Day 2 EpicDeca did not disappoint.
So, it doesn’t take long in events like these for things to get interesting. You also start to get to know the other athletes, crew, and staff, which is super fun! I got a decent 6 plus hours of sleep and woke up around 2am for a 3am race start. Oatmeal, banana, maple syrup, coffee . . . check! Again, we started with the run. Quick medical check and then had a little bit of time to see how the first day went for the other athletes. We all seemed to have similar thoughts and felt Oahu presented a challenging course.
I checked my phone quickly in the morning to find a nice message from my friend, Tara. Tara was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer a year before the start of the Deca. I believe she was actually in the hospital at the time. While literally fighting for her life, she took the time to send me a simple message of encouragement.
Side Bar Tara and Eric:
That’s who Tara was. Throughout my divorce, she would often check in on me. I never talked with her about my ongoing battle with mental health, but she always seemed able to sense I was struggling. It was never the obligatory, “how are you?” . . . it was “how are you Marc, really, how are you?”. Although only a year or two older than me, she was like a mama bear, and I one of her many cubs. More on Tara in later posts.
I made reference to her partner, Eric, in my previous post, when I wrote the following:
Insecurity and a lack of self-worth have long been unwelcome guests throughout my journey in life. As such, it was easier for me to spend time alone. I was known as the quiet, shy kid and as I got older, I probably came across as a bit unfriendly and/or disinterested (reminder to myself to share a funny story about one of my now closest friends).
Before becoming friends, I knew of Eric (and Tara) from swimming at the local YMCA. Eric is a formidable beast of a man, sasquatch-like, some might even say (he’s the first of several “sasquatch” that I’ll be mentioning)! He was a professional cycling mechanic in a previous life and a pretty darn good swimmer! We would see each other in the pool often but never spoke. I was filled with insecurity and self-doubt and was intimated by Eric. Whether coincidence or divine intervention, an unfortunate, but shared experience of cancer, brought us together. Eric had recently lost a friend to breast cancer and my wife previously treated (surgery, chemo, radiation) for breast cancer. The funny thing is Eric had long faced similar internal challenges and difficulties and was intimidated by little ol’ me! Even funnier now is the fact that he’s just a huge sasquatch-sized teddy bear! I guess my point is that, like an iceberg, only a very small portion of a person’s “story” is visible. Be kind.
Back to DECA Day 2
As expected, I was a bit sore from overdoing the Day 1 run. The is exactly what I wanted to avoid and NOT how I wanted to start a multi-day event. To my future self – stick to your plan no matter what! Also, with work, packing, travel, etc., the last week of training prior to the event was difficult. In addition to the muscular soreness, the initial wear/impact on joints, tendons, ligaments most likely would’ve been limited if I kept running volume a bit higher closer to the start. Running 90 min or so a few days out and 60 min or so the day before. I tried not to think about my mistake and did my best to focus on what was still in front of me.
I might as well talk about my race day nutrition here. I typically don’t take any dietary supplements and rely on clean, healthy, plant-based food to provide all my nutritional needs. Because of the demands of the Deca, I added a few key supplements to my daily routine starting a week or so out from the event. My plan/protocol for the event (exactly as it was given to my crew) is listed below.
DECA NUTRITION PLAN
VO2Max (SportsQuest Product): 5 capsules at least 30 minutes before activity. This product helps recovery by cleansing daily ammonia buildup and other metabolic wastes.
Amino Acids: Essential, non-essential and branched chain amino acids maintain nitrogen balance and enhance the body’s natural recovery process.
12 capsules per day split into (4:4:4) dosage: 4 capsules before workout; 4 capsules after workout; 4 capsules immediately before going to bed at night.
For 5 days before a race, take 5 capsules VO2Max, everyday in the morning after breakfast.
3 days leading to the race, take 3 capsules every morning, mid-day, and evening.
Pre-Race: 2 MultiV + 5 VO2Max + 4 AA
Halfway Bike: 3 VO2Max
After Bike: 2 VO2Max + 4 AA
Halfway Run: 2 VO2Max
Post Race/Bedtime: 1 MultiV + 4 AA
RACE NUTRITION PER HOUR OF ACTIVITY
WATER: Minimum 20 oz.
CALORIES: 100g of carbs/hr. or minimum 2 calories per pound of body weight (but that’s actually pretty light), so minimum of 300 cal/hr and more like 400 calories/hr.
SODIUM: Minimum 300 mg and up to 1,500 mg. More on the sodium intake later!!!
PROTEIN: Approximately 1.25 to 1.5 grams of Protein per kilo of body weight, per day. So let’s say at least 75 to100 grams of protein per day. Aim to get this amount of protein by eating 20 to 40 grams 3 to 5 times throughout each day. I’m planning on vegan protein drink (or bar) pre-race, hallway bike, after bike, hallway run, and after run.
Pre-Race: Approx. 1000 to 1500 calories. (1 vegan protein drink, oatmeal, banana, toast with PB).
Bike: 3 to 4 scoops CarboPro (300 calories) in big bottle w/ one pack LMNT (1000mg salt) per hour. Will supplement calories with real food, gels, bars.
Run: Mix of Carbopro/LMNT (2 to 3 scoops) as well as gels, bars, real food.
It was only Day 2, but I was already losing sense of time! We all set off for another marathon. It was 3am. I was feeling ok, but purposely in damage control and proactive recovery mode. I ran when I wanted and made sure to walk frequently.
I was worried about the amount of muscular soreness I had, but mostly kept it to myself. I was already resolved to the fact that it would be a slower day. It was only Day 2 but the questions, internal struggle, and intrusive thoughts had already begun. It was then that I heard a voice from behind, “I’m coming for you, bru . . . I’m coming for you!” It was the one and only Julian Summers! Julian takes a lot of abuse (and dishes out plenty himself). He’s an incredible person and tough as nails, as I got to see firsthand! More on Julian later.
Day 2 was the first time I had the privilege of running a bit with Matt “Mr. Consistency” Phelan. Matt is a sasquatch of sorts also, but more skyscraper than row home, if that makes sense! We ended up leapfrogging each other for most of the marathon and every so often I’d ask my crew where he was. It’s human nature to gauge yourself against how other athletes are running/looking and I was certainly taking notice. This wasn’t about “racing” or speed/time, etc., but more about gathering info. and taking inventory of my OWN status. I seemed to run when he would be walking and vice versa, which was completely arbitrary and simply how the rhythm of our individual marathons developed. I remember telling my sister that I felt like I was standing still! I’d be running and she would tell me he was walking, but every time I looked over my shoulder, he was right there! I should’ve nicknamed him The Shadow! When we eventually came together, it all became crystal clear . . . one Matt step = 14 Marc steps!!
I was looking forward to getting off my feet and my mom joined me for the final few miles into Ala Moana Park. In fact, I had to tell her to whoa it up a bit several times! Always the racer!
Side Bar about my Mom, Crew Chief and Ironman Finisher:
I don’t think I’ve told many this story, but in 2002, my mom, aka “the Chief” qualified for Kona (at Blackwater Eagleman ½ Ironman). At that time, you could qualify for Kona at ½ IM.s. When I started racing, you could actually qualify at Olympic distance races! That was a great year for Blackwater/Eagleman, with legends like Tim Deboom (winner), Chris Legh, local legend and friend, Todd Wiley (4th Pro), Natasha Badman, and Joana Zeiger. Despite going 4:27, I was only 13th in the age group. I actually rode 5 hours the day before the race (Ralph – I think it was with you). I’ll circle back to this in a later post as it had nothing to do with productive training and everything to do with weight/eating/body image issues. Eagleman was extremely competitive in its earlier years and would draw a super strong field. I didn’t grab a Kona slot but was able to get an entry for IM Lake Placid (I was not registered at the time and certain races in that time period gave out IM entries). My mission was clear . . . get a Kona spot. About 7 weeks later, I was able to get that spot at Lake Placid. Fast forward to October. I got to race the Ironman World Championships with my mom! One of the best experiences of my life. Interestingly, Tim Deboom won Kona that year. My mom ended up not making the cutoff time and DNF’d (Did Not Finish). She was upset and I gave her my finish medal and told her to hold onto it until she got her own. In 2006, my mom completed the Hawaiian Iron World Championships. After the race, she gave me back my 2002 medal. I’m not crying . . . you’re crying!
Back to Deca Day 2
I was so looking forward to the swim. After a quick change, I met up with my paddler, Kris, whose smile always brightened my day! We made our way into the water and off I went.
I swam strong and steady and got the job done in just over an hour. Another quick change and I was on the bike. I was looking forward to the ride for a couple of reasons . . . I was hoping to work some of the soreness out of my legs and I wanted to be done with the roads on Oahu! I also just love riding my bike! I love riding it fast even more! I enjoy the feeling of being chased or being the chaser!
A few things about the bike . . .
Most athletes chose to ride a road bike with clip-on aerobars. Given the amount of riding and elevation gain, this wasn’t a bad option. I’m super comfortable on my tri bike and wanted to get through each day as quickly as possible. I’d guess I was in the aero position for 90 to 95% of the time. I’ve had a lot of questions about speed, pacing etc. I swam and rode hard, every single day. I wasn’t just riding to get through each day. The biggest difference between my approach here compared to a single day race was that I stopped for nutrition, fluid, etc. There was no need to continually grab fuel on the go. While it did add significant time to the overall day, I was able to chat with my crew and have a few laughs, get all the fuel I needed and enjoy some “real” food rather than relying solely on engineered sports nutrition. Another big advantage was that I did NOT have to pee on my bike! You’re welcome Yao !
The running was a completely different story and mostly determined and limited by muscular soreness and joint/other pain. Also, due to the acute muscle soreness after Day 1 and heart rate suppression as the event went on, I didn’t pay much attention to typical performance indicators and relied almost exclusively on feel/experience. I was confident that my running would come around once my muscular/skeletal soreness and pain equalized a bit. From my super big training weeks, I’ve always found an acclimation period to the discomfort/pain was required before I was able to settle in and really find a rhythm.
So, the first 90 plus miles of the ride were rather uneventful. The traffic made it a bit stressful though. My crew seemed to implement a “reverse” leapfrog strategy, which is NOT the norm and eventually caused some issues. For those who don’t know, crew vans are supposed to leapfrog athletes, meaning after the athlete passes the crew vehicle, the crew WAITS on the side of the road, giving the cyclist time to get up the road a few miles. Then the crew will drive and eventually pass the cyclist and pull over shortly thereafter, repeating the process for the entire bike segment. It’s important to follow the above method to limit the time the cyclist is alone/without crew. My crew would pass me and continue to drive miles ahead of me before eventually pulling over. This is dangerous because if something happened to me (mechanical, crash, injury, etc) they would have no way of knowing. I found this super stressful during the ride because the road conditions were horrible and I was afraid of getting a puncture and it was hot and I was in need of nutrition frequently. As I approached 100 miles into the ride, I was feeling good and already thinking about getting off the bike, getting a shower, food, recovery, etc. I was in good spirits as I’d have plenty of time to relax and maybe nap before the flight to Kauai. I hadn’t seen my crew for at least 30 minutes as they had passed me much earlier. My crew was also supposed to pull over or have a crew member stationed before each major turn to alert me (Note: as the athlete, the ultimate responsibility lies with me). I never saw my crew again for the remainder of the Day 2 ride.
Rebecca, was this technically the first “we lost Marc” phone call you received??? For those that don’t know, Rebecca is the Epic Race Director and person responsible for planning and orchestrating this incredible event. She is incredible!
I was getting extremely nervous and stressed as I was already close to 112 miles and had no idea where I was. I was hot, tired, hungry, thirsty, and angry! Eventually, Kawika and Peter (Epic Staff) drove past me waving to stop. They informed me I missed a turn miles back. Like a Gen Z’r who lost their iPhone, I went completely ape shit and had a major meltdown/temper tantrum. I told them I was done, finished with the Deca! They did a great job of calming me down and gave me some water, which I guzzled in seconds! Since I had already ridden 112 miles at that point, they said I could get in their car and get a ride back to the hotel . . . problem was they were in a Mini Cooper piled full of stuff! I didn’t want a ride back anyway and with their direction, proceeded to make my way back to the hotel. This would be just one of many times Epic Staff would help me and my crew.
I have no idea of speed or power, but I was absolutely flying the last 9 miles back to the hotel. 121 miles complete! I proceeded to unload all remaining stress and frustration by having another hissy fit and throwing my helmet into the van (that was only the beginning for that poor helmet)! Not a word was spoken by anyone. The first thing I did was go to Rebecca and apologize. I was embarrassed and ashamed of the way I acted. Rebecca was awesome . . . she gave me a hug and said “it’s ok, don’t apologize, it’s all part of the journey/experience”. The second thing I did was apologize to my crew. I don’t know how he did it, but Colin captured the exact moment . . . we had an emotional group hug, let it all out, put it behind us, and moved on.
You quickly get to know the other athletes and become invested in their journey, success, or failure. It was only Day 2, but several athletes were already struggling. It struck a chord with me. I know what I put into that day and had nothing by admiration for those still fighting their way to the finish (Matt, Julian, Juanma . . . would love to hear some comments on your experience to this point).
While I took a quick shower and had some food, my crew packed my bike and gear. Then, off to the airport to catch our 8pm Flight to Kauai! I thought to myself, “tomorrow’s a new (or same ) day, right?!”