This last weekend I got to join over 2,200 people from over 30 countries for my second half ironman. By this time last year, I had raced over a handful of times a variety of races. However, this year I decided to sit them out and the hardest to let go was The Vision Quest race but in trying to just focus on my first Ironman (St George) and do something different I really don't feel like I am "giving up" anything. I am really enjoying just swimming, biking and running. Something makes me feel like going long is a good fit for me. Well, it makes me happy anyway.
Last year, I jumped into the Oceanside 70.3 and I though for sure I would be racing a few more 70.3’s by the end of the year. . . I guess I am just a slacker because it took me a year to get into another one of them and I am at the same 70.3. I hope to race a few more of these this year if it all works out in the unplanned schedule.
I was not even sure if I would be able to race this weekend after my recent “issues” so I was really stoked just to make it out to the starting line and get to see some friends.
I thought that I would list out my goals for Oceanside. These tend to slide if they are not written down and when expectations creep in from outsiders or growing goals in the mind.
• Enjoy it - I almost didn’t make the race because of more than one reason – I was happy to make it to the starting line and I have not raced in a long time compared to last years schedule. Racing is fun!
• Learn from it - I have been training at such low intensities and working on race sim bricks but here was a real race and real race data I could learn about my efforts across all three sports, test my nutrition, mental approach, etc
• Beat my time from last year - This is where crushing my own dreams comes into play. I did not have the intensity of last year but I did have a consistent volume and a better balance than ever between all three sports. The proof they say is in the puddin’
• Don’t crap my pants – sounds like an obvious one but with the days I had leading up to this race this was definitely in the top 5!
• Finish strong - I had one more dream crushing stretch goal. After working on my biggest limiter of the three sports (running) over the winter I dropped 11 minutes off of my open half marathon PB last month. The plan was working! If my pacing and nutrition worked out I was going to try and beat that time at the end of this race. Not the same course and not easy but that is what dreaming is for right?
I started off the race in the back. My bike was racked in the very last row…of a very long transition. In fact, it was even outside of the gate where the swim entry was to the transition and I was in the very last wave for the age groupers. This ended up being a good motivation throughout the race.
As we made our way to the start I lined up on the right side (outside) of the pack. This let me get clean water to start things off because most of the fast guys started on the left side. I made my way over to the pack and quickly found some feet. I felt extremely comfortable in the water and I have never experienced the “awareness” during the swim like I did this time. I knew where I was, where the packs breaking away were at and how to navigate a smart swim. I hope this awareness sticks for the rest of my races.
A few groups broke away and I was able to follow them and get right back on some feet. This went on and on. . .I moved up to ride on one guys hip for a while until my goggles got knocked off and after fixing them I decided to just settle for feet. Water is 1,000 times thicker than air and drafting is legal in the water. Brilliant. It was working too and I felt like I was not working…at all. I realized as we reached the turn around that I was cruising along at an easy/steady pace and almost felt guilty about not taking a turn at the front. The last two thirds of the swim everyone started to slow down so I started swimming solo and searching for someone else to draft as we weaved in and out of the packs of waves that started before us.
I finished the swim with all 3 stroke breathing and as I ran into transition I really felt like I just finished the warm up and was ready for the main set. This started to bug me at first because I felt like I held back or could have gone much faster but then I started to realize that like I didn’t do anything “hard” yet was a HUGE mental boost that I could take for a deposit later in the race.
I really wanted to target about 210-220 watts for the bike. Gordo suggested that I ride closer to 240 watts and I was a bit scared of that number. This is only my second half ironman and I still have a (healthy) fear of going out too hard. The goal was just to keep it under control for the first part of the bike and then settle into a HIM pace. The only problem was I was not sure what HIM pace was….yet.
The first 20 minutes of the bike I was really fighting mentally to keep my power down. It felt REAL easy to be pushing well over what I should have been and if I didn’t see the numbers myself I would think my power meter was broken. Adrenaline and a high heart rate can do funny things to your RPE perception!
I only had a couple small issues on the bike but I still felt like I was not really working "hard". Probably a good sign that i was pacing properly and mentally was a boost. Many things can go wrong before or on race day but I was collecting grips of goodness all day. THAT was what I focused on.
I started to move up my target watts throughout the rest of the bike leg. I figured if there was a time to learn if I was pushing too hard it was now. Better to learn this and suck up a 13 miler run off the bike than it would 5 weeks from now at St G with 26 miles to run. The mental deposit I was getting from the swim was growing on the bike by leaps and bounds. I had already exceeded the watts I thought I could maintain and still felt like I was not even really working hard. I also started in the last wave and so I had a steady line of people I was passing the entire race. Seriously…I must have said “on your left” a few hundred times and by my finish place I likely passed over 2,000 people.
By this time I got to the back of the bike course the wind picked up and I was a bit nervous riding the disc with my only road crash just three days fresh in my mind. My legs felt great and my nutrition was dialed in.... Vitargo rocket fuel. From this point on I let the numbers go and just rode more by feeling all the way into T2 without having to worry about keeping a watts range. Even with my watts going up the conditions were a bit different this year with a lot of that power literally going into the wind. I did drop some time from last year however and still feel like I started way too slow. I guess I banked another mental deposit to bring on the run.
My normalized power for the ride ended up being 257 watts for the 2.5 hours. Last year it was 206 watts. . . kinda makes me wonder what I would have done if I did race Vision Quest this year!
I got out of transition and my legs felt like I never even rode the bike. Crap. I knew I was going to make myself suffer on the run now! I realized I would need all of those mental boosts for the run because I did not have one excuse for why I should not beat my 13 mile PB. I wanted to start slow but there was a tail wind heading out and I sure felt it on the way back on the two lap course. I knew it was going to be hard to hold pace on that final 3 miles heading to the finish. I must have known the pain cave was on its way because I stopped at the aid stations more than 5 times before the final 3 miles. Those sponges with ice cold water just felt so good!
The last three miles I had to start making bets with myself, lying to myself about when “I will stop at the next…” and I started withdrawing those positive mental gems I collected. This was a great learning lesson for St G! Mentally, I have never been more focused closing out a race. I was starting to feel the fatigue and I gave myself one spot to walk before a final push. Of course, when I got there my buddy Sean was waiting and started to run beside me. I knew I could not stop…I didnt understand what he was saying at this point but his timing and presence was spot on and proved to be just the fuel I needed. Teamwork. Thanks Sean!
I enjoyed myself immensely! I learned a ton of things from this race and about myself from this race while beating my time from last year. I also just barley beat my open half marathon PB… but I did beat it and I didn’t crap my pants. All my expectations/goals exceeded. I crushed my dreams in the best way possible.
The Endurance Corner crew did very well at the race and I am really stoked to be a part of the team. I cant wait for some future trips and maybe even a camp with Gordo one day ;-)
There are many things that can go wrong in a race or leading up to a race. My friend Luke recently said something like that to me about training months just to have one day or one thing and it is all wrecked. That is all part of putting together a race..perhaps what i love about it in some way. When it comes together and you can execute the plan it is ____... Words cannot describe but if you have been there you know the feeling. Minutes after I crossed the finish line I was in a tent getting a massage and listening to an acoustic guitar band play in the next tent and just reflecting on the race and just how lucky i got to be racing and have a good day. THAT was out of this world...priceless.
As good as my race was I could not imagine how Beth must have felt. I was so inspired by her because of the life balance and race she put together. She blew my mind and blew away her competition with her finish. She won her age group, qualified for Kona and did it all with a big smile on her face. She planted a seed in my head I never thought I would have...huge inspiration. Thanks Beth!
I was so glad I was able to race and now I am resting up for my last training block before St. G. My goals for St. G are even simpler. I made them up back in November and am going to stick with them.
#1 Finish! I am doing everything I can to ensure I complete the race...even if it takes crapping my pants along the way ;-)
#2 Take everything I can from it - Complex I know... I want to take the experiences from it (race day and training) to use in the future for all areas of life. It has proved to be a wonderful journey so far.
No surprise to me...Monique is killing it and ready to take on St George and it is just the course for her. This women has been married to me for over six years and so she has been working on her mental strength...she will crush dreams in Utah on May 1st. She raced this weekend on her cyclocross bike and she dropped 51 minutes off of her time from last year. Scary to think of her riding her new road bike for St G.