Friday, June 28, 2013

Race Reports....Soooo 2009

Ok so I’ve taken some flack over the past few months from those who have been waiting for me to update this for more than half a year. And I may get some more for dragging this thing out again. Partially its been because I’ve had little time to put some thoughts together (and when I do its rarely more than 140 characters…hence my twitter feed @lifein53x11), but also because I have matured as an athlete, gained a lot of focus and in turn and have not felt the need to put my voice out there in a while. I’ve just been quietly putting in the work and have enjoyed doing so. 
But now that tri season is in full swing I’ve thought about putting some race reports together. I must admit it’s a bit flattering to have people ask me to write something and look forward to hearing my experiences…but I’ll try not to let my head swell too much. 
So now to the reason why I started writing again! This past weekend was my first big event of the season, the Mont Tremblant 70.3. The spring and early season leading up to the race had gone very well. I did a few road races as I have the past couple years and jumped into a 10k as well, and while there were no spectacular results, they served their purpose as great tune-ups after missing the better half of last year’s race season with post-concussion symptoms. 
But the main highlight of the spring was simply that everything was going to plan. Despite being very busy with work I managed to stay consistent with training through the winter and spring. No crazy weeks (besides LPC Florida Camp), just putting in the time and getting the work done every day. 
Leading into Tremblant my prep went very well and I was really looking forward to giving the 70.3 distance another crack after finally finding some modest success (ie. finishing) in Welland last summer. I learned from Welland that I really had to get comfortable in the aero position for 2+ hours, as well as pay more attention to nutrition and pacing on the run. 
My final prep was doing the Guelph Lake Sprint Tri two weeks ago. I had not done the race since the summer I lived in Guelph and trained full time with the PTC (now RTC Guelph) so I was a bit nervous that I would not have the same top end speed. But I went into the race with a good mindset, and after starting in the second wave I raced through the field and finished 3rd overall, 4th across the finish line despite the later start. Even more satisfying, I knocked 4 minutes off my last time on the course :) 
(been working on that aero position - looks pretty ballin' to me)
It was exactly the confidence boost I needed to have a race go smoothly and feel strong throughout. Not to mention the experience of racing through earlier waves of athletes, as I was starting in the LAST of 14 waves (2500 athletes) in Tremblant. Amanda and I made the trip to MT on Friday and settled in with a bunch of athletes from the Balance Point Tri Club, most of whom were racing on various relay teams (Amanda was doing the swim-bike). The area was beautiful, and despite the almost painful level of Ironman and WTC rhetoric and imagery around the village, I have to say it was the best organized and run venue I have ever done. 
Race morning came at 4:30am on Sunday, since even though my start time wasn’t until 8:05 we had to finish our transition setup and body marking by 6:20. So rather than spend time standing around in the chaos and adrenaline of the start line I hung out in the hotel lobby of the Westin where Coach James was staying. We met up for a quick pep talk and once again I was in a great mindset heading to the start line – calm but excited to start the journey and begin the suffering! 
I eventually made my way down to the start and caught the pro men exiting the water on the way. Then I met back up with Amanda and the BPT crew just before the start. Quick warmup, do my best Gangnam Style rendition, then game time. Having come from some elite racing I carefully chose my starting position (oddly where no one else was) and knew that I would have to take it out hard to find some clear water…at least until I ran into the next wave. I couldn’t help but smile with the excitement of getting such a cool race underway, and have Amanda and friends starting with me in the same wave. 
Luckily the countdown was in English and French so once the gun (and fireworks) went off I started strong and was out front quickly. I cut into the inside of the buoys to avoid traffic and quickly settled into my rhythm. After about 200m a couple other fast swimmers in my wave went by but rather than change my pace I kept my effort to where I wanted it to get out of the swim fresh. 
I ran into the first person floating on their back from the previous wave after about 300m, but really only had to fight the congestion on the far stretch (of about 500m) of the course, then once around the second turn I went to the outside and settled back into my stroke. There was definitely some chaos with the number of swimmers (and some crazy scissor kickers) but I focused on what I could – getting back to shore fast. At about 1500m I got a bad calf cramp so from there on I just focused on my pull and roll, and as the shore got closer my stroke felt better and better. When I stood up both my legs cramped for a few seconds, but they loosened up quickly once on land. 
(approximately 10km into the run up from the water)
There was a ridiculously long run from the water to T1 – at least 7-800m so I stopped quickly to strip the wetsuit and get running. With all the support and spectators I had to hold myself back from champing the run up, but still managed to pass probably 50 people. Quick T1 and onto the bike. 
I went back to training and racing with a power meter this year and it was very helpful starting the bike. With all the adrenaline of getting on the bike and passing literally hundreds of people I really had to watch my wattage going up the first long climb. But my legs felt good and I averaged over 42km/h to the first timing point. Once we got on the highway for the long out and back section I settled into a strong rhythm and was flying through the field...I was pretty confident I was well off the front of the rest of my age group.
At about 15k I crested one of the early hills and just as I started going down the other side I felt my back wheel drag a little. Before I could even think about it my wheel locked up at about 60km/h and I was immediately skating on my rim. I thought I was going down for sure, and likely yelled some profanities while trying to get my rear end under control and use my front brake to slow me down. Somehow I managed to get to a stop on the other side of the road and try to figure out what the hell just happened. I still don’t know exactly how it happened, but from what I can tell I flatted and the tube got stuck in my frame and locked up the wheel. My tire was shredded and my rim was ground about half way down the brake track. 
Luckily this all happened at an aid station on the other side of the road, so I collected myself and had some help right away. I knew that my wheel was toast and thought that my race was done. I had a moment of being very upset that my race was going so well and I was once again sidelined with a mechanical. But I relaxed and asked if they could radio for a spare wheel (like I said, incredibly well run event and there were neutral support vehicles with spare wheels). I was pretty sure that my wheel would not hold a tire even if they had one, so my only chance to continue was if I got a wheel. In the mean time I stretched and waited to see if Amanda would go flying by, as she wouldn't be far behind me out of the water. 
After not too long a motorcycle came up the hill and I flagged him down and got a new rear wheel. I did my best not to think about the time lost or how it could potentially affect my race, and just focused on riding again and do what I could given the circumstances. I was just happy to be there and have the chance to get on with my race. It was motivating to have so many people on the course and I changed my focus to riding through as many as I could. I rode well through 35k to the first turnaround and watched for Amanda’s bright pink helmet as she went by…she wasn’t too far behind. I rode very well on the way back from the turnaround and found a really strong rhythm that I maintained up to 60k back where the highway section started. After that was a short out and back through a small town then the course went back past the village at about 70k. I was starting to feel a bit of fatigue but much better than I did at that point in the race in Welland last year. 
From 70-80k is the hardest part of the course with a series of climbs going out before turning around and riding the roller coaster back down to the village. I survived the climbs out despite a bit of cramping but had time to shake out my legs on the way back down before getting off the bike. My official bike split was 2:34, but my Garmin moving time over the 90k was about 2:25. Although I felt quite good on the bike despite about 9 minutes on the side of the road, that was likely a little too aggressive on a tough course. But I my legs were ok jumping off the bike and I was excited to start running. 
Back through transition and before I even got out of the chute to the run course I was passing dozens of people, weaving around and (gently) elbowing my way through crowds of runners. I had some quad cramps early but having learned from last time I didn’t get too worried and started at a fairly conservative pace. Once I got through the first 5k (the toughest section) it was onto the long out and back on rail trail. While I certainly wasn’t feeling fresh at this point I was still passing dozens of people every km and settled into my goal pace of roughly 4:15/km. I continued to get a little faster up to the turnaround and told myself that every step was now one step closer to the finish. My goal was to run 1:30 and at 11k I figured I had about a 2 minute "buffer" of slowing down from my current pace to make that time. 
I hit my first really rough patch just before 15k. Both my quads cramped hard and it was very painful to lift my legs. But I forced myself to keep running no matter how much the pace dropped and told myself that it would pass. At this point the one and only person passed me, another athlete in my age group who I had previously passed and helped undo his rear zipper. I did my best to HTFU and stay with him, and managed to bring my pace back up and run with him. We exchanged leads and encouragement for about 2k before I lost touch and really hit the wall. After 17k I was taking everything the aid stations were offering and begged my legs to move faster to get it over with sooner. Unfortunately it was back onto the hills and I suffered like hell to continue what vaguely resembled a running stride. I took some motivation from seeing LPC and BPT athletes and knew that once I hit 20k the spectators would help get me to the finish. 
(showing the war face)
The last km had a brutal hill and annoying little 100m out and back before finally turning into the pedestrian village and running through an incredible crowd down to the finish. It was an amazing experience and completely worth the suffering to have so many people cheering, music playing and tons of athletes finishing. I gave out some high 5’s before crossing the line in 4:41. My loose goals for the race were to do 4:30 and run 1:30, but given the circumstances of the day I couldn’t help but be happy with my result. My fitness is much better than last year and I learn more about the distance and myself as an athlete every time I finish a half. Now I want to do MORE!!!
 Lots more fun racing to come this summer, but no guarantees of more race reports :)