No taper. Training race, training through it.
So I’ve got a 40min drive to the site. During which I snack on a Sweet and Salty bars I found – OMG yum. Anyway, because it is a split transition I head to T1 to drop off my bike and wetsuit, then I have to drive to T2 and set up, and then grab the shuttle down to T1. So I’m leaving around 9:15 for a NOON start. Not because I’m paranoid, but because my mental math says that will give me about 30min to spare. Jeseh, so much for a late start being convenient! One BIG worry is the traffic on 93S because that is the Hoover Dam road and it SUCKS. When I road last Sunday there was a 14mile backup. Yes, you heard me… 14miles. That I saw. Bad. Stoopid moutains making a chokepoint. Anyway…. I make good time. I get pay my $10 for parking (really? Oh it’s good for a week? Yeah, that’s helpful… not) and I follow the signs. Easy. Pull onto the dirt to park, like everyone else, and try not to hit any boulders or tumbleweeds because not all tumbleweeds tumble apparently.. anyway, different story.
I’m getting my crap out and organized when some old guy comes up and tell me the swim is cancelled. Ok crazy man that’s nice move along… I think that was written on my face because he says NO REALLY the swim has been cancelled, it’s too cold. 50-53. See – waving towards the buoys – which they are pulling in. Huh. Maybe not crazy… he is going from car to car. Apparently he’s with the race organization, not that he even had a race shirt on but…. Anyway. Huh, I decide to setup my bike and then if needed I can return for the wetsuit.
Get my bike stuff and go setup. Ponder the implications if the swim is cancelled… eh, whatever. Amazingly, I don’t care. One way or another, I’m really just still a bit worried about pulling off this bike and what will my run look like. This is a training day and my legs are still tired from this training week. I can feel them as I walk a bit – I’m NOT fresh, I’m NOT rested (thanks sicko kido) and I’m hungry. And thirsty. Eh, whatever. Let’s do this. In retrospect, I think this was a good thing. I really was applying no pressure to myself, which I often do.
I setup, chat up some other folks, and see them loading up the swim course, so I’m pretty sure that indeed the swim has been cancelled. Huh, wonder how they’ll do the start? Eh, whatever. Chip timed. Get to the car and get out of dodge, I dallied down there too long. Drive up to T2, was actually pretty easy to find – thank to the unpublished advice I got “Turn At the Taco Bell”. Now being from Chicago, that would be useless. WHICH FRIGGIN TACO BELL, but apparently – this is the ONLY one anywhere nearby. So I did. I found it. I parked. I got my gear all unloaded without incident. Oh, except I kept forgetting stuff so I went to the car about 100x. But I consider this perfectly normal behavior. NOW it’s starting to feel like a race. See lots of guys riding their bikes to t1. Huh, good idea. It’s all downhill, why not. Good idea. I should do that…. Oh yeah, can’t. Ok. All I have to do now is find the shuttle… shuttle? Huh, the 30min I’ve been here… not seen a shuttle. Crap.
After looking around I finally asked for help and the 4th volunteer I asked said “ya, go over there and they’ll get you” waving vaguely in an area of the parking lot without anything much. Ok… nobody was there…. But ok…. Another guy followed me… finally we had a crowd. All 5 of us. Just standing there. Waiting. Forever. FINALLY a big azz bus came and tried to run us over. I guess this is the shuttle. We were in the ONLY place this thing could turn around in. So after not dying, we boarded up with our texting-driving savant driver. Yeah, that’s just great. Text while driving down a friggin 6% grade mountain pass. Nice, she got skillz. Hey and what’s this triathlon thing? That’s a lot of running right? Wowzer.
We survived the bus ride, somehow, to T1 and we all French kissed the ground as we exited the bus and made it to T1 so that we could anxiously…. Wait. Went to the water and put a toe in. It was fine. Pansys. My toe-test said 60’s. My ankle-test said High 50’s.
And wait. Well, since there was no swim there was also no need to start any earlier and maybe not run in so much dark? Nah, totally not the plan. So they started us, time trial style 10s apart. Or so. I was 163 so I got to start in 163rd position. That was great. Who put the heavy guy at the end? I almost bought #7’s number so I could finish before dark, but she wasn’t selling. Wench. So I started at like midnight or something. I don’t know exactly, but I was pretty bored waiting.
FINALLY I get to the official time with his iPhone giving us the precise 10s separation which didn’t matter for shit, because about 10% of the people made it 10ft and fell over, 10% of the people went off like a bat out of hell and passed everyone who started before them within 4.23seconds. So I go. Did I mention the first .5miles was uphill? Oh, well, we’ll get to that. But this, like most of this friggin course, was uphill. But starting that way kind of blows a special kind of chunks. And basically everyone behind me passed me almost instantly. I think they went to a mass start, starting at 164 because I got blown away. And that’s just a special kind of awesome on the male ego. Special.
So up and onto the main road. We get some flats (which mean <2% grade in Nevada, cuz you know the mob gets 2% of everything so 2% means you’re gonna get 0% – just sayin’). Basically the first couple of miles were not too bad, but then it got – and stayed – bad. This is not the kind of course that Midwesterners even know how to spell. Apparently if you mother or father is a mountain goat, it’s just fine. But the winner didn’t hit 20mph avg so I was ignoring speed and relying 100% on Heart Rate. My goal was simple. Stick to 150 NO MATTER THE TERRAIN. 155 MAX. Period. No excuses Sally. If I can hold that, I know I can nail the run. I can probably hold higher, but that’s not the point. The point is that this is a training day and what RON needs trained on is how to hold the ego in check and pace properly. If I don’t, I’m DEAD MEAT at IM CDA. I did my “best” pacing ever at Sandusky last year, but I was tired off the bike. That’s not acceptable.
The first mile took me 6:27. The second mile, 2:57. Wow, this is going to be interesting.
So around 2 the hills began. Yeah, that far in. So this was a tiny hill, only 3-6% incline and it only went a mile and a half. So about a 200ft gain. Looking at the elevation chart, this was one of the smallest climbs.
This is, however, where the winds really started to be noticeable. They were supposed to be from SW – but I was going NE and I certainly didn’t have them to my back. Actually, the winds would come from the left… then right… then headwind… it was fairly unpredictable and due to the speed, they were noticeable. I did notice, however, that someone was thinking and they put Orange cones out on the course. Initially I thought this was just because there was a 100ft drop off a cliff down there- however, not so. The cones were a marker that there was going to be a wind change. NOT all the cliffs were marked, but EVERY time I hit a cone, I got nailed with a wind gust. I finally matched it up to the terrain. The various ridges and valleys and hills and so on must funnel the winds into what is actually somewhat predictable patterns – so that helped a TON. I am man enough to admit that pre-riding this portion of the course had me nervous… REAL nervous because I’m a big guy and I was still getting knocked around. But knowing these wind gusts were coming certainly helped.
The second hill was a 6-10% grade. One of those with the warning signs for trucks. However, I knew this side was the lesser side, so it wasn’t horrible and not crazy long. Up and over and I flew down the other side into a sharp bank where the road went from 2 lanes down to one. I already knew to be careful – take this turn wide and you’d end up in the curb. Passed my first people here. Nobody else has passed me, I assumed because nobody else was left behind me!
The next section was fairly non-descript. For some reason, TONS of traffic (not closed course) was passing. That sucked, because the wind gusts from them would buffet you ever friggin time. Nobody was slowing down, although people were giving wide berth, so no real complaints. It would only have been unsafe if you were not paying attention. I was eating and drinking on schedule, feeling good, and NAILING my 150 HR. Not 151, but 150. Nailing it.
We get to the main turn, where the Oly’s have to turn around and I got down this long downhill. Thank God my bike was fixed, because I was actually able to get some speed going. And the wind was at least not in my face (side) so that helped. I let loose and really tried to pound the pedals, to keep my HR up at 150. Remember, 150 NO MATTER. Well, it’s hard when you’re going 35mph and are doing 120rmps in max gear – but I did keep it up around 145 so that’s good enough. And also it took me a good 6% up the next mile long hill (yeah, long friggin hill). At this point I’m passing people and I’m up to 5. I’m just targeting them one at a time and pulling them in. Got someone ON the climb, I felt good about that. I was doing all of 5mph.
I remembered from the pre-ride this next section was a step down, up, down and then nothing but climbing. Finally the wind is with me, so I gain some time back – hitting 20+ on the climbs. I fully realize though, this will be in my face on the way back, but at least I’ll be going downhill…. I’m still eating on schedule, but my drinking is having problems… I need to drink 2 bottles by 20miles, because that is the only bottle exchange. I’m only in 1 bottle and an hour. Crap, I’m behind. In the desert. BAD RON BAD. I try to catch up but now I’m all sloshy.
I’m starting to talk to my bike now… yeah, I admit it. I was bored. I always ride with music and I am just not a good singer. So I start talking to Midnight. It helps pass the time. She doesn’t talk back, but she does do her end. She’s cutting the wind awesome (headwind) and not getting bucked too bad on the cross winds. All I can ask. But we have a lot of conversations over the coming hourS.
The leaders are starting to come back now, say howdy to the folks who I’ve met so far (long course is a small group, maybe 200). I’m told numerous times – ENJOY THE TAILWIND! Hehe, yeah I get it guys. And I am. Hitting 25mph uphill, I’ll take it! I ride with a couple ladies that I’m passing for a while but eventually they cannot hold and I drop them. Nice to have a little conversation at least. Most of this race I’m by myself.
The turn around is further than advertised and right after some major climbing (mile 16-mile 22 is nothing but climb) and a very welcome site. I passed 2 more – so I’m up to 8 people behind me. I don’t intend on giving that back.
They have a porta-potty – pass. Soccer goal for the bottles – cute! I toss 2 and the kids manning it say “Hey, you look like the guy from Hangover!” to which I respond “What do you mean LOOK like, that IS me!!” bahahahahah they were like “Really?!?! Seriously?!?!” – I didn’t answer, but 100ft where the bottle pickup was they had some older kids manning it, I stopped and took 2 bottles and told them about it and told them to play along. Oh yeah, AND HOW THE HECK DO THEY EVEN KNOW About that movie?!?ROFL! Ok, off I go.
Well, 6 miles up means 6 miles down. So I tuck in and hammer. Headwind is ABSURD!! OMG those guys were not kidding. Some sections I’m hammering the big gear, tucked in, and going maybe 15mph. Get in a valley and I’m doing 35mph. Crazy. My bike mile splits vary between 9:27 and 2:04 (that’s almost 30mph avg) on this course. Like nothing I’ve ever done.
The return trip back to the Lake was actually fairly uneventful. I steadily reeled people in. I won’t add more detail here because there really wasn’t anything extraordinary except I got a nose bleed. I have never, ever had a bloody nose during a race. For no reason. Was not picking it. Was not working too hard. Did not get hit by a biker dude. Nothing. Just pow, blood all over. I got it to stop eventually, but I have no idea how much blood was on my hands or face – thank goodness for the red beard as I’m sure there was caked on blood in there. DW thinks it was all this crazy dry air. Oh, and I want to say I really hate that 6-10% hill. Yes, indeed. Was the only section I couldn’t keep HR at 150. Got to 160. Stoopid hill.
By the time I made it to the Lake (start) I had reeled in 14 people. Making steady progress. I knew from pre-ride there was a deceptively low grade climb here.. well, for the next 12 miles. Well, actually low grade for 4 miles (1-3%) and then a noticeable (4-6%) grade for the final 8 of the course. At least I was ready for it. I’m getting passed by the Olympic distance people, thankfully I could tell their numbers apart from the long course or else I think I’d be pissed! I rode with a guy for a while, but he couldn’t hold and dropped back. So many people I’m passing clearly over did it. Viva La Pacing for me!
So I steady climb up the 4 miles… this was poorly marked. We LEAVE the national park and right before the main road 93 we are told to cross the road – at least there were Vols there handling that. We cross and enter the path which runs parallel to 93 but is on trails and “the wash”. “The Wash” is where all the rain water is funneled when it’s raining. When it’s dry, which is most of the time, it’s part of their trail system. With nice signs reminding you that you will die if you try to use them when it’s raining or there are “storm conditions”. Well duh! This trail was NICE. Very wide, paved, but it’s constant turns and twists and steep short climbs with the entire thing a steady climb. Ug. It is 3 hours in when I’m starting this and we were warned – this is a 1 hour climb MINIMUM. Joy, 1 hour of climb, no breaks. Fun.
I really start to focus on my body for a while. How am I eating, drinking, etc. I was 4 bottles in at 3 hours, so it was OK. 1 bottle to go. I didn’t really want to drink more, but I knew I was barely going to get enough as it was with 5 bottles total (all I could carry/swap). Eating was on track. I had a Sweet and Salty bar before the climb to get calories on track. I was targeting 400-500 on the ride as that seems to be working well. I cannot do anywhere near that on the run, so I need to pre-load. My butt is hurting a bit but overall, the body is fine. Mentally, I’m doing ok. I knew I would have a Personal Worst ride time on this distance and was OK with this. These hills are my absolute weakness and today was a training day. So I had no concerns. I didn’t like being so far back in the pack, that pissed me off a bit – but then I had to remind myself… I was a little fish now in a BIG pond. These cyclists were DAMN GOOD and of a caliber I don’t normally get to play with. So, no more “big fish in the little pond” I’ve moved up to “little fish in the big pond” – and I was good with that. I have plenty of room to grow up now!
So climb, climb, climb… I passed a couple guys who were clearly COOKED. I rode with one for about 10minutes – he did his damndest to keep up and I helped talk him through it. He was toast. I doubted he was going to survive the run…. In the end I looked him up and he didn’t. Nice guy though, just not ready. Got passed by several Oly racers like I was standing still. Well, at 3-5mph – I might as well have been. I knew this section would be rough, but it was rougher. And the freaking wind was direct in our faces. That was not cool. All these switchbacks and STEEP inclines were just killer. It took everything I had to keep my HR in check and adjust the body to not fry my legs. I did stand for some climbs, which is a sure sign I’m tiring. Every time we went into the wash and back out, I had steep climbs. We did it maybe 6-10x. It started blurring together…. A 4 hours I thought I would be done…. Nope. Sudden turns EAST? WHA WHA WHAT?!?! A few steep twists and finally I heard the DJ in T2. Phew. All 20 spectators cheered me in and I was super happy to get off the bike finally… 4:10. Wow. Well, I passed 17 people so at least there is that. Let’s see if I can hold them off on the run (hah that’s unlikely)
T2 was pretty slow. Legs were happy for the change of pace. I tried to stand and put on my running shoes, but that didn’t work out. So I sat down and did that and got everything- dumped my garbage, found the portapotty and got out there. Well, at least I was peeing. CC was gonna hate my T2 time but oh well.
The run out was clearly marked but after that it was like… um… where do I go? Figa-moo-stop-nose says the volunteer. WHA? Fow-nose-kndowsn! WHAT?! FOLLOW THE ORANGE CONES. Ooooooooooooooooohhhh yeah ok. What cones? It took me a seriously long time to figure out where to go. Maybe it was seconds, seemed like eons. Found it. Straight down. I could only see a couple cones the rest were DOWN and out of sight until you got there.
The run course is 884ft down and then same back up (out and back). The first half mile is 4-7% down.
My legs felt great so I let lose. I knew I’d pay later, but whatever. Again – today was a training day. Pacing day. Learning day. So goal was hold 155-165 for 3 miles. Each mile after 3 I ask a simple question – HOW FAST CAN I HOLD for X miles (without going >175 HR). Do that. Repeat each mile marker. This was an AWESOME tactic as I would drift down to a more comfortable pace by the end of each mile and this would remind me to move my ass.
I was worried about DS1 so once on the run I pulled out my cell and, as I ran, I texted DW to see how he was. She reported back that he was ok. Then later gave more detail – yes he has strep and they got antibiotics. Phew. At least we know. That was a big load off my mind.
The first 3 I passed 2 people. Got passed by no long course folks and I ignored the sprint and Oly people. They were a blur anyway!! At mile 1 I made sure I drank (1) 10z amphipod. Repeat each mile.. in theory (I completely lost count). A gel every 2 miles. I was holding strong and HR was pegged right at 155. I was going a little conservative as I got my legs under me and settled in, plus being downhill I knew that the HR wouldn’t be as high – and I had 7 miles downhill. Plenty of time to rise the HR later.
Oh yeah, and CC said NO SPLITS OR TIME – I only had HR on my GPS display.
Very pretty area, just like the bike. Wonderful trail. Well stocked course every 1-1.5miles. Each aid station I walked enough to get some water and/or refill my bottles and then hit it. So maybe 10s max.
At the Sprint turn around I was flying still. Love it. At the Oly turn around I was also still flying. This was great. Wind at my back, downhill, all good. This was the point I needed to set a pace and hold it. So I experimented. Brought pace up to 165 HR and quickly everything fell apart. My wheels just flew off me. Breathing was out of control, legs were screaming, hips were pissed, feet were pissed WOW. So I dialed it back to 155 to recover. Phew. That was scary – but honestly I think I was probably doing a sub9 pace. That’s just not territory I’ve seen much of. Ever. So I tried again around 160. REALLY damn hard and fast.
I kept fiddling with the pace and found that 160 was REDLINE. 159 was fine, 155 was comfy – but there was a noticeable pace different between 155 and 159. I could feel it. So I decided to try to hold 159 and if it turned REDLINE I would back off. I basically repeated this for the entire rest of the course. I’d start the mile around 159 and fade to 155ish and then pick it up and repeat again and again. But 159 was the magic number for today.
At the turn around I used to porta-potty to pee. That’s good, because I had totally lost track of fluids. I THINK was 40oz into it and about 300 calories. Oops, Calories bad. Slam a gel, hey I’m at 400 J target plan was 900 for 3 hours. But I’m hauling serious ass so I know I’m ahead of schedule – guessing 1:15 (I was real close to that I figured out later). Ok, time for almost 1000 ft of climb. At this point, I passed 3 people. I don’t think many long course people passed me but I’m not sure, they probably did. Only recognized one lady who I rode with for a while. She was flying too.
I expected the first 2.5 miles to suck. It was 1.5-2.5% climb. I didn’t even notice. It was great. I kept up a solid pace and (LATER) looking at the splits, I lost maybe 30-60mile/pace. It didn’t hurt though. I passed another person. Around mile 7 I get a text from CC asking how I’m feeling. I responded “mile7ok”. To which I get “WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!” to which I respond “on mile 8 now feeling strong” to which she responds “you’re texting me DURING the race?!?” to which all I could say was “hehe”. Although I should have said “You started it!” ROFL. It’s kind of a pain in the ass to run and text. Just saying. I held my pace, more or less.
Had a little respite on the next mile and I picked up the pace. Felt good. Small downhill. It’s dusk now. Uh oh. I’m not going to make it before dark. It must by 7pm now.
The next 1.5 miles I passed 2 more folks to bring the total to 6. I ran with both a bit, both were destroyed and finally told me to go on. Was nice to have some company and NICER to be the dropper instead of the droppee. I was struggling to get the calories and fluids in though, I could but I just didn’t want to. Blah.
At this point… it’s dark. Mile 12 was in the dark and it was getting hard to see anything – just like they said. YOU CANNOT SEE A DAMN THING. At least in the Chicago there is always secondary light from somewhere – not out there. Nothing but pitch black. Luckily I can see in very low light, so I was ok, but I was staring at the ground just to follow the path. I passed another guy who was walking – head down – and didn’t even acknowledge me. He was defeated.
Mile 13 was a beast and somehow, it got DARKER. Wow. I could barely see my feet. Was wondering when those lights they promised would be distributed? I kept trudging away. I was tired, for damn sure, but I was still running real solid. THRILLED. And a huge grin broke out when I realized – this course shall not destroy me. I will not join the walking masses. I will run this biatch to then end and I will run it strong… DAMMIT. At this point I could hear them doing awards. Man, it’s been a long time since I’ve been so far in the back of pack that I didn’t finish before awards were started (or in the past, DONE). Remember… little fish in big pond now buster.
About ½ mile out I turn up towards the finish. They have bright lights up there, which I’m sure is great for the finish – but it completely and totally blinded me. I used my sun visor to try and block it out so I could see my feet. With the path twisting and turning I had to be careful or I was going to twist an ankle. The final little hill (4-6%) was a bitch but I took it out.
Finally the finish line was in sight. I picked it up and finished strong. Everyone was watching awards, so I got cheered in by all 5 spectators – and asked where the red headed chick was. Um, didn’t know I was looking for her? Sorry man.
I looked at my watch and realized.. I think I just pulled off a sub3 run. Um, REALLY sub3. Sub3 was my secret goal for this run. They got my chip off, gave me my finishers mug, got my water, and I wandered around a bit looking for my stuff. Well, there was no food – that sucked. So I got my recovery drink and made it and wandered over to find me some beer they promised. I heard my friend from Chicago take 3rd in her AG so gave out a big woot! Had a good laugh with the guard lady from transition who saw me trying to bend over and get my recovery drink mix J yeah, it was pretty funny looking I’m sure.
Wandered around looking for beer- none. NONE! Not even for purchase. They were completely out. DAMMIT! NOT COOL!!!!
Stuck around for awards (my friends local friend took 3rd in her AG too – both had no shame admitting there were only 3 in the “old ladies” divisions) and walked around to loosen the legs. It took me a while but I think I hit a 2:38 run. REALLY? Shit, Sandusky last year (a lot flatter) I did a 2:42 and then was a HUGE PR for me (like 20min). I dropped 4 min on a harsher bike and harsher run. Neat. Oh yeah, and my 13.1 stand alone PR being 2:34 (set 2 weeks ago) that’s pretty nice. I was grinning ear to ear. Big score.
I packed up, cheered in the finishers (THEY got headlamps) until they took down the finish line, and headed back to the hotel.
Overall, I think this was a huge success. On an extreme course, I managed to hold my pacing. From a tactical perspective I nailed my implementation of this race. I could improve on my nutrition/hydration on the run. I need a better plan- something simple to keep my on track – I always getting fuzzy brain during this and lose the ability to keep the mental math going.
THE END…. For now. Up next, Rev3 Knoxville 5/15 in 7 weeks. Then the big show… IM CDA 6/26/11 6 weeks later.