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
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.
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.
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.