S/B/R/Time is irrelevant this week. What matters is a good bounce-back race. On that note:
Myrtle Beach Triathlon (1k/28mi/6.55mi)
Swim 1000m in 13:49 (5th?)
The so-called "elite amateur prize money" division (self-selected) made its way to the starting dock in the first wave of the international distance racing at 8:40am. There were a grand total of 6 of us. I think only 4 finished... I originally signed up to be in this wave (I think I signed up for this race back in June) because it was advertised as paying out the entrance fees to the top finishers. So, if 10 people signed up for "elite" at $100 a pop (I don't remember how much it was, but not that much) then the total prize purse would be $1000. Not too bad! Unfortunately only 5 or 6 signed up, alas. Didn't change the fact that we still had to go hard for 2+ hours!
The swim was an odd shape: straight out from the dock in a mini-harbor area then a dog-leg right to the turnaround buoy followed by a long straight stretch in the main part of the intercoastal waterway then a right turn into another "harbor" area to the stairs and swim exit.
The swim was wetsuit legal, which I've come to dislike (most notably because of my near panic attack at Augusta...), and we all floated there until the timer said "Go." I was in the middle, which in hindsight was a bad idea as we all stayed together (or at least, 4 of us) to the dog-leg where I was pinched in the middle and moved back to avoid the confusion. We made our way to the buoy quickly and after turning I lost tough with the front 3. Considering that at least 2 of those are sub 20 minute 1500m swimmers I'm not TOO unhappy about it... The long straight stretch had a little bit of chop but I established a steady, (fairly) comfortable rhythm and just put my head down. I sighted a lot more often than normal as this water was very, very dark. Iodine would be the closest comparison I could come up with (or maybe someone else did, I can't remember). Slightly brown and I couldn't see my hand in front of me at each stroke. Long story short, I made my way to the last turn buoy and bore right, which ended up being directly into the sun. I just headed for the corner where I knew swim exit was and hit the stairs. I knew I was behind but didn't think it was by much.
T1 in 1:16
This was a fairly long run up the ramp and past a restaurant to the parking lot that was T1. I got my wetsuit sleeves off more easily than normal and hit my bike feeling fairly comfortable (sometimes, not the case. Again, most notably at Augusta). Put on the helmet, took off the rest of the wetsuit and put on the shoes. Not blazing fast, but efficient.
Bike 28 miles in 1:07:31 (1st), 24.9 mph
From the beginning of the day, it was obvious that the bike course was going to be quite windy. I'm not sure exactly how to describe the bike course except for maybe as a big T. Except for one with a very long top part and a very short bottom part. Now that I've made that clear, moving on...
The first section to get out to the main road was a nice tailwind so I was moving along nicely and quickly caught everyone that had exited the swim in front of me. I think it was just one guy and one girl as Greg (1st out of water) had trouble in T1 with his wetsuit and was behind me. Once we turned right onto the main section it was a nice headwind. And when I say nice headwind, I really mean "devastatingly depressing yet awesome, miserable headwind." Anyone that complains about a headwind isn't a strong enough biker. I say that with sarcasm of course (only slightly, however) as headwinds are very demoralizing. Nonetheless, I knew this would benefit me as I am pretty fit and very, very aero. So I just put my head down and resigned myself to sticking it out in the aero bars. I didn't look behind me and at around mile 7 or 8 I got to the first turnaround and was excited to head in the other direction. I saw that I had a nice gap on what appeared to be 2nd place (although it was hard to tell as we were mixed up with some of the Halfmax people at this point) and I again put the ol' head down and hammered out some weak watts. Along this direction for almost the entire way I was in my biggest gear, which usually means speeds in excess of 30mph. I was BLOWING by some of the slower Halfmax competitors, which felt kind of cool. It's always nice to feel like you're moving.
It should be noted here that, like in every other international race I've done this year, my watts have been much lower than what they "should" be. My threshold power is ~4.3 watts/kg and for this race I only managed to hold ~3.6 watts/kg. The good thing about that is that I still managed ~25 mph on a VERY windy course at those watts. The bad news is, I should have blown the doors off this bike course by even more! If I had only been able to average ~10% more watts I think I would have biked MUCH faster. Anyway, it happens.
This long stretch of road was very fast and fun but I think I actually lost some time here as when I hit the other turnaround at mile ~18 it seemed as though the competitors were closer. I had about a minute gap on 2nd cyclist and back into the headwind section. With one brief exception the rest of the course basically felt into the wind. I continued to press on with my head down and at the last turnaround (not sure how to describe where this one was as I was pretty lost at this point) I noticed my gap had grown past 2 minutes so I knew the headwind sections were benefiting me a good bit so I tried not to complain to myself... Heading back towards the hotel I drank some more water (went through almost 25oz on this ride so that was good) and unstrapped my shoes as I headed into the area where Halfmax peeps turned around for their 2nd loop and volunteers yelled at me to turnaround. I ignored them, however, and made my way down the hill to TA. At bike dismount the announcer was getting all jacked up that I was the first person back off the bike and that was fun to hear as I hopped off my bike.
T2 in :52
Ran into my spot to put my bike up, put on shoes (although I had trouble with one and lost some time), took off helmet and put on sunglasses while grabbing my run number and headed out towards the exit.
Run 6.55 miles in 37:11 (2nd), 5:40/mi
As I made my way out and up the brief hill to the real run course a biker rolled up alongside me and I realized that I got to have a lead biker! That's always fun and doesn't happen all that often so I was glad for the company. The run for the intermediate was basically half of a half ironman and was a double out and back. Once this year I've felt very, very good immediately and luckily this run doubled that! I rolled along very nicely for the first mile plus and realized that my good feelings were aided by a nice little tailwind. I saw a sign up ahead that said - among other things - "Intermediate Turn-Around" but instead of trusting my eyes I asked the biker if that was my turn. She said "no you stay straight," so I went past the sign post. She then asked "Wait, you're doing the half, right?" I immediately said "Nope!" and turned around to get back on course. I didn't lost a lot of time there and I didn't let it frustrate me; I was in a good mood and didn't feel like getting all jacked up over 10-15s. I figured that if someone caught me because of that I'd just have to out-sprint them.
The way back was quite uneventful except for the fact that it was into the wind and I could see my competitors coming the other way, none of whom appeared to be close or running any faster than me. It seemed as though some dudes from later waves had moved their way up so that was my one worry but I recognized that the only thing I could do about that was to just run faster. I continued on to the second turnaround which had a lot of spectators - always very fun and invigorating - and once on the out section I had both a tailwind (again) and a chance to pretend I was reeling in people in front of me as the course had become a little more crowded at this point. Nothing exciting happened except for I grabbed a cup of water and splashed it all over the woman standing next to the guy that handed me the cup and thus my impromptu wet t-shirt contest was conducted and concluded very quickly. As the only competitor, she won. I got to the turnaround again and turned back into the wind but at this point it was the final stretch and I felt very comfortable and knew that I wasn't going to blow up or anything crazy with less than two miles to go. Blah blah blah, got to the last 200 meters and the last stretch was downhill into the finish line. Hooray! There was very little fanfare as I think most were surprised someone was done so I got some water and gatorade and sat down. Bang, race over.
At this point, I knew I was first from my wave but didn't really know for sure that I had won. As it turns out, someone from a later wave ended up coming in 2nd OA but luckily I was still out in front and had the overall victory in hand.
To say that I am "happy" about this race would be analogous to saying that "Megan Fox is hot." Sure, they're both true, but they are also massive understatements. Not necessarily because I won (nice bonus), but because it was a great bounce-back from a very disappointing Augusta. If I took out the 10-15 seconds, my pace would be the equivalent of an almost dead 35:00 10k. I know it's a bold statement, but I'm fairly confident that had I been challenged I would have been able to run faster. Sure, it's easy to say that when I'm not running but I felt VERY comfortable. Sure, I was running hard but I was not "on the rivet," to borrow some terminology from cycling. I've been feeling very good lately on runs so to have that validated by a fast race was very nice. Although, it's important to note that on the results it lists "pace" as 10k pace. Unfortunately for the results, we did not run a 10k...
Another fun fact about this race was that a top 3 placing qualified finishers to apply for their pro card! I had known about this about ~2 weeks before the race but didn't want to get too excited or put pressure on myself as I just wanted to let chips fall where they may. It would appear as though I wasn't the only person though as the second place finisher (Sam Holmes, who had a good race at AG Nats) and third place were both aware of this. Since the race was held in conjunction with the ITU Elite Series it fell under "Criteria F" of elite qualification. So what this means is...well, nothing really. It means I can apply for a USAT Elite Card but I won't do so until 2012 as with only one race left this year I'd just be wasting money. It also means that next year I will race among the "Pros," so that's cool. Any by cool I mean "get-my-ass-handed-to-me-repeatedly." I don't expect to do well, but I do expect to give this more than a year. Sure, next year won't produce any spectacular results but it WILL produce some great learning experiences. The best way to get faster is to race people faster than yourself and thereby elevate your game! It may not have been the most "legit" way to qualify but it's going by the rules and I still had to show up on race day! I've never understood amateurs that blew people away and won amateur title after amateur title never racing in the pro field as I've always thought that it would be preferable to "move up," as they say. I guess winning is fun? I'd rather get better. The pro card is what I wanted and now I've got it (or at least, I am eligible to get it). Moving on...
On Monday I head out to Santa Barbara where I will be until Beach to Battleship, which will be my last race of the year and fourth half-ironman (if you count Augusta...!). I know Kenneth is racing there so it'll be good to have another attempt to race him and I'm sure there will be other fast people there as well. w00t