*** many thanks to Aaron Torrelio for this race report ***
I have read and enjoyed so many race reports from our team, I figured it is my turn to finally contribute one. I had a great buildup to this race, which was my “A” (and only) race for the season, my first attempt at the 70.3 distance.
For the first time in my short lived racing career, I slept great the night before the event. I got 7 or so hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep. Waking up I felt relaxed and ready to go. Headed downstairs to the athlete breakfast which was setup nice and early at 4am. I was traveling with Nirvana Europe, so they had arranged all transport to and from the race venue. Got to the transition at 5:30am right as it opened up. Pumped the tires, put on 3 bottles of Hammer Perpetuem, which I knew was one bottle extra, but I knew there is always a risk to lose one. Got my Garmin ready to go with the power meter, shoes on the bike and the “MyAthleteLIve” tracker on my race belt hung on my handlebars. I had struggled in the past with how I was going to handle my Garmin bike computer during the race and I discovered a great article from Quarq on how to manage your head unit for racing. You can do your entire race never touching one button on your head unit if you like! http://www.quarq.com/pages/getting-started/setup
After this I headed over to the bag racks, hung my swim and run bags, and then walked the 1/2km or so over to the swim start. I had a very detailed pre-race and race plan, which I had committed to memory during the the week leading up to the race. That really reduced the stress as I knew I didn’t need to worry about forgetting anything. I just followed my mental checklist the entire day.
Swim 1.9 km
Into the water and positioned myself a couple of rows behind the front. Gun went off and here we go! I had a plan to go above goal effort for the first 200-300 meters to hopefully get a bit of cleaner water and avoid the melee. Well, the melee was about 10 times worse than I had expected. The water was very cold and combined with the high effort start and the plant life that was just below the surface, I quickly felt myself reverting to survival mode. It took about 500 meters for the field to spread out enough that I wasn’t worried about taking an elbow in the face. I had decided the day before not to do a pre-race swim, and this was a mistake. Had I done so I would have been more prepared for the conditions at the start of the swim and might not have used so much “mental energy” just trying to keep it together. After 900 meters we were out of the water and onto a 200 meter intermediate run into the second lake. There was a very short steep downhill section on asphalt where the bottom of my feet took a major beating. This would comeback to haunt me later in the day. Into the second lake, and swimming again. I have always found running between swims a sort of “recovery” for me, so once into the water I felt a bit better. The second lake also had much clearer water, and this combined with the spreading out of the field helped me to find a rhythm sort of. Out of the water and I was already celebrating a small victory. Time 00:36 / 61 TSS / IF 1.0
My race number was 719 but in the chaos I grabbed bag 917. Immediately realized it was the wrong bag and put it back and went over to the right spot and got my bag. Lesson learned, write my race number in marker on my hand. Not much else to say here.
I had a plan that I would stick to like glue. 200 watts was the target, using the 50-40-30-20-10 rule capped at 230 watts. I had the race course completely memorized, having driven it in March and studying the elevation map. The first 24km would be flat and I was cruising right along at 36 km/hr. At 24km we hit the first climb that was 3km long. Pegged the power at 230 watts and spun my way to the top. I had a feeling though that my gearing may not be up to the requirements of the second climb. Once at the top, settled in for a nice descent, easily hitting 70 km/hr on the way down at several points. One very memorable moment of this race for me will be the smell of my brake pads burning after heavy braking at several points. Another flat section from 27km to 60km where I again nailed my goal wattage. I wasn’t drinking as much as I had during training because the temperature was so much lower, so I ate a gel at this point to get some more calories on board. At 60km we hit the second climb, an 8km effort with the last 3km being very steep. I completely underestimated what it would take to get up and over this monster. I kept the power pegged at 230 watts, but with my gearing in the back the cadence was down to 57 rpm average and at several points I saw less than 10 km/hr. When I got to the the top of climb, 24 minutes had passed and I knew at this point there was no way I was finishing anywhere near 5 hours. I didn’t let it bother me, stuck to my plan and started an incredible, hair raising descent that topped out at 75.5 km/hr. The recovery was great and I was able to settle back into my goal wattage for the last 20km or so. Getting off the bike I felt like a million bucks and knew I had nailed it as much as possible.
Time 2:55 / 199 watts Normalized Power / .76 IF / 168 TSS / VI 1.07
Not much to say here as well, got the right bag this time. I loved having the transition bags and the tents that had benches inside, so putting my shoes on was just that much more enjoyable sitting on a bench rather than on the ground, which was what I had planned and trained. Ahh, the little things…
Well here is where I strayed from my race plan, and where I have the most to learn and build from. My plan called for 4:50-4:55 /km initially to get settled in (and in training this was holding back). Then I would hit my goal pace of 4:40 /km and finish somewhere in the neighborhood of 1:40. These were the paces I trained at as well as completing my Build Period tests at, so I was confident they were reasonable. Initially I was seeing 5:00 /km and right away I was thinking this feels way to hard for only 5 minute km’s. This thought was made worse by the fact that I had planned and trained that I would need to be holding back here but it was the exact opposite, I was hanging on. I focused to just keep moving and stay in the moment and start ticking off the kilometers. The run was 2 loops, so I was being passed by an incredible amount of really fast folks who were probably going to go 4:30 and a bit and were on their second lap. This certainly didn’t help my mental state. Looking back I realize now that I had two contradicting items in my race plan. One was the note that I would need to hold back targeting 4:50-4:55 /km, the second was a quote from a coach saying it will take the first 3-5km for your legs to “come right”. I latched onto this second note and just kept going albeit slower than I wanted to. At some point around 5km I had realized that the bottom of my feet were really dang hot and felt like I may be developing a blister. Yikes! I had a planned to eat a gel at 7km and 14km, while taking water from the aid stations, which I did but it wasn’t easy and would have preferred liquid calories instead. I knew I would have to be accountable after the race to my plan, so I avoided the temptation to guzzle flat coke and Redbull at this point and just stuck to the water. I am happy I did so. It is funny how you make these great race plans but then when things start getting tough you have these incredible urges to completely abandon them! During the second lap I figured when the race was over my socks were going to be completely bloody because the bottom of my feet felt pretty bad. I even had a passing thought or two that I would need to stop in an aid station and try to find a bandaid. Obviously at this point any pacing was out the window, and I recall seeing 5:15/km on my watch and thinking “hell, I feel like I am barely moving!” By 15km I knew I would get across the finish line, and I was also mentally feeling a bit better as there were now slower people on the run course who looked to be way worse off than myself, and I was actually passing a few here and there. I am certain had I put Body Glide on the bottom of my feet in T2 (and into my socks prior to the race) I would have been in a much more comfortable place and certainly could have picked up the pace the last 5km. Looking back though, I was in a lot of pain, and when you get to that point it is just about moving forward. I spent the last 3km or so letting my mind wander a bit to how much time I had spent preparing for this day and actually becoming a bit wistful that it was all about to come to a close. I have to say that crossing that finish line was a feeling of emotion that has only been surpassed during the births of my 3 daughters. Time 1:50 / .78 IF / 128 rTSS - Finish Time 5:31
Surprisingly, my feet were completely fine after the race. I just couldn’t believe there were no blisters down there anywhere. My time goal was to go right at 5 hours, but it just wasn’t to be. I had trained at the intensities required to do so, but only on a completely flat course, which I couldn’t find given the limitations imposed by my own restrictions on how far to travel and at what time of the year I would race. Even though I didn’t come anywhere near to making my time goals for this race, I am still very happy with the results. I completed all of my training goals, and was able to improve my abilities far beyond a point which I could have ever envisioned when I started this sport two and a half years ago at 106 kilograms. I still feel I am very much a beginner and am looking forward to applying everything I learned over the past 28 weeks or so to another race in the future. Nothing new or profound in this report but I hope you enjoyed the brief read.