Having spent the last two weeks at sea level and doing far more eating and drinking than training, I definitely approached my race with a little bit of trepidation. True I had swam, biked and run distances all greater than any single leg while I was away, but the most I hoped for was that I had maintained my overall fitness level. What’s more, I was concerned about how my injured right leg would hold out.
A beneficial side effect of all the international travel has been that I’ve been waking up unusually early. It’s as if my circadian rhythms were set back by about two hours. As a result, getting up at 4:45 to make the trek up to
was not all that difficult.
Fortunately, this race allowed race-day pick-up saving me two trips across town. It was the usual process for a WTC event meaning I had to sign a waiver and complete a bunch of legal information beyond what I did when I signed up for the series nearly six months ago. That’s annoying, but it didn’t take very much time. In five minutes or so, I had all of the required material and was ready to set up my transition area.
Just like last year’s Boulder Peak, this race makes use of those high, long pipes on which everyone hangs their bike. Kind of like a trough urinal. The problem is that, being a fairly tall guy at 6’2”, my seat is higher than the rack. So if I hang my bike by its seat, I won’t be able to get it out unless I tip it to one side. Doing that causes any adjacent bikes to tip. I hung mine by the base bar. Truthfully, a “world class” outfit like Ironman needs to spring for individual racking systems. This also makes sure everyone gets a space.
My set-up was methodical and I even spent a few minutes to mentally walk through each transition. This ensured that items were where they needed to be.
My early arrival gave me time for a short warm up lap before it was time to start lining up for the start. This probably is not entirely necessary, but I always feel better knowing what the water feels like before starting the race.
Unlike the usual start-by-age group, this race was by self-assessed time. Specifically, each athlete was asked to place themselves in a coral that corresponded to their best 100 yard time. I chose the 1:40 – 1:50 which is probably slower than I could swim a stand along 100, but I was feeling the need to be more conservative. Waves went off in succession with only a few seconds between each. This actually worked pretty well. Not to say that there were not others around me, but the usual washing machine effect of a swim start was not there. Probably due to my own self-imposed slower start, I did start to encounter people at the turn, but it was no worse than anything else I experienced. Being a sprint, there were a number of newbies out there including one guy who was hugging the buoy on the first turn while breast stroking, but nothing worse than that.
I struggled a little bit on the swim and took it kind of easy. I’m chalking that up to still not being fully acclimated to the high altitude. Hopefully that is all since I have to double the distance this Saturday.
Transitions for this race series are long. The run from the beach to the TA is about 0.2 mile. I made it a little harder on myself by running down the wrong row but once I reached my bike, I managed to get out of the suit and on my way fairly easily. My T1 time was officially 3:55 which was five seconds better than I expected.
Due to some construction at the intersection of Highway 119 and
the bike course had to be modified. When I arrived on race morning, I could see
why. There was basically no shoulder there. That reduced the distance from a
little over 17 miles to 15 miles. Not a big deal and I was actually happy to
have the shorter distance.
The first 4.25 miles of the bike are identical to those on the
with a slow climb out of the
reservoir and to the edge of the foothills. Instead of turning off at Lee Hill
drive and heading for the treacherous climb up Olde Stage Road, this course
stays on U.S. 36 toward Boulder Peak Lyons
and you are soon rewarded with a nice downhill. The field was crowded and I was
worried about drafting penalties so I did not go as fast as I might have but I
still found enough momentum to cruise up the next hill without having to mash
too hard. This would actually prove to be beneficial during the middle part of
the ride. Down hills gave me momentum on up hills and I kept my speed up as a
result. Indeed, between miles 7.25 and 11.25 I was never dropped below 21 mph
and went into the low 30’s multiple times.
Because of the construction back at
Jay Road, we turned off Highway 119 at
what is really just a walking trail and a non-paved on at that. It would not be
the first time I road on gravel, but I was not looking forward to it. Someone,
however, figured out that a series of long rubber mats was all that was needed
so as a result, no mountain biking! Nice.
The road into T2 was a little steep and I eased up trying to spin in low gear to loosen up my legs for the run.
This was really easy. I got right to my spot, racked my bike and was on my way in 1:55 just ten seconds slower than my goal time.
If anything had me concerned, it was this event. I had not done any running since a five mile jaunt around
a full two weeks earlier. That session was marred by acute pain in my leg. I
figured to be slow. Goteborg, Sweden
As I headed out however, I was pleased to discover that I could stay below a 9:00 pace (more like 8:30 in fact) without too much difficulty. I was tired and gassed for a lot of it. In fact, this distracted me from the fact that I was not having any injury pain. None. Unlike past runs where it might flare up and then I could just shake it off, it never presented. The course was mostly flat, but not completely and neither up hill nor down caused me any pain in the IT Band or the soleus muscle. I don’t know if that’s a permanent condition, but it was a nice relief.
I ended up a little slower on the third mile but still finished with an average pace of 8:48. I was really tired at the finish, but again, I think my body is still used to being at sea level.
The Race Review
Bike Racks: When even small local races like the Greeley Triathlon can spring for individual triathlon racks, Ironman needs to step up and do the same. I understand that the participation level is higher, but even the massive TriRock was able to pull this off when I ran it two years ago. I felt bad for the guy who was walking up and down our section just looking for a place to put his bike while someone else had spread their beach towel all over a couple of spots. Clearly defined and assigned spaces ensure no one takes more than their fair share of transition space.
Re-Opening Transition, Post-Race: To some extent it’s understandable why you don’t let everyone back into transition while there are still folks finishing up the bike stage. Even slower athletes paid full fare and should have a reasonable expectation of being able to transition unfettered by others who are packing up. However, there also needs to be a cutoff. The masses gathered around the entrance to the TA are a clear indication of this.
Race Day Pick-Up: This is something every race should adopt. Having to go back and forth between home and the venue (or even a designated site) is cumbersome. In my case, just having returned from a long vacation, it was a relief to know I could pick up my packet that morning.
Swim Start: This turned out to be a really good idea. True, the corals were a little crowded but for a first time effort, it worked well. Best of all, congestion in the water, especially early on, was greatly reduced. They may want to fine-tune the process to include more slots but it worked. Better still, timing was based on when you crossed under the start arch so times were truly individual.
Bike Course Change: I suspect that race organizers were hoping that the construction project along Highway 119 would be finished. That’s a difficult process to predict. The adjustment to the course worked well. Although the run was a little congested, it really created no problems for me.
Support: Volunteers were helpful, the police presence at major intersections was reassuring, and the availability of water and nutrition along the run course was plentiful. There’s no question that these folks know how to run an event. It was evident all morning long.
I came away fairly pleased but not ecstatic about my own performance. There’s no doubt I got a little lazy on vacation, but I was also concerned about my injury. Two weeks off may have been just what my IT Band needed.
If things continue to stay stable, I’m hoping to increase the running distance and improve my overall conditioning.
That will be after this week because in just five more days, I’ll be out racing again, this time at the Loveland Lake-to-Lake Olympic distance triathlon. More on that next week!
Thanks for reading!