Thursday, August 20, 2009

13th Place Lake Stevens 78.3

I apologize for the delay in my post, but life has been a little more hectic than usual with the end of my part-time job, and the prep for moving out of my place here in Durango before Hawaii. Additionally, it's taken me a little longer to absorb and process the tremendous disappointment of the race in Washington.

I got back from the trip to Seattle/Lake Stevens on Monday, spending the weekend staying at the home of ace blind triathlete Aaron Scheidies. If you haven't already seen this guy at the races or know his story, check out his site:

Aaron was busy taking names in London, so I had nice accommodations just north of the city. I didn't feel great coming into the race after Calgary's result, but I figured I would be able to race fast on residual fitness and intelligence. At least half of that ended up being true...

Lake Stevens is a challenging race, with seemingly continuous rolling hills on the 58 mile bike course, and a couple good climbs on the run too. Race morning was standard, with a 6:30 start. I gave myself the usual hour to get set up and warm up in the water before the gun went off. Everything was on target as I started to the right hand side and settled into a solid group of swimmers immediately. I don't know if it was being at sea level or something else entirely, but I felt smooth and not strained in the least as I found good feet and traced the underwater buoy line. Our group consisted of Gambles, Tremonte, Symonds, Whyte, and Park leading a good chunk of the way. I stayed comfortable and came out with one of my better swims ever at the half-iron distance.

Transition wasn't stellar, but I got out okay and immediately began blasting the bike to stay with Gambles, who was setting a furious pace to chase down swim leaders Linkemann and Flanagan. I did my best to stay with him, managing to stay about 50 meters back and match his pace through 15 or 16 miles, at which point I decided that I couldn't sustain the effort and backed off to my normal wattage. The good thing was that we had already pulled out significant time on our chasers, and nobody could see us with the rolling and turning terrain. Onto the second loop I still felt surprisingly strong on the bike, and was pulling out more time on the following group, but losing a little more time to Gambles. I knew with a run like his, this race was going to be for 2nd, so I stayed focused on riding my ride and getting ready for the run.

Even though I had raced the same course the year before, and pre-rode some of the course the day before, when it came time to make the left hand turn on the beginning and finishing out and back section, I turned about a half mile early on a road that looked very similar. I didn't realize my mistake until I had ridden almost 3 1/2 miles up the road to another intersection where an officer directed me back to the course. Not sure how much time I had lost, I still raced the bike back in, but when I was on the run and got a feel for my position, I cashed it in and jogged the remainder with Kirk Nelson, who was suffering from foot pain.

I have gone off course one other time, but this was far more painful. Being 4 minutes clear of 3rd place, 2 minutes down from 1st, and ready to podium at my second consecutive 70.3 made this a tough pill to swallow. That said, I'm the only one to blame for the error, and it will add fuel to my fire as I train for the most important race of the year in Kona. Additionally, it's clear that my fitness is good, and the extra swim focus is paying dividends. With another hard block on the big island in September, I'll be ready to make my mark again at the Ironman distance against the best in the world.

Monday, August 3, 2009

2nd Place Ironman Calgary 70.3, Montana/Canada Roadtrip

After a long break from posts, I'm back with some good news. I just completed the inaugural Ironman Calgary 70.3 in 2nd place. Of course there's a back story here, so I am going to take my time and build to the finish from the beginning. Hope you are sitting somewhere comfortable...

After a couple weeks easy and back to back trips to the mountains for some space to clear my head, I got back into structured training. I still maintained some fitness, running and riding when I felt like it, and covering portions of the Iomgene pass run on a weekend trip to visit my family, but I dropped a little bit of the top end. Fortunately, it started coming back quickly, so I just put my head down and got through 3 fairly hard weeks before racing up north. It has been pleno verano in Durango, so getting out on the bike and running on the trails has been as natural as breathing.

Starting a week and a half ago, I hit the road for a trip to see friends in Montana for two separate weddings in one week, and the race immediately following the last wedding. It was an ambitious plan with an approach to race day that I had not executed in several years, but with my focus on the long-term with Hawai'i, I couldn't allow myself to be stressed.

Wedding round one was my good friend Jeff (my first swim coach) up in Ryegate, Montana. If you haven't heard of this place, it's because nobody has. In the middle of nowhere rolling wheatfields, with the Musselshell river flowing through town and a sandstone cliff band to break the monotony of the terrain. To be honest, I was quite charmed by the place, and after watching Jeff get hitched, dancing into the wee hours, and doing a naked slip and slide when the rains poured down that evening, I have nothing but good memories.

I did log a hard long run the day of the wedding, got very little sleep (awoken 30 min earlier than I wanted by a crowing rooster), and drove 2 hours at 6 am to Bozeman for a 70 mile road race with about 4,000 ft. of climbing. Despite back to back nights of less than 5 hours of sleep, I helped pull back the main break and stayed with the leaders until the final climb, finishing 4th. On the drive back to Missoula for a week of training with friends before the second wedding, I was reduced to pulling over and sleeping from exhaustion. Also of note, a SNOWstorm blew through 30 miles outside of Missoula, coating the ground and hillsides with a half-inch of the white stuff in late July. Love this place.

So, 4 more days of hard work in Missoula, including some good long sets at the 50m outdoor pool (Splash Montana), where change rooms are indicated by pictures of bucks and does. Catching up with friends, eating Taco del Sol burritos, and training hard were the order of business for my stay, and I came into the second wedding and Calgary feeling ready to race fast.

I had another early morning departure from Bozeman after attending friend Tyler's wedding ceremony on Friday night, and drove the 8 hours to Calgary to drop my bike off before 5 and see a little bit of the course. As I said, this was a unique approach to race day, but I felt relaxed in the chaos, and indicator workouts were spot on for a good performance.

Race Day: Early to rise for a 45 minute drive from town to the race site, set-up transition, get in an okay warm-up, and then full gas from the start in the waters of Ghost Lake. I felt pretty smooth and in control, knowing that Hackett and O'Donnell would probably go well clear. I stayed in the main chase pack and prepped for the bike in my mind.

I had a poor first transition, but immediately went to work on the bike and started passing the swimmers from my group. I bridged to a group that had Whyte, Hadley, and Cotter, and we rolled along for about 20 miles before I went up ahead with Whyte. We pushed the pace and almost caught up to Hackett, but still entered T2 almost 2 minutes down. I went out hard on the run, pulling back time right away, but didn't make the catch until almost halfway. After that, I put in one hard surge at 14k and dropped the closest pursuers for good. The last hill and loop of the run were pretty ugly, but I had time to enjoy my best finish yet at a 70.3, and even got to spray the champagne in celebration afterwards. Tim was far and away the strongest that day, but I raced my race and stayed focused. It was an excellent result for my first race in a month, and if the bike wasn't 59 miles, I would have split one of my faster times ever on a course with plenty of hills.

Now it's a little downtime in Calgary with plans to go tubing and sushi for dinner tonight. After that, about 1600 miles of driving back home to Durango, and then off to Lake Stevens on the 14th. Until then, try harder.

Also, check the link to an article in the local paper that covers our budding triathlete scene in Durango: