i was excited about this race for two reasons: a. i really felt like i finally started to figure out my race nutrition in the weeks leading up this race, and was hoping it would translate into a great race. and b. i was going to spend the night before the race at my old boss / now good pal’s place in MN. sadly, her and her partner had just lost their dog earlier in the week, and having been through this less than two years ago, i know how terrible having to say goodbye is. still, we had a nice evening and it was so great to see them. Anne’s going to join me for a few weeks in Nepal when i go this fall, and i can’t wait for her to experience KTM and meet the kids at the orphanage. by quarter to ten, i was crawling into bed.
the alarm always sounds too early on race day, and being about thirty minutes drive from the race site, sunday’s alarm seemed to come even sooner. up and eating by 3:30am, i was on the road by 4:30, Mumford & Sons blaring through my speakers. having raced Chisago in 2011, i was familiar with the packet pickup area, transition, etc. still, i got there early. it seems i have better races when i’m not running two races in the day: the actual race, and then one before hand, dashing around getting everything set up and ready to go. with plenty of time, i set up my transition area, chatted with a few teammates, ran a two mile warm up, and made my way down to the swim start around 6:45.
the swim: i signed up for the elite wave like i have in previous races this year, and while i had no grand illusions i would be competitive in this distance, i am a strong swimmer and figured it would give me some clear water to swim in. in Kansas, i ended up swimming through most of the two groups that left in the heats before me, and it does slow you down a bit. and because my plan for this race was give it and see where i’m at with my fitness at the moment, i figured swimming in the first wave would set me up for the best possible race i could run.
i’d say there were about fifty people in my wave, and the starting shoot was quite narrow. this lead to a bit of hectic swimming for the first few 200 meters or so, but i soon found open water and settled into a comfortable pace. deciding prior to the race to not push the swim as hard as i had in Kansas, i eased back ever so slightly and exited the water in 32:58.14. certainly not blazing, but right where i wanted to be – towards the front of the pack, but very comfortable running to my bike.
T1: uneventful, really. the transition area is rather large, and it’s a decent jog from the water, so 2:42 seemed about right.
the bike: the wednesday before the race, i met up with my teammate Mike for a run workout. we got to chatting about my race plan for this event, and he asked what wattage i was going to aim for on the bike. ‘around 170 or so’ i told him. ‘WHAT?!’ he asked. ‘that’s way to low. at least give yourself a chance to see what you can do.’ he continued. he went on to remind me how hard i’ve been training, that i’m very capable of riding faster than 170 watts, and that this race was just a throwaway race leading up to Madison. and the more i thought about it, the more i realized he was right. who cares if i go for broke and blow up in the process. better, it might work out and i have a great day. so that’s exactly what i did. i pushed nearly 192 watts on the bike (2.94 watts/kg), despite frozen feet, legs, hands, and man bits, and rode to a personal best 2:46:25 (a 20.4 mph average). certainly not flying, but respectable.
T2: just about the time i was leaving transition for the run, i heard someone call my name. i looked up to find Jayme, a gal from my town racking her bike. ‘crazy we’re here at the same time almost three hours into the race’ i thought to myself as i grabbed my shades. we ended up running out of transition together, but she stopped straight away at the restroom. i continued on, and stuck to my 7:30 min/mi pace religiously for the first two miles. if i was feeling good, the plan was to try and get it down to 7:15 by mile eight or so and hold it there to the end. around mile three, i was thrilled to find myself holding a 7:30 with strong legs and NO NAUSEA!!! having to take a nature break, i found a restroom, did my thing, and exited only to see Jayme rounding the corner. we ran together without saying anything for about a mile, and realizing we were running around the same pace, she asked my target time. both shooting for mid to lower 7, we decided to run together as long as we could. it was fantastic. while we chatted very little, having someone to take your mind off 13.1 miles is a very welcome gift. even more so if you’re trying to push a faster pace.
as the miles passed, my watch went from a 7:25 to a 7:15 to a 7:05. it was around the 11 mile mark we hit a 6:50 and that was my breaking point. i had nothing left and was feeling pretty nauseated. i did forget my salt tabs in T2 before the run, and am pretty sure the GI distress was due to that. knowing i had to back it off a bit, i told Jayme to go ahead and finish strong. i was able to keep it under an 8:00 min/mi pace, and ended the run at 1:36:55 (a 7:24 min/mi average pace). this i was thrilled at, and while i missed breaking five hours by 20 seconds, i couldn’t have been happier with my race. i pushed the bike, pushed the run even more, and for the first time in years, i finished a long course race with a strong run. it was the confidence booster i needed heading into the final build period before IMWI.
i have an easy week as i’m racing again this saturday here in town, but am looking forward to the hard weeks ahead. it’ll be a lot of time in the saddle, but with a few books i’ve been looking forward to listening to, it’ll be manageable. oh, and by the way – yes, i am giving rockstar horns to the announcer in my finish photo. he said i had the sweetest beard of the day by far, and i felt the need to show him my appreciation for his praise. \,,/