Wednesday, September 16, 2009

(Nearly) swept away with the tide at Patriots Half -Ironman

I had originally signed up for this race because I was hoping for a fast time on a reasonably easy course last year. That race was canceled due to a tropical storm passing through the area the night before so I re-entered for this year. I expected to do even better since I would be coming off my Ironman training. Although my motivation for the bike and swim has diminished since June, my running has been going great so I headed to Williamsburg on Friday still anticipating a good shot at a pr.

I arrived at the race race site just after 7pm for packet-pickup and to check out the swim and transition area. I was not too happy with what I saw. It would be over a quarter mile to the river start on some rough ground and the take-out would be nearly as far away but at least was mostly over soft grass.

My oldset son Steven and daughter-in-law Bethany were going to be there for this one which would be nice. We would be staying at her Dad's house in Yorktown so I headed on over there to get an early bedtime. 4:30 would come early Saturday.

6 am Saturday am we arrived at the race site and I proceeded to set up my transitions and then we walked down to the race start. The water temp was measured at 74F which is wetsuit legal but I had opted not to wear mine. I don't like swimming in it and it is a pain to get off and at that temperature I would probably get hot anyway like I did at White Lake in the Spring. I plunged in for a little warm-up and it felt fine to me and soon enough the race was underway.

I was happy to feel better than expected early on and was settled into a good steady pace. We headed out into the river at a about a 45 degree angle into the oncoming tidal current but I couldn't really feel anything and made the turn about a half mile out. We then were swimming with the current parallel to the shore and once again I was feeling good. I finally made it to the turn for shore and that's when the problem started. The sun was rising above the trees on shore and I could not see where I needed to go. I looked around for the next buoy and couldn't see it either so all I could do was follow the swimmers in front of me and hope they knew where they were going. My instincts told me we should have made a sharper left turn but the mass of them was heading out at more of an angle so I followed.

As I was swimming along, I frequently tried to site the shoreline or find a buoy but still couldn't see anything. After quite a while I was growing frustrated because I knew I should be seeing something but we kept getting closer to the ferry pier. And then finally I was able to find the finish. Only trouble was it was back upriver. I was about 200 yards away from the buoys I should have been next too and now I had to swim against the current to try to make it to shore. I could really feel it now and although I was swimming harder my progress was slow. Finally with a 100 yards to go I stood up and walk it in like most of the others were doing. Good thing the water was shallow so far out. I know I swam at least a quarter mile more than 1.2 miles.

I was disgusted as I hit the beach. I should have done the swim in 45 minutes or less and it took me 59!!! With the 3 minute run to transition I was already over 15 minutes slower than I needed to have a chance at a pr. Well, nothing I could do about it so I calmed myself down and reminded myself I was just here to have fun so I hopped on the bike with the plan to just go as hard as I felt comfortable and enjoy the rest of the day.

So, now I'm on the bike and soon enough I was enjoying myself quite a bit. I really liked this bike course. About half is on the Colonial Parkway and the rest on rural country roads with light traffic. Most of the roads were smooth and in good shape. It was mostly a flat and fast course but there were enough small hills spread out along the way to keep it interesting. The biggest hill was the new bridge over the Chickohominy River which we crossed over in both directions.

I felt very good on the bike keeping to my nutrition and hydration plan and my energy level was good the whole ride. Of course the last 10 miles I was beginning to wish it was over as my butt and neck were getting sore and tired of the position but the pace stayed constant the entire time. With about 7 miles to go a 27 year old pretty young lady pulled up beside me and wanted to start a conversation. She was an experienced Ironman and I could tell by her effort that she was just out for a fun easy ride. It is against the rules to ride side by side but I don't make a habit out of telling pretty girls to go away and at this point I was enjoying the conversation. After several miles a race official passed us and was writing a note. We assumed we had been busted and would be assessed a penalty but I guess they felt as far back as we were not to bother with it as nothing showed up in the results.

At that point she said good-bye and pulled ahead. My only problem with the course was it was 1.5 miles too long costing me another 5 minutes. Otherwise my bike time was just about dead on what I had expected. When I reached the transition area I knew my chance at a pr was over. I would need to run under 2:00 for the half marathon to come. Not a problem in a running race but in a triathlon I have never run faster than 2:30 and I was expecting that even on a good day the best I could hope for would be about 2:15 My goal for today was actually to just be able to run the whole thing without taking walk breaks which would be a first. And now I wasn't holding out any great hopes that would happen because my legs were stiff and dead and I could hardly push my bike through transition.

Once I finally racked the bike I was out quickly and out onto the run course. They had to change the course this week due to a boat hitting a bridge pier. That turned out to be a good thing as far as I'm concerned because now the run would be mostly on a bike path that had shade over half the course. I started slowly and not pushing the effort letting my legs get loosened up. When I hit the 1st mile in 8:57 I was surprised because it sure didn't feel that fast as I was expecting more like 11:00. I thought it may have been a bad mark but then I hit 2 miles in 17:52 so now my confidence was growing. This was sub- 2 hour pace and if by some miracle I could hold it I would have a shot at that pr after all.

We turned off the bike path for a 1.5 mile loop on a gravel path through the woods. It was a little rough on my feet since I had on my lightweight trainers but the shade made it more than worthwhile with the temperature now in the low 80's. I was getting a side stitch but other wise felt good and still on pace. I decided just to hold steady and then re-assess at the halfway mark. Well, I went through 6 miles in 54:09 feeling great so I picked it up a little. I could not believe how good I was feeling at this point. I was very confident now that I was not going to have a meltdown. It was just a matter of not losing anytime and that pr might just happen. The next two miles were slighty faster but I got another side stitch and had to back off.

It was amazing how many runners I was passing now and I went by 10 miles in 1:29:56 still on 9mp overall. I slowed just a little more the next two miles but from mile 12 I pushed it hard and finished the run in 1:57:58, exactly 9mp and got the pr by 1.5 minutes !!!!! Woohoo !! I guess all those running miles and speedwork are paying off.

Steven, Bethany and Bethany's dad , also a Steven were waiting for me at the finish and after a shower in the hospital that Steven works for, we went out for a delicious BBQ lunch. What a great weekend and race. And to think it was nearly washed away with the tide.


Anonymous said...

I just came across your blog. Congrats on the PR! You had a huge run. Well done.

Norma said...

Congratulations on your PR! You always inspire me by your writing skill and your athletic performance(s).