Friday, September 20, 2013

A Game Plan

This is a test, this is only a test. If this were a real race, I would have gone out too hard on the bike and totally blown up in the second half of the run. Instead, my game plan was to test out the speed, perceived effort, cadence and pacing for the full Iron coming up in a scant 6 weeks. Start swimming at my 2.4 mile race pace. Start biking at my 112 mile easy cadence. Run nothing faster than 8:45 minute miles.

Sunday was the Finish Strong Half Iron triathlon, my test for B2B time. I did go out there and execute that plan. Well, almost. My run times were all over the place. And with 2 miles left I figured out that I could still finish with a sub-2 hour run split, so I did pick up the pace then to go for it. But the last 2 miles in a 70.3.... well, anything goes.

I set an 8 minute PR! Holy cow, wait, what? That's not supposed to happen.

Beautiful day for a triathlon

I got up at 5:30 to head over to Vista Point and got there with plenty of time to spare. Got my TA setup, ran for a few minutes, then got in the water for a warmup. It was a cool day, temps in the low 60's, and the water temp was 78* so it was wetsuit legal. I still didn't bring my wetsuit so it made no difference to me.

TA and Jordan Lake - incredible weather!

Swim 1.2 miles - 30:56, 4/12 age group, 30/90 men, 1:27/100yd
I was surprised how much traffic I got into at the start! I thought I had open water. There was no wind, no chop, it was just cool and easy to settle into a pace. Then everyone else got in my way. Eventually I hit the first turn buoy and it got a little clustered up again.

Somewhere in there somebody kicked my wrist. I had the Garmin 310 started up and I was really looking forward to getting heart rate data from while I was swimming, but when I got out of the water it only recorded 4 minutes of data. oh well, that also throws off the overall time too.

I also got kicked around in the chest and belly some, but that didn't really bother me too much. My face stayed pretty clean this time. Again I was trying to set the same pace I want to use to go 2.4 miles in B2B, so I didn't try to start out super fast to avoid the crowds. Just let the other people come and go, I'm just trying to keep my pace.  Time to get all zen about it.

Near the start there was a sandbar, so about half the field stood up and walked. Then we hit the first turn buoy, then the second and headed back to shore. The water was pretty clean the whole time. I'm really surprised to see the pace at 1:27/100, I was expecting more like 1:45. Most races I'm stuck at 2:03 per 100. My RAM team coaches have been really tweaking my form and head position recently, and this shows that it really pays off. I also think the course might have been marked a bit short. Either way I was the 30th man out of the water? freaking sweet.

T1 - 1:58
Should be under 90 seconds! damnit! The run from the water up to TA was counted in the swim time, so this was all putting on the bike gear and getting out of the way.

Bike 56 miles - 3:13:13, 8/12 age group, 61/90 men, 17.4 mph
After resting up in T1, I was ready to ride. Again, test out the speed for B2B, settle into a cadence and game plan that I can use on race day. Take a gel 15 minutes in since that will be 45 minutes into the race, and take more gels every 45 minutes after that. Water and Heed on a schedule.

It takes 4 miles to get out of the park and onto Hwy 64 and they are all uphill.  After that it gets pretty smooth with flat sections and rollers. Once you hit mile 40 it gets into some serious up and down stuff and is supposed to be pretty torturous until the end. Just get into a low gear and grind it out. My friend Brian said it was the hardest bike course he's ever faced. I thought it was significantly easier than the IM Raleigh bike course - that thing was brutal.

This is what I felt like. Evil Genius with my bike shoes and helmet on Saturday Night

I did exactly that - go execute that plan. Once I got out of the park I geared up some and tried to hold a perceived effort that I could sustain for 112 miles. Test the bike and the fit and the gearing and the cadence and just see what works.

Normally in a half ironman my only two goals are to break 3 hours on the bike and 6 hours overall. I know that hitting my time goal at B2B sort of hinges on a 6 hour bike split. Time to get rid of all of those expectations. If this course really is as challenging as it is supposed to be then I need to just take whatever it throws at me. After mile 40 all bets are off.

What I did not expect after mile 40 was the descents. They were screaming! literally. I was screaming going down them it was so much fun. The climbs were tough, yes. But the heat stayed away, and I just put Roberta into the middle chainring, geared it down, and spun the pedals around. Grind up the hill, scream down the descent. There were some long and steep ones, some short and really steep ones, but overall it wasn't nearly as tough as the Ironman Raleigh bike course.

I also didn't expect to get passed as much as I did. I got passed by a lot of other bikers.  Well, 31 of them finished faster than me, sure. But I only passed maybe 3 or 4 people the whole bike split, and even that was in the last 20 miles. and there were plenty of girls that flew past me as well.

After the really hilly miles 40 to 53, we turned into the park again and the last 4 miles were all downhill back to the TA.

T2: 58 seconds
Bonehead, I totally forgot to take my feet out of the shoes before I pulled up to the dismount line, so I lost a bit unclipping them and taking them off in TA. Running shoes on, grab everything else.... ah I can live with under a minute. That's still pretty good.

Run 13.1 miles - 1:55:41, 7/12 age group, 27/90 men, 8:49 pace
The plan was to keep 8:45 miles and adjust for the hills. The course was a 2 loop out and back, so every hill we had to go up, we also had to go back down then go back up again. Maybe I just took the bike easy enough to still have some gas left in the tank, maybe the speedwork in this build phase of the Ironman training plan is having an effect. Whatever happened, it worked. This was the first time I've broken 2 hours in the half iron run split before.

The course went out of the park, then turned onto the "other" road, then onto a gravel doubletrack for a while to a turnaround point. There wasn't really anywhere that was just flat to set a run cadence and just enjoy it. Going away from the park was all uphill, so going back to start lap 2 or finish was all downhill. The mile splits tell the best story there:

Mile 1: 7:56 - uphill! oh, going to pay for that later
Mile 2: 8:40
Mile 3: 8:17
Mile 4: 9:20 - first time on the gravel section
Mile 5: 8:47
Mile 6: 8:06 - downhill
Mile 7: 8:51 - this was actually the toughest mile out there
Mile 8: 10:34 - paid for it
Mile 9: 9:28
Mile 10: 9:12
Mile 11: 10:03
Mile 12: 8:07 - push it to go sub-2
Mile 13+: 8:13 to the finish!

Mile 7 was by far the toughest one out there. Going up that hill for the second time to get out of the park was draining.  Again all I was trying to do was test my endurance at that speed to see if I could hold it on a flat course for 26.2 miles. So getting mentally crushed by a hill in mile 7 was tough.  I really tried to shake it off and just keep running.

The gravel road section was tricky. Going downhill at first you worry about slipping. Then hit the turnaround and go back uphill, you worry about basic survival skills. It was a weird section of the course. The downhill didn't seem as steep as the uphill was, but you know it was really the same grade.

I kept watching the Garmin the whole time, and got lap splits every mile. When I started the second loop, I got the idea that I could actually just maybe break 2 hours.  At the 10 mile mark, I knew I had 30 minutes to run the last 5k to break 2 hours. That seemed feasible.  And since I've done plenty of standalone half marathons under 1:45, I really wanted to get that sub-2 run split. Finally I hit the 11 mile mark with just under 20 minutes to go and knew if I put up 2 8 minute miles I would be there. And I also felt like I had the endurance left to suffer for 2 more miles at an 8 minute pace. For B2B I don't want to come anywhere close to an 8 minute mile, so finally after 68 miles of racing I decide it was ok to break from my plan and speed up a bit.

I also ran into a runner in an App State jersey, turns out my alma mater has a triathlon club now! He was not impressed by the fact that I graduated 15 years ago and he was a sophmore because I was currently kicking his butt. Still really cool to see some appy's coming down from the mountain for triathlons.

In the park again, I came into the parking lot with someone else who put up a great finish line kick. I let him go since all I wanted was a sub-2 run split and I clearly had that in hand. Went through the parking lot, ran past the 1st lap turnaround point and turned the corner to see the finish line. Wait, hold on a minute, what does that clock say?

I'm as confused as the autofocus on the camera at that finish clock.

This is what happy looks like

Finish! 5:42:37, 7/12 age group, 41/90 men, 50/124 overall
I knew from the Garmin that I had the sub-2 hour run split that I was going for. Working that out was a surprise. But I was completely shocked when I turned that last corner and caught the finish line clock when I crossed the line! I set my old PR on the OBX half from 2011, that was the only time (out of 5 previous half's) where I broke the 6 hour mark. OBX 2012 was 6:00:19. But the OBX course is flat and fast and made for pr's.  This is one of the most difficult half's in NC. You don't go to a difficult course to set PR's. You don't run a B-level race just to test your plans for the A priority race and set a PR.  Yet somehow, that's exactly what happened.  I'm still totally shocked and can't really figure it out.

But who's going to complain about that? Not this guy. It's fantastic. I saw Kelley and the kids driving into the park when I was heading out on the second lap of the run, so they were waiting for me at the finish line.  It was great having their support when I got back there. Also the kids loved getting to play in the lake for a bit and the finish line environment is always a fun place to hang out.

One of the sponsors was a local middle eastern restaurant Neomonde, that I love.  So I got me a big plate of Neomonde and settled in with a bottle of water.  Good post race eats. And I was starting to feel better.  Kelley and the kids headed home while I ate, then I packed up my stuff and got on the road home too. A local half, test race, tough course, and a PR. Nothing could be better.

Well, one final thought. Why did I get passed so much on the bike? This is the way every race goes for me. I crush the swim, get destroyed on the bike, and run until the tank is empty. Triathlon can be a bikers sport, the faster bikers usually win the race or their age group. I really hate the bike right now. This happens every year. After a few thousand miles I just can't sit there and pedal anymore. Then after I hang it up for the winter, spring rolls around and I can't wait to go fast again.  But every race I put up comparatively poor bike splits! it is getting frustrating.


Katie said...

If you ever want someone to turn you into a cycling give me a call. :)

B.o.B. said...

You should call her.

carrie said...

Congrats on the PR!

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

Okay, first of all, Roberta? Hah! That's funny. You really killed it. I can't believe that you ran a sub 2 half after 3+ hours on the bike. I would have been dying. I think you get passed on the bike because you maybe aren't as comfortable with the pacing of the bike portion? Or that just isn't your strong suit? The middle portion of any race is hard. The beginning you know how hard to push; the end you can finally use the rest of the gas, but the middle is questionable. You don't want to run out of steam.

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Nice, congrats on the PR