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San Francisco, California and, Carrboro, North Carolina, United States

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Racine 70.3

Sitting back and writing this race report all I can think about is that I'm disappointed in myself for not finishing and not taking care of the easy things.  First, I should have finished, I was mentally beat, but that is not a legitimate reason.  Second, my fitness is where it needs to be but my race preparation is not great.  Unlike most triathletes, I'm a little too laid back.  I did not have a back up plan for my race fuel.  I took a chance with the amount of calories I was carrying on the bike and in the end I paid the price (I bonked badly).  Nonetheless, I should have kept going and finished the race.  

Swim: 24:12 
I did not have a great start to the swim but I as I came around the first buoy I was in 10th place.  I knew I could make a move and be higher up into the first group, so that's what I did, taking about 30 hard strokes.  I worked my way right onto Craig Alexander's feet and swimming right in front of Bryan Rhodes and Tim Reed.  This was perfect, I was sitting in 5th place getting a nice draft off one of the world's best triathletes.  Crowie set a good pace and we caught up to Paul Ambrose around 1500 meters into the swim.  Two athletes, Marko Albert and Joseph Lampe, were off the front of this group, but this group was a great group to be with, so I settled into the swim and swam relaxed the rest of the way.  Six or seven of us exited the water quickly made our way to T1.  

Coming out of the water with Time Reed, Bryan Rhodes and Craig Alexander.
Bike 2:13:05
Onto the bike with the first group.  I thought, perfect, ride with these guys, come off the bike in the top 7 or 8, and run your way into a top 5 position.  However, the rough roads of Racine had different plans.  At mile 4 or so, a stretch of rough road bounced out one of my bottles.  There went 400 calories.  This is where my lack preparation caught up to me.  I did not carry any extra calories, so now I was stuck with about 500 calories to complete the bike.  At the same time, Jordan Jones blew by the group and the group fractured into two sets of 3 athletes.  I was in the second group, riding with Paul Ambrose and Bryan Rhodes (two great athletes, so I was not worried).  Ambrose and I took turns pulling, rotating about every 2 minutes.  I tried to pull the uphills and let Ambrose power down the downhills.  We worked well together and over the next 20 or so miles we caught the athletes that were up the rode (with the exemption of Albert and Jones).  Around mile 27, we caught Craig Alexander and Joesph Lampe.  I thought this was awesome, I'm riding well, sitting in 4th place, and, more importantly, I'm competing with the world's best.  Right as we caught Alexander two unfortunate things happened.  First, I was stung by a bee right above my right cheek.  The sting hurt, but I had worse problems, the bolt holding my bars to the headset came loose.  I thought NO, NO, NO!  I'm not going to have a mechanical take me out of this race.  However, riding this way was extremely dangerous.  I could barely turn and with each bump on the road, which there were about a thousand, my bars would go up and down.  I also knew that each bump made the the bolt looser and looser.  As I almost rode into some Wisconsin farm land, Ambrose dropped me around the first corner.  I rode away from Alexander on a climb, but Lampe rode about 200 meters behind me for the remaining miles.  Those 29 miles were the scariest miles I've ever ridden.  A couple of thoughts went through my head.  First, I thought, "damn you bee, my cheek hurts."  Second I thought, "James, you're awfully stupid, you're riding downhill at over 30 mph and your bars are loose. You also borrowed $60K to go to Berkeley Law School, if you crash, your brain better still work, or there's no paycheck."  However, I kept being stupid and kept riding.  I continuously looked at my computer, happy to see the miles clicking away.  At mile 50, I was still in 4th place and I was thinking, wow, if I can survive this, I may end up with a great race, only 6 more miles to go.  I rode into T2 in 4th place, extremely happy to have survived and hoping to have a good run.

Working with Paul Ambrose.

Bars completely loose.  They only stayed upright if I held them up.  This was an unpleasant ride.

Run: DNF  
Entering into T2 I took a wrong turn and then ran past my transition spot.  This cost me a good 45 seconds or so, but to be honest, I was just so happy to be getting off the bike without crashing.  Onto the run, Lampe had passed me in T2 and my better half shouted that I was 30 seconds down.  I ran a conservative pace, wanting to put together a strong run but respecting the 90+ degree heat.  I did not want to blow up.  I also was trying to consume some calories, because I did not want to bonk.  I quickly ingested about 200 calories of gels, and hoped this would offset my lack of calories on the bike.  Two miles into the run, I caught Lampe and was running in 4th pace.  

At this point, I thought awesome, just keep going and you'll be a top 5 performer today.  This could be my break through performance.  I wish that was correct.  I had bad third mile, Lampe caught and passed, me, and I knew I was beginning to bonk.  I was passed by Tim Reed right about the first turn around, and was now running in 6th.  It was at this point I lost my concentration.  I started to think my slow running, my sore cheek, and the miserable weather conditions.  I told myself that if I did not make the half way point by 45 minutes, I would call it day.  Over the next few miles, Robert Wade, Patrick Evo, and Shannon Stallard, past me and dropped to 9th.  Running in 9th at the turn around, my watch displayed 45:20, and I decided to stop.  It was a decision I instantly regretted, but for a brief moment, I just lacked the fortitude to finish.

In retrospect, I should not have stopped.  I would have likely finished in 10th and scored 200 points toward World Championship qualifications.  I did learn a few things during the race, and in that sense, the race was not a failure.  I gained more confidence, I'm routinely swimming and riding with the world's best.  I'm a runner by athletic background, so I once i figure out how to fuel on the bike, I think I'll run with the world's best too.  

I'm off to California for 5 weeks for a great training block

I want to thank my homestay in Milwaukee, Michael and Judi, you guys are super great hosts, thanks for everything!

Some nice images of the race can also be found at the following links:

Monday, July 9, 2012

MUNCIE 70.3 7th Professional

Due to an Excessive Heat Warning issued by the National Weather Service, WTC shortened IRONMAN 70.3 Muncie to a modified Olympic distance race (1.0 Mile Swim/30 Mile Bike/6.2 Mile Run).  Pro and Age Group athletes gave mixed responses to the decision.  Some thought the race should go on as originally planned (a 70.3), others were happy for the shortened distance.  With the temperature forecasted to be 103 and the heat index between 110-115, I think WTC made the correct decision.  Once the NWS issued its warning, it would be irresponsible for WTC to ignore the warning and go on with the original plan.  WTC would be taking on too much liability for the heat induced injuries that were likely to happen.    

Swim -- 20:55
The water temperature was 90 degrees.  Water this hot is extremely uncomfortable to swim in and can simply be dangerous (USA Swimming limits open water races to a water temperature of no more than 85 degrees). My plan was to swim well the first 200 meters and then sit in with the first group and cruise in with them.  Once the gun fired the swim started off as usual, the first 200 meters were fast, but then we settled into a rather easy pace.  I was swimming in third position, right on the feet of Greg Bennett (the eventual winner) and was happy with my position.  About 1000 meters into the swim, Bennett took a wrong turn and I followed.  We swam only 25-30 meters before figuring out we went the wrong way, but when Greg corrected I lost his feet.  However, as we swam back onto course the chase group merged to form one group of 9 athletes.  I swam with this group the rest of the swim, exiting in 6th position, about 5 seconds behind Bennett.  The warm water made the swim miserable.  It was so hot all I was thinking for the final 200 meters was, "I need to get out of this swamp!"       

Bike -- 1:04:29
Even though the swim was not fast, the warm water took a lot of energy out of me.  The first few miles of the bike were tough, I struggled to calm my heart rate and my power output was lower than normal.  Fortunately, I rode with Rich Allen (the eventual 8th place finisher) back up to the group, and by mile 5 mile of the bike, I was with a group of 5 athletes (we were in 3rd to 8th place).  I would soon work my way to the front of the group.  Over the 30 mile course only Daniel Bretscher and I took turns pulling the group.  This was a tactical error on my part.  I knew I was not the strongest runner in this group, so I should have either tried to break from the group around 20 miles, or done less work and saved my legs for the run.  I'll be smarter next time.  Our group came into T2 together, we had a good gap over the next chase group, so these 5 athletes would determine places 3rd-8th.  

Run -- 37:48
I had a sub par T2 losing about 10 seconds to the group of athletes I came off the bike with.  Over the first mile or so, the gap stayed at 10 seconds but then over the next mile, the gap grew to more than 30 seconds.  I was clicking off 5:50-6:00 miles, when I should have been running 5:30s, so I knew I was not running well, but I was still in 8th place and knew I could move up if my legs came around.  Around 3 miles into the run, I caught a time check of the runner in 7th: Rich Allen was about 30 seconds up the road.  However, I was closing the gap -- by mile 4 I had it down to 10 seconds.  About half a mile later, I moved into 7th place.  Now, my goal was to stay in 7th and if an athlete up the road overheated, I would jump at the opportunity to take 6th.  Mile 5 was a decent mile, but the next 1.2 miles were tough.  I was the one overheating, so I focused on my form and tried to ignore the heat and pain.  Once I saw the finish chute I was relieved and ran through the finish line in 7th place. 

The race was a success, I picked up some crucial points towards qualifying for 70.3 World Championships and was pleased with a top 10 performance.  I also learned a lot this race and gained some confidence.  I have lots of room for improvement including modifying my race tactics, having better transitions, and putting forth an overall better athletic performance.            

I want to thank my better half for cheering me on, I always love when she travels with me on my triathlon adventures.  I also want to thank  Adam and Natalie for all their wonderful hospitality and a great homestay.  Lastly, I want to thank my sponsors, Parcyles, Rudy Project, and First Endurance Nutrition-- their support has been key.

Next up is Racine 70.3 on Sunday, July 15th.