Race morning started at 3:00 am, but to be honest the previous night had been filled with three or four naps, so I was wide awake and ready to go. Everything was packed and ready to go the night before so I was able to take my time getting loose and start my fueling for the day. My morning routine is pretty simple, start drinking a bottle with the same nutrition I will have on my bike, take a warm shower to wake/loosen up and go through a rolling out/stretching routine, mainly focusing on my lower back and hamstrings. On this morning I was calm, all things considered. I managed to stick to my plan, keep my cool and made it to T2 for the first shuttle over to our swim in Lake Alta. I spent the 20 minutes before I got in the water, staying fueled, getting on my wetsuit and doing my best to relax with Nyssa and her parents pre race. I knew everything was prepared equipment wise and all the work was done fitness wise so I was able to relax and and enjoy the morning pre race. The swim was a self seeded mass start, so I took the opportunity to start at the front and set my own pace throughout the effort. Water temp was 70 degrees for the two loop, 2.4 mile swim and Alta Lake had some of the nicest swimming conditions I have raced in to date. The swim start was very shallow so when the gun went off I made sure I kept running for longer than I would have normally planned to make sure I got to deep water. Right as I dove in my left goggle filled up, so when the opportunity presented itself about a minute into the swim I did a stroke of backstroke to clear my lens. Other than the water in my eye, I felt relaxed right from the start and for the first time this season was able to relax my breathing enough to settle into a normal breathing pattern. A few other swimmers stayed with me for about the first 500 yards but by the time we made it to the first turn I was able to take the lead and started focusing on efficient sighting and keeping my arm speed as high as possible. Almost everything about the swim was enjoyable, other that the competitor who sat on my feet the rest of the swim and pressed down on my feet seemingly every few seconds. I realize drafting off people is a big part of open water swimming but I am also aware of much less annoying ways to do so. I did my best to ignore this annoyance but at times he was pressing on my feet so hard it impacted my stroke and body position. I debated trying to drop him,(or kick him) but I had the long game on my mind so I did my best to ignore him and focused on myself. As soon as I came around the turn to start my second loop the stream of people on their first lap was immediately an issue. Luckily, most people were swimming quite wide of the buoys so I focused on staying right along the sighting buoys and weaving around people when I needed to. One of the best parts about the swim was the lack of sun in my eyes. Since we were surrounded by mountains on both sides it was bright without any direct sunlight. In general the swim felt great, I was able to keep a consistent pace without much trouble, my body felt great, I was focused and my breathing had remained relaxed throughout. Having completed the second lap I headed back to shore, making sure to kick a little so I had some blood in my legs. I finished with the second best overall swim behind one of the pros in a time of 51:14.
My first mistake of the day came in T1 when I told the volunteer 135 instead of 134 which led to a nice surprise as I opened my bag. Luckily this was a small mistake and I wasted less than a minute running back and swapping the bags. Despite running what I thought was far enough on the start of the swim I must have still hit the bottom because I ended up with little cuts on the tops of the my toes. The rest of transition was uneventful, I put on my helmet, socks and shoes, found my bike and I was off.
Much like the swim the first loop of the bike was nice and quiet. It seems amazing, based on how hot it got later in the day, but it was still in the 60’s during the beginning of the bike, so the power and control came easily right from the start. The course was three loops of rolling terrain with two substantial climbs per loop. I focused heavily on keeping my power consistent, not spiking on the steep parts and not backing off over the top of hills when the gradient backs off. Almost immediately the power was coming easily and I had no problem keeping my normalized power at 250 which was where I wanted to cap it for at least the first half of the race. Within the first 20 minutes I was passed by two other age-groupers, these two ended up 1-2 in the amateur field. I was committed to my own plan and they passed me going fast enough that I knew matching them would be a bad idea for the run. I was not passed again for the rest of the ride, by either 70.3 or Ironman competitors and was able to focus solely on my own effort for almost the entire bike split. I stuck to my plan of grabbing one water bottle to refill my front bottle and was able to do so at 8 of the 9 aid stations. With this strategy for water as well as taking two salt pills per 30 minutes I felt hydrated for the entire ride and it was really nice to have plain water to drink throughout the bike. I also thought my nutrition plan of having four fairly concentrated bottled of carbopro and scratch worked out quite well. I had no problem getting them down, I didn’t drop any of them and I was able to make each one last for a little over an hour which is what I needed to do. In addition to the water I was adding and the bottles I already had, I took six gels, four Maple Untapped and two Roctane gels. The one hiccup on the eating and drinking front was when the little plastic piece that allows you to refill but not spill water on my front bottle decided it had had enough. At about the 4th aid station the two pieces of this cover fell into the bottle, I tried for about 20 seconds to fix the problem but decided it was not worth it so I rode the second half with no cover on the top of my bottle. Turns out it is far easier to fill up, but of course I also got a nice shower every time I hit a bump, which I did not mind but my gears probably could have done without. Overall, I was very happy with my fueling and nutrition on the bike. I felt satisfied, fueled and hydrated throughout. Power wise on the bike I was able to do exactly what I wanted to do and felt controlled throughout the entire effort. I completed the 112 mile ride in 5:07.41 which was good for the 2nd fastest ride in my age-group and the 13th fastest overall including the pros. My normalized power was 251 which is exactly what I wanted to do and my average HR was 151 which again, is right where I wanted it to be. Despite an elevation gain of 7500 feet I was able to keep my variable index at 1.06 which is perhaps what I am most pleased about from the day. I spend a lot of time focusing on being consistent over uneven terrain and it was very enjoyable to put that to use on a challenging course. I averaged just under 22 miles per hour and hit a top speed of 53.1 which is all that really matters. During the ride the temperature ranged from 52 at the start to 93 by the time I got off the bike. I think one of the reasons I was able to be successful is that I focused on controlling my effort and fueling when I wasn’t hot and I wasn't hungry on the first lap so I wasn’t behind or panicking for nutrition once it was hot at the end. One of the added challenges of this race was the traffic on the second and third loops of the bike. The speed differential between the other bikes and myself was often high so I definitely had to devote a lot of mental energy towards staying aware, letting people know I was coming and always staying a bit up the road with my eyes to make sure I planned my passes effectively. As a whole, I really enjoyed this bike ride, everything went to plan and I started the run full of energy and confidence knowing that my hard work in training had worked.
T2 was one of the hottest parts of the day. Despite an awkward and perhaps unplanned jog in my cycling shoes, I was feeling great heading into the transition tent to change my footwear. Luckily, I was able to get this done quickly because that was one of the hottest places I have ever been, the dead air, sweaty triathletes and afternoon sun were a miserable combinations and I was very happy to head out of that tent onto the marathon. When I left for the run I was carrying 10 salt pills in two little plastic cases, three roctane gels and a small thing of base salt.
The run consisted of a two loop course around two lakes with about 1000 feet of elevation and a mix of pavement and a few packed gravel sections. On my watch I was looking at a heart rate only field and got lap splits at the miles. My running felt strong and controlled right from the start. I tried very hard to remind myself this is a long run and if I felt good, great, keep controlling. I was able to keep my heart rate in the 150 range for the first ten miles without too much trouble. I focus on my form and extracting the maximum pace out of a given effort. My stomach accepted everything I ate or drank at the aid stations. I grabbed water and ice at every aid station and alternated taking two salt pills or one gel as I approached each aid area. Ice in the hands was one of the biggest factors in bridging the gap between aid stations. If I grabbed enough I was able to make it from one aid station to the next with ice still in my hands. Even if the ice isn’t doing that much to actually cool me down, the feeling of cold on my hands and the chance to occasionally eat a piece of ice made all the difference when it came to feeling cool. Another huge help on the run course was seeing friendly races at various points around the course. Cary, Nyssa's Dad, was biking around the run course giving me updates and splits which as I have mentioned before, can do a lot to calm you down or motivate you for an extra push when needed. Mistake number 2 of the race came in the mile 17-21 range. At the halfway point I started to let my heart rate rise towards 160 and while this felt great for the first 30 minutes of doing so when I reached the hottest part of the course for the second time I had a very bad 20 minutes. I had felt great for the entire race until this point, but I knew I was still about an hour from home so this problem was not something I could fake my way through to get to the end. My first goal was to get my heart rate under control, I had suddenly gone from comfortably running mid 7:00 pace at 150 to struggling in the high 8’s with a heart rate well over 160. I slowed my pace way down and focused on breathing and trying to just accept what was going on instead of panicking. I knew I was close to the lead of the age-group at this point so I wanted to avoid having to stop at all costs. I knew that managing my bad moment and being able to keep moving would always be better than ignoring the problem until I blew up. When I got to the next aid station I slowed way down, I took everything, water, ice, redbull, gel, salt pill and more water and ice at the end. I told myself that was the only break and I just started jogging at a very controlled pace again. It took about another 15 minutes but finally with about 5 miles to go I was able to start bringing my heart rate and pace back to their desired ranges. At mile 24 I passed the current leader of the age group as we went through an aid station, who I had not seen in five hours, when he passed me early on in the bike. I did not actually realize I had passed him until he re-passed me at a decent clip shortly thereafter. At this point we had a little over three miles left and were within five seconds of each other. I did my best to match his pace but he had another gear at that point and I was really just happy to be running at a decent pace again after the struggles of 30 minutes prior. The last two miles were a deep effort. I was able to see Cary, on his bike, as well as Nyssa and Kathy, Nyssa's Mom, within the last mile which helped keep the legs moving for a few more minutes when I really wanted to stop. Everything was ready to be done but I also knew I had had a great day so it was easy to keep going. There was also a family with super soakers at mile 25 so I was all good after I went through there for the last time. Final split for the run was 3:23.40 for the marathon with an average heart rate of 155 and an average pace of 7:48. I had three bad miles but I was very happy with how I managed the situation and recovered to finish strong and at least challenge for the age-group victory. Running has always been a struggle and has always lagged way behind my other two splits. Obviously there is still a long way to go to the top but this was a very satisfying run and a big step forward in what I think I can do in the coming years.
Overall finish time was 9:29.36, 2nd in age-group, 3rd amateur and 13th overall. This result qualified me for the World Championships in Hawaii later this year in October and goes a long way towards achieving many of my long term goals. I enjoyed every part of this race, even this last ten miles of the run, I knew what to expect and I knew I could react if there was a problem. After a couple more weeks of rest and then a brief drop down to Olympic distance racing it is back to Ironman training for a two month pre Kona block. Can’t wait.