The important things to note in the week leading up to this race were:
- I felt MUCH more mentally prepared than before New Orleans 70.3. I think that just knowing I was capable of completing the race really helped me a lot.
- On Wednesday and Thursday we had to do some stuff at work that I think actually affected my race - especially the swim - and that was something that made me a little anxious leading up to Saturday. All afternoon Wednesday and Thursday I had to haul 30-40 pound buckets of dirt (literally hundreds of them) to level the ground underneath a crawlspace and that task left my shoulders/neck/arms extremely fatigued and sore.
- It's become increasingly clear that the wetsuit I have is just a little too small. I think if I were a little shorter it would fit me fine but alas, I am not. I haven't felt good in a swim that I've used it for (only 3 as of now but the feeling is telling) and that also made me a little apprehensive given the likelihood that the swim would be wetsuit legal.
- The past 2 weeks have seen a very reduced volume in my bike mileage and an increase in my swim yardage. The week of Lake Murray I only biked 80 miles (with the only really hard effort being the race itself) and the week of White Lake I totaled 144 but the bulk of that was on Saturday and there were NO hard efforts that entire week. This left my legs feeling very fresh, something that I think was lacking before New Orleans.
- I was much more hurried before this race as it was on Saturday and I had to work on Friday. I don't think that mattered at all, but it was something that was a little different than New Orleans where I had a ton of time to prepare for the race.
Swim 1.2 miles. Bike 56 miles. Run 13.1 miles. Sounds hard.
4:33:58, 6th overall
Swim (31:59, 40th)
I barely got my wetsuit on before I had to jump in the water and make my way towards the swim start. The lake itself was totally flat and the conditions were great (minus the fact that the water was 77 degrees; that's a little hot for a full-sleeved wetsuit...) and I was pumped to start another race. I made it to the pack of 'open' racers as the director was counting down from 15, so that wasn't really ideal. I didn't have any time to warm up, although I wasn't as concerned with this as I was at Lake Murray because the race is so long you have time to warm up during the swim itself. The whistle blew (or whatever it was) and I dove into a long day. I felt pretty good at the start, there was no contact but there was definitely a 'group' for the first 100-200 meters. On the way to the first turn buoy I was right in the middle of what I felt was a group (although I am still awful at sighting so I'm not really sure what it looked like...) but I started to feel really tired and short of breath. My arms and shoulders ached and I felt as though I was constantly having to breathe. In New Orleans I settled almost instantly into a pace and was completely comfortable the entire way, but that was definitely not the case at White Lake. I think the chest of the full-sleeved wetsuit I was wearing is tight and that made me feel restricted (mentally or physically, who knows) and I could never get into a rhythm. I started to fall off the pace just after the first turn buoy. I did some breaststroke as I made my way around the buoy and saw the endless line of sight buoys ahead of me leading to the next turn and I mentally crumbled. At that point I really wasn't sure whether or not I wanted to finish the race. I started swimming again and got into a decent rhythm but a little after that I started getting short of breath again and my shoulders continued to ache. I fell off the group I was with and just continued to struggle through the swim until I realized I was TOTALLY by myself (at least in my quick glances it appeared as though no one was immediately around me) - a fact that would later prove to be untrue - but it definitely made me feel much more desperate. I also began to feel extremely warm at this point, something that unfortunately lasted through the rest of the swim (and race for that matter). At the last turn buoy I expected it to be a 90 degree turn (I'm not sure why, given the fact that I knew what the course was like) but it was more like a 150 degree turn so I started off going in the wrong direction but soon realized my mistake and headed in the general direction of the dock that marked the swim finish. I was zig-zagging all over the place throughout the home stretch. The sun was right in my eyes every time I breathed to the right, which was super annoying. I started getting pretty close to the dock and was really angry because in the second half of the swim I had managed to convince myself that EVERYONE was in front of me (at least, the people that were part of our group from Charlotte...) and that the swim was only the beginning of a long walk of shame. I got to the ladder to climb onto the dock and my time was around 31:00 or so, which didn't make sense because I felt like it was SO slow and I walked for a little while down the dock towards T1 before snapping out of it and jogged the rest of the way while starting the process of removing my wetsuit. I came across the mat that marked the end of the swim right at 32:00 so it wasn't an awful swim, but I KNOW that I can do better than that.
Transition 1 (2:27):
I kept jogging through transition - all 'open' athletes had the first rack, which meant that we were furthest from the swim finish/run start but closest to the bike start/bike finish - and got my wetsuit off down to my waist and got to my spot and took the rest off while also taking off my swim cap/goggles. I saw Carrie at her bike was and realized that I wasn't all by myself during the swim (but I had no idea what kind of swimmer Carrie was so I didn't know whether it was or was not a good thing...). I put on my shoes and stuffed my gels/salts into my pockets and grabbed my bike before heading to the bike start right behind Carrie. I also saw John coming in to his bike as we were leaving. A long transition, but it was mostly because of the long run to get to it...
Bike (2:20:35, 5th):
I passed Carrie right out of transition and pretty much settled into the ride immediately. I had forgotten to put Chamois Butter on before so I was a little worried about how that would affect me (it was noticeable later on, but not all that bad...) and I was really thirsty so I had almost an entire bottle of water in the first 20-30 minutes. My computer wasn't working so I had no idea how fast I was going but my HR was pretty high and I was just counting on the fact that it would eventually settle down to a more reasonable bpm later in the ride. About 15 minutes into the ride John caught up to me and suggested that we work together, meaning that we rotate positions throughout the ride.
Now, the rules obviously and with good reason forbid drafting (and there are a number of penalties associated with the practice besides the obvious one of 'drafting') as Triathlon is a test of individual fitness. That does not mean, however, that athletes cannot 'work together' as both a motivational and physical tool to go faster. So what that boils down to is that John and I rotated positions throughout the bike; so we would maintain proper distance behind each other then pass, repetitively. It's said that the benefit of this (beyond the mental aspect of having someone around and providing incentive) can be 1.5 mph. Of course, you also induce the ire of everyone that sees you because, on the off-chance that they see you as you're making a passing move it could be (improperly) assumed that you are drafting, which is both illegal and not cool. So I'm basically going to get endless crap about this bike split as everyone will say that I drafted, which I did not. Anyways...
I took my first salt tab around 30-45 minutes into the ride but in the process of extricating it from the tube it was in I spilled about half of the pills, meaning I only had 6 or so for the rest of the day. I wasn't sure how much salt was in the e-gels I had brought with me and I knew it was going to be really hot by the time the run started so I was a little nervous about that. At about mile 10 we started catching people and that continued for the next 30 miles. I saw Scott around mile 20 and was pretty surprised as - since I had decided during the swim that everyone was ahead of me - I didn't think Chris would be ahead of him given that Scott is such a good swimmer. I assumed that Scott would jump on to pace with John and I but he did not so I assumed that we were either a) going really fast or b) he wasn't feeling that great. We got to the 25 mile marker in JUST over an hour so we were flying through the first half of the bike course. I don't remember when but we passed the female in first (Nicole something) and I remarked on the fact that she was both attractive and not likely to finish in first as Colleen and Carrie were both gunning for her. The halfway point was reached in 1:10 and change so I realized that I was on the way to a great bike split, which was a HUGE relief because I definitely felt as though I was working hard and I wanted to be rewarded with a good time. My average heart rate started settling in at about 157 or so by this point so I know that the work I've been putting in is starting to show a little bit. That was the same average(ish) that I had during New Orleans but the bike was slower and I felt way worse. We got to the little out and back spur and saw Kevin in the lead as we turned on to the out and back, so that was cool, although a little depressing because I figured if I could see him the out and back spur must be really long... This was the one chance to see who all was in front (and behind) so it was cool to see the guys that could put down monster bike splits (and/or swim splits) all pushing really hard. We saw Kevin, Alex Mcdonald (top Kona age-grouper and member of Team Timex) then Cid Cardoso Jr (masters racer who can drop some sick times), a guy I didn't know but who had a sweet bike and ended up coming in third (22 years old, not bad), then Ashley Ackerman, then one or two other guys that I didn't recognize and that was it. We'd ridden ourselves to what was basically the front of the race at that point, which was awesome. On the way back I saw Steve, Scott, Chris and Murph all on the 'out' spur of the outback. I was impressed that Ryan was up there since his wave started behind ours; just showing that being a good swimmer matters a lot more than most people think. The last 15ish miles were probably the most boring of the whole race as the terrain was flat and endless. I felt a sudden onset of right hip-flexor cramps with about 8-10 miles to go so I popped my second to last salt pill and pounded an e-gel and stood up a little bit more to try and work it out and all of that seemed to make it go away over the course of a mile or so. Got back into town and I could see the turn into transition and I took off my shoes and dismounted. I knew that I was somewhere around 2:20 based on my watch but I was apprehensive because of how it might affect the run.
Trantition 2 (1:24):
I couldn't really tell how hot it was on the bike; I knew that the forecast had called for ~92 degrees that day but when you're biking the wind makes the actual temperature a bit deceptive. I could tell I was sweating a decent amount because everytime I looked down it rained from my helmet and chin but beyond that I had no real knowledge of the temperature. In T2, I knew. It was HOT. I put my bike back on the rack, put on my socks, running shoes and visor then grabbed a last drink of water from my bottle before heading out towards the run start right behind Behme.
Run (1:37:36, 6th):
The first 200 yards of the run were shaded as we made our way back around transition then out towards the road before turning right and heading out on what was a long out and back (run almost all the way around the lake then run back). We turned right onto the highway and I remarked to John that it was going to be a hot one today and I was not wrong. I started pulling away slowly and went through the first mile in 6:30something and ran through the aid station while grabbing some water and settled in for the long haul. The next mile was a little slower as my HR went up and I consequently brought the pace down, but I could see several guys up ahead of me so I just kept at my pace, knowing that I would catch them eventually. In the next 2 miles I caught two guys and was catching a third when I just had to stop at the aid station at the mile 4 marker to hit the porto-john for a pee break. It felt AMAZING. You never really realize how bad you actually have to pee until you get the relief of peeing. I had tried peeing on the bike several times as I definitely needed to but was only able to get partial relief (and that was 2 hours and 50+ ounces of water ago at this point). After the aid station I managed to pass the guy I had been catching and was rolling along pretty nicely but I felt some tightness in the muscle just above your knee (sort of below and besides your quad) and tried striding it out (sort of kicking my knees up a little higher) and my left hamstring locked up INSTANTLY. I had to stop immediately and stand on the side of the road with my left leg stretched out; if I tried moving it the hamstring would just seize up again. Everyone I had passed returned the favor to me as I was standing beside the road. One guy offered me a salt, which was nice but I said no thanks as I had no way of taking it since I didn't have any water (plus I had one of my own). It felt like forever, but in reality was only a couple of minutes, before I started running again. It took a lot of willpower to try running because I was so worried about how my leg would react. I didn't want to stand beside the road in painful misery for a long time waiting for the pain to subside so I just hoped that running would work the cramp out the rest of the way and luckily, it did. I kept on chugging along except that from that point on I walked through every single aid station to make sure that I got enough water (well, you can never really get enough but the point is made) and took gels if I felt as though I needed them. I began catching the guys that had re-passed me and got to the turnaround point and I honestly felt pretty good other than the tightness where I had cramped. I would have thought that the way back would be more interesting than the way out due to the fact that I was going to see everybody in the race but unfortunately I was wrong as it was almost depressing to see the long lines of people stretched out in front of me running the other way. I saw everyone on the way back, literally. There were so many Custom Coach jerseys out there that were easy to spot and we were all doing well (relatively speaking, the heat was killer for everyone out there...). The whole way back was exactly the same as the 'out' portion: no shade, tons of heat, walking through the aid stations and suffering. With 3 miles to go I started to let myself get excited a little bit and with 1 to go I actually picked up the pace (to just over 7 minute miles pace, exciting!) and was extremely relieved to turn left into the park and cross the finish line in 4:33:58, a 15 minute PR.