Tuesday, June 30, 2009

6th Place Buffalo Springs Ironman 70.3

I'm back in Durango after an epic day of riding in the car on Monday. For some reason the return trip always feels longer, but that was a true sufferfest. Having what I consider a mediocre race and a few shots of Patron post-race probably didn't help either. The only solace came from a stop at the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, New Mexico to break up the drive and get a refreshing swim.

Although I have been hearing about the Buffalo Springs event since I began racing triathlon, this was my first trip to race in Lubbock, Texas. The race has a rich history, and it's conditions often mimic Kona's, so I thought it would be appropriate to give it a go. Lubbock is essentially flat as a pancake, but it does have a couple canyonesque features on the bike and run courses, so it ends up being a pretty challenging circuit.

Race morning was extremely windy, with a good amount of chop on the lake surface. This year the swim was more regulated (no beach running), and even though I got a good start to the extreme right side with Leon Griffin, I lost contact before the first turn buoy and had a poor swim. I never swim as well in the non-wetsuit events, but I shouldn't have lost as much time as I did. Still, I chased hard on the bike, and although I never felt like I found a good rythym, I was able to pass several pros and move into sixth off the bike. The winds and rain on the bike made the turns and downhills particularly challenging, and I dropped my gel flask about halfway through, but I kept the bike upright and focused on having a good run. Coming into T2, everything was soaked from the rain, and after making a quick attempt to put on a wet sock, I opted to run without them. This made for a painful run after about 6 miles, but I gutted through the blisters and bleeding sores that had formed, and ran solidly on a challenging course, holding off Cam Brown who had flatted about 3o miles into the bike. It's always tough to miss the selection out of the water and on the bike, as the group tends to gain an advantage even if they are riding "legal," so I would rate this race as less-than-stellar. The positive was that I kept my head in the race better than Florida 70.3, and still finished in the money. Mike and Marti Greer put on an excellent race, and I plan to return to Buffalo Springs in the future, hopefully with a little better swim.

Now it's time for a little break, and some refreshing in the San Juan mountains. I'm leaving for a 3 day backpacking trip in the Chicago Basin area, and I'll be trying to get in at least one fourteener. Enjoy your fourth of July weekend, whatever form it takes.

Monday, June 15, 2009

4th Place Ironman Boise 70.3

Back in Durango after a few nice days in Boise. This weekend was one of the busier for the triathlon world, with 70.3's in Boise, Kansas, Maryland, the UK, and Escape from Alcatraz in California. I had been planning on making Boise one of my major early season goals since March when I put together my race schedule. With cool waters necessitating a wetsuit swim, a good, challenging bike with rolling hills and wind, and a shaded flat and fast run, it is a course that suits me well. To add a little more emphasis, coach Elliot reminded me that having a poor race like I did in Orlando can mean only one thing: it was time for a break-out race.

I flew in with no delays on Thursday afternoon, met my friends from Durango who had knuckled down and driven the 12 hours, and got settled in. We did a little swimming to test the water temps (much better than last year), and spun around for a little over an hour on sections of the bike course.

A little digression: Boise is a great city. It's got a clean, modern downtown, plenty of young people with BSU, lots of recreation opportunities, and some great parks right along the river in town. It's a got a decent population while still remaining manageable, and as everyone knows, famous potatoes. Check it out if you've never been...

Friday was race registration, pro meeting, a nice 4 mile run with strides and a short ride with some effort on the bike. Weather had been brewing all day, and it looked like the weekend would hold more of the same. I don't mind racing in adverse conditions, as long as it's safe for the athletes, so I just hoped that it wouldn't turn into a modified duathlon. My Durango friends and I got together with Linsey Corbin and her support crew for some dinner, and we went to bed after some final adjustments to bikes and gear.

This year Boise had moved the start back to 2 pm, so we were all afforded a little extra sleep and time to get ready beforehand. We rolled out the reservoir at about 12:30, hiked up the dam, set up our transitions, and then jumped in for a little warm-up swim. When the gun went off, I was feeling pretty smooth, staying with the lead group through 400m before I lost contact with Joe Gambles and couldn't quite bridge as the leaders steadily rolled up ahead. I could see Jordan Rapp stuck in no man's land between our group of 3 and the leaders, about 30 seconds up, but I couldn't close it down. I came out a couple minutes down in what was unquestionably a long swim, had a decent transition, and got to work on the bike. I had logged good mileage last week, did plenty of intervals, and then rested well leading up, so I knew that I had a good bike leg in me. I went after Jordan right away, but wasn't able to catch him until about mile 20 after the Birds of Prey climb. He didn't go with me when I went around, but I knew I was within my power range, so I kept chasing alone.

By mile 35 I had caught Craig Alexander and Brian Lavelle (giving Lavelle the one-handed "Hey Macarena" dance salute). I dropped them shortly after, and began reeling in Joe Gambles, who I caught and passed near mile 52. It was a great feeling to put together the kind of ride I know I am capable of, and to come of the bike 2nd behind Chris Lieto. Add in that we were riding through serious downpours and wind for a good amount of the bike, and I'm satisfied with the effort.
Out onto the run, I felt good after digging pretty deep on the bike. I kept the pace even, just under 6 minutes per mile, but it didn't take long before Gambles came around, and then Crowie. They both gapped me significantly, but I saw Joe fall off Crowie's pace, and I started reeling him in. We were dead even at the halfway point, running side by side for a couple miles before he surged and got a gap again. I dug in, pulled him back, and then gapped him. He came back one more time, hit the gas a little after 10 miles, and I was empty. He got about 50m on me and it stayed that way until the finish, where we both collapsed (see picture above).
It's always tough to have a close finish and not be on top, and it's the second year in Boise where I have been 10 seconds or less out of the next best spot, but I put together one of my best races to date, and improved my overall position by two places. I crushed the bike, put together a solid run afterward, had another sub 4hour effort, and found myself at the pointy end of the race against some of the very fastest guys around. Another solid week of training, a little rest, and then Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon on the 28th. Thanks to all my sponsors, supporters, and followers.