Wednesday, August 20, 2014

2014 Ironman 70.3 Timberman

Ironman 70.3 Timberman is an awesome race. I had heard so many great things about it before going up there this past weekend, and I have to agree with all the reports. The area is beautiful, the course is challenging but fun, and the festivities were better than most races. Here is my little recap of the weekend in New Hampshire…

My dad, Becky, and I drove up to New Hampshire on Thursday. My dad had found us an awesome house to stay at for the weekend that was only half a mile from the transition area. The location couldn’t have been any better and staying at a house instead of a hotel gave us a lot more space to spread out and relax while we were there. He always does a great job of scouting races to find great accommodations. It was evening by the time by got there, so we grabbed some dinner at a nearby restaurant and then called it a night.

Friday morning I headed over to Lake Winnipesaukee to go for an easy swim and run. The water was super clear and a comfortable temperature. I like water to be right around 70 degrees when I’m racing so I don’t get too warm (they measured it at 69 degrees on race day, so it was pretty much perfect). I swam a couple “out and backs” toward a dock that I could sight off and could even see some fish swimming below me as I swam. Considering how dirty some of the water is at these races (i.e. NYC Triathlon, Ironman Louisville, 70.3 Las Vegas), this water was a pleasant rarity. After my swim I did an easy 25 minute run along the first part of the run course to get my legs loosened up. Overall I felt pretty good considering the huge block of training I was coming off of. I had tapered pretty well and given myself time to rest before this race.

After my run I got back to the park and my dad was chatting with a couple who were getting ready to swim. I got a chance to meet them and talk with them for a bit as well. Steve and Karen were up for the race from Tennessee and were two awesome people. Karen was racing the sprint race on Saturday and Steve was racing the 70.3 on Sunday. They were both volunteering at each other’s race too, which was really neat. We talked for quite a bit about races and triathlon, especially Ironman Chattanooga, which is right near their home in Tennessee. I think they have convinced me to put that race on my list for next year as it sounds like it is a great course that suits me very well. More on that later…

We left the park and went out to drive the bike course. I always want to know what the course looks like and know if there are any spots I need to watch out for. In this case, there were a few patches of really rough road that I’m glad I knew about ahead of time. You could pick some cleaner lines if you really paid attention. After driving the course we went back to the house to relax for a bit and wait for Mike. Once Mike got there in the afternoon we went up to Gunstock Mountain Resort to register and go to the athlete meeting. I walked in to the meeting and who is there to lead us through the meeting? None other than Dave Ragsdale. I have raced at least eight races that Dave has announced, and the guy is really entertaining. As boring as athlete meetings are, he always inserts some good bits of comedy that amuse me. After the meeting it was time for dinner, so we went to Italian restaurant number one for my first chicken parmesan of the weekend. Becky did an awesome job of picking out restaurants all weekend. She’s under a lot of pressure for this and always comes through with good places. What did people do before online reviews?

Saturday I went for another swim at the lake. I forgot to take my wetsuit with me this time, but I was fine without it. After the swim I took my bike out for about half an hour to spin through the gears and make sure everything was working properly. Once that was set it was time to put the legs up for a bit before bike check-in.

Pat arrived around 4pm on Saturday. Half the reason I signed up for this race in the first place was because Pat had agreed to do it. He raced his first 70.3 back in July of 2011 in Providence, but work, marriage, and moving had taken him out of triathlon for a while. He was ready to get back in the game and give it another go this year, so he signed up for this race. Except the training didn’t really happen. He started out strong but then things came up and he just wasn’t able to do it. I was really looking forward to getting him back out racing, but maybe next year. However, this is where the weekend got a lot of its humor. In sitting around before dinner I told Pat he might as well go register and get his race swag. He paid for it, so why not right? So on the way to Italian restaurant number two, we swung by registration and Pat picked up his stuff. I figured he would just grab that stuff and head out, but they made him pick up everything, timing chip included.

Dinner was great. We ate at a place called Guiseppe’s a couple towns over in Meredith, NH. I hadn’t seen Pat in a while and it’s always good to catch up with him. It’s funny how with really close friends you can go months without seeing them and when you do it’s like you never missed a beat. We had some good laughs and then started talking about the race the next day. Pat told me they had made him pick up his timing chip when he registered and he would have to turn it back in the next morning because he wasn’t going to race. I told Pat he might as well do the swim since he was there. He could do that and then just turn in his chip after. He didn’t bring his bike or anything to race in, so there was no way he could keep going, but it’d be fun if he at least did that. A couple of beers in and he decided he was up for it. We were all really excited. He had no wetsuit with him, but he had some board shorts that he could wear. We just needed to make a stop at Olympia Sports on the way back so he could pick up some goggles. On the way I asked Pat when the last time he swam was. His answer… “four months.” Yes, this would be awesome. We got home and pretty much headed to bed. We both had to race in the morning.

Mike and I were practically bike neighbors.
On Sunday I actually slept until my alarm went off, a rarity for me. I had laid all my stuff out the night before, so I packed up what I needed to take and headed down to transition with Mike. Pat was coming down a bit later since he didn’t have a bike or gear to get ready. Mike and I had bike spots almost directly next to each other. I was number 122 and he was 125. Never before has that happened. As we got our areas set up I met Colin Cook, who was racked next to me. Colin was a really nice guy and he turned out to be a stud runner. He had the fastest run in our age group on the day and probably one of the fastest run splits period. We talked a bit about races and our schedules for the rest of the year. As it turns out I’ll see him in a couple of weeks up in Mt. Tremblant.

We had a bit of a wait before our waves started. Derek and I were in wave 15, Pat was in wave 16, and Mike was in wave 18. After watching the first few waves go off we got ready and got in the water for a bit of a warm up. I felt good and was having zero pain in my shoulder, which I had been nervous about after my bike crash in July. I crashed on July 10 pretty hard and landed on my shoulder, which kept me out of the water for three full weeks. I had gradually gotten back in the water and the soreness had been getting better, but fortunately it was completely gone by race day. It was a very slow healing process. Lesson to be learned here… don’t crash.

When we finally hit the water I seeded myself toward the front. I planned to try to get out quickly this time and see if I could get on the feet of a faster swimmer. I usually ease myself into the swim because it isn’t a strength for me, but eventually I’m going to have to learn to push myself past what is comfortable in the water during races. I figured this was as good a place as any to start. The horn sounded and we took off. It was congested and there were a lot of people fighting for the water. I felt like I was going along quite well and then BAM! I got smashed in the nose with an elbow. Holy crap that hurt. My nose started bleeding. I could see the red in the water when I looked down. I wasn’t really sure what to do or how to handle that situation, so I just kept swimming. I had managed to find what I thought was a pretty good person to draft off and I didn’t want to lose those feet. I saw Derek a couple of times during my breaths to the right on the way out. He was having a solid swim too. I think I finally stopped bleeding after the first turn buoy. I had also gotten off the feet I was following by that point because I decided the person I was following couldn’t swim very straight. As he started to drift left I let him go and held closer to the buoy line. I’m not a good enough swimmer to want to add extra yardage on the swim. When I stood up in the water the first time my watch read 29:45. I had to dive back in as I wasn’t close enough to run out of the water yet, but I knew I would be just over 30 minutes. I still hadn’t cracked that barrier, but it was a swim PR and I was happy with that. It was a good confidence boost for the day. In a stroke of good luck, I picked what quite possibly could be the best wetsuit peeler on the planet. After the debacle at Syracuse I had debated just doing it myself. I was glad I chose this guy. My butt was barely on the ground and this guy and ripped my suit off in one pull. I was back on my feet and off running before I knew it. Thanks to that guy.

I grabbed my bike and headed out of transition. I had a good flying mount, got up to speed, and started getting my feet in my shoes. The first mile or two was uphill, so I waited until the downhill after that to really get myself situated so I could coast without losing speed as I tightened my shoes up and got my watch set up. Then I got to work on my best leg of triathlon. I wanted to get my heart rate down but it was really jacked up from transition and the first climb. My power numbers were about right, but I just could not get my heart rate down. The course was a mixture of rolling hills and a few little climbs in the first 12-13 miles and that was part of what kept it up I think. I dropped my chain around mile five on one of the climbs. I was shifting into my small ring and I must have done it too quickly. Fortunately it didn’t jam too badly, so one hard yank got it dislodged. I got it back on the ring and started moving again. I was not happy with that mistake, but fortunately it only cost me about 30 seconds. When I finally hit the middle section of the course I settled into what was a comfortably hard pace and hit a good rhythm. I watched my power and kept it at the number Doug and I had talked about and I felt good going out. After the turnaround I got some stomach cramps. They weren’t terrible, but they were a bit of a nuisance. That last for 15-20 minutes and then I started to feel better again. I rode pretty consistently and lit up all the descents. There were a few patches of really bad road where we had to pay extra attention, but overall it wasn’t terrible. If they fixed about five miles worth of road this bike course would be absolutely amazing.

I approached transition, got my feet out of my shoes during a brief no passing zone, and had another successful flying dismount. That makes two in a row after my face plant in April, so hopefully I can keep that streak going. I threw on my running shoes and headed out to the run course. I came to this race with the goal of running well. I was pleased with my run at Syracuse, but I wanted to build on that. This course didn’t have the difficult climbing that Syracuse had. Timberman is rolling hills throughout the whole run and I liked that. It was also a double loop course and most of it is right along the lake, so the view is beautiful. I felt good on the first loop. My pace was slightly faster than Syracuse and I didn’t feel like I was suffering. I don’t really know what happened. I started the second loop and my pace just dropped. My legs started to hurt. I couldn’t get into a comfortable rhythm and I felt like I was suffering. I managed to pull myself out of it a bit on the way back, but not enough to salvage anything I would be happy with. I crossed the finish line pleased that I knew I had won my age group, but really disappointed with my run performance. I put in serious run work in July to try to make improvements in that leg. I ran 197 miles actually, which is pretty high on the triathlete miles per week scale. It was a good thing I built a considerable lead on the bike leg so I could hold off Colin Cook, who ran a 1:23 and finished second in our age group.

The run wasn’t all bad. I did get to see Mike on each loop and I saw my new friend, Steve, out there as well. Out and back double loops are great run courses because you are always around people and you can distract yourself from the pain a bit. Somehow I never saw Derek on the run course and I’m not really sure how that happened. He said he never saw me either. It was a little strange.

After the race I went to get a massage because my left hip was killing me. It had started to tighten up during the bike and it felt like it was ready to pop. The guy who massaged me almost brought me to tears a couple of times, but he definitely loosened it up quite a bit. I’m excited to go for another massage tonight and get it worked on some more. I need to recovery quickly because the turnaround time for my next race is three weeks.

After my massage I found Mike, Pat and Derek and get to hear about their races. Mike ended up having a solid race, finishing third in his age group and really crushing the run. Derek had told me that his goal was to go under five hours. He started working with Doug this summer and has been working really consistently for the past few months. He crushed five hours and set a new 70.3 PR of 4:47. Congratulations to him on an awesome race. The most entertaining story, though, is the one of Pat’s race. I was excited to hear how this went…

Time to get some high fives
from the crowd!
Out of the water and he
is loving it.
When Pat entered the water in his red board shorts and no wetsuit, Dave Ragsdale apparently gave him a little shout out. “Let’s hear it for the guy in the board shorts.” Pat drew some applause. He hit the water and never looked back. I asked him if he stopped at all and he said he didn’t. On four months of zero swim training, he exited the water in 58 minutes and 52 seconds with his arms lifted triumphantly over his head. I wish I had been there to see it. The story gets better. He went into transition and approached a volunteer. As he handed him his timing chip he says “I forgot my bike” and shrugged his shoulders. The volunteer’s response… “It happens.” I just about died laughing as he told me this story. Hopefully next year we can get him to do the whole race. And he remembers to bring his bike.

He's a great sport. All smiles through it all. 

After grabbing some lunch we went back for the awards ceremony. We found Steve and Karen again and got to hear about Steve’s race and Karen’s race from the day before. Congratulations to both of them on great races and thanks to them for volunteering. I will get to see them again in Cozumel as they are both planning to race there in November. I look forward to meeting up with them again down there. The awards at Timberman are awesome! I won a giant bottle of maple syrup! It is way different than the standard medal things we get at most races. It is unique to the race, so I liked that. I’m debating whether I use it or save it because the bottle looks cooler with it in there. If I use it I’ll post about how it is.

Thanks to everyone who contributed along the way in the preparation for this race. Your support, encouragement, and help are appreciated more than you know. It will be interesting to see how racing again in three weeks will be as I have never done 70.3 races that close to each other. I know I need to focus on recovery and get myself ready to go again. I want a bit of redemption from my poor performance at Vegas last year.

Swim – 30:18
Bike – 2:15:15
Run – 1:28:15

Overall – 4:16:21 (1st M30-34, 6th amateur, 13th overall)

Our new friends, Steve and Karen.