Knee-Jerk Reaction To Ironman St. George Venue

You can see my bike and run GPS data from there race here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/32442040. Lap 1 is the bike, the rest of the laps are mile (in some cases 2 or 3) splits.

Ironman St. George Run Course

Ironman St. George Run Course

The course is hard. The swim was around 60 degrees and could easily be +/- 5 degrees in future races. The bike was as advertised containing over 6,000 feet of climbing. Even for a well trained age grouper a 112 mile ride covering 6K of climbing is a challenging training ride, let alone something you’d do in a race. Show of hands of who has run 26.2 miles after 6K of climbing over 112 miles?? Right, not many of us and for good reason because it’s hard! Top this off with constant wind and long stretches of chip seal paving and the ride is less than pleasant. The run serves up 2,300 feet of elevation gain. By itself, it’s doable, but after the bike it’s quite challenging. The course is almost never flat and in many places is very steep going up or down. Even with proper pacing on the bike, the run is going to hurt, there is no escaping it and all but the very elite will suffer mightily. But we are there to suffer, right? Of course, so that doesn’t bother me.

While the elevation gain is a bit daunting, that’s not really what will make the course hard. The wind….oh the wind. On race day we were lucky and winds were moderate but on the days prior and after they were gusting to the point that I’d rather not race at all. The screaming descent at the end of each loop would be very dangerous in the wind and between that and the chip seal you’d have a pretty miserable 5-8 hour white knuckled vibrating experience. Even with moderate winds like we had there were times where it felt a bit like being in a washing machine as winds quickly changed directions on you back and forth making it hard to get into a rhythm.

IMSG Bike + Run Elevation Profile

IMSG Bike + Run Elevation Profile


The location of the race is amazing. You won’t find better scenery at any Ironman race in North America. I’ve never done Canada but I’d say this was hands down better scenery than even a place like Lake Placid. The bike offers views as far as the eye can see with a mix of red dessert sand and distant snowcapped peaks. The people of St. George were the best hosts I have ever experienced. I must have had my picture take at least 30 times by spectators who were completely in awe of every single racer, even a shmoe like me. They were completely enthusiastic. Even at a wonderful venue like Lake Placid, there is a “been there done that” sense among the locals, but here these guys were wide-eyed and possibly even more excited than I was for the race.

As for the race production, it was flawless which is amazing for a first time race with two transitions no less. My only complaint was that they did body marking (using stencils and special ink) at registration. So I stood in one like for 30 minutes and it turns out that that was only for the upper body. I had to then go stand in another line for 30 minutes to get my age on my calf. But beyond that, it came across like a race that had been running forever.

Overall for me personally I probably won’t do this race because of the variability in the weather and the implications it could have on the race. We lucked out with good conditions but I still wasted a lot of mental energy over the potential cold water, gusting winds, cold descents, etc. I’d rather just focus more on swim, bike, run than neoprene caps or whether I need booties on the bike or not. While the town is great, the location is beautiful and the course is challenging , I’m just not sure I’d want my training to be undermined by factors beyond simply swimming, biking and running. But some people love that stuff and if you’re one of those people….stop reading this and go sign up!

Chesapeakeman Ironman Distance Triathlon

Success!
Success!

Results: http://www.championchiptiming.com/Home/tabid/65/Default.aspx?EventID=361

Pre Race

The Chesapeake Ironman distance race takes place in Cambridge, MD which is pretty far away from where I currently live in Boulder, CO. This meant I would be doing this race without my support crew (Melanie) who opted to stay behind with her 33 week pregnant self. I travelled to the east coast Thursday and crashed with tribud Brady and the Dehoust clan. The race was Saturday and we made the drive from Northern Virginia Friday morning and get our registration on at the race site.

We were up a 4:30 a.m. on race morning and out the door shortly after 5. Breakfast was two pieces of bread with peanut butter and honey, a banana, Ensure and some coffee. I think I took a bite of an apple in there somewhere but it’s all sort of a blur. I just kept fishing food out of my pocket all morning long and eating it. With such a small race and racking the bikes the day before, I was almost looking for things to do on race morning. I took a mag into the porta potty just to kill time (relax all you bitter port-a-loo line waiters, I am kidding). The energy when they played the national anthem “got me” as it usually does at these things. Everybody stops and all the energy that was individually flying all over the place suddenly has a singular focus. It’s a goose bumps moment for sure. I posed for a final photo with Brady and Ted and headed to the water for the 7:00 a.m. sharp start.

 

Brady, Ted and Dr. JustRolledOutOfBed

Brady, Ted and Dr. JustRolledOutOfBed

Swim

I found a spot near the front and Brady and Scott were right behind. I think Scott’s plan was to try to stay on my feet around the course – which would prove to be a terrible, terrible plan. I was not the guy you wanted to follow today. When the gun fired, the water turned into a frothy mess of arms and legs. I did not anticipate this with a relatively small field, but as I saw some folks charging hard, I remembered that most of the competitors where either doing the Aquavelo (just the swim and bike) or just a swim (as part of a relay or the “Swimfest”). So the intensity was very high for many people. I fell back much farther and quicker than I anticipated. The conditions were choppy but seemed manageable……at least until we made a U-turn around the far buoy. The swells were coming at us now and we were going right into the sun. I had a really difficult time sighting and fighting through the rough seas. I actually followed Scott around the course so props to him for helping me through. I never found a rhythm and existed in a fairly disappointing 1:01 which is my slowest IM swim ever by four minutes and nearly ten minutes below my goal. This was possibly the roughest and toughest IM swim which accounts for part of the time, but I still could have done better. I was less than pleased heading into T-1.

Swim Exit

Swim Exit

T-1 was smooth and I gave stuffing the wetsuit back into the transition bag the old college try before handing it to the nearest volunteer with a “can you??? Thanks”. As soon as I stepped out of the tent I realized the arm warmers I was holding wouldn’t be necessary so they went right into the jersey pocket. It was cool, but the sun was out so it made for a beautiful day to race. As I left the transition area a guy shouted out “You’re 7th!” Man, I had hoped to be doing better than that after the swim. I asked “but how am I doing for just the full individual IM?” He said “that’s what I meant….7th!”. Eesh.

Bike

As planned, I came out pretty aggressive in the 270 wattage range. The game plan was to test that out and see if it felt sustainable. On a flat course, you are MOVING if you are kicking out those watts and I felt like I was flying. I picked up a number of people very quicky and felt rather studlisome. I didn’t realize it at the time, but around the 20 mile mark, I past the individual IM race leader who was a 16 year old kid who swam a 48! I kept checking my effort and I knew I was going hard but things still felt ok. The course was very windy which nullified my hopes of a truly killer bike split and created some really tough spots. Flat is fast, but flat also means you quick go to zero mph if you stop pedaling. It’s like doing an IM on a bike trainer – no coasting!

Crushing

I had 10 gels tapped to my aerobars and alternated between caffeinate Accel Gels on the left and non caffeinated Powergels on the right every 30 minutes. In the middle of the first half of the bike I downed an Ensure and over the second half I nibbled a Cliff bar. In the end, I took in about 400 cals per hour. Although it was fairly cool, I was still sweating and supplemented with 2 Endurolytes every hour. The human machine was fueled, lubed and fit for racing.
The only real bike snafu is when I noticed my saddle bag was dangling off my seat post. While riding I manage to remove it, and squeeze in my race jersey, but to create space I ended up holding my Endurolytes, Cliff bar and arm warmers in my hand for a few hours which wasn’t really part of the plan. Fortunately that’s as close as I came to a mechanical.

I made it through the halfway point at 2:30 wheel time and 268 watts. I felt good. I knew I was getting tired, but I felt like I could hold the effort without digging too deep. I slammed a Red Bull through specials needs and took off for the final loop. At about mile 80 the fatigue started to settle in and I realized I needed to back off and figure out how best to manage the final 32 miles. I played mental games and offered myself a “stretch reward” when I would hit a certain mile marker. I changed positions, got out of the saddle and focused on using different muscles at different times. Having literally no chances to give your legs some time to recover turned out to be extremely draining. I really struggled the last hour and my watts faded considerably. It wasn’t a blow up, but it definitely was a slow up. I kept telling myself to do what I needed between now and T-2 to be in the best possible shape to run a marathon.

I pulled into T-2 with a 5:04 ride time having averaged 262 watts. The watts took a nosedive at the end, but it was still a 6 watt increase over my last IM 10 months ago. 6 watts over 5 hours is considerable. So, in the end I tried to push things a little early on and I found my limit. Well, I think it found me actually! But that’s what I wanted to do. I would have liked to have been strong at the end obviously, but I also didn’t want to finish the ride wondering if I left some time out the bike course.

Run
Deidre was at the exit of T-1 and said “you’re first!” which was news to me at the time. With relays and aqua velos it’s hard to know where you are at so that gave me a nice little boost. The run was a flat 4.5 miles out and 4.5 miles back 3 times. It was a lonely road as I ran out, but it felt awesome that way. My pace was around a 7:45 to start. With the way the bike ended, I was very nervous about the run. Other than a brief bathroom stop I made it to the turnaround doing ok. But as soon as I made the turn I saw Brady about a hundred yards behind in second place and charging hard. We exchanged fist bumps headed in different directions and I knew the “pass” was inevitable. But heck, at this moment Brady and I were 1-2 in this race which his crazy cool. I headed back towards the transition and was waiting for the sounds of Brady’s 6:30/mile footsteps to appear behind me and then SHABOOKIE!!!. My right hammy gave me a big FU and locked up in a vicious cramp. I sort of ruined the moment of the “pass” by awkwardly standing there swearing to high heavens as Brady ran by offering a gel or salt tabs. But the pass was understandably more fun for Brady than for me so I don’t feel TOO bad about screwing it up. I feared my race was done – at least any chances of a good one. I told myself to take as long as I need NOW to try to figure this out rather than deal with it off and on for another 21 miles. I stretched and massaged and stretched and massaged. I walked then shuffled then ran. I took a number of Endurolytes and gradually felt more comfortable running over the next few miles. While I did stop to stretch it a few more times during the run, it was largely a nonissue after that which is HUGE with a capital HUGE (but you got that the first time).

Halfway through the run

Halfway through the run

You can never remember, imagine, envision, explain or plan for how hard an IM run is until you are doing it. Self doubt appears shortly after the euphoria of clearing one mile marker recedes and the realization of the remaining miles settles in. With my cramp, it was a matter of one single step that nearly destroyed my entire race. But any number of things are lurking to pummel you. Bad stomach, general fatigue, injury, mental fatigue and the list goes on. You have every reason in the world to quit and you need to find the one to go on. As I was finishing my first loop and realizing I had two loops left, the realization of how bad this would hurt was setting in and I was now fighting to push myself from one marker to the next.

The next two loops are largely a blur of race jerseys, Coke, Gatorade, volunteers and the rest of the race accessories. I just focused on one mile at time because when I thought of the entire marathon I began to doubt myself. A fast moving guy passed me to put me in 3rd place. He got about 15 yards ahead and stop and bent over towards the side of the road with his hands on his knees and mouth open. I repassed him and did not see him again until I had made the turn and was headed in the opposite direction. He was walking with eyes that said everything. In an instant, he suffered one of those things that’s turns the lights out of your race. He went from second place and a 6:30 mile to standing in the grass in a matter of steps. That’s the reality I was fighting. That’s the reality EVERYONE was fighting.

Not until I entered the track for the final 200 meters did I feel secure in my finish. But to come across the line in a new personal best time with two good friends Brady (who won it) and Ted (who finished 4th) waiting for me was truly a highlight of my racing thus far. I ended up 5th in 10:05 with a 3:55 marathon. I gave everything I had on the day.

Brady and Me After The Race

Brady and Me After The Race

After a massage, Brady and I headed back to the hotel and had a few beers and reminisced about the race. Fresh race-pain made for a restless night’s sleep, but that’s the greatest pain in the world. I remember thinking to myself as I laid in bed with aches all over, “This is good. This is real good.”

Wild on Windsor Race Report

Running
I wasn’t sure if this would be a low key race or one stocked with Boulder studs since this was the first running of the race – ever. When I found myself making small talk with pro Chris McDonald at the swim start, I realized it was probably the latter. Great. That guy is in my age group too. This was only my second race of the year and my first and my first Olympic tri in a year. When the gun went off I struggled for about five minutes to stay off the back group of McDonald and company and eventually slipped back and did my own thing. I’m not quite that fast. They weren’t that far ahead, but I could never mount enough of a charge to catch up. Overall though it was a good swim and I was a few spots down out of the water.

Heading out on the bike I past Melanie (super spectator) and Owen (super volunteer)….what up peeps!?!! Straight away a few guys blew by me, and I was moving at the time!! After the first ten minutes of the ride nobody else came by and I never saw another guy behind me. Much like the swim, a fellow sat about 20-30 seconds ahead of me the entire ride and I could never catch him. It’s funny how such a small distance can seem insurmountable when racing. The course was flat and the day was cool and I was absolutely flying. 24 mph average for the ride and a 1:02 split. That must be a PR for me.

Off on the run I actually felt good. The cool weather really works for a guy like me. I was holding a seven minute per mile pace and was pretty happy with that. I noticed I was starting to reel in the guy I had been chasing on the bike. What!?!? Me? Reeling in someone on the run? Oh wow, someone pinch me!!! The run was somewhat uneventful in that I just stayed exactly at a seven minute mile pace. A few guys slipped by me, but certainly not a parade like I sometimes see. I tried to pick it up over the last couple miles but a cramp started to suggest it might want to make its presence known so I had to hold back just a tad. I didn’t lose much time but perhaps I was about 30 seconds slower than I could have been. I finished with a 43 minute run with 2:09 finish time which was a nice Oly distance PR for me. Overall, I was very happy across all three sports. But the hardest part was yet to come.

I gave my gear to Melanie then hopped on my bike and biked the 60 miles home back to Boulder. I was feeling great as I reached the Boulder city limits until I passed a lady who was also biking home from the race! Except she was man enough….er, woman enough to do it with all her gear on her back!! Her bag, wetsuit, running shoes etc. all loaded up in her backpack. Suddenly I didn’t feel that studly. Humpf. The sport can be so humbling.

5430 Half Ironman

For a variety of reasons, this was my first race of the year. As a result, I was unusually nervous. If you only have one race under your belt for the season and it sucks….well, then you pretty much have no choice but to accept that you suck. I did not want to suck. That said, while slightly inconsistent and scattered, my training in general had been good. So let’s dust off the wetsuit and fish out the race belt and get started, shall we?

DSCN1788

Me trying to get an early head start

My swim warm up consisted of standing at the start line for 2 minutes doing some air swimming. It seemed good enough and ensured I had some space around me at the start. When the gun went off I very quickly found myself sitting in 3rd in my wave behind 2 other swimmers. The pace was perfect. I was working, but I was comfortable. The lead swimmer picked his way through the crowds and I just followed bubbles. About 3/4s of the way around the course our group broke up and I finished up solo, managing to come out first in the AG, just barely ahead of a whole bunch of fast people right behind. I was out of the water in just under 27 minutes, but crossed the matt at the top of the hill in 28 minutes.

Things were good so far. Almost immediately after I hit T-1 I started getting passed, despite the fact I was doing everything really really fast. There is fast and then there is crazy boulder athlete fast…and those were the guys that went by. As fast as it started, it ended and just a few miles into the bike I went from first to 5th, but that’s where I stayed the rest of the ride. It was a glorious ride though with a perfectly even effort through each and every mile. It was windy, but not so much that it was a distraction. The wind did slow the overall time down a bit to 2:21, but based on my power output I crush previous bike efforts on the course. But did I go too hard?

Out of T-2 I felt good. This is where the race would really begin. My run training going into the race had been good, but I still didn’t feel like I was “back” from a broken bone in my foot earlier in the year. The first miles went by in 7:35 pace which was good. Things felt fairly easy and I walked the crest of the hills to recover just a bit so I could run the flats over the top. It was cooler than in previous years, but with no shade it was still quite hot while running. I was through the first loop in 50 minutes exactly which was on pace for a 1:40 run time which was my goal. I made a quick pit stop at one of those big plastic boxes at each aid station to drop some water weight and when I came out I found it really hard to get running again. My pace dropped to 8 minute miles and I held that the rest of the way to finish the run in 1:44 – 4 minutes short of my goal by a 3 minute run PR on the course. My finishing time of 4:36 was a personal best on this course by 6 minutes so I could barely have been happier with the performance. I’m not sure if it’s altitude or the course or something else, but this is just a hard course to me. Perhaps the hardest part of the day was heading to a wedding that evening. While I managed to make it on the dance floor for a while, I was a shadow of my typical wedding dance floor self.