Monday, August 5, 2013

Stumpy Creek International

For a long time I had been eyeing Stumpy Creek Sprint as my first August race seeing as how it was close to Charlotte and would be 1 of the 2 "bonus point" events in the NCTS this year.  Somewhat surprisingly (ok, really surprisingly) the sprint was cancelled and the International was moved from Saturday to Sunday and took over as the bonus race.  So, I decided to do the International instead!

Seeing as how it was a heavily weighted event in the series I was expecting some stiff competition and with Derek Kidwell and Matt Wisthoff racing I knew I wouldn't be disappointed.  I was hoping to have some other NC fasties show up but those two are more than enough for one race day!

Jenny and I drove up in the morning and got set up pretty quickly although I didn't have time for quite as much swim warm up as I would've really liked but the skies were raining and the temps were somewhat cool so I felt that'd be a fair trade-off. (of course, it ended up being a cloudless, slightly windy and hot day! oops)

Outsiders probably think we look weird, I think we look AWESOME
Swim - 22:15 (3rd)

So I had a couple of thoughts about this swim.  I KNEW Jenny was in phenomenal shape so sitting on her feet would be tough.  I KNEW Matt would be taking the swim out very hard.  I FIGURED Derek would sit on Matt's feet as long as possible to try and get a gap on me into T1.  I FIGURED my best bet would be to go out on Jenny's feet (she goes out a little slower than those two) and use her draft to eventually catch Derek who I surmised would not be able to hold Matt's feet for the whole swim.

This plan started off very well when at the gun I started out very hard and after several strokes looked up and slightly off to my right saw what appeared to be a motorboat streaking away from the rest of the group. No, that was just Matt with Derek hot on his heels, taking the swim out at about 1:00/100m pace.  It was an impressive display of water movement.

Jenny was on my right shoulder and eventually made her way up past me and as soon as she got ahead of me I slipped over and hopped on her feet.  It was a lot of work staying there but I knew I needed to do my bestest as it would help me move up the field.  Up ahead I couldn't really see Matt but I could see Derek so I figured he had popped off and was now solo.  Jenny was making up ground and I dropped off her pace but at that point Derek was only 25m ahead or so and we had yet to reach the first turn buoy.  Jenny turned left, then Derek turned left, then I turned left.  With only 50m to the next buoy I closed the gap down to Derek and got on his feet before making the second turn.

The way back on the swim course passed uneventfully and I stuck on Derek's feet (hopefully only tapping his feet once or twice unintentionally) with Jenny visible not too far ahead.  I wrestled with the proposition of putting in a hard surge to try and drop Derek and/or try and catch Jenny.  I was not working altogether THAT hard (I was working, mind you) on Derek's feet but as it was at OTM the positive would be mayyybe getting a gap with a lot of hard effort (but I have serious doubts Derek would've let me "go") the negative would be blowing myself up for the rest of the swim.  I chose stay on Derek's feet and coming in to the end of the swim I was pleased as it allowed me to stand up and sprint into T1 expeditiously, which would prove beneficial.

T1 - :37 (7th)

I knew Derek had a speedsuit so I hoped I could get out of T1 ahead of him.  JP Story yelled out to us that Matt had a 1:20 lead out of the water, which was a reasonable gap and Jenny was just ahead so I plowed on towards my bike and had a quick T1

Bike - 1:04:34 (1st)

I got out on the bike quickly and passed Jenny at the beginning of the big hill (same one you climb on the run twice) and set my sights on trying to catch Matt.  My legs felt pretty good and despite my watts being relatively "normal" for me I could tell I was moving along pretty quickly.  The pavement in this beginning section was incredibly awful and choppy so that was distracting but it didn't take all that long to catch my first glance of Matt up ahead in the distance.

At about minute 10 or so I saw him for the first time (way ahead, mind you) and when I looked back at the point where he had been when I saw him I did not see Derek visible so I was happy with my progress.  The bike continued on rather uneventfully for the next 20 minutes and I steadily made progress on Matt up ahead.  The weather was warming up and at the halfway point or so I was sweating pretty good.  At one point I looked up ahead and saw Matt much closer than I had seen him last so was excited but also dismayed as I figured maybe he got a flat tire or something (I didn't know what I was thinking really) but as I rapidly made up ground I saw it was a triathlete riding the course.  Now, there is nothing ACTUALLY wrong with that but it was quite annoying in the sense that it disrupted my focus and confused me as to where I actually was. Not really a big deal, but like others he could have just been riding the other way on the bike course.  Oh well.

I eventually caught up to Matt roughly 35-40 minutes into the bike and I don't think he had realized I was approaching until we both coasted around a turn and he heard my freewheel as he looked back suddenly.  We both got back down in the aerobars and I had to decide whether I wanted to stay with him and ride his pace or forge on ahead.  With how Derek has been riding I thought he'd probably catch us both if I chose that option and I wasn't sure how I felt about that.  The road turned into a long, very slightly downhill section that was straight and true so I resolved to try and lay down the hammer and see what happened.  I went into my extreme "turtle" position, and went by Matt at a fairly expeditious rate.  I heard him shift gears as I went by so I assumed he was coming with me.  I carried this speed on for a bit until we made a left turn, where I looked back and realized that I had gotten a gap on him.  I put my head back down and carried on and we came through the State Park (lots of twists and turns so I was "out of sight" to a degree) and I had a slightly bigger gap.  We turned back onto the first part of the course and had some out and back traffic to motivate us and I continued into the last turn pretty quickly.  I came down the entrance road fast and hopped off my bike quickly with the lead intact! Hooray!

T2 - :37 (1st)

I T2'd pretty quick in an effort to get down the road before the chasers came in and was mostly successful as I saw Matt coming down the hill as I was reaching the first water stop (200m into the run or so?)

Run - 37:51 (4th)

My locks are not as awesome as Matt's locks :(
The first thing I noticed when I headed out on the run was that my legs felt like junk and it was very hot.  I was pretty conservative at the beginning, which is quite different than the way I "normally" exit T2.  I've had the lesson hammered home enough about going out too hard and coming in too slow enough to decide to change my tune at this race.  It didn't "hurt" from an "educational" standpoint that my legs also felt tired!

It was fairly lonely for the first two miles as I wound my way behind the race site and into the neighborhood and I peeled my top down pretty quickly as the temperatures felt somewhat overwhelming.  I popped back out of the neighborhood "loop" and the first guy I saw was an NC State kitted fellow followed closely by Jenny.  I tried to say good job but my oxygen levels were a bit low at the moment so it was more a whisper (creepy).  I made the turn to head up the hill and just stared 5 feet in front of me and kept putting one foot in front of the other.  At the top I looked back and saw no sign of chasers so I knew I'd finish the first lap in the lead.  I came down the hill and started feeling a bit looser as I came through the start of the second lap and the cheers of the spectators and volunteers.

I think I look tired

Now I actually look fast, yessss
I carried on a bit easier (but I "felt" faster) back into the neighborhood and popped out of the loop again to see a slightly different set of people before I turned up the hill.  I climbed the hill the same way I did before: eyes down and feet moving.  With the length of that hill it is imperative to not start out too fast as one could easily blow themselves with the length and steepness of its climb.  I got to the top with no one in sight behind me and realized I was (barring any penalty or anything) going to win the race.  I carried on down the hill, across the parking lot, around the soccer fields and across the line in first.  Hooray!

OA - 2:05:52 (1st)

I was excited about this race to get a chance to see what I had against Matt again, as we haven't raced short course against each other this year.  I did not think I would see him until the end of the bike so while he must have been feeling somewhat subpar I was excited to come out ahead in this particular match.  I WANTED this race and I think my attitude and strategy worked well to achieving the win.  I think I've slowly but surely become one of the faster guys in the region and it was nice to see a good result from a bonus points race that sort of confirms my thoughts.  I've done Stumpy each year they have had it and gotten faster each and every year.  While I didn't go as fast as Doug did in his win last year (I believe the run was much warmer this year) I went faster than my time last year.  Steady improvement is the name of the game.  Patience is indeed a virtue!

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