Friday, September 16, 2011

Patriot's 1/2-IM Race Report -- 9/10/11

It's been a long summer, and quite a while since I've posted a race report. My goals for the season centered on doing two 1/2-IM races -- preparation for the jump to the long journey at IMWI in 2012. The season got off to a pretty solid start: I had a good international with a strong run leg in April, and then snagged a PR of 5:09 at the Kinetic Half in May, though a miscalculation on my run pace probably prevented an even better time. If I put together a good summer of training, I felt that a sub-5 was in reach on the flat course at Patriots in September.

Life has a way of intruding on the best-laid plans, though. My father-in-law's terminal illness meant we spent many weekends on the road to WV, and the entire process left all of us wrung out, physically and emotionally, before he found his final relief at the end of July.

I managed to shoehorn in a couple of small sprint-distance races after things settled down, and had a couple of AG podium finishes. But the run-up to the race was a little more dramatic than I wanted, with a stingray assault on my foot while at the beach, a nasty summer cold that I just couldn't shake, and an unpleasant bonk during a 4-hour ride. Lingering hot and humid weather didn't improve my mood either. But race day wouldn't wait for me to get everything right -- it was time to do the best with what I had.

After meeting up with Debi and a fun bunch of other athletes for dinner on Friday night, things went smoothly on Saturday morning. I snagged a good spot on my rack and got my gear in order in plenty of time -- no drama, just the way I like it. The word came down that tha water in the tidal James River at Jamestown was at 79 degrees, so no wetsuits for the competitors today. Eh, no problem, just keep it steady.

The race

As usual, the old guys were one of the last waves. That's not all bad, at least you can sight on the caps ahead of you. . We'd been promised that the current would be coming in on the roughly triangular course -- a factor that played into the swim later on. I got into a nice smooth rhythm on the swim, sighting every 4 strokes to correct for my inevitable leftward drift. Rounding the first buoy we caught the current and made good time. Almost too good of time -- I got a little wide and it was a bit of a challenge to keep on course for the second buoy.

The last short stretch of the swim was back against the current, then a hard left to the beach. This dragged on for quite a while as we fought against the tidal flow. Though I felt great throughout the swim, but could tell I'd been in the water a long time. As I exited the water I could see I was right -- 47:36(!). No panic -- there were lots of my competitors around me. And the times for the race bore this out -- only 3 out of 33 in the 50-54 AG were under 45 minutes.

Swim: 9/33 AG -- 47:36.

Transition is where I always make up time. This race had the longest run to T1 that I've ever seen, about 1/4 mile over muddy fields. I'd scoped out the run on Friday afternoon, so there weren't any surprises in store. I kept up a nice jogging pace and got into transition feeling good. I wiped off my muddy feet with a towel, got into my shoes and took off. A smooth clip-in and away I rolled.

T1: 3/33 AG -- 4:22.

The goal for the bike was to set myself up for a good run. At Kinetic I hadn't left enough in the tank and faded over the last few miles of the run. Today I resolved not to get caught up in jockeying for position on the bike.

Soon I was jockeying for position on the bike. I found myself in an annoying pack of riders (especially YOU, Mr. Draft Everybody and Pass On the Right, wearing the Alaska bike jersey...). It was an annoying round of getting caught behind someone slow, pass them, have them suck on your wheel then pass and slow down. Patriots isn't a hard bike course, but a few rollers along the way finally broke up the group and I could concentrate on my own thing.

My bike computer wasn't working, but some simple calculations at the 5-mile markers showed I was easily averaging over 20 mph. I drank Cytomax on my watch's timer, every 12 minutes, and fired down a gel about every 4th time, with a few Endurolytes thrown in for good measure. One positive for this year has been that my cycling has gotten stronger, and I felt it today. I only had a few short bad patches along the way, and stayed pretty comfortable for most of the ride, keeping a nice brisk pedaling tempo and staying in control throughout. Still, it was relief to see the 55-mile mark and know I only had 3 miles to go (yes, it was a 58 mile bike course). I did a shoes-off dismount to the ringing of cowbells and jogged into T2.

Bike: 6/33 -- 2:48:40 (20.75 mph).

T2: 3/33 -- 1:24

If you'd asked me when I started the run how the rest of the race would go, I would have predicted "great!" I had a smooth transition and my legs were clicking along nicely. One of my local rivals was about 50 yards up the road, but I entertained hopes of keeping with him (he eventually got 3rd AG). I passed by Debi with a jaunty wave and kept moving along, stopping for my planned walk breaks.

The first mile was 8:15, and the second, with a walk break, at 8:30. Then the wheels came off. First the quads, then the calves started cramping. That, combined with the sun and heat (high 80s and humid) were enough to take the wind out of my sails. I kept slogging along, adding more walk breaks as my legs failed, but the splits got slower and slower, as I got crampier and more nauseous with each mile.

It was a long and depressing finish to what had been a strong day, as I limped along at 11-12 minute pace over the last 5-6 miles. I put on a brave face in the final chute, but it was a disappointing finish.

Run: 11/33 AG -- 2:16:12

Overall: 7/33 AG, 162/407 Men -- 5:58:12


As I lay in the medical tent getting my IV (ah, relief!), I tried to put it all in perspective. I've always prided myself on good race execution, but there was no getting past the fact that I'd screwed this one up. True, conditions were very tough, and a lot of people had bad races. But in the end, you've got to be prepared for what mother nature and the race throw at you. But I learned a valuable lesson -- one that I hope I can apply to my next big race.


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