Ironman Wisconsin Champ!

Ironman Wisconsin Champ!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rev 3 Cedar Point-Triumph in the Face of Adversity

Sometimes the race results don't tell the full story. That was the case at my biggest race of the year this past weekend, the Rev 3 Cedar Point full-Iron distance. On paper it's another solid 5th place, but nothing ground breaking compared to what I've already done this summer. However, with the adversity and total mental breakdown I had to endure for several hours mid-race, and the fact that I went through what I did and still came out with a top-5 finish and new PR, this was by far my best performance of the year, one of my best races ever, and I'd have to say my most proud race result ever. As they say, this is one of those races where you really learn something about yourself.

I went into this race very confident, the most confident I've been heading into a race since my 2008 season.  I knew from training I was very fit, I felt I was peaking perfect, in fact everything seemed and felt perfect heading in which is quite rare in my experience.  I've never been one to talk a big game so I surprised myself Saturday evening when I made the comment to someone, "this will be my last race flying under the radar".  Slept great Saturday night, another rarity for Ironman, most of my typical Ironman nerves were transformed into confidence.

Swim:  51:56  7th fastest split
Not much to report in the swim, it was both good and bad.  Good in the fact that my swim training had gone well in the lead up to the race and I am my most swim-fit of year right now.  Bad in the fact that I swam alone the entire way, no feet to draft.  With only about 16 pro men in this race I knew the race would likely be very spread out as the day wore on so I was mentally prepared to do long solo efforts.  All in all it was fine and I was onto the bike in 7th and very much within striking distance of the race.

Bike:  4:51:52  24.3mph
I went in with the attitude that this race was about taking risks and dealing with the results of those risks.  I took that attitude onto the bike and set out to make this race mine right from mile 1.  I steadily passed, and dropped, riders through the first hour (thank you stagger rule for keeping any packs from forming in the men's pro race) and went through 40k in a hair over an hour.  Through the first checkpoint on the bike I had ridden within a minute of the fastest cyclist and was only around 4 minutes off the lead.  Things were going exactly as I would have scripted up.  Then, while riding solo in 5th place at mile 45, I came to the corner which, unfortunately, played a big role in the men's pro race.  Long story short, there had to be a last second course change in the final days leading up to the race, the course was rerouted after being marked, and all arrows were accounted for......except one.  The corner didn't feel right to me when I got to it, the entire course was staffed very well and this corner had nobody, just an arrow on the road.  I thought about stopping but didn't know if 6th place was 1 or 8 minutes behind, plus the next racer wouldn't know any better than I what to do.  I went with my instinct and followed the arrow.  The two race leaders went through with a moto escort thus ignored the arrow.  Of the next 14 pro men to hit the corner without an escort, about half went off course anywhere from 4-6 miles.  One of the unfortunate things that sometimes happens in triathlon is that when there's a problem on the course nobody is aware of, it's the first riders through who "discover" it and it is quickly fixed.  This errant arrow was discovered and removed by the time the pro women hit the corner, but of course by then the damage was done.  An extra 6 mile loop I rode without even realizing I was off course.  To throw salt in the wound, the one and only big climb I encountered all day was during the 6 miles extra I rode.  Eventually the loop put me back on the course, I started seeing volunteers again, and I was pretty sure I had ridden correctly.  Then I went past the 50 mile marker with my computer reading 56 miles.  Not long after I started passing athletes who I knew were well behind me all along.  I became extremely angry and enraged, I didn't know what I was angry at, but I could not believe this was really happening.  There were so many thoughts going through my head I didn't know what I should do, didn't know what place I was in.  I put serious thought into pulling the plug and dropping out.  I had entered the Syracuse 70.3 next weekend as a backup plan in case something went awry in Sandusky and I certainly thought this qualified.  I decided I should continue on until I found out what place I was in.  The last 2.5 hours of the bike were a complete mental collapse, I could not move on from what had happened, I just kept focusing on and asking how this could happen in my biggest race of the year, feeling so sorry for myself-why me, why this race?  If this happened in a sprint or a half I could just make up for it in the next race, but Ironman is different, you can't just jump in one the next week, you have to make the races you do count, you can only do so many.  I kept telling myself that losing 15 minutes in an Ironman does not mean a lost race, but try as hard as I could, I could not get my mind back into the moment of the race.  And then as the pain of Ironman set in around mile 80, my mental state made the difficulty of Ironman so much harder.  There was so much negativity going on in my head and I could not get any information about what place I was in or if others went off course too.  I just soldiered on.  Physically I was starting to feel the hard early pace I set and I wasn't in the mental state to battle, I completely surrendered to the suffering, and faded badly the last hour.  Every time I passed a mile marker I was reminded of what happened and that I had 6 additional miles to ride, it was absolutely mind crushing.  I checked my computer as it clicked 112 miles and I had ridden it in 4:37, almost exactly what I had targeted for myself the day before.  And I had ridden that split in the mental state I was in and while knowing I had to go 118, not 112.  I thought about how I should be in T2, how energized and motivated I would have been to come off the bike in that split.  Instead I had 6 more miles on the bike.  In the end I rode 118 miles in 4:51, 24.3mph.  Looking back through the results, and taking away the miscue, I was probably the 4th best cyclist on the day.

Run:  3:01:11  3rd fastest split
In the T2 changing tent I was told 6th place which I didn't believe at first.  Then starting the marathon I had several spectators tell me 6th place.  Suddenly I became elated and excited that through everything I had the opportunity to salvage a sizable paycheck.  The legs were not there initially and it took a while to become a runner.  Once I got going I was able to click off 6:30ish pace all the while keeping in mind that my big focus for this marathon was the second half which has been my downfall in my first two Ironmans.  Following Lake Placid I did a complete nutrition overhaul (posted in full below) solely geared towards the last 13 miles of the marathon.  I missed my official half split but it was 1:27/28.  The last 13 miles I relied a lot on coke and caffeinated gels, and I've become a fan of both.  I moved up one spot and at mile 21 was just a minute down, and gaining, on 4th place.  I ran miles 21-23 really hard but then the wheels came off and I had only pulled back a few additional seconds.  One of my big goals for this race was to run my first ever sub-3 marathon and with two miles to go I think I only had run 7:30ish pace to do so.  But having gone through everything I had gone through, persevered, and salvaged a good result and payday when I thought there would be none, I decided that I just wanted to take the last 2 miles to myself, smell the roses, and take everything in.  There will be more chances to run sub-3 marathons when I'm racing for position.  I was really happy, totally relieved, and especially proud of what I had done as I approached the finish.  Turning into the finish chute I saw 8:48 on the clock and just laughed that through everything here I am setting my PR and going 4 minutes faster than this same race last year.  I ended up running the second half in 1:33/34 which is by far my best split marathon ever, still room for improvement though.

Overall:  8:48:29  5th place
Of those who went off course, 'I think' just 3 finished and those 3 were rewarded with 2-4-5 place overall finishes.  All of us were really happy, and not one negative word was spoken from anyone, even Chris McDonald who rode the same 6 mile loop as I and ended up just 5 minutes away from winning the whole thing.  From looking at splits and comparing what I saw on my computer I'm pretty certain that I added about 14 minutes to my bike which is funny because I wrote down 8:34 as my finish time the day before the race.  I won't waste time and energy trying to figure out where I 'would' have finished or in what time, but who knows what effect being mentally removed from the race for 2.5 hours had or what effect riding 6 additional miles had on my marathon in addition to the 14 minutes.  I'm just very proud that I weathered the storm, persevered, and stuck it out.  Even with the miscue I finished just 20 minutes off the win.  My ultimate goal was a top-3 podium and I do believe that the way I performed was good enough for that.  I'm proud that I have my own story of not giving up and the next time someone says to me, "I dropped my nutrition on the bike and my race was ruined" I can tell my story of Cedar Point 2011. 
Looking forward, I am very fit right now.  I knew that heading in and this race only confirmed it.  48 hours after finishing the early indications are that I've recovered very well from this one, much better than Lake Placid.  My soreness is probably just half as bad as Placid and I even rode an hour Monday morning.  I give credit to an easier course and being much more fit as the reason I am feeling as good as I am.  I'll take this week very easy and then next week get to work on the "4th quarter" of my season.  I'm very fit and the focus of the 4th quarter will be entirely racing.  Excited to see what I can do.  I'm finalizing my race schedule this week but this is what it is looking like:
9/25  Westchester Tri  NY
10/2  Pocono 70.3  PA
10/9  Rev 3 South Carolina
then see how I feel and either call it a season or do some combination of the following Florida races
10/30  Miami 70.3
11/5  Ironman Florida
11/12  Clearwater 5150

I want to say a big thanks to all the volunteers and Rev 3 staff for a great race.  Congrats to all the participants, especially Bretscher Multisport athletes Dana and Julie.  Dana had a fantastic day and went 9:20 which ranked him as the 4th overall age grouper on the day and a PR by over 4 hours!  Julie, in her Iron distance debut, put together her greatest performance ever and crushed everyone's expectations with a 11:26, ranking her the 7th overall age grouper on the day!  Wow!
Finally I would just like to offer another endorsement for the Rev 3 series.  As I've been saying for over a year, unless you have a legit shot and are trying to qualify for Las Vegas or Kona, there are far more reasons to do a race in the Rev 3 series.  The Rev 3 experience is unique and fantastic, the venues are very logical (at Quassy and Cedar Point parking is within 200 meters of the start, transition, and finish), courses are fun and challenging, entry fees are lower, and you don't have to commit a full year in advance.  Imagine being able to train, assess if you are ready, and then entering without having to risk an injury forcing a DNS after you've paid $600.  But what I like most about Revolution 3 is they are in the sport for the right reasons, to promote and further the sport, and give the triathlete the best experience possible.  Making money is important with any business, but it is far from the 'only' thing with Rev 3.

Daniel Bretscher Rev 3 Cedar Point Nutrition Report
     4 Powerbars (960 cal)
     1 piece dark chocolate 88% cocoa (20 cal)
     16oz Powerbar Perform (140 cal)
     Perform drink all morning ~16oz (140 cal)
     Powergel Double Latte caffeinated gel 20min before start (110 cal)
Total Race AM:  1370 calories
Bike 118 miles:
     1 Powergel every 8 miles.  9 Vanilla/5 Double Latte Caffeine.  14 total @ 110 cal each  (1540 cal)
     100oz Powerbar Perform (875 cal)
     ~40oz Gatorade (80 cal)
Total Bike:  2500 calories
      One gel every 3 miles.  4 Vanilla/4 DL caffeine.  8 total @ 110 cal each  (880 cal)
      One cup water/one cup gatorade every mile-first 16 miles  (~600 cal very rough estimate)
      One cup water/one cup coke every mile-last 10 miles  (~400 cal estimate)
Total Run:  ~1900 calories
Total Race Calories: ~4400
Total Calories Wakeup-Race Finish:  ~5800


  1. Wow...Daniel, you got it in you. It's cool to watch in emerge.

  2. Way to go Daniel. I was tracking you all day and knew something was awry during the 2nd bike split. This should be more motivating than a better result without the adversity that you endured. The talent is there and so is the mindset. Race within yourself and I believe that I'll soon be able to say that I know an ironman (distance) Champion!
    Brandon Money

  3. Slap that 146.6 magnet on the back of your car and be proud! Daniel Bretscher, you are an Ultra Iron(distance)Man! (I'm going to © that phrase...)
    David Bea(Rachel Stoehr's husband)