Let’s face it, endurance athletes in general and triathletes in particular are a bit nutty. Although not as nutty as open water swimmers. Those people are whacko. But we all must be a bit nutty. Why else would we put ourselves through self-induced, bodily torture?
My last triathlon of the season was supposed to be Rev3 Pocono. This would be the first year Rev3 would be holding the Pocono race formerly held by Ironman. As it turns out this will also be the last year Rev3 is holding the Pocono race since Rev3 is becoming Challenge in 2015.
Shortly after Ironman Lake Placid I had decided I should probably do something else for the 2014 season so had signed up for the Olympic event at Pocono. Training continued as normal under the tutelage of Coach Criag Sheckler of Endurance Multisport. But mentally something changed. You see, long before I was a runner, or triathlete I was a hunter. Back in January I had committed to going elk hunting in Colorado with my best hunting buddy Joe. The hunt was to be in September during the elk rut (breeding season). As the spring and summer wore on and the realities of the time and money commitment needed for Ironman training hit home, I realized that my choice probably had to be either Ironman or elk hunting. I really couldn’t see being absent from home 75% of the time for Ironman training and then telling my lovely wife “See ya Honey. I’m heading off on my own to Colorado for a week to go elk hunting”. So I gracefully bowed out of elk hunting and felt like I was okay with it.
Fast forward to September: Each morning as I headed to the pool for a swim, or pedaled away the early morning darkness on the bike trainer the thought of packing up for an elk hunt pressed at the back of my mind. Running was the hardest. We had a cool September and there were many mornings I’d head into the darkness with stars over head and a chill in the air where I would almost pause to listen for the plaintive bugle of a love-crazy bull elk. I was and am over-the-moon about completing my first Ironman and I proudly wear the label . . . but I was sure going to miss not going elk hunting with my friend.
Race week rolled around. Janice busily packed our little RV that would be our home for race weekend. I drug my feet. Finally, Thursday night I loaded up some clothes, got together the various triathlon gear, and got ready for the weekend. Well, at least I had all the stuff for the weekend. Still, I was not feeling race-motivated. Joe and another friend, John, would be leaving for Colorado just a few hours before we left for the Poconos. I really wished I was going with them. I didn’t feel like racing and felt like I was really letting my companions down. Hunting elk in the rut is much more of a team sport with a caller and a couple shooters. Additionally, Joe & John had helped me pack out my last elk which is no easy task. I wished I would be there for them. My heart would be in the Rockies and not in the Poconos.
Still I pressed forward and we left Friday afternoon for the Delaware Water Gap KOA. The ride North & East and the campground both turned out to be very nice. Saturday morning dawned with heavy clouds and rain. After a short bike ride, we headed for packet pick-up. I was still not sure about racing. In fact, I was hoping for some reason not to. I figured if nothing else, I’d pick up my $120.00 shirt. For some reason, US athletes flock to WTC/Ironman events and nothing else. There were not a lot of athletes at registration. It looked like a small, local race vs. a nationally promoted event. But I got through packet pick-up (minus the timing chip), and found friends Steph Burke, Ginny Cataldi, and Nicole LeVine hanging out at the expo. We kicked around for a bit while I debated about getting my timing chip and finally I turned to Janice and said. “Okay. Let’s go. I just don’t feel like racing tomorrow”. And that was that.
Were it a simple running event, I probably would have raced. Even if I were able to make a game-day decision about racing I may have raced. But the Pocono event has an added layer of complication in that it has split transitions requiring pre-racking your bike at the swim start on Saturday, a bus ride Sunday morning (or two depending on parking), etc. In reality none of this is a big deal and I’m sure it went fine for all but it was just the excuse I needed to put my already-non-race mentality over the top. A week later, looking back, I know it was absolutely the right decision. My fitness was pretty good. Looking at the results I think I would have been on the podium for my age group. But no regrets at all. In fact, I have been much more fascinated with the daily texts from my buddy Joe on whether or not they have had any luck that day.
Now, I am NOT going to make willingly not racing a habit. In fact, I’m looking forward to burning it up at Hagerstown Duathlon #2 in October. That will be a Saturday in deer season. I’m good with it. The deer can wait.
I’m fairly confident that you will hunt Elk with Joe and I next year, think we both wished you had been with us. We held hope till the last minute, Be forewarned, kidnapping you is a possibility.