Sunday, July 15, 2012

Musselman 70.3 Half Iron Triathlon: Race Report

Amazing Race.  Really.  I'm doing this one again -- hats off to Woolsports and Race Director Jeff Henderson for pretty much the best race organization I've ever experienced.   Everything was top notch from the pre-race communication, easy expo, pre-race meeting, fantastic and environmentally friendly goody bags and race premiums, post-race with food catered by Wegman's, a local produce farm, and homemade ice cream, and a family friendly venue at Seneca Lake State Park with a swimming beach, spray park, and stellar playground.

I chose this one because it was the only half distance I could find that fit my timeframe for Louisville and was within a 7 hour drive.  Jamie wanted to do a shorter distance and they had a sprint on Saturday (not to mention a super sprint on Friday, and two kid's triathlons on Saturday... Susanna is ready to race when she turns 6!) so we could each mind the kids while the other raced.  (in all honesty though, his race was about a quarter the distance so he deserves a medal for the 8 or so hours he spent from when he dropped me off at transition until I retrieved my bicycle....  I'm sure that was exhausting.  It also stormed for half of my race so that nixed the plan to spend the morning at the spray park and beach... they didn't get to go there until about 11am.  Not to mention we had to get the kids up at 5:45 and they didn't go back to sleep until hours later...  yup, he is Super Daddy.)

The Swim
Jamie had raced the day before and the water temperature was 77.8.  Saturday was a hot day and I was secretly hoping the race would not be wetsuit legal.  I wanted to practice sans suit for Louisville but I didn't want everyone else having the neoprene advantage.  At 6:30 they made the final call... water temperature was 78.5.  Booyah!  There were a lot of unhappy faces and some people chose to wear them anyhow (this disqualifies them from any awards.)  The gun went off and I ran as far as I could and then we were in the water.  I kept getting kicked in the face/ swum over/ people grabbing my feet etc.  When I would come up for air, often I'd get a mouthful of water instead.  I can see why people have panic attacks in the water.  It didn't help that right before we took off, the announcer commented that this lake was 660 feet deep.  Nice!  Anyhow I kept trying to find people that were my pace to draft off their feet.  I eventually would catch them and would have to find more feet to follow.  The swim began in the lake and then went up a canal to a boat ramp.  The first buoy seemed to take forever to appear, and then the second, forever again.  When I got to the canal I started to see blue swim caps, meaning the fourth wave swimmers had caught up to me. I realized my swimming technique had been pretty pathetic, likely because I was concentrating on not swallowing water or getting kicked in the nose, and so for the final third of the swim tried to concentrate on my form. Which is hard to do when you have to keep your eye on the buoys so you don't end up swimming the wrong direction.  My final thoughts -- "This isn't hard, but this is really boring and really long.  I am really glad I do not have to swim twice this distance today.  The Ironman is going to feel really, really, really long."
Final swim time:  43:13.  Only two minutes faster than my first 70.3 despite three days of masters swimming per week since January.  Ugh.  Must work on technique.  Must work on technique.

2:27.  Not bad. Drank a bottle of Hornet Juice, pulled on my socks and shoes, put on my (borrowed - THANKS TUAN!) Aerohelmet and took off.  I think whatever time I would save swimming with a wetsuit, I make up for in T1 not having to take it off.

The Bike
This triathlon is known for it's beautiful course through wine country, but today was overcast and yucky.  I wasn't too upset though considering the temperature was a good 15 degrees lower than what I had been training in.  The elevation profile pretty much goes uphill (but not steep, aside from one hill reminiscent to the many I saw on the Louisville course) until mile 17, is downhill until 28, then there is another climb til 38, another downhill to 44, then pretty flat til the end.  My bike computer stopped working a few days ago so I have no idea what my speed was for pretty much the whole race.  I just concentrated on keeping my heart rate at a steady 150 and figured that was a decent zone to finish strong in the run.  About an hour into the bike it started to rain... and then thunder... and then monsoon.  I've never biked in a storm before, and we were heading right into it.  Crazy wind.  Then lightening... two seconds and ground shaking thunder.  The sky went black.  The next lightening strike was in the field next to us and the thunder was instantaneous.  At that point I started to get really scared.  I got as low as I could in the aero position and prayed.  I wasn't sure what to do... keep racing?  We were in the middle of nowhere.  I could crawl in a ditch but I wasn't sure if being in a ditch with rushing water was the safest thing either.  I decided to just keep on going.  The rain was insane.  The force of it was whipping my eyes and  I wished I had my open water goggles... no joke.  I passed an aid station and stopped for the first time -- I had skipped the first one.  "Heed?  Water?"  they asked me.  I guess they were not so concerned that my life was in imminent danger.  I filled my aerobottle with Heed, grabbed a couple of Hammer Gels and pulled out again.  Eventually the rain stopped, and I passed a sign that said "Mile 30."  I looked down at my watch and saw that I'd been biking for 1:34.   Really?  I never thought I'd finish the bike in under 3 hours, but I only had 26 miles left.  I decided to push it til the end.  I had plenty of water in my 42 oz bottle so I skipped the rest of the aid stations and hammered away until we got to Samson State Park.  They had warned us at the athlete's meeting that the road was rough.  I wasn't prepared for how rough it was.  Potholes, cracks, bumps, and unsealed pavement.  For the next four miles.  I counted 5 people changing flats, so I took it easy and was cautious, and thanked my lucky stars when I made it out of there with my tires intact.  Then I hit a nice downhill and hammered away again.  I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the 50 mile marker and noticed I still had about 30 minutes if I wanted to break 3 hours.  I pulled into transition and my watch read 2:55:26. That's over 19 mph.... it was definitely a fast course, and I will not get anywhere near that for Louisville with it's ridiculous climbing, but I'll take it today!

My shoes were SOAKED... and my socks... ugh.  Some smarter people had put their shoes and socks in Ziplock bags.  Not I.  I put on my drenched Nikes, race number, drank another bottle of Hornet Juice, downed  a Clif Shot, and headed off.  Time:  2:33... not really sure how my T2 was longer than T1.

The Run
My runs have felt horrible all week so I wasn't sure how fast to take it.  I had a general time goal to have my pace under 9 minute miles, and decided to go by heart rate rather than pace and try to keep it around the upper 150s for the first half and then upper 160s for the second half.  The first three miles were pretty flat and I was trotting along at about an 8 minute pace.  Then the first ridiculous uphill came. The course went through the town of Geneva, literally up stairs.  The run course was tough -- miles 3-8 were almost entirely uphill, and it was getting hotter (maybe 80 degrees?  Pretty cool compared to what I'd trained in but after 4 hours of racing it still felt tough.)  There was amazing spectator support and lots of homeowners standing in their yards with hoses to cool us off if we so desired.  I so desired.  I was careful to take Heed (energy drink/ electrolyte replacement) at every aid station so as not to have a repeat of the National Marathon.  I had also brought along my own Clif Shots, but when I reached down for the third one I realized my second two had fallen out of my race belt.   So I had to use whatever they had at the aid station, which scared me because race nutrition is an issue for me on the run and I had never practiced with Hammer Gels, but they seemed to work fine.  In fact, I didn't cramp at all the entire race.  I got to mile 7 and saw the monstrosity of a hill we had been warned about.  This was worse than the stair climb.  NO ONE was running this baby.  It had an 80 foot elevation climb in about a third of a mile.  Check it out (the red is the run course.)
Thankfully there was a guy playing steel drums at the top, which at least motivated me to keep moving forward.  I reached the top, started running again, and saw that mile 8 still clocked in below a 9 minute pace.  I knew the rest of the course was downhill and I could probably finish in under 1:55 if I kept a good pace to the end.  I did pretty well on the downhills, around an 8 minute pace, but when I hit the flat section at 11 I was really, really tired.  My heart rate was about 165, and I couldn't get my legs to move fast enough to get it any higher.  The last two miles felt really, really long.  My pace had slowed considerably - maybe I was up to 8:40s.  I was thrilled when I finally saw the 13th mile marker and I started to book it.  Now -- here is my ONLY complaint about the entire race.  It was NOT .1 miles to the finish.  Oh no.  I sprinted and looked down at my Garmin and a tenth of a mile had passed and I still was not across that finish line.  In fact, it was a good distance away - I'd stay the finish was a quarter mile from that 13 marker.  Ugh!  But I made myself keep going and throw up my hands at the finish line like I see in all those Ironman finish photos instead of looking like I'm in deep pain and about to throw up like I usually do in finisher photos.  Final run time:  1:50:48.

Overall Results:

Race goody bag -- with things that are actually USEFUL!  Shampoo
and conditioner, all natural peanut butter, a stuffed mussel for
Jack and Susanna, AND gourmet dark chocolate (eaten before
I could get a photo.)

Jamie and I have matching tech shirts and
can be twins on the drive home tomorrow.
Race medal are from recycled bicycles - how cool?!?

It turned into a beautiful day and we hit a fabulous winery that was on the bike course.  I finally got to see this view instead of fearing for my life.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations, you did awesome! Well done.