Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Accidental 'A' Race

All season long, I've eschewed labeling any one event my “A” race. Early on, I just didn't know what to expect. Later, when I found my performance lacking, I knew I would just be setting myself up for disappointment.

Past experience also drove this practice. I went into the 2012 Rattlesnake with no expectations either way and wound up having one of my best days on an Olympic Course. Why target a race when not targeting it seemed to produce such solid results?

Then there was this year’s Rattlesnake. A decent swim, an okay bike (except for losing my seat-mounted water bottle rack) and a really lousy run combined to make it a bad experience. Heat definitely played a part (it was much cooler the year before) and my lack of conditioning played one as well.

Moments like that drove me to train harder, eat better and turn things around. I had several advantages at TriRock like the flat course and sea-level altitude, but I also had worked to put myself in a position to do better.

All of that, and the fact that Ironman 70.3 Austin is my last race this season, have effectively made it the “A” race by default. I didn't plan it this way—it just happened due to multiple factors.

This will be my race at the half iron distance. Clearly at both Boulder and HITS Sterling last year, my greatest struggle is the run. I did a respectable amount of running before HITS but not nearly enough before Boulder. In the last two months, I've effectively doubled my average weekly mileage and even started to see my speed improve. It’s been easier in the cooler weather, but I think it has more to do with being more disciplined about getting out there and just doing it.

Cycling has also seen more mileage. I was doing alright at this prior to the last two races, but this time I've done multiple rides at 50 miles or more in preparation. Being as I live in a relatively hilly area, I've also done a lot more climbing than there will be in Austin. That race won’t be flat, but I go on rides 50% more vertical gain.

Cooler weather is also likely to favor me. No, southern Texas will probably not see anything like the fifty and sixty degree temperatures that Colorado has been experiencing over the last two weeks, but highs are not likely to go much over the mid-seventies either. When I started running at Boulder it was 75* in the shade (there was almost no shade on the course) and it had climbed to about 90* by the time I finished. A year earlier in Sterling, it was already pushing 90* at the beginning of the run and flirting with 100* before the day was over. It’s not impossible it will be just as warm in Austin, but not likely either.

As I discovered in San Diego, altitude really does make a difference. I noticed this in the ease at which I made a sub 9:00 pace through the run as well as by my lack of sore muscles afterward. While I doubt I was in a completely aerobic state, I was more so than my typical run at home above 6000 feet. One of my major problems on the run in Boulder was my heart rate kept spiking close to 100% of max. In other words, I could not have kept running even if I wanted to. While Austin is not at sea level, the entire course never gets higher than 656 feet which is scarcely more than 10% of my average training altitude.

Like any race, there are factors I can’t control. It might be freakishly hot, miserably rainy or windy enough to knock me off the bike. I could also have health issues like a cold or intestinal problem. You just never know. But I am cautiously optimistic about my ability to show a marked improvement over my past two 70.3 races. In just over two weeks, I get to find out!

Thanks for reading!

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