I began working with my coach during the last week of December last year. While I had several goals, none was more important than improving my time on the 70.3 distance to under six hours and more ideally, to 5:50:00 or better.
The ultimate test of that came yesterday at the 15th Annual Harvest Moon Triathlon, which, like my other two races this year was produced by Without Limits. I've found them to be a very good production company and was pleased to participate in three of their races this year. I hope I'll be back for others in the years to come.
Packet pick up was in the town of Sheridan, a small Denver suburb to the south and west of the city proper. Kompetitive Edge is a triathlon store located there and they have been associated with several Without Limits events. It was their support vehicle that fixed my flat at Steamboat.
The drive out there took longer than the time I spent picking up a packet and buying a new spare tube. Unlike other companies, most notably Ironman, the packet is a fairly simple affair with just one number for the run, one for the bike and then the usual ads and sample items in the goodie bag.
I spent the rest of the day just relaxing and watching a little college football. I did take some time to mount a third cage to the Hydrotail on my TT bike and to clean the bike up a bit, but otherwise, that was it.
My brother, also doing the race, spent the night with us Saturday and after a dinner of spaghetti and salad, I packed my bag and not too long afterward, it was off to bed. I knew I would not get a lot of sleep, but I believe I got about six hours which is not bad.
At 4:30 the following morning I was up to have a breakfast consisting of a bagel and cream cheese and a bottle of Odwalla superfood. Probably a little under 500 calories. By 5:30 we were on our way to the race venue at Aurora Reservoir. We were there before the gates opened at 6:00 so there was a brief wait but then we were moving and were able to park right next to the transition area.
Getting bikes unloaded, picking up chips and racking in all took minimal time. I've found from my first two races that I prefer a slot near the Swim In/Run Out arch and we had our pick of these. In fact, it was near the Without Limits truck and a light pole so finding the spot during T1 and T2 would prove to be easy. I've gone hunting for my bike at previous events and it's not a good feeling!
Arriving early gave me plenty of time to slowly set up my area. As I always due, I set up a very minimal space.
I supplemented my breakfast with a couple of Honey Stinger gels and a little water to wash them down. Time was actually going by fairly quickly so before long, I was pulling on the wetsuit and heading down to the swim warm-up area.
Unlike Steamboat and Summer Open, the swim area is a roped off section that gets a little crowded. I managed to get about five quality minutes of warming up but I had to be wary of not colliding with others. The water was a bit cool and it took me the better part of a minute to adapt.
With minimal fanfare and delay, I was soon waiting in the start coral. While there is a coral line-up, the actual start is in thigh deep-water. I prefer that because all those feet running into even the cleanest of lakes (like this one) churns so much dust that seeing anything is nearly impossible. This one started clean.
Most races would have you looking down the buoy line from the start, but in this case, you actually had to swim slight to the left and then sight down the line. Not easy since the sun was pretty much in our faces. However, it all worked out and in short order, I was moving down the line.
I did not go out overly hard to start but I was also not short of breath which was a problem at the start of Steamboat. I know several people out there who talk about the swim as their least favorite part of triathlon racing. I'm not overly enamoured with it myself. It is however, my strongest event and I found myself at a good steady pace on the back half. With the sun behind me know, sighting was easy and I always found the big red exit arch. I got out of the water and was running under it. The distance showed 1.12 miles which is about 140 yards short of 1.2 miles but I was not complaining.
My Time: 31:49 (short course)
Official Time: 33:03 (including the run up the beach to the transition area)
T1I was out of the top half of my wetsuit as I entered the transition area. I struggled a little bit to get all the way out but then I was quickly donning my helmet and slipping on my shoes. It did not feel like an overly long period of time. I had to round a couple of corners to leave the area so I was not going a at a dead sprint, but I was not wasting any time either.
My Time: 4:04
Official Time: 2:50 (the difference represents the time it took me to run from the swim exit to the TA)
THE BIKEGarmin continues to find ways to make me buy someone else's watch the next time I'm in the market. Not sure how, but I guess the lap button on my 910 got bumped a couple of times so when I hit the Lap button, it started the run section. I reset everything and got into bike mode in about a minute.
The ride out of the reservoir park was much like I expected with a lot cruising and negotiating turns. Then I was on Quincy and headed east up the first of a few hills. None of the hills are actually rated and the wind was at our backs so knocking out the first ten miles went well. I had hoped to get to the first turnaround within 30 minutes and actually did it in 28. The wind was clearly factoring in as we rode back east. There were more downhill sections than up which helped but I knew I'd be going faster without it.
The next section of the course had you headed north on what is called the Watkins Road, so named because of the town that lies at its end. There are some climbs, but it's a net drop in elevation and I spent nearly all my time here in the big ring making some pretty good time.
Then you make a right turn now headed east toward the town of Bennett. A few years ago, I did some training rides that started in Bennett and I was familiar with this section of road. The one time I rode it east-bound however, I was at the end of a ride and I found it difficult.
Not true on this day. The wind was at my back and I was flying. I purposely did not have my MPH displayed but I now see I spent most of it in the upper 20 mph zone with only a couple of dips for one hill and when I rolled through the aid station and got some water. During this section, I noted my half way split was an impressive 1:15:00. I did not get overly excited about that however since I knew the back-half would be characterized by lots of climbing and the wind in my face.
Just east of Bennett, there's another right turn now on what is called the Kiowa Bennett road since it connects the two towns. The net climb through this section is only about 300 feet, but most of that is accomplished on only a handful of hills. I was not overly exhausted by this section, but I was working harder for less distance gained.
The final right turn is back onto Quincy, now headed west. As expected the wind was full on into my face and even steeper downhills felt like slow motion. I did my best to tuck down tight and take advantage of gravity when it was on my side.
Not long after the first down hill, there are two climbs (like big steps) that take you to the highest point on the course. I don't know what the official name of this hill is--or if it even has one--but I've always though of it as the Tom Bay hill since that's the name of the road that runs along its ridge. While the summit of this hill looks fairly sharp on an elevation profile, it's actually quite rounded and getting to the true summit drags on and on. Of course, the wind was there to greet me when I crested it.
Fortunately, the ride back down the hill is nearly as steep as the ride up and even with the wind, I made good time. I did not pour on speed here. Rather, I opted to use the section to recover a little and preserve my legs. As others went charging up the remaining hills, I kept reminding myself that there was still a lot of race left. The run, for me anyway, is the most challenging.
I rode back up the hill into the reservoir park at a high cadence and made sure I was not mashing the pedals. My legs and glutes were sore already and I saw no value in making that worse.
My Time: 2:56:08
Official Time: 2:57:11 (this is closer to accurate due to my watch issues)
T2I had planned to run quickly through T2, but I had to slow that to a jog. The legs were a little wobbly as I tried to pull on my socks but the spot next to me was empty since that person was not yet back from the bike so I used the rack for support. Despite feeling pokey, I guess I actually made good time and was out of there in short order.
My Time: ??? No idea. The Garmin really screwed this up.
Official Time: 2:42 (sound about right)
Upon arriving at the first aid station/mile marker, I took two cups of water. The first I consumed and the second I dumped on my head. It was a shock, but a pleasant one and I felt better as I started into my second mile.
This process continued all along the course. Though I was making good time--my first 8 miles were all sub 10:00, thing were getting progressively more difficult. My heart rate was steadily in the low 140s but my the sides of my ribs felt tight and my legs were very sore. By just after mile 8, I had to take a walk break. It was less than 3 minutes then I ran on until reaching mile 9 where I did the same.
This continued all the way to mile 11 and then I began taking shorter runs and shorter walk breaks. I was hurting a lot at this point and even starting to feel a little sick. It wa difficult going during those last two miles and, in truth, I was not overly concerned with my time. I figured it would be a PR and if it was more like 6:00:00 or even 6:05:00, well that would still be a big improvement.
I ran in the last .3 miles or so and was probably never more grateful to have reached a finish line. I also took advantage of the big slip and slide at the end:
|You can see the op of my head as I slide down|
|I only slid about half way and had to walk the rest!|
My Time: 2:18:35
Official Time: 2:18:21
Overall Official Time: 5:54:08
THE AFTERMATHThis was my fourth attempt at this distance. While I remember feeling tired and worn out after each, this was by far the most exhausted I've ever felt. Regardless of what is said about sitting right after a workout, I was on the grass next to the finish line within a minute and stayed there for several more.
When I got back home, I took a two hour nap but slept fitfully because my glutes were so sore. Today, as I write this, my back is still stiff from all the aero riding. I definitely need a break.
While my coach was nice enough to provide me with a short workout this week, I've asked him to push it back. I really do want to do some good off season work, but I also really want a week off to just relax both body and mind.
Then I'll slowly ramp up duration and intensity and hit the new season with a full head of steam.
Thanks for reading and worry not, more posts re: the off season will follow!