IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Spirit of Racine Half Ironman Race Report

Happiness is hearing that the water temperature was 63 degrees when all week you've been thinking it was 52. It still felt cold when I went in for a brief warm up, but those 10 degrees make a significant difference in the comfort of the swim. I was able to line up in the front row of my wave, but I was prepared to be knocked around a bit. The field at this race is typically very competitive.

Our wave took off, but we had to run quite a way out before we could begin actually swimming. The water was shallower than I remember and I worked hard at NOT tiring myself out trying to run out to some deeper water. Several other women ran out pretty far in front of me. Once the water was about mid-thigh level, I started to swim. It felt much easier than running! Surprisingly, I had plenty of room with about 3 swimmers on my left and 2 on my right. We clustered a little around the first buoy, but it was pretty tame and I was thankful for that. I felt smooth and strong but hit my hand a few times on the bottom of the lake. The swim was relatively shallow the entire time, but in a couple of sections, it was extremely shallow. About three quarters of the way into the swim, people began to stand up and they became little obstacles for me to swim around.

Around the last buoy, I began mentally preparing for that long, uphill beach run. It made my heart rate go up just thinking about it. Out of the water, I began running up the beach. The little containers of water to rinse your feet of sand were empty of water by this point, so I skipped them and just ran into transition. A quick look at my watch revealed yet another short swim - probably about 7-8 minutes short of my usual half ironman time. Trying to get the heart rate in check, I quickly stripped off the westuit and the booties (man, I love those booties!). Transition was a little slow, I felt a bit shaky, and though it was chilly by my standards, I opted to NOT put on the armwarmers I carefully laid out.

Out of transition, there is a decent climb. I passed a few riders right there simply because they were not in the right gear for this. Out onto the road, it was just like last year, very narrow street, difficult to pass. Some sketchy areas of road made it hard for cyclists to stay to the right, so they were riding in the middle of the street. I remember telling myself to be patient - the roads do open up if you just wait for it. Racine is also known for having new USAT officials on site, therefore the penalties are plentiful.

I have to say, I don't really remember the course from last year. I think it was mostly the same, but I can't really remember what happened last week, let alone last year. I was a little chilly but I was focused in on steady cadence and power output. I got agitated with a couple of guys who were zig zagging through other cyclists, passing on the right and across the yellow, but I figured the officials would catch this - besides, I didn't want to waste my energy with it.

The temperature was comfortable and there seemed to be some wind, but nothing too significant. I was happy that my hands and feet stayed warm enough, but I did notice I wasn't really sweating. I witnessed a 4 bike accident around one corner and it freaked me out a little. Two guys turned at the same time, one held his line, the other went wide and ran right into him. The two other cyclists that were following (probably too closely) then crashed trying to avoid the first two. Scraping of metal, yelling, a wheel flying across the street - it was scary, but I believe they were all OK. Did I mention the yelling?

And, of course, yes, I saw a few packs of cyclists go by. I don't know why they do this, but it happens. I didn't see a whole lot, but that might be because I was one of the later waves. Some riders seemed to be blatant, others just seemed to be caught up in it for a bit. I myself was caught up in a pack that came up on me and hung there, so I just sat up out of the bars, frustrated. But I really want to race my own race and besides, these guys seemed a bit squirrley for me!

I realized I wasn't drinking enough due to the cool weather and I missed one of the bottle hand offs. I skipped two aid stations completely on the bike because they seemed so crowded with other cyclists who, with one bottle in hand, seemed to be all over the road. I jockeyed with some girl who I assumed was in my age group for a while - I'd pass her on the straights, but as soon as we'd get to a hill or a turn, she'd fly right by, looking as smooth and comfortable as ever.

This was one of the most comfortable half iron rides I've done - in terms of a certain body part. I think this largely has to do with a new riding position I've been fitted in. The new position has also seemed to help me keep the power output coming for a longer period of time - so finally, after 7 years of racing, I think I found my position!

My power meter said the bike course was a little short and based on my time, I'd have to say that was true. I was now heading into T2 hoping I didn't just overextend on that ride!

My legs didn't seem to feel too bad and I seemed to sail right through T2 and on to the run. I heard BZ and her daughter cheering me on and I put on a big smile and thanked them for coming. I was struggling to catch my breath and I know there are 2 uphills there in the first mile. I had no idea what pace I was running as I missed the first mile mark - it must've been near the aid station and I was paying too much attention trying to get something to drink and missed the mark. But when I got to mile 2, I was surprised at my time and focused on keeping steady.

The thing about the Racine run is that it's 2 loops and you get to see all your friends on the out and back more than a couple times, if you're lucky. It can be a big boost to see someone you know, or you can be that person providing the boost to someone else who is struggling in the run. Most everyone I saw looked great out there. Must have been due to the weather - though I was a little cold when a strong wind would whip through. It obviously wasn't affecting my run negatively as I was putting forth a very strong run for me.
Just after the half way point, I started to feel it a bit. I thought, "Oh no, here we go - I pushed too hard for the first half of this run." And then I quickly tried not to think about how hard it was getting and tried to focus on what was going right. At this point, I could slow down my run and still turn in a strong performance, but I wanted to push. What could I really do if I leave it all out there?

And thanks to all my racer friends out on the course who cheered me on - I am sorry I had no breath to respond, but in my mind, I was cheering you back! It was a great day for the participants of Racine. Weather conditions were the best I think the race has seen in years and the finishing times showed it. My race went well, though, in my mind, I still think I'm tacking on about 8 minutes to make up for the short swim. ;)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Hy-Vee Race Report

If you ever want to feel like a professional triathlete, then sign up for the Hy-Vee triathlon. Who knew such a top notch event was being held right over in Des Moines, IA? From start to finish, this race was one of the best experiences an athlete can have.

Driving to Des Moines took about twice as long as expected. I just figured, "Hey, it's Iowa, how far could it be?" Big mistake. All athletes were forced to attend a mandatory race meeting being held at the top of each hour. Unfortunately, we arrived exactly at 5:07pm and had to wait around for the next meeting. We hung around the race expo (which was surprisingly small) to wait for 6pm to roll around.

The meeting was held in the gymnasium of a school, so we all sat in the bleachers. They showed us a short collection of photos from last year's race then went over some race information. None of it was particularly earthshattering and I didn't really think there needed to be a "mandatory" meeting for this. There were no special rules or anything out of the ordinary.

Picking up the packet went smoothly and quickly. By far, the best, most comprehensive, valuable swag I've ever gotten from a race! We not only got a cycling jersey, but a backpack to fit all the other cool little goodies we received. Not even sure you can see everything from this picture, but it was like Christmas!

Dropping off the bike the night before in the 6-10pm timeframe was chaos. It moved very, very slowly and I was getting hungry and impatient. The line of cars with athletes trying to drop off their bikes was at a standstill and this normally easy process ended up taking close to 90 minutes! We headed to a nice little Italian place for dinner where we saw many other athletes wearing the bright yellow wristbands. Service was poor but the food was excellent.

The morning of the race transition opened at 4am! Trying not to be psycho about the whole thing, my plan was to get there around 4:45am - transition was to close at 5:45am. Thankfully, the parking situation was much better than the night before and we were able to get a spot and get to transition in just about 15 minutes. A few quick run throughs to make sure I knew where my bike was racked among all the other, most expensive looking bikes I've ever seen, and then it was time to hit the porta potties a few times.

The water was a balmy 81 degrees. I lined up at the front of the wave and within minutes of the start, I was warm. I was happy there were no wetsuits today. Pretty aggressive group and I fought for position. I then decided it was much more comfortable to just fall behind a good draft I was getting. Each time I tried to pull around her, I got caught up in another swimmer from a previous wave. I just tucked in and enjoyed the draft. This ended up being a slow, but comfortable swim for me.

Going out from transition on to the bike course, you get to feel like a professional triathlete riding down the bike course with the banners waving on both sides with blue fencing lining the course on both sides. The one thing that was blatantly missing was the spectators - not very many for such a high profile event. The bike course was hilly. No major climbs, but lots of long rollers. I felt like I was crawling but I was trying to focus on watts vs. mph. The bike course was very well marked and they even coned off the driveways of the people who lived on the course! Each turn was properly staffed with volunteers and, for the most part, a very clean race. I saw little drafting, though there were several competitors who were not riding on the right as they should. The hills seemed to separate any would-be packs from forming.

The wind didn't seem an issue for the ride, but the hills made this a difficult course. The trickiest part is toward the end when they direct you on to a running path. Many sharp turns - left, then right, then left - on a very narrow path. I had another athlete pass me - around a turn - on the RIGHT HAND SIDE! People, please do not do this! I almost took both of us out. Besides the fact that this was a designated NO PASSING area. To top it off, the guy was only in a relay. How frustrating!

A quick transition and I headed out on the run. My legs were feeling a bit fatigued, but not wiped, so I pushed a bit. Here we go again with the hills. Someone forgot to tell me that Iowa is hilly!! I had a hard time keeping my heart rate in check going up the hills. It was quiet out on the course - no spectators and the athletes were working hard to get up the hills. I kept thinking, "Who is that person BREATHING SO HARD??" And then I realized, "Aw, shoot, that's me!" My legs were feeling heavy, but I pushed on.

Nearing the finish, the blue fence lining and flags greet you with open arms. And though you can't see it as a competitor, as you are nearing the finish, they have each athlete on a jumbotron for the would-be fans to get a better view! It is very similar to what they have at Ironman races. I ended up finishing the run with a little left in the tank.

I then met up with some fellow Mideast Team Elite peeps for a quick photo. Both of them had great races and I feel very lucky to know them.