I've been away from the community for a while. I actually gave my notice at my job and I'm generally working from home and helping them with my transition. Most of my "down time" at work was on Trifuel and now I have lost that time. I need to carve back out some time for the group that has helped me with triathlon.
I've had 3-4 races since my last posting. All were Sprints or Olympics/Internationals but my focus for the entire year was to actually finish a Half Distance. The last 6 weeks or so, I was averaging 120 miles on the bike, 30 miles running and the bare minimum in the pool (after REALLY high yardage over the summer). I had some great races with podium finishes. I was feeling stronger than I ever have in my career. I had one setback with my Oly 4 weeks out with a REALLY windy/hilly bike course that got in my head. It took me a while to get it out of my but I thought I was ready to go again. Then, the Saturday before the race, I got a stomach bug and lost 10lbs. Three days later, I got a cold that I was hoping wouldn't set in my chest and stir up my asthma. It's par for the course that I'm either injured or sick before a race. To top it all off, they were calling for high winds and rain on race day. I told myself it was just gonna be a "complete" instead of a "compete". I was fine with that.
I wake up Saturday morning at ~6am and suddenly feel better. I check the weather and the chances of rain deminished. Things were looking up. I ate my breakfast and headed out to T1. We had dropped off our T2 bags at packet pickup and were required to check our bikes the day before too. I clipped on my Garmin and bento box with gels and headed to the buses that took us to the swim start. It was about 46 degrees and windy. I believe the wind chill was in the high 30s. It was burrrrr ass cold.
Right when I got to the Half start, the Full distance guys were just passing our start. It's crazy to think they started at 7am in the pitch black. That must be kinda scary. The real news was that the leader hit the halfway point at ~16mins. WTF??? The tide was coming in and it looked like folks were riding waves to the finish. It was a crazy fast setup. About everybody was in their wetsuits an hour before the start because it was SOOOO cold. This is where I meet a fellow Trifueler, Cevans. Watch out boys. She's a smoking hot red head from GA. Her parents were there to do a relay. How freaking cool is that? I wish my parents were able to do something like that. So cool. We hit the water and it was surprisingly warm (~69degrees). We had to get in the water at a pier perpendicular to the direction we were swimming and if you went out too far, it was like an endless pool. It would have been impossible to swim again that current. The gun went off for my group and we were flying. The only thing bad (ish) about the swim was that sometimes the current would pull you in the wrong direction. I really could have gone another 2-3mins faster. I was making good friends with the kayakers. I still can't complain with a 26:22.
There was about 300yds of running to T1. They had warm showers coming out of the water. I actually kept my wetsuit on and people were telling me "I should have done that". Probably the best decission I made all day. I was planning to put on bike shorts OVER my trisuit BUT I accidently forgot to bring them on the trip. The expo had NOTHING in my size. It was more like a clearout of stuff nobody else wanted from 2006. I'd come to regret not bringing bike shorts. I only spent about 5mins in transition (including the run).
I suffered on the bike. I really wanted to break 3hrs. Not a lofty goal and similar mph to what I do for all rides above 40 miles. I was really focused on my energy level because I wanted to focus really hard on the run. It was a crazy flat course too. Oh yeah, there was another element to account for though. The wind was ~18-20mph at the start. The first 5 miles were somewhat techincal with about 8 turns in the first 2 miles. I held about 17mph for the first 5. The next 30 miles was just ridiculous. ALL HEADWIND. It sucked so bad. I think that it didn't help that my last race was a bombed windy course too. It crept back up in my head. NOT AGAIN. I couldn't even hold 16mph. I was questioning my training. I was questioning if I wanted to even run. I was figuring how much I could sell my bike for when I got home. I knew I wasn't gonna have a super great performance because of all the weight I lost and the residual sickness. I got over that but I at least wanted to enjoy my ride. I just couldn't do that in these conditions. There were times I couldn't feel parts of my fingers. At mile 20, it started raining. Awesome. This is the same front that dumped snow all over the Northeast. Have I gotten across the fact that it sucked?? Here are some stats. The median male average 17.6mph. To be in the top 25%, you only needed 18.1mph. That's not fast for a race of this size and prestige laddies and gentlemen. It affected me even more because I'm a headcase. I only averaged 16.2mph with a 3:31. That's 1.5mph slower than my average training rides over 40 miles and there was much less elevation gain. The "fun" part of the ride was the last 15miles. I was soft peddaling 20-22mph even up slight hills. In hindsight, it was the turning point of my race. The sun came out and I started feeling good. I was ready to do this run and tell everybody I had finished a Half Distance Triathlon (though I say Half Ironman because I don't give a s*%$ about branding). It was fun to ride into the crowd and see my wife smiling and being positive though she knew it was a slow time. What a great gal.
T2 was uneventful. It was the first time I've had someone take my bike from me. It was an odd feeling. It was like leaving your children to go on a date the first time. I was thinking to myself, "I hope she'll be OK". I had already forgotten that I wanted to sell my bike an hour earlier. I spent 4mins in transition. I had a gel (my third at that point) and was ready to go. I decided I was just gonna see what I could do with this run.
Holy Hercules. I started out and was feeling fine before I even left the crowd at the Battleship. I had no deadleg carryover. I was holding an 8min pace at Mile 3 and in the back of my head, I was worried I was gonna crash and burn. I alternated between Heed and Water. I just stayed positive. There were 2 bridges that were the only elevation change on the course. Other than that, it was as flat as a pancake. At the 6.5 mile "turnaround", I was sub-8 pace. What's going on here? Don't think about it. Just keep going. The crowd in downtown Wilmington was great. I've always liked the road that ran through the market and it was part of the route. It was just a nice happy run. The food and drink stations at every mile REALLY broke up the monotony of the flat course (though my knees weren't complaining). I got to Mile 11 and I started to feel my IT Band barking. I noticed I was now about a 7:50 pace. Holy cow. I'm not stopping even if my knee falls off the hinge. The last mile was a painful one. I could tell I was causing some damage to my knee because the IT band was so messed up. Hell I've got nothing to do until next year. I'm finishing this thing in a trot. I finished in 1:44. Super way to finish a tough race.
I could tell the crowd was there but it wasn't the "ticker tape" type feel I had always envisioned (and I don't blame the crowd because they were cold too). It was instead a big self reflection moment that I didn't anticipate. I usually don't allow myself to dwell on accomplishments and really beat myself up over defeats (as you probably noticed). I couldn't supress this kind of happiness though. I remember glory from my youth and having people congratulate you on being "fast". It wasn't any feeling like that at all. I still don't know how to describe it and maybe someday I will. I think it has something to do with the wild swing in moods over the day. When I crossed the line, I thought back to the bike and was proud I didn't quit. The swim felt like a day ago. I finished in 5:51:31.
I feel like I could go out right now and take 30mins off my time....no problem. Honestly though, I don't care. I can see now that isn't what matters. I've always viewed long distance races through eyes of a short distance racer. It just isn't the same. It's a methodical race of will for us mediocre Age Groupers. I think I like speed better but I'm glad I gave this an attempt. I'm not even sure I'll try one ever again but again, I wouldn't change anything that I've done in preparation up until now. It was a fun adventure.