B - 108.2 miles
R - 16.6 miles (23 miles ish in reality)
Time - 10.5 hours
Not a lot to report on this week as my volume was quite low, due mostly to the fact that I raced on Sunday and raced again on Saturday. The blister issue that appeared after NOLA, then went away, then came back again after the Morganton Biathlon on Sunday was in full force this whole week, really limiting my running and even to a certain extent my biking. It was quite painful all week and I was hesitant to even do White Lake on Saturday as I was worried it would worsen the situation considerably. As race day approached, however, it became slightly more manageable and I figured if I got off the bike in the race and it hurt too much I could always stop. Anyways, on to the good stuff...
White Lake Half (err, 69.2) Race Report
Andrew picked me up at Scott's house and away we headed to the magical land of White Lake, NC. The drive was mostly uneventful and we arrived with more than enough time to pick up our packets and putz around in our luxurious accommodations, setting up the bikes and getting in a little swim in the lake. After all was said and done and the German finally arrived we ate dinner and settled in for a good night's sleep.
Upon waking in the morning we noticed it was decidedly misty outside and looking at the Lake we saw that there was a TON of fog sitting over the water. Not thinking much of it at the time (who thinks a lot at 6am, not me!) we got on our bikes and rode over to transition area to begin setting up for the day; put on the wetsuits and headed into the water to get warmed up for the race. After a while it was clear that there was no way to see buoys if the race started on time and accordingly, the RD pushed the start back a bit to see if it would clear. We continued to flop around in the water a bit before the RD came on and said they were going to delay the start until 8am and if the fog was still there the swim would likely be nixed. So we got out of the water to stand around and then once they actually said they'd cancel the swim and it'd be a bike/run (oh joy!) we headed over to take off the wetsuits and get ready to ride. At this point, everybody was blaming me for being a jinx and I can't say I blame them!
Transition 1 in :55
So they gathered us in wave order and let us run to transition from the Lake in groups of 10 or so. I elbowed my way past John just to make sure he knew where he stood in the scheme of things and ran towards my bike, put on my shoes (we had already put on helmets/shades/etc), grab my bike and head onto the roads.
Bike 56 miles in 2:16:15 (4th), ~24.7 mph
As I headed out on the bike, I was thinking several things. Those included but were not limited to:
"Why the F can't I get a swim in a race this year (Cool Breeze does not count)??!!"
"Blisters are stupid."
"This is going to be an interesting bike ride with all of us starting together."
The last was the most relevant during the bike portion as everyone headed out basically together. I believe I started the bike in 3rd place (ish, since it was a TT start) and just started putting out my steady watt target for the day. I eventually made my way up to the front of the race and "led" for a while before being passed by the various people I had started with. I was rolling pretty fast through the first 10-15 miles (~25.5ish mph avg) and the "group" of 10 or so was all together. The cool thing about started in this format was that it felt very much like what I imagine the Pros feel like at bigger races. There was a legal draft paceline going on for most of the day on the bike and there is a definite benefit to legal drafting. Benefit in the sense that if you're in the back end of the "train" your watts are lower (5-7%) but you're forced to ride other people's race. I think I would have biked a little faster had I been solo the whole time as there was one long section (7-10) miles where I was below goal watts, but that's something I'm just saying and have no way of actually backing that up with any real truths. Most of the things I say are like that actually...
We continued on our merry way and I continued to hydrate and stuff gels into my face and we eventually made it to the out and back section. At this point, Tom Clifford had just passed me and at the turnaround I saw that our "group" was still very much intact. It was also fun to see everyone behind us and see how everyone looked. After a bit a passed Tom as he ate something to re-take the "lead" and we got back out on the main road and chugged along the bumpy, slightly uphill, headwind section of the bike route. At some point, a guy on a road bike with clip ons passed me looking like he was riding as hard as he could. He was going pretty fast and the first thing I thought was "there's no way this guy is for real!" (turns out I was wrong haha!) So he took the effective "lead" for a while before Kit Phillips and another guy passed and put a slightly larger-than-normal gap on me. They were riding pretty hard and I had been steadily raising my watts a hair so I let them go do their own thing. As we approached the last 5ish miles of the bike I looked behind and realized there was a significant gap from me to the next racer. As I rode in to transition I unstrapped my shoes and dismounted nice and smooth.
Transition 2 in 1:24
I had made the decision prior to the race to use "real" laces instead of Yankz and thereby sacrificed all the time I had gained on the bike while bent over tying my shoes. I swapped out my gel flasks, put on my visor and headed out on the run course.
Run 13.1 miles in 1:25:52 (4th), 6:33/mi
As I started the run course, my foot was definitely uncomfortable. My stride had a very slight hitch in it but it wasn't overwhelming so I felt like I could press on without any long-term damage. Luckily I was correct as the pain level was "manageable" throughout the run and never got worse. My first couple of miles were relatively quick and I felt...just ok. At NOLA I was clicking off fast miles and felt like I was running along on a training run but at WL I was definitely working a little bit harder for similar paces. Around mile 2 my left hamstring decided to seize up a bit so I stopped to stretch both of them out, slightly worried that my day would be over at that point but luckily my overly dramatic thoughts proved to be incorrect and I got back on the road but kept the pace a litttttle slower just to make sure my problems had been stretched out of the ol' legs.
My pace through the first half of the run stayed pretty decent but I could tell that my run time was not going to be nearly as surprising as NOLA's was; I definitely didn't feel at my best but had some good carrots in front of me in the form of Kit Phillips and Mark Carey. I managed to catch Kit right after the turnaround and ran behind him for a while before passing him. Unfortunately my lower quad muscles decided that the faster pace was not to their liking and started to give off some warning signs so I slowed and Kit returned the favor. From this point on it was pretty much just about managing pace so as to not slow down too much but also not go so fast that my legs wouldn't cramp. I also just couldn't go very fast period, so my excuse to prevent cramping is kind of silly. At mile 12.5 the guy that came in second (road bike guy actually!! awesome) flew by me doing about 100mph and I tried to latch onto his pace since I had been slowly catching Kit/Mark in the hopes that he could drag me up to them but after about 2 or 300 yards it was just too much and I resigned myself to trotting in towards the finish line.
Finished 5th OA, which was both good and bad at the same time.
The race itself was sort of bittersweet. Bitter in the sense that I didn't get to swim (AGAIN) and I think my placing would have been a bit higher as a consequence (I think I'm a better swimmer than a couple of the guys ahead of me and I'd be willing to bet a couple of them wouldn't have biked as fast had it been more of a solo venture) and because I didn't run as well as I did at NOLA. Sweet in the sense that I still ran a 1:25:high despite being semi-injured and not feeling 100% and it shows continual improvement, which is all I'm really looking for right now.
At this point, I won't be racing again for another month (word to the wise: everyone doing Latta should start to get worried because since I'm signed up they will probably cancel the swim for some reason!!) so after I allow my foot to heal properly I can get back into the exciting daily grind of banging out some awesome training. In a couple of weeks I also plan to do some of the NC State Cycling championship races (crit/TT/RR) so that will be a nice diversion. Big thanks to Bob and Melissa (and Paul at Winskins) for getting my new kit ready in a short amount of time and just for being awesome!