Monday, July 15, 2013

2013 Ocean Shores Half Iron Triathlon

My race at the 2013 Ocean Shores Half-Iron Triathlon is by far the hardest I have ever pushed myself.  The headwinds on the bike were a curse and a blessing.  They put my head into a hole I wasn't sure I could get out of but left me with a lot of energy for the run.  When people talk about breakthrough performances, I now know what they mean.  A five-hour event leaves a lot of room for disaster to strike, but it's how those unpredictable events are handled that let us learn something deep about ourselves.  

Swim 1.2 miles: 37:47
This was an out-and-back course in Duck Lake.  Funny how a race on a peninsula in the ocean has a freshwater swim.  Though I didn't hear anyone complain, including myself.  I was really hoping for a better time but I was having a hard time getting back into a rhythm after the turn-around.  Plain and simple, I was tired, so my form fell apart.  Sounds like a pattern here?  Well it is.  Biking and running are just more fun.  "Go to the pool!," is what my inner competitor yells at me all the time.  

T1: 1:17
Stripping the wetsuit off was quick and my shoes were already clipped in.  Said hi to my dad and off I went.

Bike 56 miles: 2:41:43 (20.9mph)
Like I said earlier, the headwinds were killer.  This was an 2-loop out-and-back course.  Every time I turned West or North, I watched my speed drop from 22-24 mph down to 17-19.  It was very discouraging.  My lower back was tight during the first out and I wasn't sure if it was going to ease up but after the turnaround the pain went away and never came back.  More than likely it was from holding my legs up near the surface during the swim.  I counted nine bikers in front of me during the first lap and I passed one right before the end of the second lap but in the last 10 miles a couple of aero-wheel/helmet guys cruised past.  Every 15-20 minutes I ate 100 calories of either a Honey Stinger Gel or a Stinger Waffle followed by two big swigs off my water bottle.  The Stinger gels are my favorite for hard efforts because they go down so easy.  They have that honey sweetness and aren't thick like other gels, so they wash down quickly with water.  The second lap was similar in pace but I could feel my hips and upper thighs starting to fatigue.  I began to get discouraged and I found myself standing up a lot in order to find some power in my legs.  Prior to the race I aimed keep my HR between 155-170.  I averaged low 150s instead.  There are a lot of factors that could have caused a low HR.  Most likely, the effort just wasn't there.  The last five miles felt like an eternity.

T2: 1:35
 My armpit felt a little chafed from the swim so I opted to run without my shirt.  Slipped the shoes on, grabbed my hat, said hi to my dad again and took off.

Run 13.2 miles: 1:29:43 (6:44min/mile)
As usual the legs felt stiff and wobbly for the first mile though I was surprised by my pace.  Just like the bike leg, this was an out-and-back with turnarounds for all three races.  Prior to the race I expected to hold a 7:30min/mi pace for the first 5k to let the legs warm up and make sure I don't blow up later on.  It is a half-marathon and all.  But I was rocking a 6:30 pace and it felt good, so I rolled with that.  At mile 2, I passed a couple of guys who overtook me at the end of the bike.  We exchanged positive words then I continued on my merry way.  Seriously though, I was feeling strong.  It was a huge confidence booster knocking out those fast miles.  My calves were a bit sore and crampy but on I sped.  
Around mile 4 the lead runner and I crossed paths.  Racers 2, 3 and 4 weren't far behind.  Down the straight 2/3 of the run I saw number 5 coming towards me.  I noted the time and place we crossed.  After turning around and coming to the sign where we passed one another, I realized he had about 4 minutes on me.  This isn't much time in a race this long so I figured I'd try and catch him.  Where I would overtake him, I wasn't sure, but I put my head down and dug deep to maintain that 6:30 pace.  The phrases, "reel him in, reel him in," "keep it up," and "stay strong and light" kept flowing in and out of my head.  I was saying them out loud too.  I didn't care if the other races thought anything about it because it worked!  It took 3 miles and a lot of self-motivation to catch up.  A mile after passing him I let myself look back, he was way back there.  I knew I had fifth place locked up, bearing in mind nothing catastrophic occurred.  I could feel my hamstrings and quads starting to seize up and my calves were burning bad at this point.  The sand wasn't making it any easier.  With 2 miles left I did some math and thought if I stay under 7 min/mi I might be able to log a sub 1:30 run and give myself a better chance of achieving my true goal of coming in under 5 hours.  The next 13 minutes was all out.  Foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath, fire in my legs all out.  Oh but was it worth it.  A fist pump across the finish line and I was done!  I couldn't believe what I had just done.  A huge PR of 55 minutes on the race and a PR of 4 minutes in the half-marathon.  Cloud nine. 

Total 4:52:02  Fifth OA, Second AG