I decided to race the Black Diamond Half Ironman this last weekend instead of Age Group Nationals next weekend, as I felt a half Ironman was more suitable to my training efforts for IMAZ than an Olympic distance race. I had been battling a cold all week, so racing at all was not 100% certain until Friday. This race is a pretty low key event at a state park up in Washington about 35 minutes east of Tacoma. I had some work to do in SW Washington on Friday so I headed up to the park late Friday afternoon and checked my bike in and took a look at the bike course. I stayed in a hotel in Enumclaw, and let me tell you that town does not have a lot going for it.
The race did draw in some pretty fast guys in from the Seattle area. Two getting a final prep in for Kona, and one who was 2nd overall AGer at Canada 3 weeks ago getting in his last race of the year as he passed on his Kona slot.
So I set the alarm for 6:00 am, this was nice as it was a 9:00 start time. I was able to get in a really good night sleep, which I was worried about due to noise from a red neck bar across the street, and the fact that my cold had kept me from sleeping very soundly all week. I got up and grabbed my nutrition bottle from the mini-fridge and jumped in a very hot steamy shower to loosen up the crappy phlegm in my sinuses. I was very lucky and was able to take care of the pre race GI rituals at the hotel. I had everything packed already so all I had to do really was get in the car and head out. I stopped at Starbucks and grabbed a coffee, and headed up. I was warned that parking at the park was very limited, but they had a parking lot a mile or two away that had a shuttle going back and forth. I was lucky, there were 3 spots left at the park when I got there. It was 7:00 when I got there so I had 2 hours to kill. I set up transition and walked around and talked a bit with the race director. The lake had a huge fog cover that held up the race start about 15 minutes. My good friend Erik came from Edmonds to watch me which was very cool! I chatted with him for a bit and then went to put on my wetsuit.
Trevor Davies and I headed down to the water and did a light swim while waiting for the fog to burn off. We lined up with a pretty good line on the buoys and waited for the countdown. At fifteen seconds I looked at my watch and it said memory: 2:41, ah crap 5,4,3, oh well, 2, 1 were off. I took off pretty hard and was really surprised to see such a large group with me and ahead of me. I pushed a bit longer but could not separate so I held on at a guys feet and picked up a draft. This was good, but after a bit it got frustrating because I kept sucking his wake so to speak. I finally just moved over and swam by myself and ended up passing him a few minutes later. My shoulders were really burning, but there was a group up ahead of me that I did not want to let go, finally I settled into a good pattern and the burning went away, but the guys in front kept getting further ahead. I felt like I was swimming well, and was a little disappointed when the announcer said 28 something when I got out. I guess I am a 28 something HIM swimmer. I have this idea in my head that I am faster than that, and I think I can swim faster than that but that has been a pretty consistent time for me. So out of the water in 28:35. 6th overall.
T2 went well, no problems, and I must have passed two guys in there. In and out 1:43 3rd fastest.
On the bike I settled in nicely my HR was a bit high to start for where my power was. I passed a guy, but I was then passed by Lane Seeley and jumped in behind him, drafting legally. This brought my hr down to where I wanted it in the low 160’s. I hung on him for about 15 minutes, or until I had to take a drink, I briefly slowed up and allowed him to slip away and could not get back to him with out blowing my power cap. He just kept on getting further up. I kept him within in eye sight for the entire first loop, but lost him on the second loop. I was pleased to see that heading up to the aid station turn around on the second loop that two guys in front really had not gained that much on me since the first loop and they were still within 10-15 meters of each other, then about a minute or so later Lane came down the hill, this made me feel pretty good, because I knew these 3 guys were pretty fast dudes and although I had no shot of catching them, I was theoretically hanging in with them. Then when I got to the turn around I stayed in my big ring in the front and shifted up to my 23 in the back and when I went to crank down my chain popped off. Oh crap, luckily I got out of my pedal without tipping over, and I reached down put the chain on and stepped on my pedal and it popped off again. On the second attempt I down shifted and it stayed on, so only about 30-60 seconds lost. I continued to push my watts at about 250 and was feeling pretty good aside from some slight tightness in my right glute and upper hamstring while climbing in the aero position. I rode hard into transition, and was happy to see the time on my watch was under 3 hours for the race so I know I was under 2:30 on the bike. Actual bike time 2:25:12 Ave power 247, norm power 253. This is my best bike effort ever.
T2 was even smoother than T1 and I was out in 1:02. The fastest of the day.
I was feeling really good to start the run, I don’t know how to describe the feeling, but I knew that my nutrition was bang on, and that my legs while not fresh, were ready for a hard run. Scott (coach) gave me a new run strategy that we had not tried before. It was to start strong, and still negative split every mile, while I was excited to try this, it did not take me long to realize that this was not a feasible task on this course. At about the start of the 2nd mile the road turned to gravel and it was the worst road I had ever ran on, rocks ranging in size from marbles to softballs, and pot holes ranging in size from softballs to landfills. Then once off that road you turn left and head up a fairly steep steady hill, so nonetheless trying to stay consistent and negative split each mile would have been a near impossible task. So I just ran. The first 4 miles were easy and even the first 6 I felt really good. I started to feel a little fatigued from the rolling hills at about mile 8, but I kept on pushing my pace. I could still see the guy in 3rd place, and I really wanted to push the last 10k, but (here we go) that damn road that we ran on at mile 2 was back, and then the final 1.2 miles was on a single track trail around the lake with rocks and roots and ups and downs, and I told myself it was not worth risking injury to push hard on this stuff, but in hind sight its probably because I am afraid of that darn pain cave! So this is probably the hardest run course I have ran on, but I feel good about the run. Run time 1:32:12 for a total time of 4:28:44. 4TH OVERALL. The top 2 were in my age group, but they take out the overall winner so I was awarded with the 2nd place age group award.
So, I am very happy with this race for many reasons…
1) I put forth a solid/fast effort coming off of a cold.
2) I sustained my goal watts for the ride.
3) I consider this a PR, as it’s the toughest course I have raced on, and outside of Clearwater it’s my fasted HIM time.
4) This is where I thought I would be at hulaman had I not gone off course, now I know it’s true.
5) I think I am on good track for racing well at Ironman Arizona in November.