Monday, May 05, 2008

Fifty-Eight Minutes--A Wildflower Race Report

Transition, early on race morning

Fifty-eight minutes. That's how much quicker I was this year than I was last year on the Wildflower course. But don't get the wrong idea. I'm still not what one would call "fast." If you start with a truly pathetic race performance as your baseline, it's not all that earth shattering to drop nearly an hour from your time. But still, this was a good weekend, and a good yardstick on the way to Ironman CdA.

Curly Su gets ready to race

The Swim


Last year, it was the swim that really put me in the hole mentally. Frankly, I panicked. The water temperature surprised me, I felt like I couldn't breathe, and every time I tried to put my face in the water to swim freestyle, I caught a face full of chop and choked and gagged. Over an hour later, I dragged myself from the water, having swum breastroke from kayak to kayak.

This year, a much more successful swim began the day before the race. I got in the water without my wetsuit to get comfortable with the 65 degree water and get used to swimming without the added warmth and buoyancy. The temperature shocked me, I couldn't breathe, and I nevertheless swam to the first turn and made myself figure out how to overcome the issues.

And I did it. By the end of the practice swim, I had acclimated to the temperature and was stroking and breathing well.

On game day, the air temperature when we go to transition was in the 40s. I was NOT looking forward to getting we. In fact I was dreading it. But, I jumped in with wetsuit right before my wave start to warm up, and it was a piece of cake. In comparison to the practice, I was warm, buoyant and confident. In fact, I was so comfortable and ready to go, I totally forgot to start my watch when the horn sounded. That was when the difficulties started---


but my mantra for the day was "positive and efficient." Rather than allow my mind to wallow in difficulty like I did last year, it was all about staying in the moment, remaining positive and finding the efficient way to keep moving forward. In the swim this meant dealing with contact, drafting some, getting around slower swimmers, adjusting my stroke, sighting efficiently, swimming to open water, and remaining patient--swimming one buoy at a time. It was still cold, I still swallowed some water, there was still contact with other swimmers, but 44 minutes later I was done--about 20 minutes faster than last year.


Transition On Race Day

This is where it gets kind of funny. I set up my transition area exactly like I always do, but it did not seem to help.

I was, in fact, cold and shivering and disoriented when I got out of the swim into the massive transition area. It took a lot of effort to get my limbs to obey and get out of the wetsuit. I actually had to sit down, shivering the whole time. Then I took extra time to put on arm warmers. Then I started toward bike out. Then I thought I had forgotten something, which was not actually necessary until the run. But I went back because I was so befuddled. Then, apparently after dinner, a movie, some shopping and a stroll, I decided to get on my bike and ride.

This is how T1 is supposed to go

But 5 miles down the road, I wondered, "why are the toes on my left foot cold?"

It was because I was riding down the road with one sock on and one sock off. I laughed out loud when I discovered it, and at several later points on the ride.

The Bike


Last year, I tried to overcome a crappy swim by showing that I at least could ride a little. As a result of bad pacing and bad nutrition--i.e., Perpetuem, may it rot in hell--I shattered myself with 10 hilly miles left to transition. Result--a 14 mph average and nothing left to run with.

This year, I was riding with no bike computer, a smile on my face, and only a HR monitor and perceived exertion to go by. The first hour consists mainly of climbing sharply away from the lake and I barely made 15 miles in that hour. But it was "positive and efficient." I monitored heart rate and picked good gears where I could get the cadence nice and high, and the miles started to fly by. Riding Carmen Tequilo's Zipp 404s into the wind was like being on rails. I felt like I was invisible to the air, just tucking in and slipping on through.


And I also took time to enjoy the day. The scenery was just AWESOME. Unlike last year, the wildflowers were a riot of color. And then there were the other racers. See, when you're one of the last male race waves to go off, you spend a good portion of the bike getting passed by very fit women. Some guys have a problem getting chicked like that. Me? I'm just disappointed that I can't keep up once passed and motivated to train harder.

Then there was Nasty Grade and the climb to the top of the course. If you doubt whether it was nasty, just look at the course profile done by D.C. Rainmaker. Check out the wall you have to climb within the first mile or so, and then Nasty Grade at mile 40.


Nevertheless, I arrived with legs to spare and did not burn all my matches getting to the top. My new 12/27 cassette spun me to the top with a steady rhythm and I screamed down the other side---only pausing a couple of times to wonder whether I had tightened down all the parts properly when I put Carmen together.

Anyhow, the result of all this was a quicker time, better climbing and much more fun. I felt like I had something left for the run notwithstanding the ridiculously hilly bike course. About 30 minutes faster than last year.


So, I managed to get both my socks on in T2, but did not run well coming in off the bike. Something about the climbing had taken a toll on my lower back muscles and glutes on the right side. But I limped onto the run course.

The Run--a/k/a "A Walk In The Woods"

Last year, Iron Jenny opined that Wildflower was harder than an Ironman. I did not believe her. Having done an Ironman now, I think I concur. The Ironman run courses do not tend to be hilly. Wildflower, on the other hand, does not tend to be flat. Imagine an Xterra half-marathon on mountain trails, perahps with live ammunition and a side of water boarding and you've pretty much got the proper image of Wildflower. The first two miles of the run, I tried to battle through the cramping burning glutes, but every time the road tipped up, I pretty much had to walk. Even then, I was walking in zone 3.

Then, between miles 4 and 5 you basically have to climb a wall on a dirt trail. Check it out, again from D.C. Rainmaker:


I was walking and going just about as fast as people trying to run the stupid incline. Then the course comes out into the full sun, and I began a multi-hour splitting headache and cotton mouth. Suffice it to say that what began as a survival shuffle slowed even more than that.


I think I kind wussed out and maybe could have run faster. It kind of frustrates me that I did not do so, because unlike some people, I love running. That's where this all started--just running a 13.1 mile road race with my little brother. But, at the end of the day, this is a warmup/race simulation for the big dance in June. So, realizing that they give the same t-shirt and medal to me and to the 5:30 finishers, I let the engine cool and coasted it on in. Sill, about 10 minutes faster than last year.

Lessons Learned

So what accounts for the fifty-eight minutes that I took out of last year's time? Sure, I am probably fitter this year. I am objectively faster, but not by that much. It is more a mater of how I am racing and who I am racing. Last year, I was racing against what I thought of other peoples' expectations of me, and I could not measure up to the fictional expectations. This year, I was only racing myself and racing the course, staying in the moment and focusing only on how to efficiently move forward through whatever obstacle the race course or conditions puts out there.

Anyway, not my best writing, but I wanted to get this out there. I'll post some more pictures from the weekend later in the week.


Fe-lady said...

Thanks! Brought back memories...not that I will probably ever go back and do the half tho..!
Where did you get photos? From the site?
Glad you just had fun and raced against you and the clock.
Just curious...what nutrition DID you use?
I am still tossing around Cytomax/Carbopro/HammerGel/Gu issues....

21stCenturyMom said...

Faster because of what is going on in your head makes faster because of what is going on with your limbs even faster - or something like that. Nice race! Almost - ALMOST makes me want to go back for a repeat but I've got a better gig this year - next weekend. I hope I'm as successful in my race as were you in yours.

Spokane Al said...

Congratulations on a great race. It sounds like you have learned a great deal - concerning training and about yourself - from your tri-journey.

Donald said...

Wow - fantastic job! Sorry I missed it this year. Congrats on such a huge PR, and for your customary great insight.

TJ said...

An hour faster! Wow! That is HUGE!
Congrats on an awesome race.

SWTrigal said...

After seeing that bike and run profile, personally I think you won!! great swim!

Alili said...

Wow-great improvement!! Great job out there!!

And seeing the pictures, hearing the stories...I have to do that race.

stronger said...

I like that you rode with no computer. You're in a much better place a year later.

Supalinds said...

Holy hell that course is no joke.

One sock, one sock, bwahhhhhhh - the other one is in Nytro's toilet :) That is so something I would do!

Great race - 58 minutes is 58 minutes better no matter how you look at it!!! Be proud!

Iron Eric said...

What a great race report. I missed teh race again this year. I watched the Race Athlete team last year and I said I was going to do it this year. Well....maybe in a few years.

Great race too! 58 min. thats amazing.

Nytro said...

i much prefer "my beyotch Nytro" to "some people".

thank you.

oh, and running still blows.

CoachLiz said...

Races are so much better when you do them on your own terms. There are times that you find the hummor like the missing sock and the need for motivation, but you dig within yourself and just repeat your mantra and all is right with the world again.

Congratulations for the impressive improvement over last year's race!

I was thinking about you when I was climbing some hills around Chappell Hill.

pinkgurugal said...

nice race report. funny bout that sock. if this is your worst writing i have a long ways to go....

Pharmie said...

Love the one sock realization! Congrats again on a huge PR!

TWRunner said...

Congrats! What a big stride on your swim time.

Not bad that it was only a sock left in T1. Not sure I could attack those hills; kind of liking our flat lands.

tri-mama said...

Oh yeah! Great Job!

TriSaraTops said...

AWESOME job, dee oh double GEE!

Nicely done!

Rainmaker said...

Congrats on the race and pushing through a tough course! It was great meeting up with you for dinner. And your burger looked really good too, especially with the bacon hanging out the side...just sayin'.

Brent Buckner said...

What a difference a year makes!

1HappyAthlete said...

Great race and great report TG.

I can empathise with going too hard on the bike. I got a flat at the FL 70.3 last year and tried to make up time....BAD idea...nothing left for the run.

Benson said...

Good on ya man. Had some fun and dropped 58 minutes. Pretty cool I'd say.

Bigun said...

did I miss it, or was there no mention of topless coeds on the run? Blah, Blah Blah, 58 min better, blah blah blah...nope, no mention of boobies anywhere!?!?!?!

Kim said...

grey, what a FANTASTIC race report, and CONGRATUFUCKINGLATIONS on shaving almost an HOUR on your time. you should be proud of yourself, because all of us readers are! :)

IronJenny said...

Told ya! And you did great!
Probably becuase you are so fit - enough to be the art class nekked model.

Lana said...

Congrats on an awesome race and a great improvement over last year! That is so funny about your socks....but then - why are you wearing socks in the first place?!?! There's no time to put socks on in a triathlon!!! haha - no seriously, great job! You are a great inspiration to me.