At long last here is my race report for the Half IM race at Musselman. It's only three weeks post race. Enjoy the report.
Sunday July 19, 2009 – Half IM Tri
1.2 mile swim – 56 mile bike – 13.1 mile run
Race morning rolled around and I still felt tired from the hard effort during the sprint tri. At least the legs were tired. My body reminded me of how I felt on the last day of the Triple T. I got myself moving and fueled up for the day with two Boost and some peanut butter on bread. I also chewed on a PowerBar leading up to the start.
Aimee and I rode our bikes to the race site and got body marked. We racked our bikes and picked up our timing chip. While we prepared our transition areas we chatted with friends and competitors around us. I walked Aimee through the transition area then we made our way to the beach for the start.
Aimee’s start wave was going off right before mine. She was worried the 40-49 guys would swim right over the women ahead of us. I knew there would be plenty of room for all of us. When Aimee’s group was called to the start corral I gave her a kiss and wished her good luck. I knew she would be fine for the day.
A woman standing nearby made comment about how she saw Aimee’s chin quiver nervously as she turned away from me. The woman became choked up herself with our good luck kiss. I told her that Aimee gets emotional at the start of a race and I get emotional at the end. We chatted a little bit longer until I had to get in the corral myself.
When Aimee’s wave was sent on their way we were allowed to enter the water and position ourselves at the start line. We were standing in about 3 feet of water when the starting horn sounded. I started swimming immediately while some walked through the water. The wind was pushing some waves toward us from the left but I was into a good rhythm quickly and made my way to the first turn buoy.
We took a left turn around the buoy and were met with some small choppy waves. I was able to get into a rhythm with the small waves and didn’t have any problems making my way through the water. We started to catch up and pass through the women of the wave ahead of us. We were definitely spread out enough that I could make my way past people with no problems.
The way the swim course was laid out we made our way to the same waters we were in for the sprint tri. This would be the easiest part of the swim because this section is protected from the wind and the current actually pushes us into the channel. I did a better job sighting and moving around the other athletes.
Swimming up the boat ramp I didn’t stand up until I was in 12 inches of water. I stood up and headed to transition. As I started my jog to transition I saw Joella’s husband yelling to her. She was running right in front of me. She started 5 minutes ahead of me and we ran into transition together. As the timing mats beeped at us I asked Joella how the swim was.
Swim – 30:05 16th in AG
In transition I got my wetsuit off better than the day before. It slipped off my ankles easier. I put all my gear on and grabbed my bike. I told Joella to have a good bike and to be safe. I jogged out of transition warning people entering the aisle to be careful and I jogged by…I didn’t want a collision in transition.
On the roadway and past the mount line I jumped on my bike and started the 56 mile ride.
T1 – 1:37 9th in AG
Now I’m not going to bore you with a mile by mile account of the race. Overall it was a windy day. The winds were from the south/southwest. The winds were difficult to deal with and if not cautious I would burn too many matches during the early miles. If someone passed me I let them go. I was making sure to race my race. Here are some highlights:
Early on I was riding behind a woman slowly gaining ground on her. A guy passed me who was in my age group and I watched him reach over and pinch her ass. Since they were both wearing the same tri tops I figured they were married. I know I would have done that to Aimee if the chance arose.
As I passed her I asked, “Was that guy harassing you? I’ll have to teach him some manners.” “Is it sexual harassment when it’s your coach?” was her response. We both had a good laugh at that.
Fifteen miles into the bike and I had to pee already. The bladder was uncomfortable and I needed relief. I didn’t want to pee while riding into the wind since it would slow me down too much. I waited until we made a left turn and the wind would be more at our backs. After I emptied my bladder I washed off my leg with a water bottle and got back into rhythm.
When we finally turned north we were on top of the ridge between the two lakes. The wind was pushing us along nicely and my speed was 26+ MPH. I felt great during this stretch of road. The course turned east towards Cayuga Lake and a fast downhill to the road along the shore. I caught up to a fellow Cleveland Tri Club member and told her to stay strong.
The right hand turn at the bottom of the hill was sharp and I stayed behind the cyclist in front of me. There is no benefit of trying to pass him before or during the turn. However, he scared the crap out of me as he had to brake hard at the last minute and skidded slightly around the corner. He apologized to me as I passed him heading up the road.
For those of you that were wondering where Nemo has been I found him on the back of a woman’s aero helmet during the race. I announced my find to her as I passed and we shared a good chuckle from that. Her helmet looked like her little kids got to it since it was covered in various Disney stickers.
A little further down the road we made a right hand turn that would take us up the steepest climb of the day. I geared down to my small chain ring and spun up the hill. It wasn’t anything harder than in training but there was no point in killing myself getting to the top.
Once I made it to the top of the hill I started to feel like I was loosing power. My cadence was good but the speed and power just didn’t seem like it was there. I forged on and continued to take hits from my bottle of Perpetuem and chew on my Powerbar.
Paul, from the sprint tri, finally passed me and was looking good. I encouraged him to have a good ride and figured I wouldn’t see him again. Maybe I pushed it too hard during the sprint on Saturday. After he passed me I had to pee again. Going #1 for the second time on the bike is a little odd for a half IM but I needed to empty the bladder again.
A couple of more turns and I made it to the corner where my in-laws were working traffic control. I rode by my mom-in-law and gave her a wave as she cheered me on. It is nice having someone you know out on the course. After I passed her we had a long downhill back towards Seneca Lake.
I pushed a big gear to get the most from the downhill. But there was one thing I was fighting…..a headwind. I looked down at my computer and the 30MPH I was pushing wasn’t coming easy. I still had two more gears on my wheel to use but I wasn’t going to need them. During this downhill I passed Cleveland buddie Paul.
After the race Paul and I were talking about that downhill. Last year he bombed that hill at 40MPH. This year I was passing him at 30MPH. The headwind was that strong coming up the hill.
Rounding the right hand corner at the bottom of the hill I knew we only had about 16 miles to go heading north. The wind should have been at our backs but it definitely wasn’t helping.
For approximately 4.5 miles we ride through Sampson State Park. This section is the most painful, bumpy, chopped up road I have ever ridden skinny tires on. The road surface robbed you of speed and sent tremors all over your body. A couple of people passed me through here and then I was alone. I could see the small group in front of me but I couldn’t muster the power to get to them. I conceded to just make it out of the park to the better road surfaces.
Once we made it out of the park the road was much better. The smooth surface was a welcome sight. I got back into a good rhythm but I still didn’t have the power I wanted. All sorts of thoughts started going through my head.
This is the worst bike I have ever had.
What was I thinking doing a double?
Why did I push so hard on the sprint?
Oh yeah. I was hitting a low. I have had these types of thoughts during a couple of training rides but never in a race. People talk about the emotional highs and lows associated with long course racing (Half and Full IM distances) but I have never really been there.
Guess what? I WAS THERE NOW!
I looked ahead of me and hated what I saw. People riding ahead and I couldn’t make a good effort to bring them closer. Everyone else seemed to be riding better than I. I sat up out of aero…then I would tuck in again. I played with my gears to make the spinning easy. I tried to hit the downhill sections hard and spin up the hills.
It was just so hard. I finally had another “oh well” moment. It was along the lines of “Oh well I’m screwed.” My race wasn’t over but I wasn’t sure how I was going to salvage the race either. My big question was, “How is the run going to unfold?” Am I going to implode? How slow will it be?
I had to simply wait. I needed to wait until I made it back to transition and see how the legs would feel on the run. I had 10 miles to get myself ready for the half marathon. Let’s see if I could pull something out of my ass.
Bike – 2:48:06 25th in AG 20 MPH
Heading into transition I dismounted as usual and ran in my socks to the bike rack. I hung up my bike and pulled off my helmet. The day was overcast so I decided for once to run without a hat. I slipped on my shoes and grabbed my race belt. I headed out of transition at a steady pace but also made sure to take it easy for the first couple of miles.
T2 – 1:20 7th in AG
I had studied the run course with the help of Paul and another friend. They provided valuable information about the course and how to run it. I looked at the profile and put a plan together weeks in advance.
The first two miles are flat along the lake. Then the course gains 250 feet over the next 5 miles. Some of it gradual, some of it steep. After mile 7 the course is pretty much all downhill except for some rollers.
My plan was to hold back and conserve my energy until mile 7. After that I would go for broke and let it rip. Get into the “Go Zone”, embrace the pain and push the body with the mind.
“Push the Mind and the Body Will Follow”
Leaving transition I settled into a steady pace with a small group of guys. I know they are there but I don’t care because I’m going to run my pace. Within the first mile we are getting passed by a young quick chick. The 25 on her leg tells me she is full of energy and excited to be racing. I watch her go by and hope she can keep it up for the entire 13.1 miles.
At the first aid station after mile 1 I notice the most of the guys I was running with were gone. I had slowly pulled away from them. That was fine with me perhaps I wasn’t as bad off as some of the others.
I started my nutrition plan of taking a PowerGel at each odd mile. I would wash it down with all the water I could grab and drink at the aid stations.
At 2.5 miles we encountered our first uphill. A gradual street leading to the grassy hill next to a house. We could either take the stairs or grass. I choose the grass and power walked the hill. This thing was steep. A couple more degrees of slope and we would have been climbing the hill with our hands. That’s a sick person who puts a section like that in a race. But then again, Devil’s Hill at the Spirit of Morgantown is just as bad.
Once I made it to the top of the climb the road was flat and I was running with people again. I was slowly catching and passing people. I still wasn’t moving very fast by my standards but felt comfortable. If the course was flat I pushed myself harder than on the hills. I would try to gain ground during the easy sections, especially the downhills.
The course turned off the road and we wound through a wooded area. I passed a guy who asked what my pace was. I told him I wasn’t wearing a watch and was “footloose and fancy free!” It was liberating to be without my watch. I wasn’t hung up on my splits or overall time. I was racing how my body felt and right now I was feeling pretty good. In fact, the end of my bike ride had seemed to disappear. My attitude was good and I was running with energy.
I was staying on track with my nutrition. At each odd mile marker I sucked down a PowerGel and waited until the next aid station for water and cold sponges. I continued to pass some people and get passed myself. That’s okay. I was running my race.
At mile 6.5 the course turns onto a gravel road that stretches for almost a mile. And the road is not flat. There are two significant rollers on this “road” but the road ends at the highest point of the course. I just wanted to make it to the end of the road and begin my push.
After turning onto the gravel road a couple of us guys were passed by another woman. DAMN. Where did she come from? And she was no young chick either. 37. That’s what was written on her calf. She was keeping a great steady pace and slowly pulled away from us. I thought good for her. I hope I don’t see her again.
A slow and steady pace up the hills and a cautious pace down the rocky hills eventually landed me on the pavement of the road. As I looked down the road I knew I was ready for what lay ahead. And with that final thought I pushed forward.
I increased my turnover and felt the speed increase. I moved from the road to the shoulder because of the slight cant to the road. The shoulder was flatter and provided some cushioning. Being closer to the grass and weeds I felt faster as they went by.
I started to gain ground on those in front of me. I hit the downhills with abandon using gravity to pass more runners. At the bottom of one hill I heard a voice behind me, “I like your tri top.” He was referring to my Snakebite Racing orange and blue. But then I couldn’t figure out who was catching up to me. Next thing I know this guy is running next to me. He made some comment how his friends had given him some grief about his training run a couple of hours ago when he started. Damn. He was a young guy so I decided to let him go ahead. He told me only a couple more rollers and it would be all downhill.
I continued to suck down the PowerGels and grab water out of the unsuspecting hands of the volunteers. I was moving pretty good now and they sometimes weren’t ready for my grab.
Between mile markers 9 and 10, I powered up the last roller and hit the street heading back into town. I was still pushing myself pretty good when I saw Paul ahead of me. Not Cleveland Paul but second place Paul from the sprint. I had made up the 5 minute head start he had coming out of T2. I commented that I hadn’t expected to see him again until after the finish.
After I left Paul I came upon another athlete I wasn’t expecting to see again. The young 25 year old woman who passed me during mile one of the run was locked in a battle with another 25 year old who was running just off her shoulder. I didn’t say anything as I passed them. I was simply amazed at how close they were heading into the final 3 miles of the run. It reminded me of how I ran next to Paul the day prior.
I continued to chase down and pass more triathletes as the miles ticked by. Right before the aid station at mile 11 I ran up on a guy in my age group. I was taking no prisoners. I wasn’t going to give him the chance to hang with me so I surged by him with confidence and power that couldn’t be matched, at least by my standards.
I took water at the aid station and kept on moving forward. My run was coming together perfectly. Approaching mile 12, I ran past the 37 year old woman who had passed me on the gravel road. I encourage her to keep up a good pace reminding her that we can do anything for the final mile to the finish.
At the final aid station I patted Cleveland triathlete Joe Bush on the back as I passed him to grab water. I shouted, “Keep up the good work Joe!” as I kept heading to the finish line.
I can do anything for one mile. Keep on pushing the body. Turn those legs over. You have worked too hard to falter now. Mind over matter.
I got closer to the main area of the park and saw more guys in front of me. I might be able to catch them. And hey….look at that…they are in my age group. In the last half mile I passed two more guys in my age group.
I pushed it all the way to the finish line and was glad to finally be done.
Run – 1:40:22 13th in AG 7:40/mile pace
Overall 5:01:30 – 12th in AG