Monday, August 17, 2015

2015 Timberman 70.3 - Back to the Basics

Amazing things happen why you listen to and trust your body...

Race morning was awful as it usually is for me. I go thru an indisputable and perpetually convincing "Why the hell do I keep signing up for these stupid things?" conversation with myself. Every single time. Without fail. And even though I tell myself to be prepared for these feelings, they storm in to my mind recklessly the way I imagine Gallagher would crash through a farmers market with his signature sledge hammer. Multiply that with the fact that the 40min drive to Ellacoya State Park was spent listening to New Hampshire's finest radio which might make Marconi and Tesla reconsider some life decisions.

Anyways, the bike was racked the night before and transition was a quick set up the morning of... fast forward to having the wet suit and goggles on setting sights upon the swim buoys in gorgeous Lake Winnipesauke. "That's a preposterously long way to swim" seems to be the only thing that ever comes to mind when looking at any set of buoys in the pre-race-waters.

However, if you have not seen the Timberman venue it really is quite breath taking. The back drop of the water thru the trees of the camp ground on the lake as the sun rises over the water is the best combination of blues and greens and it inspires one of those really deep breathes you take reveling in the wonder of natures beauty. The sun rays bounce of the surface of the stillness of the water and find their way over the sand and thru the leaves where thousands of anxious bikes await their pair of wet wands to guide them out onto the 56miles of smooth and fast NH pavement. Soon the waters would be roughed by flailing arms and kicking feet but first thing in the morning there was a gorgeous stillness.

As a quick precursor, I know I haven't posted a race about the past few races I've done and I am not really happy about that but I haven't really been moved to write about any race since Ironman Mont Tremblant 2014. I try to post up about things I have learned or a mantra for each race and honestly it's a weird journey since IMMT. Since then these has been there have been a few solid races... Let me catch you up quickly... (feel free to skip down a few paragraphs if you don't care)

2014 70.3 World Champion in Mont Tremblant... The race went well two weeks after the 140.6 on the same course. It was a fun day but I was deep in my first case of the "Ironman Blues" which I had thought to be a myth but quickly found out how real they were after a tough race.

2014 Oil Creek 100 - My first 100 mile attempt. Ouch. Rolled my ankle early in the race and roughed it to the 100k (62mile) check in. I threw in the towel and DNF'd for the first time in my life. It was hard but I'll be back for attempt #2 at the same distance this coming OCT. This time more prepared.

2015 Ironman South Africa - Not an optimal race for the brutal winter Boston had and then to race in the heat of South Africa's summer but an absolutely incredible lifetime experience and sooo much fun!

2015 Two Oceans 56k Run. The most beautiful road-ultra I have ever done. I didn't care about results one bit. This run was spectacular and revitalizing running around and meeting a ton of cool people in South Africa.

2015 Boston Marathon (read: Boston Massacre) I was on pace to re-qualify for Boston next year when all hell froze over at the top of Heart Break Hill (mile 21.5). Long story short: I finished in under 4hrs but ended up in the med tent with a core temp of 94.5

2015 Whiteface 100k Mountain Bike Race - Tons of fun on fat tires up and down hills of NY with gorgeous scenery

2015 Mt Washington Road Race - 7.6miles straight up Mt. Washinton - Just as brutal as it sounds averaging 12% grade


 2015 Iron Cowboy! One of the best experiences of my athletic career.

So now that we have that out of the way it's time for Timberman 2015.
With the A race of Ironman Muskoka only two weeks away and a lofty but acheivable goal in mind, my race plan was pretty simple: 
1) Race prep exactly as I would for the IM
2) Hammer the swim
3) Hammer the bike
4) Transition to the run at a semi-race pace and then dial it back a bit as not to bury myself in a hole training-wise for the next 2 weeks...
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Friends like these make it easy...

I knew it was going to be really hard to swallow the pride and not really focus on the end result while caught up in mid-race emotions. Especially on a pretty big venue with lots of friends also racing and even more watching and tracking. I went back and forth via text with a couple people I really look up to in the triathlon world and they confirmed and reassured that even though it'd be a tough decision... it would be the best one for the big picture...

SWIM: 28:24 (1:28/100m) 10th AG

My swim wave started an hour and eleven minutes after the 7am pro wave went off. This was a bit different but made for a fun game of "How many color caps can you catch before tearing off the wet suit?" With a goal to throw down a PR swim I made it thru (read: over) a few different colors... The water was crystal clear and I kept a pretty steady pace despite weaving thru the myriad of flying elbows and kicking feet. I hadn't trained in a wet suit in quite some time (less one quick "race prep" two days prior) so I forgot how good it felt to glide thru the water wrapped in neoprene. I had been working a lot on the "pull" with my forearm thru the water and a couple minor adjustments seemed to help a lot. I was happy to see 28:00 as I stood in the shallow water and walked a bit out of the water.

The wet suit strippers were excellent and the volunteers in transition were second to none. I stuffed my nutrition (3 boiled potatoes) in the jersey pockets and got out of there quickly.

BIKE: 2:23:06 (23.5mph) 5th AG

I got on the bike having a plan to simply crush watts all day. It was supposed to be a steady ride, based on watts, but a hammer-fest. Knowing I was also planning on running easier; I really wanted to just demolish the ride via watts. As an old football coach used to say, I wanted to beat it like a rented mule. I haven't rented a mule in a while and I wouldn't actually support the beating of any sort of animal but the saying just seems to be ingrained into my head (along with other weird meat-head-ish sayings but I won't get into those now).

So to put it in perspective via numbers my last true power test was back in January on the trainer. I put out around 365watts for a little over 23minutes. I wanted to try and hit about 310-320watts for the entirety of the 56mile ride... 90%-ish.

I had a revelation about 5miles into the ride and it was really the turning point of the race for me, a huge learning opportunity, and an awesome chance to introspect into when I actually race my best. As I imagine most people do the first few miles of the bike, I was squirming around to get comfortable, settle in to a power zone, take some fluids in, hunker down for the ride. I had a really hard time getting comfortable and every time I glanced down at my watch for a feedback on the power I was frustrated. I wasn't anywhere near where I wanted to be and I felt like I was cranking pretty hard. Almost too hard.

 I took a deep breath and started trying to think about the last time I really had a good fun race - I thought about Syracuse 70.3 last year and how I lost my power meter a mile or so into the ride. I rode to feel for the whole day and had one of the best races of my life. So I said "What the hell? Why not?" and decided to turn my watch around on my wrist. I didn't look at it once the rest of the ride.

End result was me cruising into the second transition with the race clock first number still "2" feeling like a million bucks. There are a few decent hills in the first 11miles then it cruises downhill basically to mile 28 when you make the turn around. I was flying thru these sections. The course was already flooded with almost the entire rest of the race field on two wheels at this point. The roads are gorgeous and well paved so a polite "On your left" every now and again did the trick. I was in the zone. It is extremely easy to stay tucked in aero for most of the day. I didn't know it at the time but I checked in to the 30mile mark averaging over 25mph. Giddie up. I think one guy in my age group passed me but I was not really paying attention. It is too awesome of a course to think about that stuff.

I also tried a new fuel strategy this time around which consisted of eating when hungry and drinking when thirsty. Strange concept right? I ended up downing a bottle of Tailwind, about a bottle of Gatorade, and a bottle of water. The only thing I ate was a potato and a salt tab. Didn't seem like much but I still felt good.

I also didn't know it at the time but the power data I was planning on crushing only averaged out to be 270watts and extremely steady with a 1.05 VI and a little over 3.1w/kg (ok yes I am still a bit of a bike geek). But all things being considered this is relatively easier ride for me. I did not taper for this race either which probably accounts for the higher RPE and lower output of power.

RUN 1:40:17 (7:39m/mi) 5th AG
The run was a scorcher. It was hazy. The temperature was high. The heat was on, as they say. One might even use the phrase "hot to trot".

 The heat certainly made it easy to execute the plan of dialing the intensity down after transitioning. I went out and averaged about 7:00/mile for the first 3-4miles. It wasn't easy but I really did manage to reel my ego in and check myself. I dialed it back... Keeping with the theme here I just ran to feel... "easy feel"

There is also something to be said about the people and volunteers on the course. Unbelievable. It was awesome. There was shade for the first mile of the double out and back but that's about it. There were a number of sprinklers out on the road, spectators blasting you with hoses, and not to mention the very temptation beer stand... It really was awesome to be a part of such a great scene.

I always stop eating on the bike and switch to guzzling Coke, Red Bull, and water on the run. Nothing special... I did start to get a bit hungry towards the end but not enough to make me lose focus. I've recently been running in a new pair of Altra 3Sum shoes and despite only having about 15miles on them they were perfect all day.

I finished and did not even think about my place in my AG because I was sure I had been passed by plenty on the run. When I regrouped with some friends I made them take out a cell phone and prove it to me when they told me I actually still finished 5th in my AG. I was pretty pumped to get on the extended Ironman podium and get some syrup (another amazing thing about this race is that Timberman gives out bottles of NH made maple syrup as trophies!).

I also got the opportunity to sign up for a second Ironman 70.3 World Championship being held Sept. 4th, 2016 in Australia. It took a lot more focus to respectfully decline... It would have been nice but I am hoping to be racing on a different island in the Pacific come Fall of 2016... That test will be in two short weeks!