Saturday, June 4, 2011

Giving it everything I've got

I had been visualizing this race for the past week. My plan was to swim hard, bike harder and then run as fast as I could.

I had planned on getting to the race site early and getting in a very long easy warm up. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. My daughter got her driver’s license today and we went to the DMV, where it took 2 1/2 hours! So, instead, I had just about 15-20 minutes of easy biking and then 10 minutes of swimming before the race.

The start also didn’t go as planned. There was actually no organized start, people were milling about in the water and on the beach when the horn went off! I was just at the edge of the water, realized what was going on and turned and just swam as fast as I could. I imagine that the guys who happened to be about 20 yards in actually got a good head start. I actually felt like I did a good job getting to the first buoy in what appeared to be the front pack of swimmers. I swam the whole swim as hard as I could, to the point where I needed to walk a bit coming out of the water on the way to transition. My swim time was over a minute slower than last year, but most everyone swam slower and I’m pretty sure that the course was long. I typically do this 1/2 mile loop at the Res in 12 minutes, and today it took closer to 15. It seemed like the last turn buoy kept drifting further away due to the current! Still, I was only a couple of minutes behind the fastest guys in my age group getting into T1. Since the route to T1 was uphill about 50 yards, I figure that my swim was very solid.

I had a very quick transition and headed out onto the course. There is an immediate hill that I had planned to go hard on. Because of the swim, I couldn’t quite go all out, but I still attacked the hill as hard as I could, getting off to a solid start. I got up to speed, kept a fairly high cadence (I’d guess about 90-95) and just kept in my head Phil Ligett’s favorite repose about cyclists “turning themselves inside out”, that’s what I tried to do. I was breathing every 2 pedal strokes and for a change, when faster cyclists passed me, they didn’t put a lot of distance on me right away, I was really maintaining a good pace and effort. There were the usual headwinds at the Res, wind conditions were 15-20 mph; and on the way back, I had hoped to attack the hardest hill, which I did, but couldn’t quite give it the kind of effort I’d hoped to give for fear of completely blowing up. I could feel the lactic acid building up in the form of incipient side stitches, but continued to press hard. As I came down the long downhill (with yet another headwind) and saw guys coming back up the same way, I realized that I had misread the course map and that the course was about a mile longer than I’d thought, and finished with a long mild climb. As I hit the turnaround at the end of the road and came through it, I saw the top woman (she started 5 minutes behind me) and made it my goal to stay ahead of her until the run. I was able to do that and completed the bike in just under 35 minutes, which was a minute faster than last year at a pace of ~ 21 mph, not bad with the headwinds.

I had another quick transition and started out on the run. My plan was to start running as fast as I could, but I couldn’t completely ignore the side stitches and the obvious fact that I’d bike as hard as I could. I tried to focus on good turnover, massaged my diaphragm, focused on grunting hard with every exhalation, and just going as fast as I could. I was breathing every 2nd to third step and to anyone standing on the side of the road, probably sounded like I was near death. But I was committed to running as fast as I could. When the top woman passed me, about 1/4 mile into the run, I stayed fairly close to her for another 1/4 mile, my legs felt absolutely great, but my breathing was holding me back. The faster I would run, and I tried to pick up my pace multiple times, the more difficult my breathing became. Still, I kept pushing, hoping that it would get better. In fact, during the last mile I felt a little more comfortable in terms of my breathing. Instead, I began feeling a bit light headed! But I still continued to push, to turn the legs over, to keep grunting, and to keep breathing hard. As I got to about 100 yards from the finished I turned back and saw someone gaining on me, he was about 20 yards back, so I just picked up my leg speed and went as fast as I could to the finish. Good thing, the guy behind me was in my age group! I got a podium spot in the age group (officially 2nd, but really I was 3rd--they screwed up the aging up numbers and another friend of my should have been first in our age group instead of 3rd in the younger one). My run time was about 8:13 average per mile. My heart and lungs would have rather I did 9:00 pace, my legs wanted to run sub-7:00 pace.

When I got to the finish line I stopped and it was a good thing. I don’t think that I stopped breathing hard for several minutes.

A couple of post mortem thoughts. My legs felt fantastic! If I was at sea level, I could have run faster. This is clearly an issue for me and I need to figure out how to work on it. My heart and lungs and ability to clear lactic acid are holding me back. My legs are capable of running faster. That said, I am just 4 weeks post-ironman St. George. I don’t know how much influence that has on me at this point. I was able to go out first thing this morning and run an easy 10 miles (didn’t wear a HRM or garmin), not sure of the pace but probably in the 9+ minute/mile range