Today was the day of a big race in the Nockamixon State Park. Together with like minded triathletes I raced the Half Ironman distance race. In parallel the organizer also held Olympic distance race. The weather forecast was lousy when I looked first on Tuesday - the forecast called for high sustained winds with tropical rain. Over the weeks the forecast improved quite a bit, but still the rain and wind was to be considered as a factor. This morning, luckily for all the race participants the forecast was revised with drizzle in the morning turning into rain around noon and then into tropical rain very quickly after that - well the reminder of hurricane Hanna was upon us. The goal for all of us was to be at least off the bike before the rain.
Last week I put together a race plan including pacing, power zones for the bike, hear rate zones and nutrition. Knowing how unforgiving the HIM distance can get I made sure to include electrolytes replacement on top of hydration and energy supplements Heed, Hammer gel and GU. If I needed I also considered to get banana or pretzels on the run. After review with my coach I revised the power on the bike down a bit to save some energy for the run. It was very wise suggestion as during Steelman I suffered on the run quite a bit and that was mostly because I attacked every single hill I had in sight.
I packed all my stuff according to the checklist that I revised to include the additional nutrition, Suunto watch and HR belt. That way I can just load the bike, backpack and water to the car in the morning and head out to the races. As a last minute decision I swapped tires on the bike to lower profile tires with 290TPI that are nicely dumping the shaking one can get on the road. In the retrospect it was a very good idea, plus they worked for me very well during Steelman on the same course.
Swim 1.2 mi
Now let's talk about the race itself. The swim was scheduled to start at 8a.m. and they let us do the practice swim at 7:30. Water was measured below 78F and most people took advantage of it and swam in the wetsuit. During the practice swim I tested the new stroke in wetsuit and it was actually feeling great. I swam 3/4 of the way to the first buoy, took a minute of rest by floating and swam back. It was going to be great day. The swim started as planned and I lined up in the usual place. Erica suggested that I do not change that and instead build up to the pace that feels good and just keep going. The start of the swim was little hectic and a lot of legs and arms were swinging around me, but I kept clear of all of them. I got grabbed few times, but nothing brutal considering that the wave was around 80-85 people. By the fist buoy the field separated and I settled into a good pace. I ended-up swimming the whole course freestyle with no breaks and no troubles. The lake was calm and I just followed Erica's guidance - wide stroke, head position and adjusted kick. It felt very good. I ended up taking the scenic route as I sighted only every 10-15 strokes, but it was not as bad as during the Anthracite Tri earlier this season. I exited the water and crossed the timing mat around 36 minutes which is pretty good improvement compared to last year.
Bike 56 mi
I ran from the water to the transition, grabbed my bike and almost took off (I was seconds from DQ), then I remembered and put on my helmet, took my bike and ran out of transition. The bike course was 3 loops around the lake that takes you on pretty good mix of uphills and downhills. The road was little wet from previous night and I hit few drizzles during the first and second loop. Not much to report here - I passed few people on the first loop, one or two on second loop and no one on third loop. Erica yelled at me during the end of second loop that I'm in 6th place which was nice to know and really helped me get through the last loop without much suffering. I used granny gears on all the hills to save energy and stay within the planned power ranges. What was interesting this year - many people had flats and one person had bend wheel. I'm not sure why because the road looked fine and I did not see any areas of shattered glass or other dangerous stuff that can cut through tires. I guess not everyone avoids all the stones, little branches and other stuff on the road. It was really interesting. During the last loop we shared the road with the Olympic distance guys so I passed few more people, but that did not improve my position.
Run 13.1 mi
The T2 was much less eventful that the T1 - no DQ danger. I had my shoes in plastic bag took them out, put on socks and shoes, grabbed my vizor, race belt and gel flask and off I went. I kept checking my pace as I took off very quickly and had to slow down not to expire half way through the run. The long runs in triathlon are about balancing your energy and it is best not to use it all on the first loop. I settled into reasonable 8:00 min/mi pace and kept slowing it down to 8:30 as I planned. The plan was to walk some of the steepest hills and all transitions to take in nutrition. I walked part of the first hill prior to the aid station and then kept running all the way to the turn point. On the way back I just walked the aid stations. The run during the first loop was quite o.k. and I felt like during the long runs on the weekend. After I started second loop I started to feel tired quite a bit and slowed significantly on the small uphills. I walked the hill up on the way to the aid station although I resumed running on the easier part of the climb. I was not suffering as much as last year, but the course was definitely getting to me. I reminded myself to hydrate, get gels and when I hit the turn around aid station I got also electrolytes - just for a good measure. It sucks when one runs out of salt and has to slow down. I got passed on the run by three runners and I re-passed two runners that were walking. I started feeling strong after I had last large hill behind me - took in the rest of the gel splashed my head with remaining water and kept pushing. Soon I hit the 12 mile marker and picked-up the pace to 7:30 - 8:00, once I saw the sign for 6 miles I knew it is only half a mile to the finish and I kicked into overdrive - 7:15 - 7:30 and kept pushing all the way to the finish. I finished the race in 5:07:xx and shattered my previous course result by over 40 minutes. I finished 10th overall and defended 2nd place in the age group that I scored last year. After I finished the hell broke lose and the rain started pouring, wind picked up and we got all soaked before the race organizers did the awards ceremony. It was a great race and most of us beat Hanna at least did not get hit by heavy rain on the bike course. If you look for great HIM in NorthEast just 50 miles north from Philadelphia come next year. It is really nice small race in great area.
Erica thanks for fixing my swim stroke and Craig congratulations on your 2nd overall and thanks for recommending the lower power output it helped me run through the whole course without being reduced to walk or shuffle.