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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

2009 Ironman 70.3 World Championship et al

Hey guys. It's been a long time since I updated the blog so I'll try to put together a quality post that summarizes the lead-up to 70.3 Champs, the race, and the vacation in Clearwater.

Post Augusta, training block, and taper

I definitely made some mistakes in this period that I'd like to mention so perhaps I won't repeat them in the future. First I'll document what I did and felt and then take a look at what worked and what didn't.

  • The first week after Augusta was a "recovery week"
  • After the recovery week, the intention was to build volume over the next 4 weeks while also bringing up intensity in last two weeks. But in reality I was totally spent after 3 weeks of building volume and couldn't build for the final week. My mind and body were done.
  • The final week of the 4 week build period was lower in volume but also contained my longest run of 15 miles which included some hard tempo running.
  • 3 weeks of taper with the final week having no running and no core or flexibility work.

Even though the week after Augusta was supposed to be a recovery week, I can see in my logs that all I really did was take Monday and Tuesday off running and cycling. From there I ran the next 5 days straight building intensity throughout. For the bike that week I also did too much, too hard, too soon, by heading out with JB for a 46 mile ride at 21.5 mph average with 2300 ft climbing. By Sunday of this "recovery week" I was doing a progressive run with the final two miles below 6:50 per mile pace. Looking back I think my decisions for this week sabotaged my 4 week build block. A proper recovery would have allowed me to have the 4 week build block with a 2 week taper instead of 3 week build with a 3 week taper.

Pre-Race

We drove down from Lexington to Clearwater on Thursday. We left just in time to hit 5 o'clock traffic in Tampa, just minutes from our destination. Once there we checked into the hotel (Fairfield Inn), and headed down to the race site to pickup our friends, the Olson's, to go out for Mexican and beer.

Friday we woke up to breezy and cool weather. We had a great free breakfast at the hotel and then drove back down to the race site to meet back up with Chris and Laura. Chris and I went for quick swim in the Gulf, which was extremely rough but soooo much fun!! On the walk out of the water I decided that I should take some Dramamine that night, but then we noticed that the corrals on the beach were being dismantled which meant that the swim was going to be moved from the beach to the calm waters of the harbor. Bummer.





After the swim was the athlete check-in and then an awesome lunch at Crabby Bill's. And then it was back to the hotel to prep the bike and bags and then back down to the race site for a quick spin with Chris and then bike and bag check-in. While we were doing all that serious pre-race triathlon stuff the girls rented a miniature green convertible three wheeled car-like-thing and drove it around laughing and honking its little horn at game-faced triathletes. They created quite a stir at the race site. After that escapade we met up at Carrabba's for some pre-race pasta and wine.


On to the race (4:19:28)


We overslept slightly on race morning and quickly were off to the race site. It was a calm morning with a perfectly clear sky. Chris and Laura had given us a key and parking pass for their race-site hotel parking lot which is where we parked. From there we had a short walk to transition to pump tires and put drinks on the bike. Then we went for a little warm up run and walked to the swim start. Chris and I split up at that point with me joining my swim wave in the corral and Chris heading off for a warm-up swim.

Swim (28:08)

The line moved very quickly and soon enough I was jumping off the dock and swimming. The water was cool at first but quickly became comfortable. Immediately I knew my borrowed wetsuit wasn't zipped up correctly as I could feel a scrape on the back of my neck with every breath. I knew I would have a nasty raw spot by the end of the swim (which I did).

With the swim being moved to the harbor we were now swimming due east into the morning sun. It didn't take long for my goggles to fog since I didn't wipe the insides with spit while in line. The combination of glaring sun and foggy goggles made visibility very, very poor. The only time I could see buoys was when I was almost next to them. Luckily I was swimming straight without sighting.

Every minute or so (it seemed) I would run into feet or find myself halfway on top of another swimmer. It seemed like they were sitting still in the water. I remember telling myself not to think that I was going fast because these people were probably going very slowly. Also my RPE level was pretty low for most of the swim. I should have put a good bit more effort into it.

T1 (3:17)

There was a lot of ground to cover in T1.

Bike (2:11:20)


This bike course is fast. Maybe it's one of the fastest in North America?? Before getting into the details of the ride I feel like I need to offer some sort of evidence that I did not draft. It's unfortunate that I feel this way for several reasons. 1) I don't draft and I've never incurred a penalty. Not one ... ever ... for anything. 2) This is a world championship race and one would like to feel like it's an honorable thing to race here. But with the current climate in the sport there is a lot of skepticism for fast bike splits at races that take place in the state of Florida (and Arizona). And rightfully so ... we've all seen the videos and read the forum threads.

I've received a lot of comments about my bike split. Not accusatory or with innuendo, but some with a tinge of curiosity. So I decided to compare my bike splits from Augusta and Clearwater to someone's who also raced Augusta and Clearwater. I chose professional triathlete, and fellow blogger, Andrew Hodges because 1) he's one of the few that I know that raced both races 2) our splits were similar at both races 3) I know he didn't draft at Clearwater because he says so explicitly in his race report (and I believe him) and the pros start ahead of the age groups and have drastically fewer athletes on the road to form packs 4) he won the SC Half in 2008 in under 4 hours (I just think that's cool).

Andrew's bike split at Augusta: 2:25:45
My bike split at Augusta: 2:27:48

Andrew's bike split at Clearwater: 2:10:35
My bike split at Clearwater: 2:11:20

And my bike split wasn't all that fast! It may seem fast compared to racing in the rolling terrain and chip seal roads of South Carolina, but it was pretty standard for this race. Actually I feel like I left a good bit out there and could've ridden harder and faster. Next year I hope to.

It's a cryin' shame that I felt the need to justify my ride! It just seems that the feeling about racing in Florida is that if you have a "fast" bike time then you drafted to get it. That sucks, plain and simple, especially at this race.

There are no lottery spots, there is no general entry, and there is no community fund entry. Everyone there qualified for it, and it's a fast course. That's why I can't understand why there is drafting. It's just pride and greed I suppose because the simple fact of the matter is that there was drafting, and even more blocking. And Drafting + blocking = peloton. I respect and understand Gordo's view on the matter of finger pointing, but it was my simple observation that the majority (not all) of the drafting and blocking culprits (peloton members) that I witnessed had names on their bibs that indicated a foreign nationality.

Rant over. On to the ride ...

From the beginning I felt really strong on the ride. In that regard I think the taper was a success for my cycling. The ride started out fairly typical. I passed a lot of people in the first 6 miles and wasn't passed by anyone. That's until the peloton came past me. The rest of the ride was comprised of either sitting 10 meters off the back of the pack, surging past the pack and riding hard to "get away", or sitting up to allow the pack to pass me as quickly as possible once they caught me. There was a little yelling involved and some smiling and cheering when the Draft Marshalls came by and issued penalties to pack members.

The only other notable event on the ride was losing my Garmin 305 while trying to move it from the bike mount to the wrist strap while descending the final bridge into transition. Major bummer!!!

T2 (2:10)

I put on socks for the run.

Run (1:34:33)


I had really high hopes for this run that just didn't pan out. My preparation over the last 10 weeks or so has been just awesome ... nearly perfect. My suspicion is that not running the final taper week was my undoing. Also the lack of core and flexibility work in the taper didn't help either.

By the time we were out on the run it was really heating up. I'm not sure the temperature but it felt very, very hot and the sun was much more powerful than back home. In contrast to the bike course, this run course is HARD. There is a bridge over a river that is long and steep (12% grade) that must be crossed 4 times.

The first 6.5 mile out and back went well and I was right on a 6:50 pace for the sub 1:30 run that I was targeting. But things started to go south quickly on the second lap. Firstly my IT band tightened up a lot causing me to have to shorten my stride, eliminate heel lift and increase turnover. It was sort of a shuffle run and caused me to drop my pace into the 7:15 per mile range. But the heat was also starting to get to me. I had to begin walking the aid stations to make sure I took in a full cup of water and to put cold sponges on the head and neck. This walking of the aid stations was costing me another 15 - 20 seconds per mile. In between the aid stations I would eventually start feeling the cold chills which is my indication that overheating is just around the corner. It was a real mental struggle ... it had me closing my eyes, blocking everything out, and just praying several times. The third time across that bridge was the most difficult. It felt sort of like a death march up that thing! But once I traversed that bridge for the 4th and final time I picked up the pace and started gaining back positions I had lost by walking the aid stations as other competitors were succumbing heat and distance. I finished strong.



Post Race

After crossing the line and making my way out of the finish area to my wife I learned what happened to Chris. While my race didn't go exactly to plan, his race totally derailed after we split up.

When I went to get in the corral to start my race, he went for a swim warm-up and when he jumped in the water feet first he landed on a clam or oyster shell which left a gash in his foot. He decided to race anyway and finished the swim in 27 minutes even. After getting on the bike and making his way past a peloton to some open road, he put his head down and began hammering away only to look up and see a traffic cone pushed out into his course of travel. He hit the cone and went over the bars traveling around 28 MPH. He got up and couldn't bend his arm and was in severe pain. He lay down in the grass on the side of the road and was spotted by a police officer and volunteer. An ambulance arrived shortly and took him to the hospital where he was treated for road rash and had stitches put in his foot.

The WTC called Laura who was eating breakfast with my wife to let her know and then sent a car to take her to the hospital. They then sent another car to bring them back to the hotel after Chris was released.

In the meantime while waiting on them to get back from the hospital I hobbled down to the ocean to stand in the cool water to try to get the inflammation out of my IT Band. It felt good but didn't really help. We then went to get a bite to eat and gather my race gear. Once we finished that we hooked back up with the Olson's. Chris and I had a few beers while the girls went to get his prescription filled. When they got back we loaded Chris up in a wheelchair and went to check out the sunset from Pier 60 and then back to Crabby Bill's for more seafood and a few more beers :p. I really admire Chris' ability to keep things in such a good perspective even while dealing with pain and disappointment.

Racing here was a great way to end the season and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The area is beautiful and the energy and atmosphere was fun. I would recommend the race to anyone and I plan to come back next year to see if I can go under 4:10.

5 comments:

Toby Porter said...

Wow what a right up. Good job on the prep-race-rant-rap up.

Carolina John said...

sounds like you had a great race nic! that does look like a fast course. just to put up a bike split close to one of the elites is impressive dude. Well done!

Tony Skrypek said...

Great Race Nick!!! I was following you and Chris all morning. Bummer about Chris, but outstanding race on your part man! Can't believe you still having ITB troubles and running that fast! BTW, how are the LunarRacers? Oh yeah, and what's on the goal list for next year? Thanks for posting man!
Tony

janay said...

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Anonymous said...

I know this is old - just came across it - fabulous real life commentary on the ins and outs of tris. Really enjoyed reading this. Thanks!