I woke up Saturday at 6am, grabbed some breakfast, my bike, a large set of clothes, and headed down to Quassy Amusement Park to volunteer for the Rev3 Quassy Olympic race. As much as I love to race, I can't help but be grateful for every volunteer I see (and those I don't) while I'm out there. So it's about time I returned the favor! I volunteered as a run course marshall. The weather forecast did not look good and it turned out to be even worse; constant haze of rain with times of more of a downpour. I heard about a lot of crashes, but only saw a few with bad road rash. It was great to see a number of the Newington Bike (my LBS) and H.E.A.T. (my tri club) jerseys out there despite the fact that they probably didn't know who this crazy person is yelling at them. haha Oh-well.
I left my post about 11:20 and headed back to the expo. There wasn't much to look at so I opted to dry off / warm up in my car; bike check-in wasn't until 2pm. I took the time to drive the run course and get an idea of how to attack it on Sunday. Let's just say I wasn't "thrilled" about the courses elevation. =P
When I got back to transition, the sun came out and there wasn't a drop of rain to be seen the rest of the day. I'm sure the Oly athletes weren't too happy, but all the Half Rev athletes coming in sure were! And wouldn't you know, I finally got a prime spot in transition!!
You can't get much closer to the bike exit than that!! On another note, I love the racks that Rev3 uses. The bar racks are so difficult, but the box racks make things quicker and more organized. Props to Rev3 for the "revolution" in bike racking!
I got the bike racked, let out some tire pressure, put garbage bags over the handle bars and seat, and headed over to the expo for the pro panel.
After some introductions and questions from the MC, they turned the panel over to the audience questions. One of them was "What data do you use / rely on?" Wouldn't you know, Mirinda Carfrae uses cadence and Jesse Thomas uses power. Other than that, they don't use anything. Even James Cunnama, last year's winner, says he rides without a computer and runs without a watch. WHAT?! Most of the other athletes said they use a watch for time, but otherwise go by perceived exertion.
Another question from the MC was to Jesse Thomas who owns Picky Bars about his race day nutrition - how does he approach it. Jesse's three points where that he doesn't change his nutrition plan based on terrain, heat, or anything, that the more pb&j he eats, the better he seems to race, and lastly, the nutrition goal should be to drink as much as you can and try not to throw up. So there you go.
Get rid of your fancy, expensive data computers
& eat a lot of pb&j.
Advice from the top pros!
Before they headed off, I was able to snap a couple pics with my future racing buddies including both of the upcoming winners.
|The always amazing Mirinda Carfrae|
|Matty Reed, me, and the 2012 soon-to-be Rev3 Quassy winner Richie Cunningham|
After that, I headed home to pack, rest, and relax.
The alarm went off at 3:45am. I ate (bowl of oatmeal, three eggs, a banana with peanut butter, and OJ), got packed, and was on my way by just after 4:30am. My plan was to get to transition at opening (5am), take an hour to set things up, rest for a bit, and then make the final adjustments. Didn't take long to figure out that wasn't going to work. Before I knew it, it was 6:30 and I had to get my wetsuit on. Searching through all my bags, I couldn't find my goggles. Thankfully, there were a couple fellow HEAT members nearby that had extras. Thank God!
I walked down to the beach and found a couple more HEAT members - both spectators AND racers. It was great to have friends on course! The male pros went off at 6:50am with the MC yelling "GO!" instead of the Ironman cannon. The female pros headed off at 7:00. Just before 7:10, I toed the water line. "No use in competing if you don't think you can win." With that in mind, I stood right in front. I may not have been the first to cross the finish line, but I certainly can hold my own in a mass start. The MC gave us a three minute, one minute, and fifteen second warning. I could feel my heart pumping in my chest and I spent the last fifteen seconds breathing deep just trying to keep myself calm.
Going into the race, I had some goals. Here they are...
Swim - 31:00
T1 - 3:30
Bike - 2:39
T2 - 1:30
Run - 1:45
Finish - 5:00
With the word "Go!" we were running out into the water. I think I made it about ten steps and dove in. I popped up again and dolphined once before starting to swim. I might have 98% of the race waiting for me when I get out of the water, but my strength is in it, so I went hard to the first buoy. I pulled it back a bit until the turn buoy where I got my breathing back and felt stronger. It was hard to see the buoy markers now that I was headed into the sun, so I sighted the mass of flailing arms until the last turn buoy. I picked up the pace and went hard to the first buoy back. I felt great, so I kept the pace up. My timer - set for 15 minutes - went off again just before I passed the last buoy. If I was going to hit 31:00, I had to pick it up! The swim exit was hard to sight. All I could do was sight the mass of splashing. I kept running transition through my head - wetsuit, shoes, glasses, helmet, bike. As I saw volunteers with red flags (that dark red color is hard to see!), I felt the sand at my finger tips. I popped up, fell over once, popped back up, and ran through the arches.
Swim - 0:32:45
12 / 55 (M25-29)
As I crossed the arches, I was looking around for a timing mat. Where is the end of the swim?! I didn't see anything and kept running full tilt up the hill to transition taking the top of my suit off. Finally, once I was on the pavement with the bikes, I hit the watch and looked down. I had 33:11. I ran through the bikes, down the wrong aisle, cut across, and got to my bike. The wetsuit came off, the shoes went on, I grabbed my sunglasses, clipped the helmet on, pulled the bike out, and ran to the bike exit (which you can tell above wasn't very far). The mount line was about 50 feet from the exit so I ran up, did a flying mount, and pedaled hard. I hit the watch and looked down again; 1:33. My goal was 3:30. Obviously I've gotten better at T1. I'll take it.
T1 - 0:01:44
Heading out of Quassy, we took a right and went 1.6 miles downhill getting plenty of time to slip on their bike shoes, adjust their suits, etc. I switched my bike computer to display average & current speed. I didn't want time or mileage to tick away at me.
After two HIMs where I hit the wall on the run, my biggest goal for the bike was to keep up my nutrition. Less than a mile into the bike, I grabbed my Gatorade. Unfortunately, as I reached down to put the bottle back, it slipped and fell to the pavement. "F*#!" I didn't stop, though in hindsight it might have been smarter. I kept going and decided to rely on GUs until the mile 15 aid station.
The first 10 miles or so are net downhill and I averaged roughly 24.3 mph. I knew I had the hills at mile 24 and beyond to deal with so I wanted to crank out some good speed early. I hit the aid station at mile 15 and after a round of hills, I was at 19.7 mph average. I refilled my water and grabbed a gatorade. Thank God! Time to make up for losing the first one. I took a swig and C-A-R-E-F-U-L-L-Y placed it in the cage. A mile down the road, I took another swig, went to put it away, and SLIP! Another bottle bouncing on the pavement. "F*#!" As happy as I was to have Gatorade on course, I wasn't getting much use out of them.
I hit mile 23 with 20.7 mph average. Given the lack of Gatorade, I was on my third gel at this point going into the hills. I don't recall exactly where it started - it may have been on these hills - but my quads started cramping and didn't let up for the rest of the bike. But at the mile 30 aid station, that was the last thing I was thinking about.
One of my pet peeves is when an aid station is run wrong. I appreciate all the help the volunteers give, but I must assume that most are non-athletes themselves and miss a few small details. As I approached the second aid station, I grabbed a water and was coming up to a Gatorade. The cyclist in front of me was off to my left and apparently needed a water. One volunteer stepped away from the tables, out in front of me, and up to the cyclist as he went by. The rest of this happened in slow motion. As she walks in front of me, I know there's no room to the left, so I steer right. She sees me coming and moves to go back to the table. I steer even closer to the tables thinking "for the love of God stop moving" and she doesn't. You can guess what happened next. Less than a foot from the table, I run directly into the volunteer and we both go down. For once I can say my helmet came in use!
First I get hit by a car in RI
Now I hit a volunteer in CT
Back to normal speed. I pulled my feet out of the cages, picked the bike back up, asked if she was ok (she said she was and told me to go), and took a quick look at the bike. I hopped on and pedaled but something was wrong. I got off and saw that the chain had derailed. I pedaled another couple strokes and it felt like my brakes were on. I got back off. "Don't tell me I have to DNF because of this!" The brakes were fine. I had fallen to the left, so the gears should be fine. A couple volunteers ran up asking if they could help. I told them to get me the Gatorade I now realized I missed. She came back quickly and put it right into my cage. I lifted the back wheel and turned the pedals. The gears shifted perfectly fine, so I hopped on and took off. For the next 10 miles or so, the gear shift was super stiff. It eventually loosened up, but I have to take it in to get it checked out. I was simply thankful I didn't have to stop for mechanical.
By the top of the hills (mile 31), I had dropped to 19.5 mph. My goal was to be at 19, so I was ahead. Time to bring it back up. I rocked a couple downhills, hit some rolling hills, and then hit the out & back section. From there to the finish I thought was rolling hills; something I could easily maintain my speed on. I was wrong. The last 6 miles were backtracking on the roads we started out on; you know, the ones I was averaging 24+ mph on in the opposite direction. That killed both my legs and ate away at my mental game. I had even forgotten to get the Gatorade in my system I was so focused. Ugh! As I came up to transition, I looked at the computer and had averaged 19.4 mph. At least I still maintained my bike PR from Providence. I hopped off the bike and ran it into transition - again it was awesome to be so close to that archway!
BIKE - 2:57:27
After getting my bike in the rack, I sat right down. There's no use in wasting energy trying to do things standing! I slipped the bike shoes off (aka, my old running shoes I wore without socks) and put the running shoes on. My helmet came off and I grabbed my hat. Up and on my way! Oops, I forgot the racing belt. I ran back three feet, grabbed that and was on my way.
I thought that we'd be running back out the same archway. Again, I was wrong. We ran to the opposite corner - same side we entered from after the swim - and ran around transition back out of the park. I grabbed a water at the transition aid station, sprayed myself, and was on my way.
T2 - 1:16
As I headed out of Quassy and down Rt.64, my goal was to let my running legs get under me before I pushed the pace at all. I did just that. I found a steady rhythm and tried to let my body adjust. Half a mile later, my quads began cramping again. Another half a mile down the road, my left hamstring started cramping. "Great! Now I'm going to have to walk this thing." I gritted my teeth, kept the steady stride going and ran on. I made it through the first aid station, drank an entire cup of Gatorade and another of water. Since my bike nutrition sucked, I had to try and maintain anything I had left. We turned onto Tuttle Rd. and up a small incline. About half a mile later, the cramps went away. Lesson learned. Cramps don't matter - just keep running. haha
I had not hit my watch at the right time in T2, so my first mile time was off, but I know the 2nd mile was just under 7:30. Mile 3 was just over 7:30 and I was feeling better with every step. We made our way through the rolling hills and hit the big hills at mile 4. 'Maintain' and 'Do Not Break' were the names of the games I played. Mile 4 went by in 8:17. Thankfully there were only a few straight aways on this course, so I could run to the corner quite often. Mile 5 in 8:30 as I crested the top of the hill and started the first out & back. The out & back was good sized rollers. I tried to lengthen my stride and pick the speed up, but it didn't work too well. I also decided to break the cardinal rule of triathlon...
Do not try anything new on race day.
I took a salt pill at the end of the out & back. No worries - no ill effects, but also no noticeable benefits either. Mile 6 went by in 8:06. Mile 7 was 7:56. Mile 8 put us at the highest elevation of the course and clocked a slow 8:45. As much as I did not want to break, I did here. I walked for about 15 steps. You might not call that bad, but to me that was the first big breakdown of the day. From there it was downhill - mile 9 in 7:52, mile 10 in 7:48. We hit the end of the 2nd out & back and I started wearing down. But I had some help.
I knew the last 1.5 miles were uphill and I tried my best to maintain my speed. I'd kept calculating in my head when I'd finish. At mile 3, I needed 7:00 pace to hit my 5 hour mark. At 7 miles I was shooting more for a 5:10 finish. At mile 10, I was shooting for a lofty 5:15. Within the last mile, my brain was not cooperating. Every time I thought "Do Not Break," my body said "ok, let's take a break." Thankfully there was a biker that got me running again. The next time, it was a runner behind me. The third, it was a spectator. Every time I stopped to walk there was someone helping me overcome the exhaustion.
As I rounded the last hill at 13 miles (Rev3 makes this course difficult right to the last mile!), I saw the cones entering the finisher's chute and just kept going. I didn't have a last push, but the finish line put a new boost of energy in me. I turned into the chute, zipped up my shirt, and ran to the finish line.
|Thanks to friends from Newington Bike for getting some race photos!|
RUN - 1:48:31
FINISH - 5:21:44
After finishing, I chugged a bottle of cold water to stop my wheezing (where that came from, I have no idea). I grabbed a muscle milk to help the recovery, and hung out with some friends from the LBS and tri club. We watched a number of other tri club members come through the finisher's chute which was awesome. I got some food despite having the typical post-race upset stomach setting in. Once I headed over to transition to pick my stuff up, I was moving at less than a snail's pace. My legs felt great - the only issue was my left hip, but my stomach simply wasn't having it. Even a volunteer in transition came over to ask if I needed any help. How awesome are volunteers?! Love you guys!
Eventually, I got everything back in the car and headed out. On the way home, I stopped to get a pizza (high calorie meal) and ice cream (the only thing I figured my stomach could handle at the time). And yes, I ate both of them. They were a delicious 3300+ calorie meal. haha
Lastly, I've set a new rule for race day. I am no longer allowed to drive without a passenger post-race. Ideally, I should not be allowed to drive at all because I'm just as "impaired" as most friends I know who drink and drive (ok, not really but you get the idea). Why do you ask? I was within a mile from home and stopped at a red light. I closed my eyes for a second and the next thing I knew, the light was green and cars were blowing past me. I had fallen asleep at a red light!
Thankfully, the only lasting pains from race day have been my left hip - most likely bruising from the bike vs. volunteer crash - and my calves have been a bit tight but much better than my previous two HIMs. Now it's just time for recovery until my next sprint on the 14th and my first Olympic in two years on the 24th!
Questions1. Do you volunteer at races?
2. Do you have a pre-race habit?
Do you listen to certain music, go through a checklist, or do you just wing it every time?
3. What's your favorite post-race snack / meal?
Swim fast. Bike smart. Run hard.