Monday, August 22, 2011

Timberman 70.3 Half Ironman Triathlon Race Report

I had a great race at the Timberman 70.3 this weekend.  There were some parts I'm really really pleased with, some I'm not so pleased with, and some I really wish had been better, but overall I have zero complaints and am quite pleased.  Here's how the whole weekend went....

Getting There and Settling In:

On Friday the girl and I drove up to New Hamshire with Cannon loaded on the roof of the car, the car full of camping gear, and the dog asleep in the back.  We were really looking forward to a fun weekend in NH.  What should have been about a three hour drive up there took us about six hours due to AWFUL thunderstorms in the area, torrential downpours, and even a hailstorm.  Ever sit in your car stuck in traffic helplessly listening to the sound of hail bouncing off the top of your carbon bike?  Yeah....  its not very much fun!  But we eventually made it up there, rushed through registration for the race to beat the saturday crowds and then made up our campsite and settled in with a quick dinner by the fire with some liquid carb loading.

Our campsite was pretty deluxe.  I borrowed a huge tent from a friend of mine and we had a queen size air mattress and then a 3" pillowtop mattress cover I had on top of that as well.  So our bed was SUPER comfy and I didn't regret camping one bit!  And on the plus side just about everyone around our campsite was a triathlete in the race so it was super quiet at night and very easy to sleep.  The facilities at the camground were quite good as well and it was a quick walk to clean showers, and bathrooms.  I'd definitely go that route again over a hotel room.

Saturday morning the girl made a fantastic breakfast on the camping stove and I spent the time cleaning all the road grit and grime off of Cannon, cleaning the chain, and relubing everything and giving the bike a once over to make sure the hail had not done any damage which fortunately it had not.  Then I got all my race numbers on the bike and everywhere else and we headed out for the day.
Cleaning up Cannon after the rain/hailstorm on the way up

I always cut up and stick my numbers to the frame.  I don't get why people buy super aerodynamic bikes and then let their race number flap around the top tube the whole race.

The "turkey" guarding our campsite.

Once we had all that sorted we headed off to Ellacoya State Park (the race venue) to get in a warmup swim.  The girl got in a nice long swim (she's getting ready for a three mile swim race shortly) and I hung out on the beach with the dog.  When she finished we traded places and I got a quick warmup swim in to check out the lake conditions.  It was suprisingly choppy (mostly due to lots of boat wakes) and I was hoping this wouldn't be the case on race day (it wasn't).  The water was nice and warm at 72 degrees and perfect in a wetsuit.  Very clear water as well and really nice to swim in.

With the warmup swim out of the way I headed out for a quick check ride on Cannon before racking the bike in transition.  That went without issue and then it was time to head back to camp for the day, get the rest of my gear ready for the race, eat some dinner and get to bed early.
Prepping Cannon for the check ride the day before the race/

Once back at camp the girl made one of my favorite and safe pre race meals.  Mac N Cheese in a Box with chicken sausage.  YUM!  And all made on the campfire!  After all that I was pretty tired so I went to bed at 8pm knowing that I had to be up at 3:30am in order to get a spot in the parking lot.  At the pre race meeting the day before they informed up that the parking lot would be full by 5AM or so, so I planned to arrive there around 4am so off to bed I went.

Race Day!:

I am very happy to say that I fell asleep almost immediately at 8pm the day before and didn't wake up till my alarm went off at 3:30AM.  Best pre race night of sleep I've ever had.  I felt great when I woke up and was ready to get the day going.  I got up, got right in the car and headed straight over to the parking area at Ellacoya.  At 3:45am there was already a large line of cars being funnelled into the race site.  I scored a fantastic parking spot right near transition and had the peace of mind that I had hours to get ready and didn't have to rush at all.  Transition didn't open till 5am so I first headed over the Gilford Fired Dept's food stand for a fantastic cup of coffee and then slowly started to get dressed for the race, eat my tried and true breakfast of two balance bars, and get ready to head into transition at 5am.  It was nice being able to take my time with all of that and I never felt rushed.  At 5AM I headed into transition and got my tires pumped up, and all my gear ready to go.  I was ready so early that I got to spend a lot of time wandering around transition chatting with friends of mine, checked out the pros bikes, and enjoyed watching them go about their routines just like we do.  Eventually it was time to get the wetsuit on and head over to the swim start to get a warmup in.  I found the girl and sat down at a picnic bench to relax for a bit as I had 40 minutes till my wave started.

Waiting for my wave to start and getting some friendly tips from a gentleman who had done the race last year.  I can also highly recommend petting your dog as a way to reduce stress pre race!

My hi-tech system of knowing where to go in transition.  It stands for...   from the swim in run past 7 bike racks then turn left.  And from the bike in run past three racks then turn left.

I was in the 7:50 Wave of 35-39ers in the lime green caps

Getting a quick warmup swim in.
Some of the Tri-NE gang racing.  Sean, Me, Jon, and Kevan.  Missing are Luis, Dean, and Jill.  It was great to have so many of us out there on the course!

So with the warmups and everything else done and out of the way it was go time!


On thursday of this week I completed my first 2.4 mile open water swim as part of my prep for the Ironman.  So part of me felt like 1.2 miles was going to feel really short and easy and part of me was worried my arms were still tired.  Well I was definitely tired!  When the swim started my heartrate spiked pretty quickly.  So I spent the first part of the swim heading out to the first turn buoy just trying to relax and find a rhythm.  I found some feet and just followed them for a while.  After the turn the water got a bit more choppy and I wasn't swimming as straight as I would have liked, but I felt ok...  tired but ok.  I had originally hope to really push my pace at this point but I just felt like I didn't have that in me so I just settled into my pace.  As I approached the last turn buoy the wave behind me of young guys caught me.  They were all pretty agressive and I got pummelled at this point.  Lots of leg grabbing and bumping.  I pushed through it best as I could and rounded the last turn buoy nice and wide to avoid the mess.  On the way in I brushed up against an orange cap dude who was an ass and very aggressive.  Apparently nobody ever brushed up against him as he got pretty rough and pushed/punched me right in the left hip.  Apparently I was crossing in front of him and he wasn't happy about it.  Whatever...   I just kept swimming.  At this point I was ready for the swim to end.  It hadn't felt short at all and my arms were tired.  When I got out of the water and looked at my watch I was pretty surprised.  I knew I wasn't fast today, but I was surprised to see how slow I was.  43 minutes?!?!?!?!  WTF!!!  I did my 2.4 mile swim the other day at a 2:00/100 pace in 1:25.  I went slow that day as I had no idea how to pace an effort that long.  I think I can realistically swim a 1:20 for my ironman if all goes well.  So to see 43 minutes for 1.2 was pretty bad.  I was expecting 36-40 minutes.  But whatever...  time to focus on the rest of the day....  In reality my swim time was the only real dissapointment of the day, and in the grand scheme it was pretty minor.

TOTAL SWIM 1.2 mi. (43:40) 2:05/100y

T1:  T1: SWIM-TO-BIKE 1:59

T1 went pretty quick for me.  There was a decent length run to get to my bike from the water and I did my best to really RUN that part.  I took advantage of the wetsuit strippers and then headed to my bike.  Quick transition there and I was off and ready to really have at the bike course.

My plan for the bike was to aim for a 2:45.  I wanted a SOLID bike that was well paced and on target power wise.  I had to decided to pace by power and cadence alone as thats been working really well for me.  The plan was to average 160 watts and an average cadence of 90.  My FTP is currently 207 Watts so 160 is well within reach even on zero taper.  I've also felt great on the bike lately so I was hoping for good things.  This was the first race of any length that I've done without having riden or driven the bike course before.  So despite having the guidance from friends that had seen it I was going to just have to take as it came.  I knew the rough profile though and had a plan to spin the climbs nice and easy at a max of 200 steady watts and stay within myself and hammer everything else.  And I stuck to plan I'm happy to say.  The bike was pretty uneventfull with the exception of being bummed that most of the downhills were really crowded for me so it made bombing down them in aero near impossible as there were lots of nervous people drifting so far left you had to cross the centerline to pass them and with oncoming traffic that wasn't an option.  I spent a LOT of time YELLING "ON YOUR LEFT!!!!" at 35-45 mph as loud as I could.  Made for some scary descending a couple of times.  I did hit 45 on the one big descent but I think I could have gone faster if there weren't people in the way.

Only other points of interest on the bike were that I totally blew an aid station and despite two attempts to grab water I failed (I was going too fast) so I spent ten miles with no water which I could have stopped to go get but decided to just press on and get the next stop.  Fortunately that didn't come back to bite me.

All in all I really enjoyed the bike course.  It was crowded and three wide quite often with people trying to pass each other.  Starting in such a late wave meant I had people to pick off all day long on the course so that was good and bad.  But for the most part good.  At the turnaround I checked my average speed (first time I'd looked at it all day!) and PSYCHED to see it at close to 20!  I really wanted an average of over 20 for the first time for this distance so I pushed as hard as I could on the way back.  Here's how it all shook out...
BIKE SPLIT 1: 27.2 mi 27.2 mi (1:22:13) 19.85 mi/h

BIKE SPLIT 2: 56 mi 28.8 mi (1:24:50) 20.37 mi/h

TOTAL BIKE 56 mi (2:47:03) 20.11 mi/h

I'm pretty damn happy with that!  I hit my wattage target, and just barely missed my hope of 2:45 for the bike course.  Considering I'd just ridden 80 miles on tuesday, and over 200 miles the week before I'm VERY VERY happy with that.  Definitely the best part of my day!

Some other numbers of interest to look at...

Average Power: 154 Watts
Normalized Power: 167
Intensity Factor: .81 (EXACTLY what I wanted)
Elevation Gain: 2400 Ft.
Avg Speed 20.11mph

The above numbers are exactly what my race plan called for and I'm really excited to set a realistic goal based on trainign and testing, and then NAIL it in practice.  And MOST importantly I then went on to feel good on the run.  I experienced something on this bike course I haven't before, and that was the sensation that I'm approaching my peak bike fitness for the season and that all this time I've spent riding lately has really paid off.  I'm really excited to see whats going to happen on the B2B bike course.  This race was certainly a great sign of things to come.

T2: BIKE-TO-RUN 1:45

T2 was nice and easy.  Feet out of the shoes, nice dismount and off on the run course in no time.  Time for the fun part!
Heading into T2
The Girl was an amazing cheering squad and put some great signs out on the bike course that were great for a laugh and a smile!  One of her other signs that was a favorite was "Save a Bike, Ride a Triathlete!"  I loved having her to share the race with!  She was an amazing support group and put up with my freakshow pre race self!

The Run!:

The run was once again not what I wanted it to be.  Which is not due to nutrition or bike pacing or anything else.  I actually felt pretty good on the run.  But my right leg issue is still there and just isn't going to go away.  Its a frustrating limiter.  It just doesn't want to let me run much faster than 8:30s for any length of time.  The run course was also quite challenging.  It rolls throughout with a pretty decent steep hill at around mile 4 of the two lap course.  The first time up the hill it was a shocker... the second time it was BRUTAL!  I felt pretty good on the first loop, and not as good, but decent on lap 2.  For a while I thought I might hold a sub 8 minute pace, but that didn't last much past the first few miles.  It was REALLY HOT out there.  Which led me to make some odd choices!  There were volunteers handing out ice which was to be used to cool youself with.  I was so hot I decided I just didn't care and put it in my mouth.  Hec, I've eaten worse I'm sure!  But the Make A Wish foundation folks handing out giant ice cold towels are my absolute heroes!  Those were amazing and I held onto mine for the whole race and kept it cool by putting ice and the "snowballs" they were handing out which were fantastic.  I shoved ice in places I never though I'd put it before.  Anything to keep cool.  It was interesting comparing notes with my friends after the race...  we all definitely hit some tough spots out there and were all suffering in the heat.  You can see the suffering and some of the goofy things I did to keep cool in the pictures that follow...

Heading out on Lap 1 of the run feeling good!
heading out on Lap 2 feeling HOT!!!
Yeah!  Finish Chute Sprint!
The highlight of my day...   World Record Holder Chrissie Wellington putting the finishers medal around my neck!  What a class act this woman is!

Here's the run splits that tell the rest of the story as my pace slowed....

RUN SPLIT 1: 3.275 mi 3.275 mi (26:26) 8:04/mi

RUN SPLIT 2: 6.55 mi 3.275 mi (27:47) 8:29/mi

RUN SPLIT 3: 9.825 mi 3.275 mi (29:56) 9:08/mi

RUN SPLIT 4: 13.1 mi 3.275 mi (27:49) 8:29/mi

TOTAL RUN 13.1 mi (1:51:58) 8:32/mi


All in all though I can't complain.  I managed a 5:26:xx on zero taper after the biggest build month of my life getting ready for the ironman.  I've put in HUGE volume lately, 17 hour trianing weeks and then to have a race like I did yesterday with no taper makes me very happy.  Just another step on the way to the Ironman.  I have no complaints, had a great day on the course with my friends and a great weekend with the girl even if the severe weater in NH meant we packed up the campsite a day early and rushed home to escape it yesterday.

Me, The Girl, and Sunni after the race
Kevan, Sean and I cooling off in the lake post race.  Felt Great!

As much as I wish I could get to the point of being able to think about going sub 5 for a half some day I know I just need to wait until maybe next season to aim for such a thing.  I am just going to have to hope that some time off and dedicated strength training and rehab work over the winter will bring my right leg back to last year's running form.  In reality its already starting to feel like its improving but its on the ragged edge of getting worse so I've been babying it quite a bit lately and being really smart about my run volume.  When I look back at this race and think about what I could have done better (other than obviously tapering for it) I think I could get my swim time better by 3-5 minutes, and if my run form would come back then theres another 15 minutes back.  So thats an improvement by up to 20 minutes which gets me back on the edge of thinking about sub 5 again.  For now thats just a dream, but its a fun one to think about.  Time to shift focus now to B2B.  I probably won't race another half this year, although I'm considering using the FIRMMAN half iron as a full distance ironman pace excercise.  Not sure about that one yet. 

Next up this week is a much needed recovery week.  I'm off ot Raleigh for the week with work so I'm going to plan on doing nothing for 2 days, then some yoga/stretching for a couple of days and then ease into some light spins on hotel bikes and short runs, and some easy swims in the pool and then start another big build period when I get back next week.  Timberman definitely showed me that I'm on track for where I want to be this season and I'm very pleased overall.  Good things are definitely on the horizon!

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