Friday, October 19, 2012

The Way She Goes

Ironman Canada – August 26

Canada was supposed to be my “A” race for the season.  Hah!  It’s funny how things work out when you don’t expect them (St. George) and don’t work out when you plan for them to (Canada).  My nutrition definitely did not work out for the first time this season.  My blood sugar felt like it was all over the map.  A couple days after the race, I was sick.  Maybe that had something to do with it.  Or maybe I just went out too hard on the bike.  I caught Matt Russell early on during the bike, which might signal that I was pressing the early flat section to Osoyoos too hard.  Following that, I battled weird blood sugar from mile 56 to 112, and even into the marathon, and watched the race gradually slip away.  I was unsure if I would even be able to finish the marathon as a foot injury showed up just days before the event.  Passing by the house I was staying at (mile 5) during the marathon was the hardest part.  I felt so weak and would have loved to just stop and eat a burger right then and there!  My foot hurt with every step.  Fortunately, Nathan Killam caught me soon after and we ran together from mile 2 to 18 which substantially killed the pain.  As we were approaching the turnaround, we heard that several athletes were walking, and also saw some of our competition was in distress as they headed the other direction.  That kept us encouraged and I think I ran the fastest last 10k of an Ironman that I have ever.  I was totally surprised to run into a good placing after bumbling through most of the 2nd half of the race.  I guess this experience further underscores the most important Ironman principle: just keep going!

There are many positives to note here, even though it was a “B” quality race on my part.  I still came in with a 6th place, had an Ironman PR of 9:09, took home a little cash, and enjoyed an amazing time in Penticton.  I think this course deserves a little more respect, which I will certainly show it if I return next year for Challenge Canada, as the race will continue but under the race organization Family Challenge instead of Ironman.
More concerned with finding a relevant bathroom than posing!

Race support...wait, what does that say?!

I was about to cry the first time up this hill

The second time I was out for blood!


Frisky in Leadman – Sep 22nd

Leadman is an odd distance – 5km swim, 137 mile bike, finishing with a half-marathon.  I really liked the low-key nature of this event, even while it had some quality competition.  The location is amazingly beautiful, probably the best triathlon scenery I have experienced so far; the alpine lake is super clear, the bike has very low traffic, good roads, and mountain views.  

Woodinville Bicycle helped me get some last minute equipment taken care of (they have bailed me out more times than I can count!), and I was on my way to Bend, conveniently camping at the race venue, Cultus Lake.

This could have been my best race of the season.  I went 1:02 for the supposed 5km swim (obviously short), 6:05 for the 137 mile bike, which included 2 times up Mount Bachelor, and 1:25 for the very difficult Half-Marathon (did I mention it was after a 137 mile ride?).  I hit the fastest run split of the day, outpacing Rappstar by 1:15 and the rest of the pro field by 5-6 minutes.  Trying to chase down Karl Bordine in 5th gave me some extra motivation! I think I blasted a 5 minute mile at the end to catch Oli Piggin at the 12.9 mile mark, but was still 2 minutes off of the last "money spot" in the end.  Overall a very consistent day for 6th overall!  I was really encouraged to see my bike split up with some really good cyclists; consistency was the key as I paced myself very evenly.

Having a good ride - on my 2nd time up Mount Bachelor

with Matt Russell

Thomas Gerlach coming home in 3rd

Much faster overall time than I expected!
The Rappstar himself

Pain in the Poconos – September 29

Following Leadman, I knew I had one more good race in the tank of the season.  At the same time, I really didn’t want to extend my season until November like last year!  A door opened up for me to do 70.3 Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania and I took it.  Besides, at the end of the season it is a good time to take a couple risks and see how your body reacts.

Once in PA, I thought maybe I had been a little overoptimistic.  Friday morning my heart rate was around 60, up from the usual 42.  Obviously, I had not recovered from Leadman!  Ooops!

Still, I managed a PR (4:08:40) and a top-ten placing.  The swim went really well, 26:00 for 1.2 miles, which was theoretically a 2.5 minute swim PR, but probably was short.  I was passing people the entire time, jumping up from one group to the next.  The bike was net downhill which contributed to the fast average speeds.  I rode consistently but lacked the fire and tenacity that I have when riding fresh, which showed on the bumpy and hilly sections approaching Stroudsburg.  The run really showed the lack of recovery; the course was a lot harder than I expected and I couldn't push myself very hard.  I think I felt good for about 10 minutes during the bike and 5 minutes during the run; kind of like how you feel the day after a long bike-run combo.  Still, I was happy to close out the season with a PR, especially with only 1 week recovery following Leadman (which was an 8.5 hour race).  Perhaps more importantly, this race had me thinking differently about 2013 as I was in striking distance of the lead group on the bike.  Is it possible that if I work on my swim over the winter that I will be in the lead pack in 2013?  

The best part of this race was getting to hang with my friends from the Great White North, namely the Ottawa crew (Ryan Cain, Ryan Grant, and Jamie Stephenson) and Tennille Hoogland.  Hoogland had a decisive victory in the women’s race –  I am so proud of her improvement this year!

As an added bonus, I scored some much needed KPR points for next year.  But, did I get 10th or 9th?  I will let you decide that.  I was passed by a guy during the latter portion of the run who didn’t serve a time penalty, but I did not see that he got Dq’d for that.

What a Cluster

We did it!  A phrase Andrew Fast and I coined has finally become the name of a nation-wide flavor of ice cream.  I knew it was only a matter of time with the vast quantities of ice cream I consume!  “What a Cluster” is not only delicious, but accurately describes my racing exploits and those of my friend and training partner Andrew “the water buffalo” Fast.

So, who in their right mind would cluster 3 Half-Ironmans within 1 month of each other?  Well, crazy people like Matt Russell or ThomasGerlach certainly would, but for a conservative racer like myself, it was a big jump from the normal race spacing (usually 1x/month).

WA State 40k Champs  

And a "cluster" it was.  The preview was the WA State 40k TT champs in Tenino, WA on June 2, which was going to be my warm-up for the Boise 70.3.  I was on pace for an excellent ride, probably 56-57 minutes.  Unfortunately, I flatted out about at the halfway point - another "phantom" flat caused by a leaky valve core.  Not wanting to be denied, I went back out on the course bandit style (after getting the flat repaired) and clocked a 59 minute 40k on tired legs and with my training wheel on the rear.  Not too shabby.

Boise 70.3 – June 9

High hopes for the Boise 70.3; unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate.  With sub 50 degree air temperature, rain, and wind, coupled with 57 degree water temperature, many athletes were left standing (rather, shivering) with hypothermia...or they merely dropped out before that point.  The bike course was shortened from 56 miles to 12 miles, with the concern of hypothermia looming over the organizers heads with the low temperatures and strong winds.  Several pros were smart and simply raced the shortened bike into town with their wetsuits on!  That was the right move.  I was frigid coming out of the water, and was getting even worse coming down from Lucky Peak.  Once the legs thawed out (about 2 miles into the run), I was able to throw down a high 1:12 Half-Marathon, which was encouraging.  Too bad it was for 19th place!

If I've learned one thing from pro-marathoner Mike Sayenko (aside from how to do a proper Borat impression), it's that when you're hot, you race.   I knew I was in good shape, but had failed in the last two attempts to show it.  Fortunately, I had already created a back up plan. 

Tremblant 70.3 – June 24

Ironman was hosting an inaugural Half-Ironman in Mount-Tremblant, Quebec, which I thought might suit my capabilities.  I had scheduled a flight to the race, knowing that if something didn’t go right at Boise, I would have another option to show my fitness.  This is where Southwest is really the greatest and the worst option in the world for the indecisive.  You can cancel a flight at any time before the flight, and have your airfare fully applied to the next flight of your choosing.  I was fretting over whether to go to Tremblant, but finally decided not to let the opportunity slip by.

In Quebec I had the opportunity to stay with Romaine Guillard out in Tremblant, was we were both hosted by skiing and outdoor fanatic Bob Gilmour who generously invited three people to stay with him.  Romaine is quite the character and “astetitician,” as I call him.  That is, he really knows how to have his equipment working well but also looking good.  Secret tip:  “Hide your Vittoria Pitstop under your front bottle cage.  It looks better in pictures that way,” says Romaine.

I think my fitness increased in the swim and the bike off of the fitness from Boise, I swam a PR of 28:30 for the 1.2 miles, and rode a 2:19 (24.0 mph avg) for the 56 mile course, which had some nasty, spikey climbs thrown in.  I thought for sure I could run myself into 3rd place on the run given my position on the bike, but folded big-time at during the last half, clearly not recovered from the effort at Boise.  I think I clocked 1:20 or 1:21, which was still good for 5th.

July 8 – Rev 3 Portland

Rev 3 was the biggest confidence builder of the 3 races.  I spent a few days before the race in John Day, Oregon, getting in some altitude training with my younger brother Patrick.  Eastern Oregon is super sweet for training, I don’t even know where to start.  I guess I’ll have to table that conversation for another time.

Things went off the rails a bit on our way from John Day to Portland.  We drove down to Portland, and, according to my custom, I previewed the bike course 2 days out, getting in about 45 miles.  Afterwards, and I still don’t know exactly why (dehydration?), I got incredibly sick and puked my guts out several times.  The whole ordeal lasted until about midnight, and I wondered if I would even be okay to race on Sunday.

Race Day.  I was hoping for a wetsuit legal swim, but it was not to be.  I came out and the clock read 36 minutes and I thought, “this is gonna be one LONG day.”  But, I unleased a super solid bike-run combo, averaged 23.7 on a ridiculously hilly bike course, and unleased a 1:16 half in hot (90 degrees-ish) conditions, and managed to pull myself up to 12th.

If you take the bike-run splits only, I was 6th.  That built my confidence based on who I was up against – Cunningham,  Thomas,  Rapp, etc.  I think I lost some of the feel for the water with my lack of swimming while in John Day, but aerobically I was obviously super fit.  Still, following Rev 3 I really needed a mental break and then planned to rebuild for Ironman Canada

Now I can’t adequately tell the story of these several clusters without mentioning Andrew’s exploits, as he was busy with a cluster of his own.  Andrew was ready to pop a good one, but flatted out of the Victoria Half-Iron with a nasty sidewall gash on the rear tire.  He also had a flat the day before on the front, but frantically found a replacement before race day.  Bad luck with tires lately!  I did hear tale that Andrew was able to stay with Andy Pott’s parents out in Victoria, which was quite the experience.

Andrew really had a tough time getting back up mentally, but managed to pull himself together for the Vancouver Half 2 weeks later.  Delivering an incredibly even race, he threw down a 4:22 for 7th (or 8th, I’m too lazy to check) overall.  The 4:22 was about a ½ hour personal record, I believe.  2 weeks following, Andrew “rode angry” on the bike course at the ChelanMan Olympic, and won with an impressive 2:03 overall time.

It was a one big cluster, that’s for sure; filled with mishaps, mechanicals, and misadventure.