It was a roller coaster ride leading up to what I had designated as my “A” Race of 2010. I had countless doubts and low moments over the past nine months, since I had purchased my entrance into this Ironman 70.3 event, so when I finally made a full commitment at the start of August, I knew I had to attack the challenge with all my ability.
During the times of indecision, I continued to train as if I would make the trip so I definitely put in the effort to expect a good race but there were a few things (bad races, being away from family, etc.) that had me close to scrapping the idea of traveling more than a few hours for a triathlon. Luckily, I have a lot of amazing people who supported this idea and allowed me to get into the right frame of mind coming down the stretch of this journey.
As most of you know, I enjoy putting my experiences to paper so I could probably roll out a complete novel about this race but I will save that for another day. I just want to get out the highlights at this time before it becomes old news…
With my tight transition spot set up and ready for a number of weather scenarios; I made my way down to the starting area on the beach with Peter Halferty to find the other FMCT Falcons (18 racing this event) and to wait for our age group wave. The 35-39 AG wave was divided into two due to the large volume of athletes so we would be going out with Brian Hastings with Peter Mueller five minutes back. Being in Wave 12 and 13 (of 19), we had a chance to wish many of the other club members the best of luck as they joined the masses in the holding area.
After the four of us put in a quick warm up in the water, we (minus Peter M) moved along through the timing mat to register and entered the shallow water with about two minutes to spare. As the countdown commenced for our group, I picked a spot in the middle of the mob, closer to the back to let the faster swimmers have their space. When the horn sounded many just eased into the race with a walk out to the deeper water (about 75 metres from the start) so my quicker walk/dolphin dive combo ended up moving me into the thick of things.
At this point, I was having some problems finding open water and spent several seconds rolling off the sides of other athletes trying to settle into a clearing. Finally, the stronger swimmers moved through and I picked out some bubbles to follow. I was not sure how fast we were going but was happy with the effort and just focused on staying on the course to save adding extra metres to the 1.9k mapped out for us.
Things continued to move along at this pace for a few minutes before I was joined on both sides by some others from my wave (I could tell by the cap colour) that were surging. As the one to my left moved past, he kicked me in the left eye and knocked my goggles up letting in a bunch of water. It was the first time in my short swim life that I had been the recipient of a kick so I was not sure how to react. The water was coming in both sides now but I did not want to stop so I reminded myself that the water was clean so, although it may have been annoying, it should not affect my eyes like a chlorine pool. Eventually, I got used to the feeling and pushed on around the first corner.
Now heading across the top end of the course, I started to experience the rolls in the water as it was becoming more and more choppy. This was another new race experience that I was determined not to let bother me. Even after a few breaths of water, instead of air, I was still focused to complete the swim to get a chance on the bike.
The top section of the swim was not too long but the waves made sighting a little tough for me so I made sure to take a more peaks to find the course and get to the turn as quickly as possible, hoping the rolls would help me surf into shore. By now, most of my wave was either gone or just behind me so I was working on my own as I turned the second corner to the long side home.
This is where it got tricky as the surf was working but it was also pushing to the side enough to knock me far away from the main path. Every time I looked up I seemed to be swimming farther away from the buoys and heading towards the kayaks that watched over us. I tried to angle back but it was a battle along that whole side to stay close to the course. Thankfully, I was still going forward so it was not totally demoralizing.
When I was around 400 metres from shore a huge pack of Wave 13 pushed by so I really got a feeling how far I was drifting when I saw those caps zoom past. Without going sideways, I knew I would have to just keep an angle approach and work by myself to get through the rest of the swim. And that is what I did, reaching the exit in 37:03 and excited to still have the energy to jog through transition to my bike.
In the transition zone, I did not rush things and just made sure to grab everything I would need. It was overcast at this time so I left the sun glasses and sun screen behind knowing the forecast was for showers on this day. Since there were 2700 athletes registered for the race the bike hold was rather large but the splits in wave times kept the area manageable and I got out to the mount line without any bottleneck. I took a running start to jump on the bike and, after a few little bumps with the shoes in their clips; I was ready to cruise out to the highway through the park entrance.
Once on the open roads, I quickly started my climb through the field as we were greeted by a gentle incline out of the gate. I spun up the hill past several other athletes and then got my feet into the cycling shoes at the crest to complete to change over.
The first portion of the bike course had several long up and downs but I found my target heart rate and stuck to it. I felt very strong after a week of full taper and just made sure not to get caught up in the action around me. For the most part this was not too hard as I seemed to be riding a little quicker than the packs around me.
This held true for most of the ride except one spot, not too far into the 90k, when the course sped me down a rough section of road and I was caught up in the middle of a group that I was attempting to pass. I guess I woke up a couple of the other riders and they started to hang on to me. Having such a long ride ahead, I did not want to get too aggressive and risk a flat on this bumpy patch and I could not lose them. I am not a big fan of being so close in a race, especially when the road is not predictable, so I broke back and let them go as we hit the middle of the hill just to stay safe. It may have cost me a little momentum (and time?) but I reached the bottom in one piece and eventually made my way past many of those guys along the flats that followed.
As I snaked my way around the challenging (yet fair) course, I remained very focused and positive (didn’t even notice the NASCAR track that we apparently went by). Only a few cyclists from the waves behind ended up passing me but I just let them go and stayed with my game plan. I know too well that things can change at this distance so even if you feel amazing at a certain spot, it can all come crashing down just a few miles up the road.
For the most part, I rode solo (cheering the other Falcons that I saw on both sides of the road) without any major disruptions from the other riders. I did have one incident in an intersection as a Police Officer sent through a landscaping vehicle and trailer that brought me to a stop. My yelling was not enough to stop the truck so I had to brake before t-boning the trailer. Not damage done so I just got back to the task at hand and continued on my way.
The only other spot that I could not cruise through was near the end of the steeper hills where I encountered a few congested areas going up the inclines on the back roads. It was disappointing to slow down (I was not going to risk crossing the yellow) as the others suffered up the slope but I stayed calm and then made my move as soon as they slid back to the right of the road.
After I took my 80k gel, I glanced at my wrist watch to check my time. I knew I was making good time out there but I was pleasantly surprised that I had some extra cushion to hit my bike goal of 2:30 on this track. I was very motivated now and the following rollers seemed to flatten out under my wheels. Right after those, I reached a very familiar, flat road (it was along the way to the Resort that held registration and the expo) and I knew the rest of the way was going to fly by.
At the final intersection on the bike course, I also received a great boost from Rick (didn’t expect any of our cheering friends to be out on the bike portion) so I pumped it up from the corner to start my last stretch to transition. It was around this time that the rain started to drop from the clouds above so, as we approached the park entrance, I had to be careful getting into the “No Pass” lane without hitting the ground.
The last couple hundred metres before the turn into the park were downhill and the asphalt was becoming slick. I didn’t want to hang too close to the wheel ahead so I backed off a few feet and made the corner nice and easy and followed the line of triathletes into the park grounds. At the dismount line, I was ready to jump off and run but all the other athletes in front of me stopped dead on the line to clip out so I had to stop my run with the bike before ramming into the back of the slower folks. This was a little frustrating as I was eager to get to the run.
Eventually, the area cleared enough for me to jet over to my rack so I could hang the bike, slip on some socks (didn’t want any blisters today), pop a gel and throw on a hat. Not my fastest transition but I still had a half marathon ahead of me and I wanted to make sure I was set to run. I also had a very lofty goal of running 1:30 for 21.1k and wasn’t sure if this was the run course that I would be able to tackle it on. Before leaving transition, I needed to feel 100% ready to attack this mark.
It was now raining very hard to start the run and I felt bad for all the cyclists still out on the course. For the runners, it felt kind of nice to get all the sticky sports drink and gels washed off. Coming into this run, I wasn’t sure how my back was going to react off the bike. Thank goodness, I had no issues during the bike leg and I crossed my fingers for the same luck for the duration of the race.
After the first five minutes I could tell my wish was granted and I bounced along the first few miles feeling very strong while holding a nice pace. I soon realized that most of the out portion of the run was sloping in our advantage so I had to take the opportunity to grab some time without jeopardizing the rest of it. Watching the pros finish their runs looking fresh and seeing all the FMCT gang all over the course really helped make time fly.
Near the turn around, we were directed through a lively little cottage community that had gone all out to decorate in American colours. The entire neighbourhood was helping hand out liquids, nutrition and wet sponges. They were so into the race that it felt like we were running through a theme park with music, flags, and bubbles. It was amazing to feed off their enthusiasm as we turned back to finish each loop.
As expected, the second half of each loop was more difficult than the first due to the uphill sections. One of those climbs, in the middle of that stretch, was a real burner which I hit too hard on my first attempt. Luckily, after a short flat spot on top, the course headed back down where I got my legs turning over once again. I quickly made note to pace it better on the next go around as there was still more than a mile to the finish and I did not want to kill my time with a walk back to the line.
After getting back up to speed, I curved my way back to the state park where I was directed around the right hand side of the fenced chute to begin my second loop. Having so many racers in the event, we (Falcons) were very fortunate to have a ton of fanfare in the crowd. Most of the support crew that came down with us were gathered around this area so it was very cool to hear them cheering your name as we prepared for our last half of the run.
Hitting the road for the second loop, I was now very confident in completing the course but just wanted to make sure I paced it properly to ensure my best effort possible. My form was still feeling pretty solid on the way out and tried to use the hills to accumulate as much time as I could knowing that the final three miles mostly going uphill were going to be tough.
Sure enough, it was just after the “America Land” turn around where things started to get rough. There was a gradual climb up to the lake view road and this is the spot where my pace began to struggle. As it turns out, Andrew Hanson (fellow Falcon), was just a few feet ahead of me. We made the corner together but I was not able to pull away and Andrew was right on my left shoulder. He then seemed to pick up the pace at this point which got my tempo up as I attempted to stick with him. This helped me regained focus and was off to the races again. Thanks Andrew!
From that moment on, I just looked straight ahead to the finish. When I reached the bottom of that tougher climb, I controlled the pace up leaving lots of energy to power through the final few kilometres of the race. As I arrived at the park, I was so relieved to be directed to the finishing gate that I hammered down the final hundred metres in a full on sprint with a few celebratory fist pumps. When I started the run, I thought 4:40 was going to be my target so to see 4:36:34 on my watch was even more satisfying as this meant a 1:30:38 half marathon finish. Mission Accomplished!
Now that the wraps have been placed on this event, I have had some time to think about the entire journey that lead to the joy at the finish line. I have to thank Tanya and the kids for their understanding. I try not to go away too often for the sport so to be gone for several days meant someone had to work extra hard to pick up my slack. Thank you Tan!
Next, the awesome support from Mom, Cak and the Milton Crew. They take such a big interest in my hobby which makes my little accomplishments feel so big. Thank you all!
After Welland, I was deflated. I owe a lot of thanks to Tyler Lord for putting the plan in place that allowed for such a fast time, beyond my dreams on this course. Getting out with Tyler and Glenn for training rides and runs down the stretch really gave me the confidence to control the race. Now for the swimming! HAHA
To all the amazing Falcons that inspire me in so many ways each and every day, I cannot thank you all enough. You all approach the sport for the right reasons and remind me that it is not the result that matters but the feeling you get from each accomplishment. Congrats to all of you that raced at Timberman 70.3!
A huge thank you must go out to Peter and Maureen Mueller for opening up a spot in their vehicle for the trip to New Hampshire. Maureen, I am sorry that we bored you with triathlon talk for the entire 26 hours of travel in the van. As well, Marko Durbic deserves a big hand for his work on the cottage rental for me and my roommate. Thanks Marko for all the follow ups with the rental people to make it a smooth check in. I owe you. Really!
Also, I am very fortunate to have met so many friends and triathletes through racing, blogging, networking, etc. I am amazed at the notes of support I have received during this season and really appreciate all the positive messages you all have sent. I do have to single out one person though as he was the first to see my passion a few years back when I started out. Thanks Syd! You told me so!
Among those I have met recently through the sport was my roommate at Timberman. A big thank you to Brent Poulsen for being such a great resource in my first Ironman Production experience. Please visit his site to read his take on the race… http://brentpoulsen112882.blogspot.com
Sorry for such a long Race Report! Can you imagine if I put all the pre-race stuff in?