Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Amica 70.3 Half Ironman Triathlon Race Report
The week leading into the race was interesting to say the least.... I was going back and forth as to whether or not I wanted to taper or not and in the end I decided it was a good idea. I'd done a significant build in the last six weeks or so taking advantage of all the time I've been at home and not travelling for work and I figured the taper was needed recovery time. It was a very strange taper week though... much different than last year where I was getting ready for my first half iron distance race. This week felt easier and more laid back, almost too much so as mentally I just wasn't as sharp about everything as I could have been.
On wednesday I got a phone call to do an interview for a local news website about the race. I was told it was about local athletes in Newport who were doing the race. Being that I'm always looking for ways to get more people into our amazing sport I decided why not... You can click here to watch the video. As always I'm happy to promote my tri club and do my part to convince people that if I can get my fat ass of the couch and turn my life around, that anyone can.
The registration process, athlete info packet, and the leadup to the race was actually not as well handled as it could have been and ended up being quite tiring to deal with. The Amica 70.3 is a point to point race with two seperate transition areas. So first you have to go to the "expo" (I put that in quotes as it was quite small... hardly an expo) and go through the registration process which was quite simple. And while there I attended the athlete briefing. After a quick talk through of how our day would go the Q&A session focused on water quality, (the swim location was closed for two days just two days prior to race day due to elevated bacteria levels) water temperatures, and what would they do if they had to close the pond again, and were they really going to keep testing the water to make sure we were safe. They said they would keep testing, I decided to take them for their word and stop worrying about it.
2 mintues to go till my wave starts... we all file into the water. I take up a spot to the left (wide of the buoys) and decide to let my wave go out and then hit the water. There's about 30 guys in my wave. I actually kind of enjoy the physical contact of a triathlon swim but without the wetsuit I didn't want that to be an issue so I decided to stay wide and avoid the contact. In the end I would say this was the least contact I've ever had in any distance triathlon. I think the fact its non wetsuit changes everyone's mindset about it. So... gun goes off... here goes nothing. I let the fast guys race into the water and I hit the water just a couple seconds behind them. I just kept repeating RELAX, BREATHE, KICK IN A BUCKET! over an over again. (I like to picture flutter kicking with my feet in a 5 gallon bucket which keeps me from kicking too much and exhausting myself). I just kept thinking, get to the first buoy and you'll be fine. Which I did. And then it hit me... I'm fine. I can do this. I'm ok. I just need to swim and forget about the fact I'm not wearing a wetsuit. Ten minutes later I can remember thinking Hey! I'm doing this... I don't need no stinking wetsuit! I was pretty happy with how relaxed I felt in the water. I had actually managed to get into a groove and stay relaxed. PERFECT! and then it hit me. I can't see where the hec I'm going! The sun was very low on the horizon and directly in your eyes on the way out. Despite having tinted goggles I couldn't see the buoys at all on the way out. So mostly I followed other swimmers. But since I'd let my group go out in front of me I was sort of in a no man's land of swimmers between waves. And I don't like to trust that the stragler swimmers are going the right way. A pack of people I'll trust, but not a random person. So I was popping up to sight a lot. I had to tread water several times just to see where the hec I was going. Finally I get to the end of the out and back course and start looking for the two turnaround buoys. I knew they were red, and I knew there were two of them. The problem was now we were close to the treeline at the other end of the pond. So the buoys are in the shade of the trees but the sun is still in my eyes so I literally can't see them. Even treading water I can't see them. And then blamo! There it is! So I head for it. About 2 minutes later I literally swim right into the side of a kayak that slices in front of me. I pop up and the kayaker explains I've missed the first turn buoy and I'm headed for the second one. He points out the first one and I can barely see it in the shade. CRAP! So now I have to double back and round that buoy. So I do that, and then head to the 2nd one (which I thought was the first one!). I easily lost 2-4 minutes here. I try not to let that frustrate me. Fortunately after I round the 2nd turn buoy the sun is now at my back and the buoys are easy to see.
The way back was much better and I just got in a nice groove and kept swimming. I could finally sight like normal and not worry about if I was going the right way. There was also a nice line of swimmers to follow into the finish area. Other than swimming through a big field of weeds long enough to get my watch tangled in the return trip was uneventfull. I was VERY happy to see the swim exit though. Time to shift gears and think about the transition ahead.
Swim Time: 47:58
Thoughts: My no wetsuit swim should have been 36-40 minutes. So add 4 minutes for not having the wetsuit, and then a few minutes for navigation issues and you get 48 minutes. Ugh! But I'm damn proud of myself for getting through that swim and staying as relaxed as I did and not using a ton of energy from my legs in the process
This time sounds slow... but there was actually quite a long way to go after crossing the timing mat coming out of the water. I also found it quite annoying to have my bike shoes in a bag instead of on the ground. So I lost some time to getting my shoes out and stuffing my swim cap and goggles into that same bag. Which Ironman then promptly lost... so I'll never see those goggles again. Anyway... I got my stuff together fairly quickly and was on my way out. I had a primo spot in transition that was right as you entered T1. But it meant a long muddy run in my bike shoes.
Onto the bike... the first five miles or so of rollers I didn't feel all that strong and I was started to wonder what kind of day I was going to have. I had already looked at my watch and I knew how bad my swim time was. I tried to focus on just having a good bike. I kept an eye on my power meter and cadence but it just seemed like my speed was always slower than I wanted. I trusted in power/cadence as my true indicators though and just kept going. After the first aid station at the 15 or so mile mark I checked my averages. My speed average was in the 19s and my power was 170 watts. Which is EXACTLY where I wanted it to be. This perked me up and I just kept hammering away. I was in a good spot in the pack. Lots of people in front of me to pick off, and still some fast guys passing me to keep me humble. I was having a good time in the first third and would say things to people as I passed them. I caught up to my friend Erin somewhere around this time as well who had crushed me in the swim but I caught her on the bike. (she started five minutes after me in the swim but beat me out of the water!) So we had a brief hello chat and I was off and running.
I was really happy with how I handled the first part of the bike course. Thanks to the taper the course felt easier than it had ever done to this point so that was awesome. I did a LOT of hill work in the leadup to the race and my legs were really tired before the taper so hills were just feeling hard. So I was glad my taper had paid off in that regard.
Bike course in triathlons are funny... you see the weirdest stuff. Some strange bikes and some strange people and some strange outfits. My favorites (or not so favorites) were as follows...
-super hairy guy in way too short shorts on road bike whose ass swallowed his saddle. Frightening... and has scarred me for life!
-people with 30lbs of fluid on their bike. Speefill, aero bottle, rear cages all full of water. I can't imagine carrying that much water weight up the hills. Not to mention the chock full bento box and bike jersey pockets full of crap
-annoying guy on Guru bike who enjoyed destroying himself to pass me only to immediately slow down forcing me to pass him again, and again, and again. He apparently decided we were playing a game together... I decided I hated him and was thrilled when I used a hill to drop him permanently.
-draft packs... sadly I saw a lot of these. Mostly groups of three people. I doubt they knew each other but they made zero attempt to get out of the draft zones, weren't trying to pass each other, and had less than a foot between wheels. LAME
-lots of spots of people riding 2,3,4 across and chatting. GET OUT OF THE WAY PEOPLE!
-or my least favorite... dude riding way too far out into the road forcing me to almost get a centerline violation to pass them. I YELLED "on your left!" at one guy who looked all annoyed at me and mumbled something. Seriously people... learn to ride on the right! Too many people riding like this was a closed bike course!
So all of the above kept me entertained at least and there was lots to look at in terms of this stuff out on the course. I also love looking at bikes so it was fun to see all the flashy stuff out on the course. Some personal highlight and lowlights of the ride for me were this...
-discovering the joy of "living off the course". I carried one calorie bottle with my nutrition mix in it and one water bottle that I swapped out at aid stations. So at most 40oz of fluid on me, but that was only at the start. It was great not having that extra weight on the bike, super easy to exchange bottles, and nice and aero at the same time.
-discovering the joy of peeing on your bike. Yep. I did it. And it was fabulous. I'm fairly certain I yelled "OH YEAH!" after getting it done. I felt much better afterwards. A quick squirt of a water bottle and I was feeling clean as a whistle too.
-when I reached the one big steep climb on the course I was staying in the saddle, passing people the whole way up, not exceeding my wattage numbers, keeping a high cadence, and smiling the whole way up. I executed that climb perfect and made it look way easier than everyone else suffereing up it as I went past. I LOVE MY 11-28 CASSETTE!!!!
-Hitting 42mph on the Chopmist Hill descent in full aero. Not sure how aero the GIANT grin on my face was however.
-Epic nutrition fail. I still haven't figured this out... but there was a point about halfway through the bike where my stomach just quit. It simply refused to take in more calories. I tested my nutrion many times in training and never had an issue. But today my body just didn't want it. Taking in more led to intense stomach cramps so I just stopped and switched to just water which was better, but my stomach still didn't really want it. But I knew it was too hot not to force some fluids down. I'd rather they come back up then not go down at all. I got about 500 calories down on the bike. Which isn't bad... but that should have been 750. Not good. I managed about 40oz of water... which should have been 60. Not good.
-the last 15 miles of the course I didn't push myself hard enough. I had the energy but I let my focus slip a little and my speed dropped a little bit. I should have forced myself to go harder.
-the last five miles of the course were absolute crap road conditions. The ride into providence was awful. I've never seen so many flat tires on a bike course. Lots of people on the side of the road and water bottles everywhere!
-the no pass zone on Central ave which was due to there being a ridiculous amount of potholes in the road so passing wasn't allowed as you had to swerve everywhere to avoid the worst of them. You still got shaken about to the point you thought your teeth were going to fall out. I took my bottles out of the cages and stuffed them down my tri suit so I wouldn't lose them. There were bottles EVERYWHERE in that section.
Fortuanately the bike went by pretty quickly and I had finally made it through all the railroad tracks, glass, potholes, and debris of downtown Providence and could see the state house. I got my feet out of my bike shoes and did a picture perfect dismount into T2.
Bike: 2:55:54, 19.10mph, Normalized Power 167 Watts, Cadence 88
I'm fairly pleased with the bike time but if I hadn't slowed down at the end a bit due to the course being so crappy and if I'd pushed myself just a bit more I could have been 5-10 minutes faster I think. I was hoping for a 2:45 but that was a pretty challenging bike course so I'm ok with being in the 19s for an average. I wanted 20 but you don't always get what you want. My cadence was perfect (its been low lately and I've been forcing it higher again). My wattage is good too. My goal was 170 Watts average. My average power was 150, but normalized its 167. So I'd say I was close... but not quite there. Again... the last part of the course really sucks as it just messes with all your goals. I could have ridden it harder but at a higher risk of flats/crashing it just wasn't worth it to me. So all in all I'm quite pleased with the bike but still plenty of room for improvment.
This went quite well... lots of distance to cover in T2 so 1:30 is fine with me. Hated having to take my shoes out of a bag in a half distance race through. Although I guess the ten seconds that cost is pretty insignificant.
Since I'd hit my cadence target on the bike I knew I'd come out of T2 running quickly. This is helped with a nice downhill right out of the gate. My Garmin said 6:30s down the hill. Perfect. In the end I ran the first mile in 7:18. Slower than my norm, but on target for my current level of run fitness, which due to my injury is nowhere near where it was last year. It wasn't that much longer that I hit the hills in miles 1-3. That whole section was quite hilly including a very long climb that really sucked the leg speed out of you. I love that fast turnover you get off the bike and it was a bummer to lose that on the hill right away. I did ok though up the hill and my mile 2 split was 8:15 which included the worst of the climb. Thats when everything started to go downhill though. As I approached the first aid station at mile 1 I tried to take some gel in from my gel flask. My stomach turned violently at even the sight of it. So in an odd twist of the wrong part of my brain winning under race conditions I chucked it in the trash on the way by. This made my stomach happy, but not my wallet. There goes a 12 dollar fuel belt bottle. But thats how violently my stomach didn't want calories. I tried for some perform instead. Just a sip made my stomach turn so I went with some water and focused on getting ice water sponges under my hat and in my tri suit to try and stay cool as it was 80 degrees, sunny, and no shade. So as I'm fighting my way up the first hill with this nasty stomach ache I start re-evaluating the rest of my run. I wanted to do well... but I looked at my watch and my time thanks to the extra ten minutes in the swim was not going to be fabulous. Then I realized how negative a thought that was and sucked it up and kept running. Then my stomach flipped again and was really starting to hurt. Did I have to go to the bathroom? what the hell is going on? why can't I get any calories down?
Into the next aid station and I aim for just water. I'm sweating a TON out here and I HAVE to at least get some water down. I manage a sip before my stomach protests and refuses to let me take any more in. So I just swish it around in my mouth. I make staying cool my mission and focus on dumping water over my head. I hit the turn around of the first out and back section and as I approach the aid station again I decide to say screw it and try the port o john as my stomach is killing me, and I have the worst side stitch of my entire life. As in hold your hand on your side and wince side stitch.
I get into the port o john and experience the world's most epic passing of gas and thats it. I may have even heard a gigle from the port of john next to mine. I suit back up and head out again. Was it just gas? is that whats causing all this pain? where did it come from? I ate only safe foods in the last few days. I don't get it, but I keep running. At least this bit is downhill. At this point my average pace is around low 8s. Slower than I wanted but nothing I can do about it now and I've just lost 2 minutes to a port o john. (speaking of which I never do that... but the thought of all my friends in the finish chute greeting me with an epic GI failure in my tri suit was not something I wanted to risk! and my stomach hurt so much I was willing to do anything to stop it).
Onward I go... down the hill.... at least these three miles are flat. I head into the no man's land section of the course where there are no spectators, no shade, and nothing but your own thoughts to muddle through. The last half iron distance race I did I passed people for the entire run. No-one passed me. I ran a 1:35. Today I was going to be lucky to pull out a 1:45 and people were passing me. I was still passing people but I HATED that I couldn't latch on to those that passed me. I just couldn't hold a decent pace. My right leg was killing me, my stomach hurt, and I was not having a good day out there. Time to suck it up as theres still another lap to go! Team Fuel Belt was out on the course in no man's land and it was fantastic to see some friendly faces out there to motivate me to go harder. So I did my best to look strong and smiled as I went by. I'm sure in reality I looked like all holy hell! As if to make matters worse all the water I was dumping on my head to stay cool had now completely soaked my socks and I could feel hotspots and blisters developing on my toes. Which never happens to me... but then again I never dump that much water over my head. Just another thing to suffer through.
I climbed the short hill at the end of the first lap and saw the finish chute as I rounded the turn to head out for another lap. Knowing the finish chute was lined with friends from my tri club was a powerfull motivator to get this lap done and know they'd be there at the end. I tried to picture my friend Kevan yelling at me to get it done. That got me moving again and I tried not think about the hills ahead. The second time up through the hilly section was much slower for me. My legs were very tired and sore and my hamstring/glute issue really reared its head on the hill. Rather than do something stupid and really try and crush the hill to the best I could I let myself slow down a little and shuffle up it a little more relaxed this time. Instead of an 8:30 pace up the hill I was running ten's. At this point there was no shot at a PR, I need to recover fast from this race, and B2B is my focus. So no doing anything stupid and risking injury allowed. So I mentally decided it was time to finish the race strong and smart. I wasn't giving up, but I was going to try and enjoy it as much as I could and just get it done. I think on the entire run I'd be lucky if I got 100 calories worth of fluid down. So during the entire race I got about 600 calories down. NOT GOOD. I felt it on the run. I tried all kinds of things at this point. I knew a PR was gone so why not use this time to test some aid station nutrition out. I tried coke which tasted amazing but caused my stomach to instantly complain. Same thing with any of the solid food availalbe there. Just the sight of gels made me want to hurl so I skipped those. I hit mile 10 or so where the fuel belt gang was and picked up the pace to try and not look silly shuffling by. I laughed out loud at how hard the tiny little incline of the point street bridge felt. It was definitely comical. I walked the distance of the last two aid stations and I also walked for about 15 feet during mile 12 when my stomach violently cramped again but other than that I did my best to keep running. The last little hill up to the state house felt brutal and I did my best to sprint up the chute and finish as strong as I could.
Then the best part of the day... the finish chute was lined with volunteers who were all friends of mine from Tri New England. How fantastic to be handed cold water by your friends, and have Kevan put the finishers medal around my neck. I could barely manage a word to any of them. I was totally destroyed! But I was so happy to see them all.
Run: 1:52:38 8:35/mile
Not a great run... but it was the best I had on this day and at my current level of run fitness. Considering I've only had one 13 mile run this year since the feburary marathon I should be pleased with that I guess.
Final Finish Time: 5:40:29
Rank 428/ roughly 1400 (complete results are not available yet)
Run Highlights: Seeing Kate, Erin, Michelle, and Vince out on the course. Its amazing how much a friendly face out there suffering alongside you can perk you up.
Run Lowlights: I really, really, really miss my run fitness. It was a big dissapointment to not be able to bang out 7:30s or less on the run. I know why I couldn't this year, but I don't have to like it. I love that the run is last in triathlon and that its my strength. I just hate that its turned into a big weakness. I really really really hope my run fitness returns to its previous level in time. I miss it.
Posted by Nick Wisdom at 9:17 AM