EverymanTri reporter Ben Greenfield goes for "Tri-Fecta" before conquering Kona (part 3)
Posted Sep 22 2010 11:11am
Editor's Note:"Triathlete, coach and EverymanTri reporter, Ben Greenfield, decided that it would be a good idea to try to win three local triathlons before attempting to conquer Kona this year. He calls it his "Tri-fecta" (get it). So did he win all three. You'll have to read below to find out."
The Grand Columbian Half-Ironman, on 09/18 (Tri-Fecta day seven of seven) is known to be a difficult course. With 3800 feet of climbing and notoriously fierce winds, followed by a run on a punishing, undulating mix of trails, gravel and highway, this is not a race to take lightly. For example, last year I raced a 4:34 at Grand Columbian and took second - and that would be considered a relatively "slow" Half IM course time.
So you gotta have a good tune on your pre-race .mp3 player to get pumped up for this one. I went for "Dynamite" by Taio.
Saturday morning, I drove the 90 miles to the race at 6am with my wife and kids. We arrived, I set up transition, and time went by quickly.
The boys helping me get ready:
The nice part about Grand Columbian is that there is a buoy line underneath the water that you can use to swim a straight path without sighting much. The first 200 meters of the race are a free-for-all as every competitor tries to get on top of that buoy line. It's like the new Nintendo Playstation is sitting on top of that first buoy, and you're surrounded by desperate pre-Christmas mothers in wetsuits.
I ended up leading in a pack of 4 swimmers, with two very fast swimmers way off the front ahead of us. For the first 1200 meters, I hung with the other 4 swimmers, then made an attempt to break away with 700 meters left - primarily because I didn't want any other cyclists getting a free ride on my tail in the first and most difficult section of the bike course.
My break away was successful, and I was able to come out of the water with just those two fast swimmer ahead of me. I got out of transition ahead of one of them, and got ready to hurt.
Out of the swim:
This race begins with a 1000+ foot climb, but my Gray ascended like a dream. This bike climbs very well, and as a relatively weak climber, I'm pretty grateful for that. The ride, as expected, was windy and hard, but I felt fantastic - I shoved down a GU Roctane every 20 minutes and a couple Athlytes every 30 minutes. Usually, I eat a lot during the Half-IM bike so I don't have to eat much on the run.
Still, it took me nearly 40 miles to catch the final swimmer who had made it out of the water ahead of me, and in the meantime, another cyclist rode by me so fast that I thought he was on a team or relay division. So I rode into transition 90 seconds behind this guy, who it turns out was NOT on a team but was an individual competitor. Third place rode in just about a minute behind me.
Here I am coming off the bike:
Mentally, I've had a hard time this season both "catching" other runners ahead of me and running a strong half-marathon, so I knew I was at a bit of a disadvantage chasing and being chased. I put my head down and starting charging, knowing that 90+ seconds is a good chunk of time to make up, but is do-able.
Unfortunately, halfway through the run, at the 10K mark, I split 1st place and he was 2:15 ahead of me. To make matters worse, 3rd place was just 15 seconds behind me. So I was stuck in a very unsettling sandwich.
At that point, I really though I'd let my Tri-Fecta slip away. A third place finish seemed inevitable.
This is the point during a race where I go drill sergeant on myself...
"How BAD do you want this?"
"C'mon how much are you willing to hurt?"
"Go big or go home, Ben."
"Yo momma is an ugly cow."
HAHA. Sorry about that last one, Mom. I know you read these race reports.
Well, my "positive" self-talk worked. I grit my teeth, set my chin, and went to my pain-cave. DEEP into my pain cave. At 15K, I had opened up the gap on 3rd place to sixty seconds and was 10 seconds behind the leader.
I flew by him, and started counting. I've been passed my fair share of times, and I know that when you get passed, your instinct is to go with the guy that passed you. So I dug in and counted to 200, hoping to demoralize him.
It worked, and when I looked back, he was a non-issue. About 5 minutes later, my body started shutting down. By this time, I was just past the 11 mile mark, and the engine was over-heating. I knew I had to cool down my core, so I walked for 30 seconds, took a few deep breaths, and then made the final attack.
The final 4K were a bit of a blur, not because I was running that fast, but because my vision was blurry and the blood was pounding in my ears. It was really hurting, but I wanted the finish line worse than it hurt. At this point, I knew nobody was going to catch me, but now I just wanted to see how fast I could finish. The final sprint to the finish line (the other finishers were in the simultaneous Olympic distance race).
Turns out I was 8 minutes faster than last year (that's HUGE for a Half-Ironman), as I crossed the finish line in 4:26 and got my Tri-Fecta.
Three wins in seven days - a huge confidence booster going into Kona, and a veritable crapload of USA Triathlon points, which help towards the national ranking.
OK, here's the sponsor digs I promised you:
Key Nutrition Used In These Races (leave comments below if you have "usage" questions):