Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Half Ironman race report - It's all about muscles

My season of doing only low-key, odd-distance races continues. Looking back, has a 5K in Carlton, MN, really been the only race at a commonly accepted distance? Almost.

This was my first half Ironman, and it wasn't even a whole half. It was 1000m-76K-20K, so all the distances were slightly amputated. Still, it was pretty close to a half IM and that's what we have called it.

The swim went well. I have trained sporadically in the pool for a few years now, going from barely being able to crawl a lane to barely being able to crawl through a triathlon. The swim was over pretty quickly without incident. The Girl started 30 seconds behind me and, of course, passed me with a few hundred meters to go. Chicked. Still, I went a little faster than I had expected, so all was good.

I got really dizzy after the swim and almost couldn't stand up after getting out of the pool. A volunteer guided me back towards the pool, as though I had to swim another 500 meters; I didn't realize what was going on before the guy in front of me jumped into the pool. The volunteer then said "oh, you just looked so fresh that I assumed you were only half way". I must be able to hide my disequilibrium well.

The bike leg was interesting in that drafting was allowed. I tagged on to a guy, who seemed like a very capable rider on an exceedingly capable tri bike. After a K or so, we took a wrong turn, and the guy got off his bike to yell at the volunteers at the confusing intersection. We had just passed the Girl, and once I got back on course I passed her again. She was looking pretty capable, herself, with her fancy tri skinsiut, new helmet and new tribars. She had even bought that kind of handlebar bottle that you can drink from without getting out of aero, but opted out of using it. She looked 90% pro gazelle and 10% female Fred.

Many men were jealous of me that day.

But, anyway, the capable guy was gone (into a fit of rage, apparently). But up ahead was another guy, who seemed to be going my pace. I surged up to him and ended up riding the entire leg with him. If you ever read this, Claus Busk Andersen, thanks for letting me draft of you! Claus was a little stronger than me on the bike and rode very consistently. I pulled maybe 25% of the time, Claus pulled 50% of the time, and whoever else was in our group pulled the rest. We passed tons of people of various abilities. At times, guys would try to hold on to our little group, and some even took healthy pulls at the front, but interestingly everyone got dropped sooner or later and after 76K Claus and I finished together. We also got passed, of course, by a few leg-shaving plate-wheeled dudes. These guys go fast! At a point, a train of four such dudes passed us and I wanted to try to hold on to them, but Claus made it clear that it was too fast for him. Too fast for him would spell disaster for me, so we let them drift off. Good move.

This was by far the fastest I have ever ridden 50 miles. The average came out as 31.5kph, but that included the transition, so I imagine it was closer to 33kph. Very happy with that. Little did I know the Girl was breaking into new territory on a bike. She ended up riding at almost 30kph average speed. In windy, hilly, technical conditions. This was actually a pretty slow course. Holy shit! It's been almost to the point of me thinking she cut the route short, because I had no idea she could ride that fast. On our club rides, she sometimes gets dropped during the warm-up. What happened here was probably her strong competitive spirit kicking in. She was lucky enough to get passed by a woman soon after I passed her, and simply sucked onto that wheel like a estrongen-bitchy barnacle. Until a better wheel came along, and then she sucked onto that.

Then came the run. I had a shot a top placing (in reality, a top 10) and the girl was fighting for the podium. In all the other triathlons I have done, my running has been fine. After a few K, it's almost like I haven't swum or run at all. Not this time, though. The first K went beautifully, but then my adductors starting cramping up in both legs. I had to stop and the 10 or so runners I had just passed were left wondering if I was about to have a bowel movement or was passing a kidney stone. I honestly thought I had to drop out, but I walked a couple of minutes and slowly the legs started to cooperate. I had my music along, and it helped me get into a comfortable zone. I had to stop a few times with minor cramping but got through. I ran the 20K in 1:29, which was very disappointing. The running reminded me of an ultra-marathon in that cardiovascular fitness becomes secondary to how one's muscles are holding up. While the rest of my body wanted to go faster, my muscles didn't hold up well at all. Hopefully, this gets better when I get a few more ultras/long tris under my belt. Still, running is my forte in a triathlon and I went from 40th to 16th overall. It's not world shattering, but I'm proud of getting 16th out of almost 100 guys. This isn't like getting 16th in a running race with 100 participants, because triathletes tend to be much more serious and fit.

The Girl had a run that was a little less disappointing that mine. It wasn't as fast as I had expected, but even a mediocre Girl is a very fast runner. She went from 7th to 3rd overall, which is insane against a field of hard-core triathletes. After her miscarriage, she has hit a vein of form that could yield a few PRs this fall. She has a trail marathon in two weeks (I work that day, unfortunately); if it's not too technical, she could even PR there.

She is hard to coach but she is doing some of the things I have been trying to teach her, like taking easy days. She is strong and toned and has gained a few pounds of muscle. It's almost to the point where she cares less about her weight and more about looking good in a trisuit...

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