Monday, October 27, 2008

2nd Place Soma Half Ironman

Forgive me if this entry is a little disjointed... I'm back in Durango after racing Soma yesterday morning, and then driving until midnight to get back home. It wasn't the ideal post-race scenario, but I needed to get back for work today, and I've still got another loaded week of training for Ironman preparation. The Soma triathlon has a rich history as one of the last competitive half ironman races for the season, and this year certainly added to that reputation. It's becoming near impossible to really discern who might be racing in the pro ranks just by looking at a start list posted on an event website, and any time decent prize money is offered pros emerge from their respective hideouts to compete for the cash. This race was no exception, as the men's field grew considerably in the final days, proving that it would not be any easy task to take one of the top 3 spots. Some of the notables were multiple Ironman champion Chris McDonald, IM Arizona champ Joszef Major, Bjorn Anderrson, and Olympian Paul Tichelaar. Chris McDonald and I were fortunate to share a great homestay with local Tempe resident and triathlete Karl Tunberg, and he made sure we had everything we needed to be prepared for race day. Most importantly, he taught us the nutritional value of coconut milk, let us swim in his endless pool, and drove us to the pro meeting in a Rock Racingesque black Cadillac Escalade with rims. With the race starting at 6:40, it was an early wake-up and breakfast before a short drive to the race start. Because Tempe Town Lake runs east to west, it's nearly impossible to avoid swimming right into the sunrise at some point on the course, and we had a stretch of about 500m where it was extremely difficult to navigate (for evidence, see swim times for ITU athlete Paul Tichelaar and consistent front pack swimmer Bjorn Anderrson). I was swimming strong at the start, holding onto Chris's feet until I lost contact trying to sight for the turnaround buoy. I still came out in good position (discounting the manfish Marky V) and immediately began chasing for the front pack. It didn't take me nearly as long as the last race in Austin before I was riding with Paul, Bjorn, Mark, and Chris, and I was feeling strong. I gave a good dig at the front of the race to gauge the strength of everyone, and when everyone followed, I decided to ride more conservatively than my last outing. I let Chris and Bjorn take some turns at the front, and when Bjorn finally jumped with less than 6 miles to go, I just stayed put and waited for the run. Unfortunately, I didn't have a stellar transition, and coming out of T2 I was trailing Chris by about 25 meters. We caught Bjorn within the first mile, and when I noticed that we were running through the first few miles around 5:45, I backed off a little and aimed for my goal pace of 5:55-6 minute pace. Chris stayed about the same distance in front of me for most of the rest of the run, finally putting a little more time into me near the end of the race, but I felt like I had given my best effort for the day and clocked a PR for the half-marathon with a 1:18:14 split, about 50 seconds down from Chris. Paul Tichelaar was chasing me through the first half of the run, but slowed a bit coming down the home stretch and finished third about 6 minutes back. Considering that I had some good, hard training right up until Thursday, I was excited with my performance, finishing in my best time for a half: 3:49:48. I'll be taking a couple of moderate days to recover from the concrete on the run and the subsequent 8 1/2 hour drive home before picking it back up for the last hard push of Ironman training. Congrats to all the race finishers and a big thanks to the whole Red Rock crew and volunteers for putting on another good race down in Tempe.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

8th Place Longhorn Ironman 70.3 Austin

Fresh back from a weekend trip to Austin, Texas, for the Longhorn Ironman 70.3. I had a pretty solid week of training leading up to the race, so I wasn't sure how my legs would feel on race day. Thursday saw a hard ride with 1:45 at Ironman pace, but I planned to take Friday and Saturday relatively easy in preparation. The good news was that during my pacing effort, I caught and passed former Tour de France rider turned T.V. commentator Bob Roll. I'm not saying Bob's in top form anymore, but he was still putting out good power, and any time I get to ride with someone who has been at that level at any time in their life is fun for me. Things didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked on my trip to Austin, starting with my first taste of United's new pricing policy for oversize baggage. I'll avoid going too far into this topic because I could spend considerable time deriding the airline and it's efforts to stay profitable, but I will say that spending $125 to check my bike box is a travesty. Considering that I have to check another bag to keep my bike box light enough to avoid a $225 fee, I end up paying $280 for baggage by the time I fly to my destination and back. It's bad enough that I'm paying for additional weight when I'm a skinny triathlete, but they won't insure against any potential damage even with the fee. Add to it the fact that they decided to send my bag to Oklahoma City under another passenger's name, and I was pretty unhappy with the service. Fortunately I had arranged to stay with fellow pro triathletes Amy and Brandon Marsh who live in Austin, so I was able to rally enough gear to train with their Masters swim team on Saturday morning, and go for a nice spin right afterwards. My legs felt a bit heavy from the training and the travel, and I flatted a tubular on the training ride, but by the time the race started on Sunday I had my own gear and I was ready to race. The venue was east of town at Decker lake, and warm temperatures all summer in Austin had left the water a balmy 78 degrees on race morning and eliminated any possibility of a wetsuit swim. I felt okay in the swim, eventually settling into a good group that came out about 1:30 down from the bigger lead group. My goal was to get up to the leaders as quickly as possible, so I hit full gas from the beginning of the bike until I caught on at about mile 28. I could see that there were at least 2 more guys up the road by about 30 seconds, so I decided to pick up the pace again and see if I could put some time into the big group before the run. I jumped past the group and caught Joe Gambles and Paul Ambrose shortly after, but we were only able to put about 2 minutes into the chasers by the end of the bike. I felt okay through 3 miles, trying to stay conservative and hit 6 minute pace, but I started to fade a little after that. I don't think I had a truly bad run given the course and conditions, but I didn't quite have the legs I was hoping for, and it was probably because I laid it on the line for the bike and paid the price. I could have played it more conservatively and sat with the big group, but with a strong field like that I decided to give it a go. The good news is that my cycling form is better than it's ever been, and I know I will be ready for Ironman this fall with some more hard training in the next 5 weeks. To finish off the weekend, Brandon, Amy, and another pro triathlete, Mark Van Akkeren, and I all went to eat at the funky Chuy's TexMex joint for dinner. It may be the fact that this run was on trails and asphalt as opposed to the sufferfest concrete run at Harvest Moon, but my legs are already feeling much more recovered than the last race. Time to get into the hardest training of my life in prep for Arizona. Next up is the Soma Half Ironman in Tempe on the 26th for a little course recon and another shot at a decent prize purse thanks to Redrock owner Tim Deboom.