Monday, August 9, 2010

Mountaineer Tri

Well, I finished my first half ironman. It hurt (as evidenced by the finish picture). The goal going in was to finish under 6 hours and I did that (5:47:30). How I got there certainly wasn't the way I thought it would play out. But from my observations of others through the years (since this was only my 2nd ever tri) is that they usually don't exactly work out how you plan.

We got down there Saturday afternoon after dropping off the dog and a quick stop to see Beth's grandfather (who's going to be joining us in Hawaii). We met up with Ben and did the usual packet pickup, course driving, and pre-race dinner at the Olive Garden (where Chad & Jen joined us too). It turned out the half IM bike course was changed from one big out and back to two loops of a shorter out and back due to recent (like the day before) oil and chipping on the roads. Boy am I glad I didn't have to ride on that!

Race morning comes and we head off to the course. It was a little odd for me to have to worry about all these preparations for racing. Usually I'm just hanging out and munching on some poptarts or something while Beth's off warming up. Not today, though.

They announced that the water temperature was just cool enough for wetsuits. While I had only worn my wetsuit once before, I was glad to be able to use it (even if it took me 20 minutes to get it on).

See, I did get the wetsuit on finally.

Going in, I formulated my sub-6 time by the following:
Swim: Try to keep it under 50 minutes
Bike: Try to keep it under 3:30
Run: Try to keep it under 1:45 (8:00-ish pace)

We head down to the swim start, Beth and I say our good lucks and Ben and I get in the water for the Men's Half start. The order was men's half, women's half (5 min), men's olympic (15 min), women's olympic (20 min). Beth and I were joking the last week about who would get out of the water first between us. I did have a 20 minute head start, but had to go a little further. If things played out how I had predicted, she would be well on her bike before I came out.

However, the swim went relatively well for me. I stayed wide and in the back at the start because I didn't want to get beat up and just very methodically keyed off the people around me and periodically sighted for the buoys and the bridge. Next thing you know I'm actually passing a few people and turning around making my way towards the swim finish. Not too bad at all and probably the highlight of my day was seeing the 40:0X on my watch (started the watch during the countdown from 10). I ended up swimming 39:58 and did indeed beat Beth out of the water (in spite of her AWESOME sub-21 olympic swim split). I was just in the process of attempting to get my wetsuit off as I saw her run by in transition. She was telling me that she was glad to see me and know I made it out of the water. Statistically, I was 54th out of the water out of 103 male and female competitors in the half. How about that, I didn't finish last!

It started out on the blacktop paved bike trail for the first four miles and I was loving the fact of seeing my average mph so high. We get to the end of it and have to go up this short but steep hill to get up to the bridge and the main road for the rest of the course. Wouldn't you know it, I drop my chain when I shifted down to the small ring. Bummer! I just kind of laughed and put it back on, waited for a clear path and zig-zagged my way up the rest of the short hill. That didn't really faze me too much, maybe because I was still loving the fact that I bought myself 10 extra minutes I wasn't planning from the swim. The rest of the course was essentially up, down, up, down and then back.

I was a little concerned about getting my nutrition on the bike in because I'm a little shaky when it comes to balance and control when riding. In other words, if I try to take my left hand off the bike to reach back, I feel like I'm going to lose control and tip over. But, I mapped it out and told myself to just pull over if I needed to to rotate the bottles. After lap 1, there was a bottle exchange, so I just pulled over there to rotate the bottles and all worked out well. In the end, I stuck to my plan and finished 4 gels (all while in motion) and 2-2/3 bottles of infinit drink mix.

Also, with it being a two-lap course, I think that helped me map out lap 2 and have a strategy since I was a little tentative on lap 1 (to not overdo it and uncertain of the road surface and topography). I looked at my watch when I completed lap 1 and saw it said 1:36-ish. So, I figured if I could hit 3:15 on the bike, I'd definitely hit that goal. I ended up 3:12:56 and 59th on the bike (that's right, my swim wasn't my lowest-ranked leg). Someday I'll have more confidence on the bike.

So, I'm down in the aero position finshing the last four miles on the bike into transition (and actually passed four people) and drop the bike off for the run. I pop a few "gummies" (aka Powerbar Gel Blasts), throw on my shoes and visor, grab my gel, and get on my way.

I don't know if it's the good part or the bad part of the running, but having mile markers gives you a lot of feedback and lets you break up the race more. I'm leaving T2 under 4 hours, so I'm figuring things are looking pretty good for the sub-6 milestone. However, knowing
how things unfolded for me in the Philly marathon in the last 13 miles, I didn't want to take anything for granted. One thing I failed to get at T2 was some salt tablets (we found out that they were under my wetsuit when I threw it down--should've had them in my shoe like the gel....rookie mistake). Based on the cramping I had in Philly our one theory was I was sweating out too much salt. So, I was going to take it this time and see if it helped. I realized I didn't have them around mile 3 or 4. Too late then!

I must have been really pumped leaving T2 or perhaps the first mile was too close, but I split a 6:06 first mile. Oops!!! I wanted to start out at 7:30-ish for the first half and see how I felt from there. The next few miles were right on target (7:24, 7:26, 7:15). Going out was a slight uphill (like our Butler-Freeport trail) so I knew going back we'd have the slight downhill. Also, somewhere around mile 3 or 4, Ben passed on his way back. I was counting to let him know where he was. He was 7th and held on to it with a guy closing in. Great job, Ben!

The next mile (5) was 8:01 and I was a little bit uncomforable so I was planning a pit stop in the woods. However, right after the mile 5 water station there was a porto-potty (that's right, I just used that in a blog) so I make a quick stop and mile 6 was still 8:34. Then, the sun, the hill, the undertraining, the loss of electrolytes (in spite of solid nutrition on the bike and taking my gel on the run) all caught up to me as I hit the turnaround.

Can you say cramp city! Although not the hammies this time, but rather the quads (probably from biking 56 miles and then forcing the body to run 13 miles for the first time?). No major muscle siezures this time, but they were tightening up. So, the rest of the way back, I just did my little shuffle, stopped for water at every rest stop and tried to make it in to salvage the run.

The consensus was that there wasn't a mile 7 marker, but 7 & 8 were 17:01 (8:30 avg), 9 was 8:55, 10 was 10:28 (and 5:18 overall for the race). I told myself to keep it together for the last 5k. Heck, even if I averaged 10 minute miles walking out with water from the aid stations, I'd still hit my goal. So, onward I go. 10:26 for mile 11 and I told myself just 20 more minutes to finish. 8:59 for mile 12 and 9:03 for mile 13 with a rocking sub-60 for the last 0.1 for a total of a disappointing 1:50:42, but overall 5:47:30.

Afterwards we were all smiles. Great day all around. Beth won the olympic race, Ben finished 7th and first in his AG, Jen was 3rd OA.

So, not how it was drawn up but a good experience and lost of good lessons learned for down the road (WAY down the road).
*I feel like I could maybe even push the swim a little more
*I need to work on my bike to get more comfortable with it
*Salt tabs or something needs to be done to address my cramping on the run
*If I want to do this again, I need to train MORE (begging the question if I want to do this again).
*Ben is an up and coming triathlon machine. LOOK OUT!!
*It's great to have a great supporter to bounce all kinds of ideas and to learn from the best training partner in the world. Go Team Shutt!

The other great thing about the race was we were home by dinner time since it was only in Morgantown. I can definitely get used to that.

So, now to figure out my plans for the fall. Is the Philly marathon right around the corner....or do I go a different route and take a little break then train for the Pittsburgh marathon next spring? Hmmmm.... To be continued....


Beth said...

What a race!! It was great to watch you finish and know you were crushing your goal. I bet you'll do another...maybe. If so, we'll tape the salt tabs to your hands! :)

Hmmm....Philly or Pittsburgh...

jami said...

Congratulations on your first half.
It sounds like a great race. I plan to put it on my calender for next year. I grew up in Morgantown so it is great to see neat things like that occuring. Also grew up a Pirate fan. Chicken on the hill with Will. HaHa.
Good luck

GoBigGreen said...

Congrats O! This race report does certainly stand up to the Hoss Report. Well done! Isnt it amazing how over a 13 mile Triathlon run things can totally change compared to an open race? I hope you do more, but my husband thinks that the OLY distance is ideal. He thinks i am nuts to want to do anything longer!

Steve said...

Congrats on your race!!! We have had a few local guys do some Half IMs, and same problem. Run was hard!!

Good luck with whatever marathon you decide to race. I am sure you will nail it.

m said...

Congrats on finishing your first half! Glad to hear the swim went better than expected! Very tough to race on not much training, I know from experience.

Jennifer Harrison said...

O! CONGRATS on finishing your 1/2 IM - I read about it on Beth's blog, but for respect, I came to hear your side too. LOL - that is not an easy 1/2 IM either!! WOW! congrats again! :)

Kim said...

You did it Oscar! Great job!!