LeadMan 250Epic

The triathlon gods were paying attention to the inaugural LeadMan 250Epic. They conspired to make this the toughest race possible. The tangible variables of the race being enough to warrant the ‘toughest’ title were not enough for the gods. 5 kilometers of swimming, 223 kilometers of biking with over 10,000 feet of climbing, and then a hilly 22 kilometer trail run just didn’t seal the deal for them. They turned the suffering screws to the max and added a volatile mix into the race. To make the race especially entertaining for them they worked on the details and their timing was impeccable. The triathlon gods lulled the racers for the first few hours with pleasant feel good temperatures, stunning landscapes and a subtle breeze. They knew exactly when to turn the switch. It felt personal. At mile 80 each racer utterly alone in the vast uninhabitable Nevada desert would make a turn and begin heading southwest for the next 60 miles. Here the gods made their move. First, they turned the temperature dial up; 102 degrees. Then, they turned the wind dial up; sustained 25 to 30mph with gusts up to 45mph, coming out of the southwest. EPIC.

This treacherous cocktail of distance, climbing, heat, and wind broke the spirits of many strong athletes. A few, however, remained unbroken. These select few flouted the gods and prevailed to become the first to earn the title, LeadMan.

It took something more to finish this race. More than physical and mental prowess. It took human spirit. A second chance at life? Yes, this can make one stronger and able to embolden the human spirit at levels others don’t comprehend. Jordan Rapp won his first race since coming within seconds of bleeding to death due to a hit and run accident while riding his bike. To do what he’s done and come back so quickly is a testament to the power of the human spirit. Jordan opened up a window to his motivation when he thanked Tom Sanchez for doing what nobody else at the accident scene would; save his life. He said, paraphrasing… he wanted to win the race so he could get up behind the mic and thank him. It all made sense after he said that. Jordan Rapp, the only male pro to finish took 30 minutes shy of 10 hours to finish.

Jordan is the very first to call himself a LeadMan and the second…a woman, Angela Naeth had an equally impressive race finishing an hour after Rapp. Only 14 individuals would be able to finish the race with over 40 talented athletes taking on the quest.

Angela’s tweet after the race summed up the event pretty well, “Words fall short in describing today’s @LeadmanEpic250 race, but I’ll try: A hot, hurtful hilly hurricane. The hardest thing I’ve ever done.

This race left one to ponder the great unknown, that huge abyss of biking through the expansive desert for mile after mile. It scared me a little.

The swim at Lake Mede proved to be most pleasurable, looking back now, it was heaven. A refreshing high 60’s water temperature with the sunrise in and out of clouds illuminating the sky in varying colors of sweetness. I took more than just a few moments to feel the joy of moving through the water. The hour and five minute swim was over too quickly and the bike ride forced a deeper more pronounced respect, (fear ).

It is utterly stunning the distances one can cover on a bike. We rode through valley after valley, up hills and down mountains and passed a billion sage brushes. After a few hours of racing I finally had some company around mile 50 when Jordan passed me on the bike. I was smart to continue at my comfortable pace and after a few miles was again feeling the vast emptiness of the landscape.

Coming into the Valley of Fire after 60 plus miles moves you. Its inspiring vistas have you looking left and right exploring the giant red rock formations. For the first time all day I’m forced to move into the small ring due to some steep gradients. It feels good and you are excited to see what is around the corner. Riding through the Valley of Fire will forever bore magnificent images in my mind of dreamy out-of-this-world surroundings.

All this while I’ve been drinking (roughly 26 bottles by the end), taking salt tablets and consuming calories, over 3000 by the end.

Coming out of the Valley of Fire at mile 80 a sense of foreboding creeps in. The mercury has been rising steadily and is now bursting past the 100 marker. Then, it gets menacing. Turning right, the prevailing direction back to T2, a sinister headwind greets us.

I’ve been riding for what feels like a month, if for no other reason that the vast amount of terrain we’ve covered. With 60 miles to go, pedaling what seems like 4mph and baking golden brown in the oven, survival mode sets in.

It gave me the sense of being adrift in the south pacific, a barren ocean and sky landscape for unimaginable distances. Wide open space. Wide open space that is not friendly to life. In hindsight, it is absolutely incredible what the human body is capable of; putting out the energy it does in the most unwelcome arenas.

I reached new levels of suffering and I’ve put my body through the gauntlet more than a few times. Experience has taught me to respect the determination of the mind and its ability to push the body to unhealthy places. That’s what this sport and lifestyle is all about for me; becoming stronger and healthier through these challenges. I started crossing that line and finishing was surely sending my body into a tailspin of trouble. Compromising my health is not anything I’m willing to gamble with and that left me with the only choice I had…to pull out of the race.

The race has made me stronger and I’ve gained valuable experience. To finish the race on that day with those conditions commands a lot of respect. I couldn’t do it. I will see if I can use this year’s knowledge to finish the 2012 LeadMan.

Liberating St. Anthony’s Triathlon

Saint Petersburg, Florida May 27, 2008 8:39am

A pale faced runner stumbled under the sun faltering left and then right ambling forward like a drone with bad circuits. Salt rings lined every sweating orifice and his skin glistened in the heat of the sun. His face distorted and his eyes gone, he looked wasted. The mind, barely perceptible, retreated to a limited singular focus. The lingering effect of the race tricked the mind’s determination to finish; as strong as that of running from a lion. Common sense overrides ignored; stopping meant being eaten by the horrible fangs of the hungry beast. His head swinging dangerously backwards, the legs reacted slowly to keep the scull from striking the pavement. The pace slowing to that of a crawl. Finally, mercifully, there was nothing left, no energy remaining to keep the body moving and a circuit in the brain fired the ‘kill’ switch sending the runner unconscious to the ground. The lion feasted.

In the 2008 St. Anthony Triathlon Kevin Everett passed out within sight of the finish line going out of the top 10 in the last 2 miles all the way to a night’s stay in the hospital. It was a painful experience physically with long lasting mental anxieties. However, this failure, turned into a most rewarding insight.

In the weeks and months following this incident it became a search for answers and they came from every aspect of life. At first, I thought my racing days were over but my body mended and I started piecing the puzzle together towards a healthier lifestyle. The triathlete culture is an epidemic of over training, more is better, go hard or go home mentalities. I used to be one of them. Training is an artful balance, just one slice of life’s pie. Learning to train better, not just more and harder has made all of life sweeter. Many times the best motto is to keep it fun and simple.

To train smart, most important is life being in balance. Then, it is a focus on recovery and that means sleep, nutrition, state of mind and general well being. Being a professional triathlete and fulltime coach at the Y makes every moment of the day precious for me. Time with my family, training to be healthy, and working at the Y to grow the active community fill my life with joy.

My goal in triathlon is to maximize my health, so the incident in May 2008 forced a lot of inward reflection. It has proven to be invaluable. My training improved (training smarter, not more or harder) and well within life’s balance. It amazes me that with the lack of a ‘perfect’ training week, I’m still able to compete with the real pro triathletes. I feel it must be the fun factor. Maximizing the fun factor in training and racing is paramount.

Saint Petersburg, Florida May 1, 2011 6:50am

The strongest Olympic non-drafting field ever assembled lined up in the sand ready to hurl through the light surf. There are 15 maybe even 20 international athletes with the pedigree to win the race, many of the guys are sure to be disappointed with their results when the day is over. The 50+ world class triathletes from around the globe begin sprinting to the water in a blur of colors. One athlete from Boise has something to prove to himself; that he can race well in the heat and humidity while finishing on two feet. With the high temperature getting to 89 he’d be lying if he said it didn’t worry him a little. He’d have to execute in the race, and trust his emotions would not interfere with his focus.

Having the swim being shortened to only a 1000 meters turned the highly contested swim into a sprint. The swimmers in the field were strong and abundant and the pace stayed intense. Being alert and near the front of the race we turn the last buoy and head back to shore. Matt Reed takes a hard right, right in front of me. This befuddles me. Taking a couple sightings it becomes clear that half of the field is going straight into shore while a few others are taking the intended longer angle against the current and along the buoys. I take 4 or 5 breastrokes trying to decide which way to go. These 10 seconds of hesitation is an eternity with such a strong field. I decide to go along the buoys not wanting to be told to go back for going the wrong way. I chose the slow way. Moments later the group that went straight, that I was with, start running along the beach while I’m swimming extra. I let out a mental arrrrgh!

Instead of another 500m in the swim they also changed the course to have about a ½ mile run to T1. I sprint this in an effort to make up time, nearly impossible to do against these talents. It works, I run to my bike in 2:53 just 5 seconds off Bevan Docherty’s fastest 2:48. The barefoot run on pavement flares up some plantar issues in my heel but I run this as 4th fastest for this section of the race. I am not the 4th fastest bare foot ½ miler in the field so I pushed this part to my max and then some.

Jumping on my Plasma and pedaling with urgency I ride a couple miles before putting my shoes on. Riding with Paul Mathews and Kyle Leto we can see the front group up the road dangerously close. Dangerous because it feels like one good hard effort will bridge you up, but in reality it takes a herculean effort and a few of them to close the gap. Paul surges ahead while I get my shoes on, he would make it up to the front group. Kyle and I ride in no-mans land in a desperate effort to catch up.

Nearing the half way point of the bike not much has changed apart from Kyle and me killing the cranks on our bikes. We come to a section with speed bumps and I bank hard right to miss the bump in the small section of pavement next to the gutter. Then, I come out of it too hard and slip into a rivet in the pavement. My angle to the road is defying gravity and I’m heading for a 30 plus foot skid on the road while wearing nothing but a bathing suit. My bike, my body, and my race are heading for a massive wreck. But I don’t go down. I’m so thankful and shocked; I smile and use the goodwill to pedal stronger.

Feeling stronger as the bike goes on the lead group starts to come back to us. By the time we get to T2 we have all but caught up to them. Filip Ospaly and Matt Reed start the run just as I start racking my bike and putting on my running shoes. They would go on to get 1st and 2nd, Filip running an average of 4:58 miles would run through the field.

Now comes my test and although ready for the challenge the heat and humidity high (especially coming from an unusually cold Boise spring) felt distressing, firing off warnings in my brain. I ran well and alone for the first 2 miles until Krylov Stanislov ran by. Subtly picking up my pace I stick to him like glue. Running comfortably fast we pass two athletes. Comparing breathing efforts I notice how controlled and relaxed mine is compared to the athlete we are passing. I wonder if I’m going hard enough. The heat assures me that I am.

At mile 4.5 I’ve made a milestone. I have no recollection of anything past mile marker 4 the last time I did this race, this time I’m feeling good enough. Good enough that I know I’m not going to run myself to death. This realization might have been the trigger that slowed me down but I fell off Krylov’s pace a full 45 seconds in the last 1.5 miles. This allows 3 more runners to pass me in the closing moments of the run to finish 14th. The race is hugely satisfying and recovering almost fully with in minutes of the race finish has me full of joy and accomplishment. Liberated and empowered…I had no idea how the ‘fear’ of passing out in St. Anthony’s 2008 gripped me. It was the turning point to a long journey to go back and face the fears while racing well. Amazing how ultimate ‘failures’ make you stronger.

Importantly, I’m in 9th place in the point series for getting into the Hy-Vee 1 Million dollar championship 5150 race. Only the top 25 will qualify. 5150 Series standings

St. Anthoy’s Triathlon Results