I don't know which is harder. Waking up the Sunday morning of Triple T or writing the final race report for Sunday's race.
Being my third time at Triple T I knew what to expect of Sunday morning. Somehow getting the courage to drag your tired ass out of bed and toe the line for a half iron race. It's not easy. Everyone is so tired from the prior two days of racing. The body just wants to sleep all morning.
We called it quits at 9:30 the previous night and tried to get as much sleep as possible. Morning came way too soon. Race start was 7AM to account for the long day ahead of us.
Once I got out of the bed and started taking in my morning calories, the body was waking up. Most of my gear was ready the night before so I just needed to gather my nutrition and last minute items. We rode over to the race site one last time.
I've always tried to be as upbeat as possible at races. Sunday morning is the most important day to keep a positive attitude....for yourself...and for others. Negative thoughts lead to a negative race. There is no room for that type of thinking in triathlon.
I still managed to get in my 1 mile warmup and wish the Cleveland peeps good luck. I managed to see a couple of friends who were out for the Little Smokies Half that would start immediately after us.
After getting my transition spot set I headed over to the beach. I gave my final hugs and cheers to all of my friends and lined up for the start. As I ran down the beach towards the first swim buoy I heard Jen cheering for me and I gave her a thumbs up.
As soon as the water was thigh deep I started swimming the first loop. It actually felt good to get moving. The body knew what to do and was responding to my requested work. The swim was pretty uneventful. A couple of times I found myself on the inside line between buoys and wanted to get away from the close contact with people. I find they just get in my way, or am I in their way. Regardless, I hate it when a three foot gap between me and another swimmer all of a sudden becomes inches and we are fighting for the same space.
Plenty of water people....let's play nicely. As I started the second loop I was merging in with people starting their first loop. So it was a little more congested but I managed to keep my distance. I completed my swim in 29:23 which is a very fast time for me but everyone said the swim course was short all weekend.
I changed into my bike stuff and headed out of transition. None of my transition times were stellar this year. I was a lot more laid back and took a little extra time transitioning. T1 was 2:24.
On the bike course my plan was to take it easy the first lap. I wasn't dogging it but I also was saving some energy for the second lap and the run. So I needed to ride at a consistent pace and not blow up. The strategy was paying off as the hills didn't seem as long or difficult as in 2009. I also think my bike fitness was much better than in '09. I was more consistent with the indoor spin sessions at the team sponsor Ride and Workout. I also managed a couple of very good outdoor training rides on the hills of the Cuyahoga Valley.
I was enjoying myself during the ride and chatting with different people whenever I passed, or was passed. About half way through the first lap I was riding near a co-ed team. From behind I heard the female teammate compliment me on my calves. She also liked my unique tattoo. About that same time Harvey, a new racing friend from Georgia, had caught up to me. He has a bad ass tattoo about the same size as mine. His is possibly the only tattoo cooler than mine. Harvey is a Slayer fan, but I think there is a cool statement made here. Racing full distance, or any distance, triathlons is like going up against the Grim Reaper. Sometimes you can outrun the Reaper and sometimes he will chop you down.
Anyways, I was riding one of the uphills and downshifted. For the second time of the day my chain slipped off. Of course I was going uphill and had to stop to get it back on. No biggie, I just needed to be careful when shifting.
After the last climb on the state park road there is a small bridge that causes problems. It has a nasty lip that ejects bottles and can cause some nasty wrecks. This year there was a volunteer waving a flag and warning people to slow down. There was also an ambulance on-site just in case someone went down.
Fortunately for me there were no other athletes around so I was able to handle the bridge with a little bunny hop to get over the lip. I made it clean through that section and made my way back to the race site.
In between loops we can refill or exchange bottles. IronBen had a cooler I was able to put my replacement bottles in. At least our nutrition would be cold for the second loop.
I tried to push the pace a little bit for the second loop but I just wasn't feeling it. I maintained the same pace for the second loop and made it back to transition safely.
One thing I noticed during the bike was that I was alone for a majority of the ride. There wasn't a lot of passing going on. In the previous races I would get passed like crazy during the second loop. Maybe with my more conservative approach I had more energy and maintained my position better.
I rode back into transition to get ready for the 13.1 mile run on the Black Lamp Trail. One thing I was changing for the half marathon was my shoes. For the other races I wore my regular road shoes. During the two Oly races I managed to find every..single...large...sharp...rock with my feet. And since I am a forefoot runner the rocks were stabbing me right at the ball of my foot through possibly the least protected part of the shoe.
So for the half marathon run I decided to run in my trail shoes. I needed to actually ties my laces in transition since these shoes didn't have Yankz. But it was worth the time for the extra protection.
I grabbed my PowerGels, hat and water bottle then left T2 for the run. I jammed 7 gels into the side pockets of my jersey for the run. I have found my nutrition works best when I take a PowerGel every other mile.
My plan was to be conservative on the way out and push the pace a little for each return trip. I knew there would be some walking on the steeper hills, especially if there was no shade. No shade = no run. I would power walk until I reached more shade or a specific spot. Once I hit my mark I let out a big breath and set about running again.
On the first return trip I did increase my pace a little on the downhills but I couldn't drain myself too much. I would still have another 6.5 miles to run. I started seeing more people and offering words of encouragement. I also received the second compliment of the day about my tattoo. It's cool to have someone recognize and appreciate the body art.
I think Janet passed me during the first 3 miles, but she's an animal and is one chick I don't mind passing me.
I was keeping up with my PowerGels and water. This is key for me because once I get off my run nutrition things go south very fast. These little bursts of calories are what keep me moving and focused on the race. I started hitting the 1x and 2x caffeine gels during the second loop. I could feel the boost these gels provided.
I reached the turn around and knew I was home free. I climbed the final big hill of the day and reminded myself it was time to push to the end. I picked up my pace significantly, you will see that in my splits below.
The trails twist and turn but I could see Janet ahead of me. I had a crazy thought about catching her and how cool it would be for us to cross the finish line together. She would still have a better time than I because she made up the start deficit to pass me but still....it would be cool.
So I was pretty focused on keeping good running form and pace. I was locked onto her back as motivation. And I started to slowly bridge the gap. As long as she didn't have a burst of speed I was going to catch her.
I was just about to catch her at the aid station one mile from the finish when she pulled over to get some water. I yelled at her, "Why are you stopping?!?!?" She didn't know I was behind her so she was shocked to hear me yelling at her.
I could have stopped and waited for her but several things went through my mind.
- I'm moving pretty good.
- If I stop now I many not be able to get back up to speed.
- If I stop now I may cramp up...definitely not good.
As I approached the finish line I thanked all of the spectators who had been sitting there cheering for us. At least they were in the shade.
I crossed the line and had to sit down and catch my breath. I took my shoes off and let the volunteer with the hose spray me down...it felt so good. Janet crossed the finish line shortly after me and we congratulated each other.
My overall finish time was 5:57:16.
Lap one Lap two
10:40 10:15 Mile 1
10:15 10:08 Mile 2
10:26 10:26 Mile 3
9:35 9:54 Mile 4 - downhill to turnaround and then back up the hill.
8:06 7:14 Mile 5 - primarily downhill rollers
9:19 7:40 Mile 6 - more downhill rollers
5:26 3:56 - Last half mile to turn around/finish
I'm happy with my consistent splits and the drop in the final miles. I'm not sure why the 9:19 for mile 6. Can't remember if I stopped at an aid station or not.
I'm going to post my final thoughts separately. But at least I managed to write this race report.