Sunday, April 17, 2011

Stormy Weather - a Perfect Storm

Every year it seems I end up racing on back-to-back weekends. This year it happens to have been the duathlon last weekend and the Beaverdam International distance triathlon this weekend. Long time readers will remember that I did the Festival of Flowers oly triathlon just a week before my first marathon in 2009. Then last year I did a sprint triathlon a week before my first century ride ever. Well this was the first olympic distance triathlon I had done since the Festival of Flowers 2 years ago. I figured I would be a bit faster now.

The biggest bummer of the whole thing? Kelley couldn't come out there with me and take any pictures. The whole day ended up being pretty crazy. Heck the entire weekend was a wild ride. So this is a race report without any pictures. We couldn't find anyone to keep the kids so she couldn't come out to the race with me, and I must admit that I missed having her out there.

This race started at 8 am, which is remarkably reasonable for a triathlon in April. Most of them start at 6:30. So I set the alarm for 5:45, grabbed breakfast and headed out to the race site, arriving at 7 am. I really don't like to be places at 7 am besides home in bed. Especially after last weekend where we were racing in 50 degree cold and it was all crazy competitive. This time reports were that there was a major thunderstorm approaching, but it wasn't supposed to arrive until later in the day. I got my spot in the transition area setup and at the prerace meeting they said we were getting some wind gusts over 20 mph. I should be the only thing going over 20 mph this morning, not the wind.

Swim 1500 meters

This was a lake swim, water temp was 61 degrees, so I pulled out the wetsuit. Almost a mile is a really long way to swim, and this was a rectangular shaped course. So we went out kind of parallel with the shoreline for a long way, maybe 700 meters. Then turned away from the bank for maybe 100 meters, then it was back into shore about 100 meters down from where we started swimming at. This has to be the strangest swim layout I've ever seen, but it was very effective.

The way the winds were blowing the water got a bit choppy. I made it to the first turn bouy ok, and only had to break my stroke once. This was really impressive to me mentally, I didn't expect the open water to be that kind (it usually isn't). Made the turn, and the water got real choppy. Nothing like taking a breath and getting slapped with a face full of water. But it was a short trip to the next bouy, so I made that turn ok too. Then I started getting off course really bad. Nothing like coming up to sight the next bouy and seeing just a shoreline in front of you. Where did the other people, bouys, and finish line go? Ah, swimming the wrong direction. Fun.

2009 results: 42:28 and I threw up twice in the water. 2011 results: 29:41, no puke. The open water was really fun this time.

T1: 2009 4:26, 2011 4:56, got 30 seconds slower, had a long run to get back to TA and had some trouble getting the wetsuit off. This transition should have been around 2 minutes, and I need to practice that more often.

Bike 25.5 miles

I was riding totally analog thanks to the rain. No Garmin to give me speed and distance markers, no idea how I was performing or how much farther I had to go. I knew I needed to take a gel about 5 minutes in and another one with about 5 minutes left. Good luck with that.

So I started out just keeping a steady pace, decent cadence and not pushing a big gear until my legs got warmed up. I saw a dead frog on the road a few miles in. That hasn't happened before. Not even like roadkill, just a dang dead frog. Freaky.

Overall this was a great course. The winds were pretty strong, but they were mostly crosswinds. I felt like I was riding with a lean for most of it. I was definitely getting some strange looks from cars passing me.

Then (what I think was) about 15 miles in, it started to hail. I just heard something that wasn't rain hitting my helmet, and when I looked around it was falling in very small drops. It didn't last long, but it was very strange.

After seeing the state park again on the route I thought we were close to the end so I talked to another racer as I was passing him and he said we were only 20 miles in. Dang, thought it was farther along than that. Still, I had already taken my second gel so I should have been good until the run.

I knew I pushed the hills pretty good. Only once did I have to go down from the big chainring to the middle one. Everything else was big chainring riding and I was pretty aggressive with it too. Lots of time in aero position, lots of rolling hills where I could pedal downhill hard and carry the momentum across the next uphill section. I passed a lot of people that way.

2009 bike time was 1:26:31, 2011 time was 1:25:39. Again, I'll take it. I had to ride through a hailstorm and 20+ mph winds for crying out loud.

T2: 2009 was 3:19, 2011 was 1:15. YES! Finally a transition time under 90 seconds! Off with the bike shoes and helmet, throw on the running shoes, grab hat and race belt and take off.

Run 10k (6.2 miles)

Coming out of T2 I could see the finish line, and they had a finish line clock setup. I knew since I was in the first swim wave, my actual time was going to be the same as the clock time. I was completely amazed when it said 2:01:xx. That's when I knew going sub-3 hours was within my grasp if I could just pull off a 10k run in under 59 minutes.

My legs, of course, were completely shredded coming off of the bike. I held my form as long as I could and tried to keep a slow pace out of the gate. I have found it's more effective to start running very slowly until the blood starts to recirculate properly in your legs and some of the lactic acid built up from the bike gets flushed out. I made it about half a mile before walking some, and it felt good to walk.

The run course was all inside of the state park, and it was a two loop point to point course. So run to one spot, turn around, run back to another spot next to the finish line, then do it again. Not much of an adventure really. I walked the uphills where I needed to, never longer than 30 seconds. I took one gel on the run about 2 miles in, which was right where I had planned to take one. Of course with no Garmin, no pace clocks, I had no idea how fast I was going or what my total elapsed time was.

Finished the first lap and actually felt much better for the second lap. I just found my rhythm, my pace, and stuck it out as long as I could. Turn the legs over quickly, and make relentless forward progress.

With half a mile left all of a sudden the bottom fell out of the sky. Rain was coming down in buckets. Of course at that point, it was quite a relief. My running shoes were drenched. I knew my bike and everything else in TA was soaked. But I was cooling off and it was great motivation to get to the finish line quickly. I turned that corner, passed the aide station knowing my next stop was the finish line, and that was all she wrote.

2009 run 1:06:10, 2011 run 50:55! 10k race PR and I couldn't be happier with that.


I also could not have been happier when I saw the finish line (unless my dear wife was there cheering me in of course!). That finish line clock was still there too, and it said 2:52 something. I absolutely lost my shit. I knew going in that the conditions were going to make it very tough for me to break 3 hours, but I was still clinging to that overall goal. Once I saw I had made it I was completely ecstatic. The people in the timing tent looked at me like I was crazy.

Final total time: 2009 was 3:23:12, 2011 was 2:52:23. A 31 minute PR!! Finally broke three hours!! I finished 52nd out of 95 men, and 9th out of 10 men 35-39. This was still a really competetive field. I felt good about coming in near the top half overall. So this was a really successful race, and I feel very good about it.

I packed up the car as quickly as possible and headed back home. I knew there was still a storm coming. I heard we (as in Raleigh) actually made the national news for this one. Sure enough, this storm was a hum dinger.

A tornado touched down in Sanford and ripped the front off of a Lowe's store. That's about an hour away from us. Something else rolled through downtown Raleigh and ripped down several brick buildings about three miles from our house. Two houses down from us, a large (like three feet in diameter) tree fell into the middle of the road. At least it didn't fall on their house.

We escaped any real damage from this storm. Had a few limbs come down and found a new leak in the roof, but nothing serious. The rest of the city is much worse off than we are, that's for sure.

Sunday was also really fun. I got to take the Evil Genius out to see Tangled at the theater, just me and her (Bigun had a playdate with a friend). She loved it, she's seen it a few times before. I also enjoyed it very much. When we got back, we put some plants in the garden. The bed is really shaping up into a nice garden. Then I did get out for a workout, got in a 6 mile run nice and slow, followed by a 10 mile bike ride just to spin the legs out. Then Kelley and I watched a movie and called it a day. What a fantastic weekend!

After racing two weekends in a row, I want to target some yoga and strength training this week. Time for some flexibility. I didn't want to hit the weights before the races because I didn't want to deal with any soreness on race day. So it's just regular old ironman training with a little yoga and weights sprinkled in.

Big props to the Snail for rocking the SweetH2O 50k on sunday, making his goal time and finishing over an hour and a half faster than last years time! That is some serious rock and roll.


Kelley said...

I would love to have been there my dear. You know how much I like taking race pictures of you and whatever other interesting talent passes me by!! I am so happy for you that you blow the 2009 time out of the water. Great job babe!!

Al's CL Reviews said...

Great job! That is an awesome PR-breaking race!

Glad you were ok in the tornados.

Being Robinson said...

whoa congrats, what a fantastic feeling to finish in that time, in that weather! nicely done.

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Congratulations on the PR, Cletus.

But, for real, you couldn't use your Garmin just because it rained?

I truly will never understand why people shell out good money for those pieces of shit. I've gone to many a blog to read about Teh Triumph of the Runner and at many of those same blogs the bonus subplot story is Teh FAIL of the Garmin.

Possibly the shittiest non-Micro$oft product ever made.

Still, congrats to you on the sub-3 time.

Hork a lugie on your Garmin for me, though, will ya?


Georgia Snail said...

Thanks for the shout out bro! - Nor too shabby yourself! just think of how well you would have done with a little rest, but all forward progress to the A race, when you rawk Ironman FL!

Wes said...

Nice work, CJ! The training is paying off big time, and your IM account is just growing!

Yea, those storms passed the GA too, and when I heard about Raleigh I thought about you and your family. Glad everything turned out OK for you guys.

Keep up the good work!! Ironman will be here before you know it.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Amazing John! A PR like that doesn't come easy! Congrats!

Jess said...

Congrats on smashing your PR! Sounds like you had an awesome race despite the terrible weather.

Glad there wasn't any serious damage to your house!