***Warning*** Kind of a long blog post. Plus photos galore at the end compliments of my sister’s friend Elise.
Woke up Sunday morning and I was excited, ready to go. Grabbed a quick breakfast to go and was headed to T1. Walk outside and it’s raining!! Couldn’t believe it. I knew there was a very slim chance of rain, but I wasn’t expecting a full on downpour. It rained almost every day I was out there, but prior to Sunday morning they were all in the afternoon and they were extremely hit or miss. I wasn’t too worried; I had my bike covered with a bag on the seat and a bag over the handlebars and aero bars. But as it turns out, they were basically pointless since it rained all morning long. Set up the rest of my stuff in transition and tried to find some dry land. Eventually got in line with speed suit on and waited until we could get into water.
Swim: 29:18. Says 10th in AG, but I think I was 9th.
As I got near the start, I positioned myself in a gap in the middle. There weren’t many people around, but that quickly changed. We were treading water, and it got crowded fast, so I moved more to the left. My thinking was that a lot of the fast Pro’s started on the far left away from the first buoy, so I figured instead of moving right, left would be best. So I positioned myself on the front line again, and again it got crowded. So with about 1 minute to go, I moved left again. At this point, there’s about 7 or so people to my left so it was easier to find space. As the announcer says 15 seconds to go, I notice that everyone is slowly creeping forward ahead of the start “line” (even though it’s invisible), so I do the same, I keep inching forward with the rest. When the horn sounds, I took off. I tried this new in water start technique and it worked. I was out quick. The other guys starting near me were also out fast. As it turns out, I was positioned in the lead group! I know at one point, about 4 or 5 buoys in, I was in about 6th place, give or take a spot. There was a line of us and we were all drafting off the person in front of us and I was near the back of it. Since I breathe to my right, I could see that no one who started off on the right of me got out to fast start since I couldn’t see any of them. This gave me great confidence that I finally picked the right spot to start and got off to a quick start. As we made our way down to the first turn buoy, I was still feeling pretty good. The lead group gapped me at this point, but I was swimming with one other guy. We ended up swimming together for the remainder of the swim. He beat me by 1 second on the swim (Florian Seifert). I had kind of a lull after making the second turn and started heading toward the finish. I was struggling and didn’t feel like I had any strength in my stroke when I went to pull. I eventually snapped out of it and started to get in a bit of a rhythm, but that lull probably lasted a good 3-4 buoys. Florian didn’t gain any ground on me at this point, but that may be because on the way back, he took a wide route around some of the 25-29 AGers that we were catching while I took the inside route and stayed near the buoys and just weaved through the slow ones.
Things to note about swim:
1. The water was gross. It was warm (80 degrees) and it was like thick soup. You couldn’t see your elbow when you were swimming.
2. The swim course has a bit of a bend to it. On the way out, the left side was definitely the fastest side to be on; you could take the tangent to the first turn buoy. And on the way home, staying close to the buoys since it had a slight bend to the right was the shortest possible route.
Had a bit of a slow T1. The run over to T1 was a muddy muddy pit with extremely torn up grass. But that’s to be expected since it’s been raining for 5 hours at this point at nearly 2000 people crossed the exact same fenced in area as I did. They had water (which turned out to be hot) right as you enter T1, so I grabbed a cup to throw it on my feet to get rid of the mud. I had my helmet, sun glasses, watch, and endurolytes all inside my helmet and covered with a trash bag. So when I got to T1, I took off speed suit, threw it in gear bag, slide the bag over helmet and put it in my gear bag, put endurolytes in back pocket, put extra gel in shorts on top of my left quad, put helmet and glasses on and went. The T1 exit was weird. You run up a steep incline that has a sharp 170 degree turn in it before you get to the road where you can mount.
There’s a link to my Garmin watch results
There was a big downhill about 2 miles or so into the race. This wasn’t much fun because I didn’t have my sunglasses on because they were foggy and soaking wet, so the rain hurt as it hit my eyes and face. We then went around a roundabout and had a big climb out to the main road. We go down this hill and do a quick roundabout on a bike path the goes under the road so we could get back on the main road and head the opposite direction. This was a no pass zone and it didn’t count toward out total distance, which ended up being 56.6 miles, officially. As we entered the park, I quickly realized that the course preview I thought I did 2 days prior to the race was not correct. If my link above works, you can zoom in 1 or 2 times on the map. So we took a left on North shore Rd, well during my ride on Friday, I stayed on Lakeshore Rd. So needless to say, the route was completely foreign to me. All I knew was that it was going to be hilly. I got in a nice rhythm. On every big climb, I shifted the front gear to the lower ring. I just wanted to keep things easy and not try to power my way through these hills because I knew I was in for a long day if I trashed my legs. I got out of the saddle to climb for some of it, but for the most part, I just moved out of aero position and kept a nice cadence/rhythm. I was passing a lot of people on the climbs. I biked with one guy for probably 30+ miles (as well as a few 25-29 AGers). On every uphill, I’d pass them and on the flats or down hills, they would catch back up to me. Bike went well; I wasn’t getting fatigued at all at the turn around point. I specifically remember the rain stopping and the sun creeping through the clouds simultaneously around mile 40. I also remember being at 2 hours at mile 46. Other than that, I don’t remember a whole lot about the race. Around mile 40-41 there is a massive hill climbing out of the National Park. It was a brutal one, probably a good 3 miles long. This is about the first point of fatigue creeping into my legs. Luckily there was a lot of downhill (albeit a very slight one) and flat roads until around mile 50. Once we took a left from Warm Springs Rd onto Gibson, that’s where the “fun” took place. Gibson consists of a 2.5 mile hill that starts out slightly uphill, until you go under the highway and then it’s a steep incline. Surprisingly to me, I felt better on the steep incline then I did on the slight one. After that it’s a right (small roller hill) another right (all downhill) then a left (flat for 1 mile, then uphill till T2). Half of that uphill is the same incline that we had to run during the run course.
Things to note about bike:
1. A lots of flat tires. I didn’t have one, fortunately, but there were a lot of people pulled over changing flats.
2. Once the sun came out around mile 40, it heated up quickly. The pavement was dry by mile 45 or so.
3. Confidence wasn’t as high at the end of the bike as it was after the swim and early on in the bike.
I like that they take your bike from you and you don’t have to rack it yourself. I handed off my bike, and legs felt extremely weird running over to get my run gear bag. I’ve mentioned before how much I absolutely love this feeling, well it was different on Sunday. Legs were very tired. Probably from the 1.5 mile hill that I just had to climb to finish off a very hilly 56.6 mile bike ride. Since my bag was in the very back, the volunteers were yelling my number out, so when I got to my area, they just handed me my bag and I didn’t even have to slow down. I went in the right tent (left tent was for females), took off helmet and slipped on my shoes, grabbed hat and race belt and I was gone…. But before I could start the run, I had to go #1. They had port-a-potties just outside the tent, so I stepped in an open one and quickly relieved myself. Probably a 20-25 second pit stop…
I took off down the hill and was actually feeling fine. As I just mentioned above (#3), confidence was a bit down, but I knew that running was my strength and that it’s 3 sports all in one. So take it easy and I know I can find my running legs and finish strong. My splits are slightly off because when I left T2, there was no timing mat that was visible, so I didn’t know exactly where to start my watch. So at every mile marker, my watch would say x.94; meaning that I was .06 off for each mile. But it was consistent so it was no big deal. The plan was to originally keep 1-2 miles easy, then go 60 min tempo since it’s my strength. Since I was a bit tired, I decided to run the first 3 miles easy and wait until the first downhill until I start to get into my race pace rhythm. So 6:05, 6:29, 6:43 for my first 3 miles. I felt really good at this point. I wasn’t too concerned about the hills and knew I could find my rhythm on this course. I let gravity and momentum take me down the hill and split a 5:55. Was it too fast? I really don’t think so, I wasn’t exactly pushing it super hard, and I was just in my tempo pace and let the hill help me. After doing that stupid horseshoe section (see #2 below), I headed out to start lap 2; still feeling fine as I headed down the hill. Mile four was 6:16, part of which was stupid #2 below. Up the hills the second time I still felt decent. Had to focus more this lap than I did the first one, but I was able to go 6:32 and 6:55. Pace was slower than I expected, but the heat and hills were starting to catch up to me. By the time I reached mile 10 at the bottom of the course, I was spent. I was crawling along at this point! Hip flexors hurt, could change pace at all. I had officially bonked. So we take a right off Paseo Verde and there’s an aid station, we go down roughly 200 feet and do a u turn and the other side of the road is also an aid station. Through both those aid stations, I had to walk. I got 1/2 a banana at each one and ate them. I also took on water and a full gel packet. Going up the hill toward the finish line was not fun at all! I was struggling. I wasn’t breathing hard at all, but my energy levels were beyond low and all I wanted to do was walk up the hill. I finally made up the hill at mile 11 and there was another aid station and got more water. After mile 11 there are a few short steep hills as you make your way to Green Valley Parkway, I was going so slow that I couldn’t take it; I had to walk, so I did. I walked for about 45-60 seconds in hope that the food I consumed 1 mile ago (so 9-10 min at this point) would start to take effect. At this point I knew I was going to be able to finish, but I was worried that I was going to have to walk most of it since I knew I had bonked. I started running again and made it to GV Pkwy. The food did the trick; I started to feel better and was able to pick my pace up a bit. At this point I’m running almost 10 minute pace. I was able to get my pace to 8:47 by mile 12. This is quite remarkable considering how I was feeling and the pace I was going just a ½ mile prior. Once I reached the top of the hill, I started feeling great again. For mile 13, the first .20 – .25 of it was still part of the uphill and my pace was a 6:47 for that mile. I was able to finish strong the last 1.25 miles.
Things to note about run:
1. The second hill (Green Valley Parkway) is definitely harder than the other hill. This one is a constant grade the whole way up. The other hill on Paseo Verde has a few spots where it’s steeper than others, but it also flattens off a bit in other spots.
2. That stupid horseshoe loop we have to do around the amphitheater is very hard. You go near the finish line, do a 100 degree turn to get to amphitheater, then it’s a steep uphill until the top of it, then steep downhill, but at the end of the downhill, you do a sharp 150 degree turn, followed by another 150 degree turn followed by another one. It was ridiculous. You lost all your momentum and rhythm every time through this section. And it’s on a side walk. The 3 straight 150+degree turns are on a handicap ramp. You can see the sharp incline I talk about in my link if you look at the elevation change.
12th in AG
I don’t know what to think. Obviously I’m disappointed because I have high expectations of myself. But at the same time it’s a great accomplishment to not only qualify for such a prestigious race in really my first full year of triathlons, but also to not give up and finish the race. After all, it was just my 2nd 70.3 ever and only my 5th race that is Olympic distance or farther that I’ve ever done. It would have been fun had I not bonked so I could’ve seen what I could do on a tough run course like that; but that’s the sport of triathlons, especially long distance triathlons. Obviously I’m disappointed in my run. To see 1:31:17 and having to walk twice was not fun for someone who has never hit the wall and been a runner all his life. I know I’m much faster than that. But there’s not much you can do when you bonk and you body is deprived of nutrition. Overall, it was an amazing experience. Something I will never ever forget. I have things to learn and improve on, (like nutrition so I don’t bonk, rookie mistake) and that’s very exciting. I look forward to trying to qualify for next year’s race in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada.
Photos compliments of Elise. She took a ton of great pictures.