A few days before IRONMAN 70.3 Buffalo Springs, in front of the Berdoll Pecan giant squirrel.
In one of my favorite scenes from the movie My Cousin Vinnie, Vinnie is cross-examining a witness around the facts of how long it takes to cook grits. As the witness begins to crack around the reality that he has totally misjudged the timing surrounding his testimony and begins to capitulate, Vinnie demands, “Are you sure about that five minutes?”
As I recall the morning of race day at IRONMAN 70.3 Buffalo Springs this year, the audio from that scene, oddly enough, keeps playing in my mind. Let me explain.
I traveled to Colorado Springs right after racing IM 70.3 Gulf Coast at the beginning of May and came home with an upper respiratory illness that lingered for the next six weeks. Apparently it was one of those illnesses that was “going around.” Unfortunately it did not go around me. Exacerbated by my asthma, it seriously impacted my training. That illness, linked with a fairly heavy travel schedule, began to take its toll. So much so that I could not see what was coming.
The day we left for Lubbock I felt terrible - on the edge of getting sick. But knowing that Lee was scheduled to race on Saturday and officiate on Sunday and believing full well that I could tough out the race, off we went. By the next morning I was feeling a lot better. Lee raced, and as usual I helped at the swim out for the Saturday races. As we hit afternoon though I was increasingly feeling very fatigued. Back at the hotel room I did all of my pre-race prep work. Nutrition. Check. Hydration. Check. Bike and helmet numbers. Check. Kit and shoes laid out. Check. Change out the cassette for a climbing friendly version. Check. Transition bag packed. Check. Each step followed by laying on the couch in the room for a break. In spite of how badly I was increasingly feeling, I was convinced that I could get some rest and be ready to go the next morning.
Now the thing is this. The night before every single one of the 70.3 or 140.6 distance races I have raced, I have slept about 3 hours. I just don't sleep well the night before big races. I went to bed that night early and my eyes did not open until the alarm went off at 3:10. I was sick. Normally I would have been up and going through my normal pre-race routine. Instead I lay in the bed and said, “Give me just five more minutes.” I had a cup of coffee, went to the bathroom, and laid back down.
“Give me just five more minutes.”
Lee, meanwhile, was getting dressed for her day as an official. After she got dressed she came to check on me. I looked at her and said, “How do I look?” She said, “You look terrible.” I said, “Give me just five more minutes.”
She felt my forehead, “You are burning up.” I said, “It's cold in here.” She said, “You are running a fever. Your eyes are glassy. You are sweating.” I said, “Give me just five more minutes.”
She said, “You cannot race today.” I said, “I will be fine. Give me just five more minutes.”
She shook her head and went to make another cup of coffee and finish packing her gear for the day. When she returned she helped me get my kit on and helped me put on my timing chip. After that I lay back on the bed and said, “Give me just five more minutes.” She looked at me and said, “You are breaking out in sweat all over.” I said, “I don't think I can race today.” She said, “No, you can't.”
She was being as patient as she could possibly be with someone who was obviously incapable of clear thought at that moment. But as I reflect back on our running conversation from 3:10 to 4:30 a. m. as I kept asking for “just five more minutes,” I wonder when she started wanting to ask me, “Are you sure about that five minutes?” My “five minutes” request was more of a hope that the trajectory set following Colorado Springs would magically set right and I would be o.k. to race. But sometimes on race day and in some cases, like mine in this case, in the days leading up to race day, things are just not going to go our way. I knew it wasn't going to be my day when I woke up to the sound of the alarm. And five more minutes wasn't going to make any difference.
Sometimes another five minutes, whatever your “another five minutes” is, is never enough. So you just have to let go, listen to your wife, and move on to the next race so you can race another day.