Wednesday, May 5, 2010

White Lake Half

S: 3900
B: 97
R: 23

So thirteen days after racing in New Orleans I got my butt in gear for another attempt at a half ironman.  It was an awkward in between time given that I had to recover from New Orleans and then get ready for White Lake.  I don't think I've quite figured that out yet but the takeaway is that the second race was MUCH harder than the first.  While my performance in terms of time was similar, White Lake felt like a much more difficult race.  Everyone says the bike course is flat but it really isn't; there are a lot of false flats.  New Orleans is totally flat.  B2B is totally flat.  White Lake is very close and up until this year I would have said people wouldn't bike much faster than 2:15, ever.

Swim: 32:08 (32nd)
The swim was definitely wetsuit legal this year at right below 70 degree water temperature.  I had been hoping that it wouldn't be but the cards didn't fall that way on race day.  The "open" wave was around 50 people so it was a fairly large group that was assembled before the RD said take off.  Once he did, it was a fairly chaotic scramble for the first 1-200 meters.  After that it mellowed out a bit.  I quickly realized that the course was slightly different than last year: this time we went "out" much farther and didn't cut "across" quite as much. It was more like a triangle than a odd rectangle.  Another thing I quickly noticed is that all of the buoys were orange; both the sight buoys and the turn buoys.  I managed to get into a good rhythm but couldn't find anybody's feet to sit on so I just swam by myself most of the time trying to find my way to the next buoy.  Once we made the final right hand turn I had to stop and breast-stroke to find where the next target was.  It was difficult because the turn was beyond 90 degrees so you had to distinguish between the first leg buoys and the buoys you were currently trying to hit.  I gradually made my way back into the dock.  I climbed up the ladder hoping to see a time of 29:50 or thereabouts but instead the clock said 31:45.  I was literally astonished.  I ran down the tack to the transition mat for a time of just over 32:00.  Needless to say, I was not pleased with the swim.

T1: 1:32

Bike: 2:16:23 (5th)
Once out of transition I shifted into a big gear and began the process of reeling in as many people as possible. It was slightly overcast for the first half of the ride and that was very welcome given the fact that the expected high today was 90 degrees.  In the first five miles I probably passed 2-3 guys but I also lost all of my salt tablets.  I tried not to worry about it but in the back of my head I remembered the severe cramps I got last year so I was definitely thinking about it.  I tried to shrug it off and get into a strong, steady rhythm like I remembered having at New Orleans.  I continued to pass people and continued to eat a lot of gels and drink a lot of water and didn't see anyone for quite some time.  My legs were feeling pretty sluggish and my HR was much lower than in New Orleans (156 bpm avg vs 161 avg) and I felt like I was working harder.  I caught Tom Clifford - last year's winner and a consistent top 3 finisher in the NCTS races with a ridiculous running ability - around mile 30 and tried to get him to work with me but he didn't seem to understand the concept or just didn't want to.  We got to the little out/back and saw Justin Park in the lead and George Worrell in third but two other guys I didn't know.  At that point I was behind Tom so I knew I was in sixth on the road.  We finished the out/back and turned right for the last stretch before getting back to White Lake.  We changed the lead a couple of times but it was never beneficial to either of us.  I was a little frustrated with the whole day so with about 5-7 miles to go I put my head down and gutted it out to the finish.  Coming into transition I put about a minute on Tom.

T2: 1:04

Run: 1:32:27 (14th)
I actually felt pretty good heading out onto the run despite the fact that my legs felt pretty bad the whole bike ride.  Tom caught me a little after mile 1 and from there I was by myself the rest of the day.  The first 3 miles or so of that route are really horrible.  Right alongside a highway (and by now the sun had come out in full force) with nobody around, just aid stations to look forward to.  I took a porto break at mile 4 (I haven't yet learned the art of peeing while running...) and kept it pretty steady until the turn around at mile 6.55.  Once past the turnaround I actually felt even better - probably due to the fact that there is a slight downhill and I was halfway done - so I maintained my pace and didn't stop at aid stations; just grabbing two cups of water at each one.  It started to get a little rough around mile 9 and then at miles 10 and 11 aid stations I had to walk and get a bunch of fluids to try and cool me down.  Then it was back onto the ridiculously hot and tough highway for the last miles.  I managed to pick it up a little bit and despite some twinges of cramps in the last mile I finished the run off pretty strong.  I definitely think this was a better run for me and something to build on for the future.

Overall: 4:23:33 in 7th.
Full results here:

Things I learned in this race:
- I can't do two half-ironmans in two weeks and hope to be in top form for both of them.  Not yet.
- I am capable of 4:18-4:19 on the right course.  I think if I went and did NOLA again I could do that.
- I want to do another half-ironman this year but I probably won't.

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