Wednesday, June 29, 2016

2016 Ironman 70.3 New Orleans

Last weekend was Ironman 70.3 New Orleans. The lead up into this race was complicated and far from ideal. A few important details... I didn't know for sure if I would be racing until nine days before the race. Since my bike frame had been cracked by Southwest on my flight home from Puerto Rico, I did not know if I would have a bike to race on or not. I ordered a replacement frame almost immediately after discovering mine was broken, but the queue for Trek frames can be a little long. Hand laying carbon frames is not a speedy process, and you can't blame them for that.

On April 8 I got an email that my frame had arrived at Towpath, so that was the final piece to the puzzle. Backing up a little before that, I had tweaked my hamstring about two weeks prior during a long run around the Irondequoit Bay. I felt it pop and, since I had done this before, knew exactly what was wrong. Fortunately, I had my phone and could call Becky to pick me up. I went to Pittsford Performance Care to get treated that week, as I have been there for this issue and a few others before. The guys do incredible work and can get you back up and running (no pun intended) really quickly. After two treatments I tested it out on the treadmill. I was feeling alright for the first 5-6 miles, but then, just like that, it popped again. Apparently it wasn't completely fixed yet. I went in for another two treatments and then rested it. I took five days off from running and spent extra time in the pool and on my road bike. That week I was chaperoning a school trip to New York City. My favorite thing to do there is to run in Central Park. I took my running shoes and figured that's where I would finally test it out again after giving it the extra rest. Wednesday I ran a 10k, staying in the lower half of the park in case I needed to bail out and walk back to the hotel. Thankfully I made it through with no issues and my leg felt alright. It was a little sore the rest of the day, but not painful. It just felt like it was getting used to the motion again. The next day I went back to the park and figured I would try running one loop around. My leg felt much better this time, so as I completed the loop I decided to go around again and pick up the pace. I ended up running a half marathon in a time that I was pretty happy with considering the circumstances. It was at that point that I decided if I did get my bike in time, I would go. All in all I lost a week and a half of running during that stretch.

Fast forward to Friday when I found out about my bike frame coming in. As soon as we got back from NYC that afternoon, I went over to the shop to drop off a few things they needed to build it up. Then I went for a swim and, by the time I was done, so was my bike. I can't thank the guys at Towpath enough for all the work they did in getting that bike in and building it up so quickly, especially Rob and Scott. And a huge thanks goes to James Cronkwright for helping push things through Trek faster to get that frame here in time. I can't recommend this shop highly enough for any of your cycling needs. It is the best shop in Rochester, hands down.

So it's nine days until the race in New Orleans, and I had to wrap my head around the fact that I would indeed be racing. I got some decent training in over the weekend and then spent the week sharpening things up with some speed work.

Now to the actual race...

Race morning was overcast and windy. Very windy. Sustained winds around 20-25mph with the occasional gust blowing through. Some of the swim buoys were blown off course, so the race was delayed 15 minutes so they could be set back up. We were given the chance to get in the water to warm up about ten minutes before race start, which was good because it gave me a chance to try to get used to the choppy water. I was also using a new wetsuit, the HUUB Archimedes II. (As a side note, it is a great wetsuit. The neoprene is extremely soft and flexible.) On most days I don't look forward to the swim. On this day I was dreading it. The horn went and I got out to a decent start. It didn't last very long. The water was so choppy it was hard to breath without drinking a mouthful and it was hard to sight. Honestly, I was nervous and just wanted to be out of the water. I know my technique went to complete garbage and I was in survival mode. I did notice a few other guys around me the entire way, so at least I knew I wasn't last. The most frustrating part was after the final turn I was directed to a final green buoy that we were told was right by swim exit. However, when I got to that buoy I was told we didn't need to go around it and it actually wasn't really near the exit. Instead it was about 200 yards from where I needed to be. Half of the field had gone straight to the exit and half of us went to the buoy. This isn't the first race where there has been miscommunication about this exact thing and I've never come out on the good end of it. To say it's frustrating would be an understatement.

Onto the bike for a 28 mile out and 28 mile back ride. The first half was basically straight into the wind and the second half pushed us home. I have never raced in wind like that before. It really beats your body up. You have to use your entire body to try to stabilize against the wind. The deep front wheel and the disc make you feel like a big parachute. I rode solo the entire way as my swim was so poor. I kept telling myself to try to push the first half because there would definitely be opportunities for recovery on the way back. How strong was the wind? I made it to the turn around in about 70 minutes. I made it back to transition in around 57 minutes. Eating and drinking was a challenge because I never wanted to take a hand off the bars for fear of getting blown over. The most eventful part of the ride was with about three miles to go I heard a loud "ping". A spoke on my front wheel had broken. I watched nervously as the wheel spun, rubbing the front brake as it was so out of true. I figured I could make it to transition since I didn't have far to go, but I slowed way down on the climb and descent of the on/off ramp because I was scared the wheel might give out. If that had happened any early in the race my day would have been over. Fortunately I was able to make it to transition and only give up a couple of minutes.

Now to the run, which was where my focus was coming into this race. I have had not so great runs in my past few races. I needed a confidence boost from a solid run. My run training going in hadn't been great because of the hamstring, but I had intentionally backed off on the ride to save my legs a bit for the run. My goal was to run a 1:25 with all the factors involved. The run was a straight out and back like the bike, except this time the first half was with the wind and the second half was into it. I tried to keep a steady tempo going out, saving myself for the final 6.5 miles. The wind pushed me all the way out and I felt in control. The pace was comfortable and I held my position. I hit the turn around and it was like a punch in the gut. The wind was so strong, when combined with the water from aid stations, that I actually felt cold. At about the 9.5 mile mark I could feel myself starting to fade. I just needed to hold on. Occasionally I would check over my shoulder and I could tell that I was being chased down. Fortunately I was able to hold on to 14th spot as I crossed the line, which was exactly where I came off the bike. I didn't quite hit my time, but I ran a 1:26:12, which I was pretty happy with. It was my fastest run of the year and my fastest overall time this year by a solid margin.

My college soccer coach drove all the way up from southern Florida to watch the race and cheer me on. It was absolutely awesome to have him there. He has turned into quite a triathlete himself over the past year or so. I am hoping that we get to race together at some point later this year. Keep up the training, Coach!

All in all I was pleased with the race. I survived the scary swim, had a solid bike split, and put in my best run of the year so far. Hopefully I've turned the corner for the year and things will only get better from here.

Swim - 33:46
Bike - 2:07:14
Run - 1:26:12
Overall - 4:11:19  (14th professional male)