Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ironman Kansas 70.3 - Breaking Barriers

2014 Ironman Kansas 70.3 (for all the non-triathletes 70.3 is the total distance of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run).  This year was my first time ever making the trek out to country-land Lawrence, Kansas for their annual race.  The only real reason that I decided to race this was that I would be heading down to work the expo on Friday and Saturday.  I knew that I always wanted to race it, but looking at times and competitors for previous years, I knew it was going to take a massive performance to be competitive.  So to say I was intimidated was to say the least.  Looking at the start list, there were multiple Number 1 ranked athletes in the nation toeing the line. 

I left on Thursday after getting in a quick bike ride through Schaumburg.  I was on the road a little later than I had hoped, so knew that I would be getting into Kansas fairly late.  On the drive down, I stopped in Bloomington, IL and Springfield, IL to get in some work store visits.  It was nice to visit those shops as I don't get too as often as I'd like since they are a bit of a drive.  I arrived at my hotel at 1:30am, but was lucky that I didn't have to start the expo until 1pm the next day.  

Friday morning I drove over to a Lifetime Fitness that was 30 minutes from my hotel.  I got in a good hour swim in their AWESOME outdoor lap pool, then hopped on the treadmill for 5 miles easy.  It felt good to get the legs moving after that long 9+ hour drive the day before.  It was then over to the expo to start setting up for PowerBar.  The expo was held outdoors, which is always hit or miss.  It is nice to be outside, but there are days when it is HOT, windy, raining, etc.  It also can get hard on the really hot days and dealing with melting product!  Friday was pretty nice overall, so we were pretty lucky.  The expo went until 7pm and wasn't too busy but stayed steady all day.  Post work, I stopped at HyVee and loaded up on their salad bar for dinner.  At the hotel, I got the bike ready and was in bed early as I had a long day ahead of me!

Expo area set up- hard to miss my yellow tent

Saturday was a day of pouring rain.  I woke up, got in a few miles and was hoping to ride, but it was coming down hard.  I even had to buy an umbrella and poncho at the store as I was heading to the expo.  The expo area was an absolute mess.  The field that we were set up in was water logged and turned into a giant mud-pit.  I was lucky that I had my Saucony gore-tex shoes in the truck to throw on and keep my feet dry!  The rain luckily cleared by 11am but left us with the puddles and mud to deal with.  It was a fairly busy day as there were around 1400 athletes competing.  I saw lots of familiar faces and even had some help from fellow PowerBar Team elite member, Blake Becker.  I could tell near the end of the day that my legs were getting tired.  I just wanted to sit and relax.  Work comes first though and I made sure to interact with the athletes until the end.  After the expo (ended at 5pm), I went out and grabbed a quick dinner of another salad with chicken.  Then went over to Adam Zucco's place to borrow his Normatec boots.  I may have to invest in a pair of those!  We talked race and training which was fun and relaxing.  I knew he was going to be a force to reckon with on race day as he excels in the longer distances.  (sure enough he crushed it in a 4:04!!).  After that it was lights out at 8:30 as I was wiped and needed some sleep.  

Sunday morning, I was up at 4:30.  I packed the bags, loaded the car, and off to the race site.  I had until 6:15 to get everything into transition and be out since the Pros started at 6:30.  Since the race was in a campground, there was only one way in.  So when I pulled up to the 3 mile jaunt from road to campsite where the race was, it was bumper to bumper.  Side note to anyone racing this in the future--get there early!!!  I'm talking about getting there before 5am.  I rolled up to the entrance at 5:20, but didn't get parked until 6.  I had a feeling they wouldn't be starting on time as there were still hundreds of cars piling in behind me.  I prepped all my gear including nutrition which was:  

-3 scoops PowerBar perform in front bottle
-6 PowerGels vanilla mixed with 2 scoops Perform and topped off with water in aero down tube bottle

Into Transition two, I dropped off my run gear which consisted of my Saucony A6 racing flats, T1Pro race belt (that had 3 PowerGels attached), and a PowerBar visor.  Quick trip to the bathroom, then it was a trip down the hill to the other transition to put my bike in.  For this I had my bike, helmet, Kaenon Soft Kore sunglasses, and bike shoes (already attached to clip ins). 

All together, it didn't' take very long and I was out of transition and waiting by the water before the pros even started.  Now it was the waiting game.  With the pros starting at at delayed time of 6:45, I had over an hour until my wave started, which was the 2nd to last wave.  There would be close to 1300 competitors out in front of me!  I hung around coach Bill and a few other athletes pre-race, talked about some strategies, kept drinking my fluids, and peed in the wetsuit about 4 times (too much info? )  As I was waiting, the song Pompeii by Bastille came on.  For anyone that knows, this is the Kona song for Jacqui and me -- Ry and Jac Kona Video.  I smile and get pumped every time I hear this I was hoping it was a sign of good things to come.

Swim venue, it always looks SO long to me.  I have to swim that far??

My wave, the A-Ms of the 30-34 age group was about 75 guys.  There were a total of 145 guys in my age group.  I lined up on the far left and front row.  From the siren, I took off at what felt like a comfortable speed.  To my surprise, not many guys were out in front of me, maybe 5.  Turns out I'm becoming a decent swimmer!  About 5 minutes into the swim, I already started to catch some of the waves that started before me.  Shortly before the turn around, it turned into the weaving in and out game.  I was really zig-zagging my way through the groups of swimmers, but overall didn't have many issues.  While swimming, I never know what to think, but this time I started to wonder how my run was going to go today.  I thought about the song Pompeii that came on while waiting to start and about how excited it made me feel.  But then I thought about how I had a poor run in Kona, so started to wonder if it was a sign that I was going to run poorly again?  Its strange the things you think about while in action!  Overall in the swim, I never felt like I was over-exerting myself and popped out of the water with a new 1.2 mile swim best (in a race) at 29:26.  

Swim stats
Time- 29:26
Rank- 10/154 in 30-34 age group
Rank-  80/1400 total athletes

With a quick transition, I picked up a few spots and out onto the road I went.  There is a little climbing as you come out of the water and make your way out to the country roads, but nothing too crazy.  Coming into this race, I feared one thing:  the run.  One would think that this would be my favorite part as that is what I am strongest at.  The only problem is that I've never had a good run in a 70.3 distance race.  This was going to be my 15th time attempting the distance--and every time I would finish off with a terrible run (for me) and struggle all the way in.  So I had some options---I spoke with a few coaching friends looking around for advice.  Many of them recommended I really dial the bike back and see if that would make a difference.  With putting in some great bike splits, they all figured if I dialed back, I'd still ride well and maybe the legs would be fresh coming off.  I debated this for a long time and actually wasn't sure what I would plan to do until I started riding.  Up and out onto the rolling hills, I took a look at my power and was surprised to see good and high numbers without me working hard.  I decided to go for it, ride hard (but not over the top), and see what would happen.  I felt like my training was great, and every time I rode long, I felt fine at the 56 mile marker.  

I was flying past what felt like hundreds of other athletes, staying smooth and relaxed.  I was taking in nutrition and was getting excited for the rest of the race.  I was noticing that my speeds weren't as high as I thought they would be for the amount of power I was putting out.  Even with tail wind, I wasn't going super fast on the flats.  Yes, fast…but not like normal.  

Testing something new- wore my Castelli T1 Stealth top under my wetsuit.  Worked great with no issues!

It wasn't until the second half of the race that I really started to notice that something wasn't right.  Guys that I had previously passed early in the race had now started to go by me like I was standing still.  Yet, I was putting out more power.  I was struggling to hold 22mph on the flats and kept telling myself that it was a false flat or that I was going into the wind.  It was really bothering me though that I was getting passed like I was standing still.  And not to sound arrogant, but I am usually one of the faster riders out on the course when pushing good watts.  I kept looking at the bike computer, seeing higher than normal watts, but slow speeds.  Something wasn't right. I even released the brake levers on my hydraulic brakes to try and open them up just in case they were rubbing.

Climbing!  The course wasn't too hard--had its ups and downs, but had a total of around 2,300 ft climbing

I became disappointed that my bike split was going to be so slow.  I was calculating that even if I ran a new personal best off the bike by 5 minutes, I wasn't even going to beat my overall best time for a 70.3.  I still tried to stay positive and eventually got to the finish of the ride in a new slowest time of 2:23---with the highest watt average I've ever had for the distance.  

Bike Stats
Time- 2:23:11  23.47mph avg
Rank- 4/154 in age group
Rank- 36/1400 athletes

For the Power Nerds
Average- 242 watts
Normalized- 252 watts
Watts/KG- 3.96 

When pushing my bike into transition, I noticed how hard it was to actually push it.  DING--wheels are rubbing--and rubbing badly.  So I was riding that whole time with extra resistance, not good.  

I still had a quick transition and was a bit excited to see how my legs would respond.  Before the race, my best 1/2 marathon time at the end of a 70.3 race was 1:25.  FAR, FAR off my personal best of a 1:08 in an open 1/2 marathon.  From the gate, I felt a little stiff, my feet ached, but I could tell it wasn't the usual tired-let me be done feeling.  I focused on quick feet and started to fly through the athletes that started ahead of me.  Mile 1, I was thrilled to see a 5:35, but tried to not and get too excited as I still had 12 miles to go.  With a slight downhill on mile two, I hit 5:25.  But we turned around at the bottom and came right back up it.  Mile 3 was still a 5:41.  

I started to think that this actually might happen- a good run!  I took in something new that I've never taken before in a race.  A PowerBar Hydro Gel.  I've used them in training and have been loving them, so it was time to test them in race.

These are available only in Europe.  I had ordered a box of them as I thought it was a neat concept.  Caffeine, carbs, and 300mg of sodium.  It is a concentrated fruit juice..and I love cherries.  So I downed the Cherry flavored Hydro and it tasted wonderful!  I might be ordering a few more of these!

My miles kept ticking off around 5:40 range.  I knew if I held pace I was going to be around a 1:15.  At mile 8 my feet started to really hurt.  Blisters were forming and the pain was kicking in.  I think it was the splashing water that got into my shoes and caused a bunch of friction.  I pushed the pain aside and told myself that there wasn't much left to run.  Mile 9 to 10, we faced the big uphill again.  This time it really zapped me and caused me to hit my first over 6 min mile.  I never really got back into my groove after that hill, but still sat right around 6 min miles to finish it off.  Side note- I took a vanilla gel at mile 6 as well as mile 9.  The rest of the time I took in Perform, water, and coke depending on what I was able to grab at each aide station.

Weird torn up feet

I started to fade a little, but held on strong.  I glanced at my watch as I was coming to the finish and saw I was going to be sub 1:15 on the run!  A HUGE BREAKTHROUGH!!!  Across the line, with an official run split of 1:14:38.  That would be 12 minutes faster than I've ever run!!!  Not to mention, fastest amateur run split and faster than all but 3 Pros.

Run Stats
Time- 1:14:38  Pace 5:41/mile
Rank- 1st/145 in age group
Rank- 15/1400 overall with pros

Overall Time
4:10:04  A near 8 minute best!

Men's 30-34 Podium

Post-race, I was thrilled and happy to finally put a run together.  The bike issue still was in the back of my mind.  I snuck into transition right away to take a look .  Sure enough--both front and back wheels would spin when I gave them a good push, but would then stick and stop.  When testing this, a competitor that was finishing his bike saw this and said, "that's not good."  No, not good.

Front wheel-

Rear Wheel-  *favorite part of this video--if you listen you can hear a guy say, "oo, that's not great."  He had just finished his bike and was putting his run shoes still racing.  I had finished and was grabbing my bike out of transition

After doing some digging around comparing bike splits and watts, it looked like I lost a lot of time on the bike.  Best Bike Splits, a website that calculates your predicted time based on watts/course condition/weight/bike set up/etc.., had me pegged at a 2:13 bike split (10 minutes faster that what I rode) with the watts that I held.  

I took the bike in immediately the next day.  The mechanic took apart the brakes and saw that the bearings were completely corroded causing them to not release when pressure was applied.

The bike mishap really bugged me for a while, but I've pushed it aside and am thrilled with the race that I put together.  It also gives me HUGE confidence going forward that I can really excel at the 70.3 distance and should have a great shot at going under 4 hours on a faster course and a working bike :)

And the streak continues- another 1st place next to my name!  That makes it 5 straight races taking the top spot!

After the race, I showered up, hit the road and was back home again at 1:30am.  Luckily, I was able to throw myself a little celebration on the drive home!  Mmmmm DQ!

Don't worry, I'm not driving, was parked here :)

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