Monday, August 22, 2011

Timberman 70.3 Race Report: A Lesson In Execution

The Quick Hits
Swim: 37:38
T1: 2:47
Bike: 2:46.38
T2: 2:28
Run: 2:25.52
Age Group Position: 80/151
Overall Position: 798/1692
Male Finishers: 642/1130

Long Course Edition (be forewarned, this will get lengthy)
Well, THAT hurt.

Let's get the good stuff out of the way: I finished about 20 minutes faster than I did at Rev3 Quassy earlier this season. I am beyond stoked for having been able to put that together. And to be honest, I was incredibly happy with how the day came out. I have absolutely no regrets with how things turned out.

Am I completely satisfied? Now that is an entirely different question. And to put it bluntly, nope. But that's where the blog title comes from.

The Lead-Up
Training had gone relatively decent throughout. I had had a pretty good race at Beach to Beacon, running about 7:20 pace throughout. I've done most of my pace training runs at a comfortable 8:00/mile pace. It was incredibly comfortable to do so. I knew my swim was improving in terms of efficiency. It was giving up a little bit in speed, but I figured that if I was fresher moving onto the bike, I would know what to expect next.

Bike training is where I had put the most of my work in. Considering how things went at Rev3, I wanted to be able to feel comfortable moving. So I had done some considerable riding at a high-tempo, trying to make it so that settling into a groove would feel easy. It was working; I felt very confident in my biking.

Overall, then, I felt comfortable in being able to put together a race. But I wanted to really give an effort. Plus, looking at the bike and run courses, it became apparent that it'd be very easy for me to try and push the bike, especially with the hill work that I had done throughout the year. I made the call to conserve a little bit of energy in the swim, push the bike, and then bring home on the run. Bike for show, run for dough! I figured a 5-hour effort was within reach based on my times.

Race Day
Wake up call: 3:10 AM. That never, EVER feels good. Decided that this time out, I would have my morning iced coffee like normal so that I would not have the same caffeine withdrawal effects.

Breakfast consisted of said coffee, along with an everything bagel with butter on it and a banana. I wanted to start loading up on some electrolytes there. I also was making sure to nurse as much water as I could track down. I just wanted to top off the reservoirs as much as I could.

We arrived to Ellacoya State Park at about 4:15 AM. We were forewarned that you would not be able to get into the park if you showed up much later than that; as it turned out, you could have driven on in until about 5, when transition opened. As it was, though, we just wanted to be there early. Also, Hannah was volunteering to body-mark, so it helped to get there nice and early.

I spent most of the pre-race just making sure everything was right where I wanted it to be. I taped three Gu Roctane Blueberry/Pomegranate to the top-tube of Kermit the Felt, and filled up my bottles with 200 calories each of First Endurance EFS Drink in the Orange Splash flavor. I also snagged another banana to snack on through the morning, and also powered my way through a Honey Stinger Honey Waffle.

Transition closed, and it was time to head on down to the beach. Had an impromptu team meeting with fellow The Sustainable Athlete coaching folks, and then it was time to get into wave order. My wave didn't go off till 7:55, but it felt like we were moving quickly. I was calm. I was ready. I knew how I wanted to race. It was now time to go out and execute.

Swim: 37:38
I lined up towards the front of the group as we were in the water. When the air horn went off, I wanted to run until I was about truly waist deep, and then start my swim.

To put it mildly, it was violent at the outset. There were definitely a fair number of guys up front that had no business being there, as they started swimming breast-stroke almost immediately. Now, I'm not saying I'm fast, because I'm not. But it puts a major crimp in your plans out of the gate when you're having to fight like hell to get going because you're swimming over the backs of a ton of people.

That said, though, once you got to the third sight buoy, things started to settle out. The choppy water helped there. The wind had started to kick up, and so you were fighting some chop. Just had to keep burying the head, breath every fourth stroke, and then sighting every 12th. This plan was super effective on the out and back lengths. However, on the long side of the rectangle (parallel to the beach), you got blown to the right a fair bit. I'm pretty positive I swam an extra 200-300 yards, which helps explain the slower time in the swim.

However, I felt super comfortable. I knew that I had conserved some energy, and was right where I wanted to be coming out of the water. Came up onto the beach, wetsuit halfway done, sat down, wetsuit stripper had that thing off in 2.5 seconds, and ran to the bike. Got everything together, ran down the line, and found the mount line. Time to pedal.

Bike: 2:46.38
Going into the race, I knew that I'd be passing HUNDREDS of people on the bike. What an absolute rush moving through the field like that. Just on the opening three miles, I clipped off people left and right. Tried to keep things in check (you've got 53 miles on this thing and a half marathon, bud!), and felt I did a good mix of pushing and reeling myself in.

The bike course at Timberman is much fairer overall, IMO, than the one at Quassy, with one glaring exception: The Marsh Hill Monster. It's a good, sustained climb that puts a grind on you. To be honest, on the way out of town it's not that bad: your legs are fresh, and you're feeling pretty solid. Seeing people walking bikes at that time, while you're spinning in your 23 tooth out back, is a huge adrenaline boost. Rasmus Henning, who won the race, was also heading back in at the same time (you descend the climb on the way home), which also got the blood going.

You then descend from there (and yes, you climb it on the way back). On the descent, saw second-place male Mike Caizzo killing it. I gave him some words of encouragement on the way by (yes, Mike, that was me yelling at you), and was on my way.

I was FLYING. It was just very easy to keep pedaling, and settle in. I stuck with my initial nutrition plan of about 150 calories of EFS Drink with one gel every hour. It went down pretty easily. The gameplan was working, as I reached the turn-around at about 1:20. There were a couple of pelotons out on 106, but it seemed like a whole bunch of people got nicked for penalties.

A fellow M25-29 AGer, Gabriel Henri, and I were pacing each other inadvertently for about 40 miles. We kept passing one another; I'd surge and pass him, then he'd surge a couple miles later and pass me. At one point, as I passed him, I told him that we were destined to do this all day. He smiled, and we kept hammering away. Note: we DID NOT DRAFT. Instead, when he passed me, I'd fall back the required amount, and then try to maintain that distance. When I got too close, I'd put in the effort to pass to make sure I didn't get any penalties for drafting, blocking, or overtaken violation. He finally put the hammer down as we turned back uphill, and I could not keep up the effort.

Speaking of which: I really, really, REALLY could have used a 27 tooth for Marsh Hill coming back home. I made it OK, but then I started to cramp a bit. At the last aid station, I chucked a bottle for some water; got that into the system, and then the other half was sprayed all over me. As soon as I did that, I felt invigorated again, and could push the pace again all the way back to Ellacoya. A smooth transition of getting out of the shoes, on top of them to pedal the last couple of minutes, and then a super smooth dismount, and I was away to T2. T2 was a touch slower this time, but that's because I had to put on socks. Mentally I felt great. I had run 2 hours at Rev3 when I felt like absolute garbage. I feel great now; it's time to fly.

And then the wheels came off.

And when I say that the wheels came off, I mean that they exploded and took just about everything with it.

I ran out of transition and felt very, very good. Found my stride pretty easily, and was ready to go. I felt GOOD. Felt like I could extend, etc. Took some water and Gatorade at that first aid station, and was ready to rock and roll.

I got through the first mile and then my legs simply shut down. My quads and knees locked up. I couldn't move. I almost fell down, right then and there. I started to walk for a second, and then a fellow AGer yelled out to me to keep moving; if I stopped there I would not get going again. I shuffled off and away, and just tried to hold on.

It was HOT. I was taking sponges, ice, whatever I could to try and keep myself cool. I also was having issues taking Gatorade (it was too warm, and it was lemon lime, and me + lemon lime drink don't get along too well), so I was trying to find different ways to take things in. I took my Gu Roctane at mile 5. I hoped to keep moving, and just push the second half off the run. That came apart right around...oh, mile 6.6.

It was interesting, to say the least, to have to try and adjust goals on the fly like that, to go from "average 8:00/mi" to "finish sub 2 hours" to "break 6 hours for the day." To execute through the excruciating pain was awesome. I think it speaks to my ability to simply suffer to gut my way through that run.

I didn't find my legs again until about mile 12.1, when I said that I was going to be sure I left everything on that course, and if that meant I would DNF, then so be it. I was able to run through the chute, and meet Chrissie Wellington (who, along with crushing the women's field, ran the fastest pro run OF THE DAY, male or female). We chatted for a minute, before picking up my swag for finishing.

Nutrition Round-up
PreRace: Everything bagel with butter; 24 oz iced coffee with skim milk and one teaspoon sugar; Honey Stinger Honey Waffle; two bananas; 32 oz. water

Bike: approx. 350 calories of EFS Drink Mix; three Gu Roctane Blueberry/Pomegranate; one 20 oz. water bottle

Run: one Gu Roctane; 5 pretzel rods; 1 banana; 8 cups of water; two cups of Gatorade; one cup of Coke

The Takeaways
Upfront, I'm thrilled with having executed two-thirds of my plan exactly the way I wanted to. And I'm also proud of my way to just keep grinding, to suffer through the run rather than to suffer the indignity of not finishing. This was the cap to my season, so I don't feel bad about feeling like absolute ass today. I am beat up. I've put my body through the wringer this season, so I'm ready to head to the weight room and pool to get things moving appropriately again.

That being said, I'm not sure why my body shut down the way that it did on the run yesterday. I want to say it was simple lack of water in the system, but I have to wonder if I pushed myself too hard on the bike. I don't know. I think it was probably more related to electrolytes than anything else.

All in all, I'm happy. I know that things need to be worked on. And hearing from a fellow athlete that it takes a bit of a leap to go from "this is the time on paper you should be able to achieve" and "executing your race so you achieve your best" is an entirely different proposition. I'm getting there. I know with some tweaking, I can easily get to what my engine can put out NOW. Now it's a matter of working on that engine to make it even faster.

Hope this was entertaining. Questions should be posted in the comments section.

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