Coming into this race I had heard it was supposed to be flat and fast. After pre-riding the course, I thought for sure I was going to bike 23+ mph (maybe 24!). It was all just too easy! My legs were fresh, my last ride had been at 6000+ feet and the elevation change was so slight it was hard to tell when you were going uphill or downhill and to top it all off the roads were all glass smooth! Well imagine my surprise when I'm 50 miles in and boom! This ride just got a lot tougher! My legs didn't blow completely up, thankfully, but I did have to back my pace down a good 2 mph instead of picking it up a little like I had planned! At this point, I'm thinking I've just blown the race, however, the race turned out, as always, to be far from over.
Let's start at the swim. It was slow. Very slow. I felt fine. My swimming seemed to be quite fast going in, though I hadn't been doing much of it. It was wetsuit legal. Perfect water temp. I started off too easy though, and for some reason, the whole race I just could not stay on anyone else's feet. I just kept getting passed the entire time! Even late in the race by people who started at the same time as me! Yet I felt like I was going the same pace. Every time I surged to grab feet I just couldn't hold them, and sometimes couldn't even catch someone swimming the same speed slightly in front of me with a surge! I'm not sure what happened. I think the course might have been a bit long since the pros also seemed to be a few minutes slower, however, I talked to several age groupers that had their best swim ever! Either way, the swim is something that needs work. A lot of it!
Coming out of the swim was a transition consisting of about a half mile run, so I stashed my wetsuit in a bag and grabbed my running shoes to ensure my legs didn't take too much pounding trying to run barefoot for that long. It was a good idea. I cruised through transition and flew onto my bike feeling great and ready to rock it. I paced the first couple of miles conservatively to be safe and then settled into my groove. And it was all gravy until about mile 10 or so when the "rough section" of the course popped up. It was really only very rough when passing, but when I say very rough, it really was quite "leg abusing rough", and unfortunately there were still lots of people around to pass... And this is about when my lower right achilles started aching to no end. I got scared. Since I'd been doing a ton of hiking and downhill running in minimalist footwear (so I didn't have to get socks dirty...) lately, I had aggravated it quite badly and been wearing compression sleeves around the last few days hoping for it to heal. That's when I came up with the brilliant idea to just stop using it. I consciously made my quads do almost all the work of pedaling and voila! A few miles later, I've completely forgotten about it and am hammering away again. More on that later...
Now, around the 2nd loop of the bike, I find a pacer to play tag with and I pick up the pace slightly and surge to catch back up whenever I fall asleep and end up 20+ bike lengths back. We keep this up until someone else, much stronger, joins in and the pace quickens a good bit, though since the wind had picked up (don't know which direction it was blowing, but I swear it felt like slight headwind every direction), speeds stay much the same. This carries on for the next several miles until, for some reason, I decide I need to push the pace up a bit since we are nearing the end of the bike and I was still feeling great, so on the wonderful rough section of the course, I found myself trying to make a pass at roughly 26mph... and boom! Ooops. There goes my legs. After I settle back in and get some nutrition in me, I quickly realize that it was not nutrition related but most definitely one surge too many and my bike pace is done. I'm now soft peddling in the last few miles at around 21mph just hoping somehow my legs can recover for the run.
And when the bike leg finally ends, I stumble through transition to find the person next to me racked their bike incorrectly, making it a pain for me to get mine in as well, but I calmly and patiently figure things out, put on my socks, and run out of transition snacking on some sort of granola energy whatever bar I had laying around. After a few steps, I can't believe how fresh I feel and how easy running is! But to be safe, I take it easy for the first couple of miles, or rather until I finally see my buddy Bradford, who I'd been looking for the whole time on the bike but was apparently miles ahead. He's flying along on the run with a big lead and so that's when I decide it's time to kick up the pace and go about catching him. And as I'm doing just that, before I even hit mile 4, my quads lock up like I've ran completely out of electrolytes and I'm about to fall over dead. However, it's not that hot and I know I've been fueling properly. And that's when I remember my nice little plan to use nothing but quads to save my achilles and calves for the run (they feel fine now!) and that little piece about my legs falling apart at the end of the bike. I slow down. After awhile it helps, but in no time, they are back to hurting just as bad. That's when I realize they are the ONLY thing hurting. If that stays true for the rest of this run, then screw it, I'm gonna push through and still have a great run! And that's what I do! Though my pace felt too easy on my aerobic system much of the way, the last few miles definitely started to get difficult and with a half mile to go, I knew for sure that I had paced it perfectly for the situation I had put myself in.
I didn't break 1:30 like I had hoped, but I wasn't far off, and with a properly paced bike, I think I would have shattered the 1:30 mark. The bike definitely should have been a minute or more slower, mostly with far less surges. My bike fitness was right on the mark of where I thought it was going into the race a few weeks ago and not what I thought it was the day before the race when everything felt so easy. However, I think my run fitness might have jumped another level (weight loss maybe?). I wouldn't be surprised if a 2 minute slower bike time would have gained me a 4-6 minute faster run. Overall, it was a good race, where I did several things right and a few wrong. And now that I'm finally recovering from it, I can't wait for the next one! Splits are below!
Swim: 38:12 (1:59/100m)
Bike: 2:28:02 (22.70mph)
Run: 1:31:27 (6:59/mi)
PS Be weary of wearing the compressions suits they have at the race immediately after you finish. Despite my legs feeling great, my whole upper body started tingling and I had difficulty breathing for about 20 minutes... Not fun when you combine it with all the other great after effects felt after a race of that distance.