21 Consecutive 70.3’s in 21 Different Cities: Completed 8/16/16!!!
So this is now a reality for me. A guy who is not a paid athlete. Not receiving corporate dollars to get this done. Nor having a crew to help facilitate or mitigate logistics. Literally, my team was my small family consisting of my wife and god-cousin (filmer/editor). Luckily my in-laws surprised us up in Maine to help support the journey and hang out with the kiddos (3 and 6).
Not sure I would have believed you if you would have asked me if I could pull it off. I honestly had no clue. I had never run two 70.3’s back to back. In fact, I had never run more than 6-8 miles during my self-taught training for this journey, so there were a lot of “what if” scenarios playing out in my mind as the journey approached.
Let me back up, just a tiny bit, to explain how we handled the logistics of even getting going for a 3 week East Coast journey when we lived on the West Coast. That was simple, we sold almost everything we owned! Packed the belongings and kiddos into a truck equipped with a camper trailer and made our way East!
And why 21 days, you ask? Simple, that was as much vacation time as I’d saved up from my normal job.
So with the startup logistics handled, let’s describe the best/worst and lessons learned from such a journey.
Hands down the community responses and communication (virtual) was beyond anything I would have ever imagined. My biggest fear was being alone during the entire process, and that definitely was not the case. It was important to me to engage and keep people “in the know” with what was happening on a day to day basis. All of the social posting and comments were handled by me personally, and it was a huge thing to me to make sure people knew I was receiving their comments and responding to them. I would make the posts after each discipline (as quick as possible) and take time at the end of the day (generally at night) or bright and early the following day to respond to any comments.
Each day I would awake to excitement to see any comments and to await who may show up for the day’s efforts. I can express how humbling and grateful I was to not only receive such positivity, but also to receive company along the journey. Many of my challenges were minimized by the company and comments received from everyone. As much as I heard my journey as being “inspiring” I don’t think people realized enough that it was many of their efforts and support that kept me pushing forward each day.
This was a component that I felt I had under control. I’ve always been a “clean” eater and believed in whole food products to “fuel my engine.” I utilized mushroom products (Mushroom Matrix) for pre and post recovery and hydration, raw cacao powder (MitoXCell)for antioxidants, coconut water, as well as plant based protein (Garden of Life) and whole food bars (Perfect Bar) to supplement nutrition needs. We pre made burritos out of quinoa, vegan cheese, black and red beans, avocado and salted plantain chips. These were to be utilized for transition meals but it was quickly learned that more was needed. I received a lot of questions about my nutrition, and here was what I learned.
I ended up eating 4 complete meals through the day. Breakfast, before biking, after biking, and after finishing the run (generally dinner) and then supplementing nutrition up until bedtime. I was fairly consistent with my nutrition meals but Day 3 taught me my biggest lesson about electrolytes, more importantly my salt intake.
I had awoken on Day 3 in a fog. It had been extremely hot for days 1 and 2 and I woke up just not feeling right. The swim was at an indoor pool which was nearly 90 degrees and humid within the pool room. Not a good start. Got through the swim and began the bike, luckily having a few people with me from the community to help navigate the ride. But the reality was, I wasn’t all there. I was a bit foggy, uncoordinated and developing a migraine. My wife had seen me during a drive by hydration refuel and was concerned as to whether I would make it or not through the day. I told her I was hurting, but would continue on. At about mile 43 on the bike, we had pulled over to receive directions from the group, about an upcoming section of roads that contained some challenges. During the discussion, I had placed my head on my aero bars just to give some headrest while hearing the rest of the directions. But at that point, I teetered and tipped over. Similar to drifting off in high school during a lesson. I was able to catch myself before completely falling, but it was then that the group began to become concerned. I was ghostly in the face and the only thing I could think about was ice cream. I sent a message to an MD support who questioned my use of salt and recommended an increase in my salt intake. He also recommended taking Tylenol right away. The mothership brought Tylenol, coffee ice cream and sea salt. Roughly 7 miles later, I came back to my usual self and finished the remaining miles stronger than when I began!
From that point forward I began taking small amounts of sea salt before each discipline. Never had another issue of fogginess or disorientation.
From then, my meals were pretty consistent:
Breakfast: Generally oatmeal, with peanut butter with raw cacao powder (MitoXCell), plant protein, almond or coconut milk and dried fruits and nuts, plus a separate intake of sea salt. Also began my mushroom hydration and pre workout mushroom powder.
Pre-Bike and Pre-Run: Generally the pre made burritos with plant based shakes and more mushroom hydration. For the bike and run I would eat and/or take a long a perfect bar for the clean ingredients and relatively high caloric count (generally 300 calories for the peanut butter or carob bar). Also a small amount of sea salt was taken before the bike and run and generally again during some point of the bike and run via the mothership.
Dinner: Was the only meal that would generally be varied. Anything from pasta, to burgers but it would also contain plant based protein shakes and a raw meal shake right before bed just mainly because my body wanted fuel. I also was adamant about my recovery mushroom powders to aide in recovery which I believe made a world of difference. From my estimations I was burning between 4-6000 calories from the day’s efforts, so keeping the high octane fuel coming to my engine was key.
I believe I had awesome equipment. I chose a BMC TM01 for my bike, equipped it with Shimano Di2, 3T bars, Enve wheels and Vittoria tires. The bike worked flawlessly and believe it or not, I incurred only two flats. One of which was on the final day when I attempted a wheelie after the final ride to celebrate!
One piece of key equipment that I had utilized was a Garmin 920XT. Now this piece of equipment has more technology than I was able to absorb prior to the journey, but let me share what a little piece of magic this was.
The 920 allowed “live tracking” which was a huge sigh of relief to the mothership and a key feature to keeping me on course since almost all of the courses had been created virtually, and were changed ad hoc upon arriving to each location. The mothership could literally see my every move and correct me should I fail to remain on course. The live track feature also allowed the community to “travel with me” via virtual means which was really cool to see how many people loved that feature!
Not only did the Garmin track my distances and allow me to see how I was doing on a day to day basis, but it also allowed me to have communication with the mothership via Bluetooth connection to my phone. It ended up working like this- at almost every ride location, we altered the mapping. Mainly to keep me doing smaller loops that kept me closer to the mothership and for any needs that may arise during the efforts. Due to the ad hoc changes, the mothership could send real time text changes to me that would Bluetooth as a banner on the 920. This was another huge benefit. I would receive updates for upcoming turns, things like “L Knighthorse” 2 miles, allowed me to be on the lookout for a left hand turn and relieve me of worrying about getting lost. Another advantage was that I could send a voice message from my phone should there be unfavorable road conditions, and the mothership could redirect accordingly.
I also greatly appreciated the notification ability of the 920 which I kept at 5 mile increments on the bike which left me smaller incremental countdowns…things like (2 blips received- 9 more to go!!) It also really helped with pace to know if something was too fast and/or too slow. Especially with regards to the bike and run. The bike, if too slow, felt extremely long and taxing and if too fast, wore out my legs for the run…so keeping to the 3-3.5 hour ride effort for 56 miles seemed to be the sweet spot. With the run, right around the 2-2:15 mark for running seemed to be the mark to get it done.
This was probably the worst thing. Aside from Day 3 wherein I just felt horrible and had some nutrition issues that needed to be handled (i.e. salt), the logistics of getting to each city location with a 20+ foot camper trailer was exhaustive and demotivating. Prior to the journey, there was assumed theory that these efforts would take only half the day and the remaining half of the day would be spent enjoying time with family and seeing the various beauty each location had to offer. None of that happened. Each day was generally filled with hooking up the trailer, moving it to the next campground, unhooking it, and traveling to the start location for the journey. The first few days of it, weren’t too bad, but after that, it became a taxing chore. This was probably the biggest mistake we made with regards to this journey. Most stops involved 2-3 hours of driving, and end to end efforts times were roughly a full day’s work. Many of the campgrounds didn’t allow early arrival, so we were left adjusting start times, which ultimately ended up with me starting later, and finishing later. This then created another problem, not being able to leave to get to the next campground, as they often had check in timelines that wouldn’t allow check-in past 8,9 or 10 o’clock at night. Live and learn I guess!!
Food was also another challenge as we couldn’t store many dinner meals due to the amount of nutrition I had already placed into our camper fridge and freezer which also left us traveling to the local markets for dinner food each day.
Finally, internet was another huge dilemma. Most of my photo posts were easy to do from the phone, however we don’t have unlimited data so we had to be mindful of that, but when it came time for anything to be uploaded for video shorts, or footage, most of the campgrounds did not allow streaming. This was a major issue as we needed to transfer video footage off of the cards for the next day’s efforts as well as transfer short check in videos and go pro footage to the project dropbox for storage purposes. End result? Lots of Starbucks stops to utilize free Wi-Fi, as only a few of the campgrounds even offered streaming for a surcharge.
So what are my overall thoughts now that it has been all said and done? What are some of the most memorable spots? First and foremost, I’m in complete shock that it all got done if I’m being honest. I think I’m as surprised, if not more, than anyone who may have been unsure if I could pull it off. One comment that stuck with me before this all began, was from a podcast I had done wherein the commentators spoke after my recorded session had ended. During their conversation, they mentioned that there had been a number of people who had taken on these extreme efforts and that most of them had come from some type of accomplished racing and/or endurance background.
Heading into it all, I wasn’t sure how it would unfold, I just knew that there was a lot of pressure on me (put on by myself) due to all the sacrifices my family had made to get to the starting point of the journey. Some of the highlights were definitely the community that had come out to support me along the journey. In particular, Grimesland, NC introduced me to my first experience of being in a “peloton” which was completely foreign to me. A good friend of mine had passed away before my journey had begun, and this was his hometown. I had nervous feelings about being able to make it that far, especially because of the comments I had been receiving about what support was going to be waiting for me once I got there. That would be day 14.
Arriving we actually stayed the night before locally outside of a campground without the conveniences of air conditioning or electricity. We arrive the night before at roughly 12 midnight and awoke to start gearing up for a 9 am start. When I opened the camper door, and witnessed the amount of people and cars parked all along the cul-de-sac, I teared up. I was able to hold it in, but that day was overwhelming to me and a huge recharge for the remaining week left.
Riding with 15-20 people in a riding group brought back memories of motocross. Hearing the sounds of wheels moving, the tightness of the group and the ability to converse with multiple people along the 56 miles was incredible. I still think about that day.
New York was probably one of the most challenging days (logistically speaking), after being denied access to the ferry due to clearance issues with the trailer; we were not allowed to swim at the desired pool. Two pool locations actually shut us down for not being NY residents. The area was beautiful, but we had to adapt quickly to get going on the days efforts. It was one of the longest days with logistics and pushed us the furthest back for start times.
One of the scariest moments was in Kiawah Island wherein we were luckily allowed to swim in the lake that was going to be utilized for an upcoming race. I’m always afraid of things in the water (for those that know me) and this was no exception to the case. I was informed that there weren’t any gators in the water and that I shouldn’t be worried at all. I had a really hard time getting in the water once at the lake due to the warning signs about gators and just mentally started making up “worst case scenarios.” Was one of the longest 1.2 mile swims. Head up constantly and trying to go through what I’d do should I see a gator coming at me. Then I’d start thinking, I don’t think there is anything I could do if a gator starting coming at me! Highlight was a dog jumped in the water and did some yardage with me towards the end of my swim which made me feel a little better!
The following morning at check out, we were asked how it went, we mentioned good and that we made it through okay on the swim but that the signs were kinda scary regarding the gators. The response was that there was only one gator that they know of and that hadn’t seen him in a while….what?!!
There were also multiple days of company wherein I was lucky enough to see the determination and heart in true form. I was humbled at the company to begin with, but to see the determination to push through from all of them, was completely inspiring to me. A few people stood out that where having hard times on the runs, but they wouldn’t let them defeat them. I never wanted to drop anyone, so I’d do small out and backs or circle if they ever needed to walk. But I’d get this rush of motivation when I’d be coming back to them and see them start their run up again with me for another few miles. Can’t express enough how impactful that was. Words won’t do it justice.
Finally the last day in FL. Was definitely one of the hottest and most humid with an index of over triple digits. Due to travel logistics for our camera man, we began at 7 am sharp which put us out on the run during the middle of the day (nearest to the hottest part of the day as well). Huge company for the final day’s efforts. One couple in particular, had traveled from Texas to endure three days of efforts with me, which was just amazing. The swim and bike were amazing especially the coastal ride which was flat and didn’t encounter a ton of headwind! But the run was another story. Not much wind, and a ton of heat and humidity were taking its toll on everyone. I would do 1.5 mile out and backs to return back for the people needing ice and to drop off people needing cooling efforts as a means to not overheat. It was important to me to not leave anyone behind so most people would do portions of the run with me and then wait to cool off and join again. It was nice as it allowed variation for everyone and ample opportunity for the community to not have to suffer the entire 13.1 miles if not desiring too.
All in all it was a huge undertaking for little old me. My amazement were the responses from the community and knowing that I didn’t let anyone down (mainly myself) by driving forward day after day especially during the challenging points. Sure I had pain, fatigue and was wearing out, but inside my mind, I knew there wasn’t a question of making it to day 21, it was more of what condition would I be in on day 21 (meaning would I still be standing? Still able? etc.).
But back to the comment from the podcast referring to my lack of endurance/racing accomplishments/background. It was pointed out that I had none of that and that during the podcast and for some reason that stuck with me, and to be honest, that was the beauty of this whole thing. I have no ego; I’m nothing special to be honest. I just wanted to live up to a grand idea I had created one winter night. And to me that is what I hope is the relatable component to all of this. We are all different people, we all have different pasts and cannot be compared identically to one another, nor should we. But the fact remains, that we all have the ability within ourselves to challenge our own self-doubt and show ourselves that we can do more. It may have nothing to do with triathlon, and that’s okay, but it will have everything to do with how you feel moving forward once you gone beyond whatever limits you may have set for yourselves. So if any part of my journey, helps shed light on something that was once thought out of reach, please relook at that, make a plan, and never let the darkness get in the way of driving forward towards it.
Oh yeah, and along the way, crush it with a smile!