very cool.  Lot's of great scenery and some fun and challenging climbs.

Coming back into town I encountered a slight headwind, but still felt good.  Total bike time was 2 hours 38 minutes.  Average speed was 21.3 and my average wattage was 256.  Not my best bike time, but I'll take it!

Now on to the run.  This was the wildcard for me.  I've had more focus on the run this offseason than any other discipline and I wasn't exactly sure what to expect.  My best run time prior to Oceanside was 1 hour 47 minutes (8:15 pace).   

Jumping off the bike is always a moment of truth.  You never know how the legs are going to feel.  Luckily my legs still felt great and the conditions were still perfect, overcast and cool.  Off to the run course I went.  I focused on taking it fairly easy in the first few miles but noticed my average was great.  I continued to feel good so I continued to pick up the pace.  By 7 miles in I knew I had a good thing going.  It was the fastest I'd ever ran in a race and still had a lot of gas in the tank.  I focused on keeping hydrated and my nutrition was dialed in with the power gels I was eating every 3 or 4 miles. 

Throughout the run I kept seeing my family. Seeing my beautiful wife and 3 adorable kids is fuel in and of itself.  Race day can be a long day not just for the athletes but also for their families.  Between naps, temper tantrums and messy faces, my family always seem to be cheering louder than anybody out there.  Andrea is always so supportive of me and the time that's required for training. She never complains when I'm turning lights on at 4:25am when I can't find my shoes or swim bag. I love it when Brynlee, Nash and Ridge poke their heads in the room while I'm biking or running on the treadmill and tell me good morning. We all get a kick out of high fiving and cheering Dad on each morning.

At mile 8 I decided to turn it on.  I kept my pace below the 7:00/mile average and kept picking it up each mile.  My last mile was at a 6:32 pace.  I had to dig deep those last few miles, but things were clicking very well.  The months of training were paying off.  Final run time was 1 hour 32 minutes (7:02 average)

Down the stretch I didn't have any idea what my overall time was going to be.  I set a goal for the year to break 5 hours.  I knew it might be close so I just kept pushing harder and harder.  When the final time was posted I saw I came in at 4 hours 53 minutes!  It was exciting and certainly has fueled the fire to keep pushing and keep getting better.  I came in 18th out of 249 athletes in my age group.  In my mind, the seed has been planted that I can get better, much better. 

Overall it was a great experience.  The city of Oceanside were great hosts and we were lucky to get to have some great friends to spend the week with.  I'm guessing we may end up doing this family trip again someday!  I consider my first race for Orphans with Down Syndrome a success.  It was also a great warm up for the big one coming up on May 5th.  We'll see you all in St George!



lwoolf said...

I got very emotional reading your race, I am so proud that I know you and what you are doing. You have a great family! incidently-Oceanside was my first area in the Mission field. Dennis Woolf

Brady said...

Dennis, I very much appreciate your comment. We love doing this work, but the sacrifice and work you are doing in Africa right now is incredible in and of itself! Keep up the great work!

Jeana said...

Wow you did so great!! Amazing what our bodies can do, especially with such a great cause to do it for. So glad you had a great trip and that your family also survived the day :)