Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Racing for Recovery Half Iron - Part 1

The “A” race. The one race that a person trains towards for months, focuses on for weeks, peaks for in days and races for hours in order to shave off minutes at the finish. The Racing for Recovery Half Iron Distance Triathlon was my “A” race for the 2007 spring/summer season. With Ironman USA as my 2006 focus I did races with hills, including the Mountaineer Half Iron. Even my first Half Iron in 2004 was on a hilly course, both bike and run. I felt it was time to race on a flatter course and push myself to some painful limits. Both of my prior Half’s involved finishes around 5 hours 12 minutes. I wanted to go under 5 hours.

Aimee and I drove up to Monroe, Michigan Saturday afternoon. We went directly to the race site for packet pickup and to scope out the venue. I had registered early for the race so I received a special jersey instead of a t-shirt. We walked along the beach to figure out the swim course in Lake Erie. The temperature in the water would be warm enough for my sleeveless wetsuit. I liked how the swim was put together because you don’t have to get out for a second loop, I prefer to stay in the water the entire time. From the beach we walked the chute to the transition area and scoped out where the bikes would be racked. Getting a good view of the entire venue was important so that you can just flow through on race day.

Coach Angela had several of her athletes racing, including her husband Scott. The AFT racing crew included Kyle, Doug and Trephina (1st Half before first Ironmans), Jennifer and Chris (2nd Half in prep for their first Ironman at Lake Placid), Bob and Scott (training for Ironman’s later in the year), Debbie (in training for an Ironman Double) and myself (doing the half as my A race). We were able to see everyone at the race site or hotel, chat some and wish each other luck. Most of us headed out to dinner together. Joining us for dinner was our good friend Tina. Tina inspired me to raise funds last year for Susan G. Komen. Tina would help Angela watch over her two year old son for the day as well as cheer for everyone.

For dinner I had a good Louisiana Cajun Style pasta with chicken. I can handle spicy food well and this meal wasn’t that spicy. When we returned to the hotel I need to use the bathroom real bad. I had a big lunch and finished my big plate at dinner without using the bathroom during the day. Possibly a mistake because my stomach was not happy and let’s just say things were loose and my insides were bubbling, not a good feeling.

Scott and I had some tune-up work to perform on our bikes. I noticed a small cut in my rear tire so I wanted to replace it with new rubber. Scott had to do some general maintenance. When we were done, Aimee, Scott and I drove the bike course. The beginning of the course had a lot of turns to deal with. Seeing the corners and any debris on the road was helpful. There were enough rough sections to be worried about. Some parts would force you to ride in the middle of the road. We were hoping that traffic would be light for a Sunday morning. Overall the bike course would indeed be very flat.

After our ride through the countryside we retired back to our hotel rooms. Aimee walked over to Wendy’s for a Frosty. We both needed something sweet and I was hoping the ice cream would settle my stomach. Lights out for the night was around 9:30PM. I needed a good nights rest since Friday night I didn’t sleep well for some reason or another.

Sunday morning started at 4:50AM when the alarm went off. I got up, put on some clothes and went for a walk around the hotel parking lot. I wanted to wake up and pull my mental state together. I made it back to the room and began the purging process that started after dinner the night before. This wasn’t a normal purge for me. Things were looser than normal. I grabbed a banana from the hotel breakfast bar to try and pull my stomach together. Aimee and I finished putting our gear together and packed the car for the day. No late check-out so we would not be coming back to the hotel.

Arriving at the venue around 6:00AM we immediately put my bike in transition. I was the second bike on the rack, so I had to pick my second favorite transition spot. My stomach was still bubbling so I ate two Tums. I think it may have helped but my last stop in the bathroom was nothing but water. Now I was worried that I would have GI issues during the race and would be spending my time squatting on the side of the road loosing water and nutrition all day.

About 45 minutes before the race I started to focus my thoughts and energy inward. Mentally I needed to be ready for the race. No more socializing, I was here to race. I needed to be in the right frame of mind.

I put together my transition area with my nutrition for the day and gear. I then did a detailed run through of transition. I started about 20 yards away from the transition entrance where we would be running on some rough ground. I weaved my way through the crowds to my bike and simulated putting on my gear. Walked out of transition and mentally hopped on my bike. I then turned around and “dismounted” my bike and re-entered transition and “re-racked” my bike. A virtual change in gear and I walked back out of transition to start the run. Aimee had also tied a blue bandana at the end of the rack so I could spot my row easily.

I was transition ready. I grabbed my wetsuit and started walking with Aimee towards the beach start. I put on my wetsuit before the beach and walked with Aimee holding her hand. I am so fortunate to have such a supportive wife that understands my competitive nature. I got in the water and did some warm-up swimming. The water felt great and the sleeveless wetsuit was a perfect choice. I did some hard strokes and adjusted my goggles so they would be water tight. The race director gave a course overview, the executive director of Racing for Recovery spoke, a moment of prayer and we started the race.

A small number of “elite” racers started first. Then 114 men entered the starting chute for a mass beach start. I positioned myself in the second row like Coach Angela told me and we were off. The water was shallow for a long time, but as soon as it was deep enough I got in the water and started swimming even though there were others still walking. I tried to get into a good rhythm early on. I was stroking on the right side breathing every stroke for quite a ways. I would occasionally switch to the left side and only breathe on that side. I did this for about 400-500 yards. I finally changed my breathing to what I call race breathing, three breathes/strokes on one side, three count stroke, change to breathing on the other side. I was also making sure I was sighting often and well. This race was probably my best sighting during the swim.

The swim course headed straight out from the beach for 500 meters, came straight back to the beach for 400 meters, then was parallel for the remainder before angling back towards to swim exit. The starting point and exit point were about 800 meters apart. After we turned to swim parallel to the beach I settled into an alternate breathing pattern. I was still swimming and sighting well. However, I couldn’t find any feet to draft off of. The brown water made it difficult to spot anything under water and no one was very close when I spotted markers. I was fine swimming on my own; this is an individual sport you know.

As I headed back to the swim exit I tried to increase my effort on the swim to finish strong. I’ve always been a firm believer to swim as far as you can. I touched sand and kept swimming. I could see people standing up and walking in the water. I don’t know if I gained on them but I swam until I was only 10 yards from the beach. I didn’t have very far to run in the water. I immediately started to peel off my wetsuit. As we ran through the flags I saw a person with an EH jersey on. EH is Eric Hodska. He coaches Angela’s husband Scott. Scott and I exited the water together. I ran past him, heard Angela yelling and saw Aimee ahead taking pictures.

Swim time: 34:21

I peeled off my wetsuit and put on the rest of my bike gear. Socks and shoes, sunglasses and helmet, grab bike and go. Scott and I exited transition together but I ran past him so I could jump on my bike. I hit the saddle of my bike and almost took a dive as the bike started to wobble under me. Somehow I kept it together and kept moving forward. I thought I heard someone call my name as I pedaled away. I heard my name a second time and something about a bottle. Scott was yelling at me. I had hit one of my bottles behind the seat and it was hanging on for dear life. I put the bottle back in its place and continued on. I thanked Scott as he passed me.

T1 time 1:59

More to come as I get my Game On.


IM Able said...

Can't wait for the next part! And thank goodness for spectators -- missing a bottle would be quite a pinch in the ol' nutrition/hydration plan!

hak said...

Sounds like a great race! Looking forward to reading the rest of the report.

Those GI issues can be a bear. I no longer have Mexican food the night before for that same reason. Except in my case, it was so bad I never even made it to the race! I was still in the bathroom at home when the starting gun went off.

Oooff. Not fun.


E-Speed said...

GI distress is no fun but it sounds like the swim wasn't affected by it at all! So far so good!

DaisyDuc said...

Oh I am awaiting the rest. The GI problem fear is a concern that plagued me a lot last year!

Sounds as though you executed the swim flawlessly!

SkiRough said...

Glad you avoided a near crash when you were wobbly!