2018 Auburn Half Ironman - June 3rd
Swim - 22:05
Bike - 2:31.39
Run - 1:37.45
Overall - 1st - 4:33.01
Race morning was clear and warm, I arrived at transition with plenty of time to set up and then have some time off my feet to focus before the race and relax with Nyssa. Despite still dealing with persistent race day nerves I was much more settled than two weeks ago at Ventura. Having a race under my belt has really helped me trust my fitness. My main objective for the day was to be controlled with my pacing and manage the heat. One year ago I had one of my worst races in Syracuse so I was eager to apply those lessons learned to another hot day.
The Auburn Half featured separate T1-T2 locations which was a first for me. The swim took place in Folsom Lake which at this time of year was very swollen. Water temp was almost perfect and I was able to get a proper warm up in for about 10 minutes before the race. My main focus during these warm up swims is to settle my nerves, get some blood flowing with a few uptempo efforts and then swim back nice and easy to calm down before the start. After a brief delay we were off and right from the start I had company on the swim. Being a deep water start I was able to manage my pace right from the beginning and settled into a rhythm quickly. At the previous race I felt my technique was sloppy as I fought to catch my breath and deal with the cold water. With that in mind I spent most of the first few minutes trying to lengthen my stroke and relax as much as possible. At the halfway point I had taken the lead and had two others sitting on my feet. On the way back to transition vision was the main problem. Not only were we looking directly into the sun but the course was essentially an out and back which meant opposing traffic often very close. The swim must have been a bit short because although I felt very good there is no way I saw a 22:05 for a Half Ironman Swim. I came into transition with the same two competitors on my feet and with a swift transition was able to leave T1 alone.
The Bike was a point to point course that was lumpy in the beginning, flat in the middle and then had most of the climbing back into town over the last 15 miles. With this and the heat in mind I planned to be conservative on the first half of the bike and if I was in a good position push a little harder coming home. For nutrition, I had three bottles with 200 calories of Carbo Pro and some Scratch for flavor in each, three Untapped Gels and 8 salt pills. My plan was to drink consistently every 5 minutes, take a gel every 45 and 1 salt pill per 30 minutes. I did my best to stay disciplined with power over the first few climbs away from the lake but in the end was limited more by tightness in my lower back than energy levels or muscle pain. This lower back pain has been a feature post open water swimming for a few races now so that will be something to sort out over the next few weeks. One of the two who swam with me was able to stick with me during the first portion of the bike and as in Ventura it was good to allow myself sit behind a competitor for a portion of the race as opposed to feeling like I always need to attack. I used this first half of the bike to focus on my nutrition as well as loosening up my back. Through the halfway point I had normalized 260 watts and was starting to feel much better so I decided to push the pace. Fortunately, I was quickly able to open a lead and over the 2nd half of the race increased my power to 278. With about 20 miles left I lost one of rear bottles which was more or less full. To compensate for this I grabbed a plastic water bottle at the next aid station, took my two extra salt pills and decided to eat the GU chews I had brought but was not necessarily going to eat. Obviously it would have been nice to start with a little more power but today was a good exercise in patience which I usually lack while racing. In the end I was very pleased with my bike, I was able to split a 2:31 on a hilly point to point, with net gain, in the heat, a lot of progress compared to the areas I struggled with last year.
Heading out on the run I knew pace management would be the name of the game. The course was two loops of hilly terrain. The course was essentially always up or down but there were three main climbs per loop. I focused on controlling my heart rate, keeping my cadence up and intaking as much nutrition as possible during the first lap. Another huge factor to making it successfully through the run was having a lot of family and friends spread throughout the course. Seeing friendly supportive faces even just for 15 seconds makes a huge difference, especially when they tell you your lead and you can relax just a bit! Despite control on the bike and a gentle first lap the second lap was indeed very hard. I really tried to control my effort on the hills to ensure I was actually running the entire time. Ice down the pants and sponges in the hands can really make all the difference sometimes. All showers from spectators were welcomed and I did not hesitate to cross the road in search of even just a small shady patch. I ran a 1:37 to finish off the half which all factors considered I am very happy with, good signs of progress. Final time was 4:33:01 with a 15 minute gap to 2nd place. For the first time ever I had the fastest splits across the board, including the transitions. This is obviously very satisfying on the run but having made a lot of sloppy mistakes last season being fast in the transitions is perhaps even more rewarding.
In the end it was a very good day, having struggled to perform in the heat for a long time this was a very gratifying race and it was great to have a lot of family there to support the effort but hopefully also enjoy the day as well. Big Bear Olympic in three weeks, back to work.