Monday, May 5, 2014

Ironman 70.3 St. George Race Report

Despite my best efforts to just have fun and soak in the atmosphere, in the days before IMSG 70.3 I found myself more nervous/anxious than any previous race. Ever. I didn't want to be that way, but I had a hard time shaking it. An old Tom Petty song states that "the waiting is the hardest part." So true. I found myself anxious more about some type of mechanical issue (racing on my new wheels for the first time, a pinch flat like last year, etc) than my own performance - essentially, things happening outside of my control. Despite of this I joked a lot with family, friends, and tried to be positive... like I said it was just hard to shake it entirely. Last year I was frustrated after my race here, and I just wanted to have a clean, hard race this year void of issues. Adding to it was simply being the first race of the year, after training all winter for the season in general but also specifically with this race in mind, being the US Championships. I wanted it to count; for my training to be validated with an effort that I would feel good about. My wife was racing as well, which is always fun, and I knew I'd be fine once the gun went off... but the waiting was truly the hardest part.

Since last year I've often raced with some Flat Attack tire sealant in my tubes. I like having that "insurance" against a tiny thorn or piece of glass derailing my race, especially when racing in more rugged, desert conditions. My father in law mentioned the day before that the wind had been really strong lately, which is known to blow thorns all over the roads. All the more reason I was glad to have Flat Attack. However, when you start to over-think things, sometimes it can backfire. Checking in our bikes Friday afternoon, I went back and forth but ultimately decided to let some air out of my tires (as most people do). I knew that doing so isn't always a great idea with tire sealant, as it can potentially get in the valve and clog it up. On the other hand, I didn't want to be greeted Sat. morning in transition with tubes that had blown up from sitting in the sun all day. I let just a little air out as a compromise, but a small amount of sealant came out as well. I figured it would be fine, but it did cause another serving of stress as I turned in for the night.

I slept like a baby (ha!), but was ready to roll by 4. Linds and I drove to the shuttle area with this song blaring to shake any remaining sleep from our eyes.

We dropped our run bags in T2, then walked to the shuttle bus, where I noticed Belgian pro Marino Vanhoenacker (one of the best in the world) walking right next to me. I said "I thought they shipped you guys out by limo!" He laughed and said "that would be nice." It was pretty comical watching him plop down on the school bus like the rest of us, next to a woman who eagerly wished him a good morning and asked if this was his "first."

After the ~30 min drive we arrived, and, not having brought a bike pump, hopped in the short line for tech support. I was glad we had caught an earlier bus, as the line for tech support was only a couple people deep (would get way worse shortly thereafter). Lo and behold, one of my tires wouldn't pump. "You've got to be kidding me." I thought. My fears were playing out right before my eyes! The guy said it happens often, and they've helped pros in the past with the same issue. He unscrewed the presta valve, which obviously let all the air out, then poked around down the valve extender with a little tool to unclog the sealant. It took him a few tries and 10-15 minutes, but he saved me, for which I thanked him profusely. It was funny... having "faced the fear" of something going wrong suddenly released all my anxiety. It really wasn't so bad. Fixable. Still ample time in transition to get ready, and even some time to kill, chatting with Triple Threat teammates Kristen Lodge and Jackie Muterspaugh and a few people I knew around me.

Lesson learned: tire sealant is great - as I said, it's cheap insurance against something small wrecking your ride. But I learned to only put air in... never let it out. If I need to check in my bike the day before, I just won't pump my tires for the few days prior, and they'll be fine sitting in the sun. That way you avoid pre-race issues and the sealant becomes your friend & ally out on the course.

I've mentioned a few times how last year I mismanaged my time pre-race and was ~90 sec late to the party. This year I was virtually holding hands with the volunteer leading our wave through the masses to the swim start. Waves were three minutes apart, and we stood at the water's edge until the horn sounded for the wave ahead of us to go. We then had the green light to swim out to the start, which took the full 3 minutes... I actually didn't even stop. I was a meter or so behind the red buoys marking the start when the gun went off for our wave, and we were off. They ran a tight ship with ~2,300 people and ~20 waves.

The water was crisp but not too cold and really pristine. I love open water swimming. Not being an elite swimmer, I try to focus on "free speed" by taking the most direct line possible and drafting as much as I can. Our wave was pretty scattered, but I'd try to hop on feet as people would pass me (eg. from the wave behind us). I pushed hard but stayed within myself, being a long day, and felt comfortable throughout.

Swim 38:15

I started to ride, a little disoriented from the swim, and did a quick check that my helmet wasn't on backwards, I was wearing clothing of some kind, this in fact was my bike, etc... the essentials. Last year I probably rode a 9 on a scale from 1-10, too hard for this hilly bike course + hillier run. This year I wanted to be at a 7-8 throughout the ride, then see what I could muster on the run.

By scaling back the intensity just a tad, I really enjoyed the bike. My new wheels allowed me to ride virtually the same pace as last year but at less effort. I focused on staying on top of my nutrition, as the heat was rising and would only get worse. It was a moral victory to fly by the spot where I had been on the side of the road fixing my flat the year before, and then I started the climb up Snow Canyon. This sucker is long and steep, and a winter on the trainer with little hill training didn't help. I felt pretty good, but got passed early and often up that beast. It felt great to finally turn onto highway 18, knowing it was smooth sailing for most of the last 10 miles into town. I had contemplated relieving myself halfway through the bike Wild-style, but just couldn't go through with it. After dismounting and running through T2 I made a quick pit stop, then was out on the run course.

Bike 2:54:42

I ran the first 100 meters or so with the exuberance of a schoolgirl before realizing I was at 6 something mile pace. I wished that was sustainable but instead pulled back hard on the reins. I wanted to be running strong at miles 8-13, not a first mile hero just because the crowd was huge right there. The first 4 miles are varying levels of uphill, and there's hardly a speck of flat terrain through the whole 13.1. I kept my heart rate in the low 150's, drank water and dumped ice in my hat at every aid station, and took regular hits of my Liquid Shot. It was tough but I felt in control, and for the most part enjoyed it. Once I crested the last huge hill at mile 9 or so, it was time to let it rip the best I could. I felt strong, while still exchanging a few words with a cool guy from LA (Mike Levy it turns out is his name) who was running the same clip as me stride for stride. With a little over a mile to go my calf expressed its displeasure, threatening to cramp up or pull on me if I didn't back off a notch. I obliged, but still did my best to finish strong. Thankfully, the tired muscle was satisfied enough to not take more drastic measures.

Run 1:58:53

Overall 5:37:30
613 / 2277

I was happy to have exorcised my demons from last year's race, which had left a bad taste in my mouth. I was super proud as well of my teammates Kristen and Jackie (he of major achilles surgery mere months ago) and my wife, who rocked a 6:31 on arguably the toughest 70.3 course on the Ironman circuit.

Lastly, I cannot say enough about the volunteers and spectators. Truly awesome. Even if I take a break from this race next year, I'll most likely give back by volunteering myself.

Always willing to dump water on Lindsay's head

1 comment:

  1. Awesome race report! Great race for you. Loved the spectators and volunteers as well! Can't wait until next time.