Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Steelhead Race Report

Pre Race….nothing too exciting here….get up to the race site, unpack in transition and get everything laid out. Make our way 1.2 miles down the beach to the race start.

Race Start: 1st wave went off at 7:00, w/ 7 minute wait between heats…that means, that’s right, me being in wave 14, did not start until an hour and half after the first wave went….it was kind of disheartening to know the pros would be almost half way through the bike course before I even got to get in the water.

However, in all reality, it wasn’t so bad. The entertainment at the start was nice, with lots of modern songs, and that did seem to make the time fly….the water as well was a balmy 69 degrees, so I spent a fair share of that time just chilling right on the waters edge watching the other waves go off. Luckily I knew before hand what time we were to set off, so I brought a bottle of Gatorade as well as an extra Special K bar to the race start to keep on the calories during the wait.


So our wave finally lines up to go off, and as we have 2 minutes to start, of my favorite Killers songs come on “All These Things I Have Done”….. right then I thought the day was going to be a great day…little did I know what Mother Nature had planned for us.


So the horn goes off and in we go, and I have the song in my head for the good first half of the swim “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier”., over and over in my head…..there was a little washing machine effect, but not too much, I found a few guys that seemed to be going my speed and hung to the left of them….I noticed they were sighting very often, so I just kept focus on my stroke and keeping pace with them. The swim was pretty uneventful to be honest, waves were probably 2-3 feet, nothing too bad. I only spotted twice on my own, instead relying on the people to my right to keep my on course, and it worked brilliantly. Before I knew it, we were at the last buoy, took a right and was heading for the beach.


I got out of the water feeling fine, definitely much better than 2006 when I thought I was about to pass out. I ran up the beach and into T1. My swim time was 38:50 something, so a definite improvement over my 43 min swim last time, and I felt MUCH better. However that placed me 28th/49 in my division…..yes I know I need to work on my swim…




Get through T1 and get on my bike and I’m feeling good, the first two miles are pretty flat and I take in some calories as well as get my HR settled. The next 3 miles or so are primarily uphill work, so I get through those and then know the real fun (rollers) are about to start as I had ridden this course twice this summer. On the way out of town, there is no wind and I’m absolutely feeling well. Holding around 22 mph for that first hour, while keeping my HR where it was suppose to be.


It was around this time (we took a right turn and started heading east) that I started to notice something….the winds were definitely starting to pick up, and not in the good direction either…..we had just come south to north with no wind….however now there definitely was a south to north wind, with the majority of the course coming up going back exactly that way, not good I thought…in the mean time though, it was all cross wind.

I continue on, I get to mile 38 at the 1:40 mark, and I’m feeling pretty good. I figure if I can hold around 19-20 for the last 10 miles or so, I should be pretty happy with my bike time as that should be a 2:35-2:40 or so….however all that change pretty quickly as soon as I took the last turn on the course that would lead south for the last 18 miles of the bike course.

That fatal turn, ha.


To say it was work to get back to T2 is an understatement. It took me only a matter of a mile or two to realize that any time goal I had was going to be out the door…miles that had been going buy as quickly as 2 and a half minutes were now in the high 3s. Even on the downhills, you had to push to even get to get above 20 MPH, it was crazy. There was total carnage on the course, my friend doing the race said he saw people walking their bikes up the hills (he unfortunately shredded the sidewall of his tire and had to DNF, so he got to ride back in a SAG vehicle, missing all the “fun”). I didn’t see that, but I can tell you that the majority of people were up in there bullhorns in that crouched over position you see when people are absolutely spent. The wind was nonstop and relentless, and coming directly at you. I’ve been in some pretty bad biking situations, and I have to say this ranks right up there as some of the worst miles I have ever put in on a bike. It just made you so hard just to move along at a snails pace. I think you get the idea.


So anyway, the last downhill FINALLY showed up after an hour and fifteen plus minutes of riding into the wind…..I cruise down that hill totally humbled by what just had happened, and my right butt cheek is absolutely on fire. Like someone had stabbed a knife right into the middle of it. I get into transition and get off my bike, try to run, but the pain in my ass, literally, only allows for a slight shuffle…


And then it happened as I went to rack my bike. I had a thought I never had in a race before. I thought about saying “eff it” and quit right there in transition. I remember saying to myself, what do I have to prove? I’ve been here before, I’ve done this distance, no one is really going to care if I wrap it up right now. Sure it would suck, but why not? But then I remembered the sick feeling I had at Racine last year when I double flatted and didn’t have a choice in the matter…that got me back on track….I went to the porta potty, regrouped, and headed out. I may be in pain, but I’m not a quitter. I had just won the mental game these races can throw at you.


Somehow through all that wind and butt pain, I managed to move up 10 spots in the Clydesdale category on the bike, so it’s pretty clear that I was not the only one suffering out there. 18th/49 in my division heading out for the run.


So I start running with small steps, hoping that it’ll eventually work loose what feels like the knife in my ass, but after about ¼ mile it’s evident that it’s not, the pain is still there…so I try something else. I decide to try and take a slightly longer stride than I normally do, in essence using the muscles just past where it’s hurting, and to my surprise, it worked.


The next miles are by no means my best run splits. The work on the bike in the wind had not only taken its toll on me, but on other competitors. Although not a large sample, I can say it seemed like more people were walking at Steelhead on Saturday than I can remember of any of my other races.. I saw a lot of people walking, and I’m not talking just on the hills.


The run course itself was alright. There were 3 pretty big climbs and then one more that was more gradual but still work.


I managed to hold low to mid 9 min/miles for the first 10 miles. In all reality probably around 8 to mid 8, but I made sure to stop at every aid station and try to get in as many calories as I could, hoping to get my real legs back, but they never came.


Around mile 10 is when my friend Mr. Cramps started to show up. I had been taking salt tablets all day, but that apparently didn’t matter…my legs were torched and he wanted revenge. I managed to waddle through another mile, and then it happened around mile 11, my legs just cramped up so bad I couldn’t even waddle…for the next two miles I did some walk/run as my legs would allow. I would push my legs to the point where they would cramp up, then walk it off, then continue. I had managed to catch up to Kristin from my tri group around mile 10 and she caught back up to me at mile 11. I told her to go ahead, but she insisted on finishing with me. That made it easier as we were chit chatting and it got my mind off the issues going on, and passed the time quicker than if I had been solo.


Finally the home stretch along the beach came and Kristen took off, I had no gear left so I ran as fast as I could to the finish and finally put the rough day to rest. Many lessons learned.


Initially I was pretty disappointed with my time, I really was hoping for a sub 5:30, but as the minutes passed after the race, I became more at ease with it, knowing the conditions were not ideal for it. Then after I saw that on the run I passed 8 more people in my division and finished 10th of 49, I finally felt OK about it. Only 7 minutes was the separation between 10th and 5th place, so I was right there.


Overall I’ve made some great gains this year. Every race I’ve done I finished in the top 20% or higher of the divisions I have raced it..…but there is still much I can improve on and am really looking forward to getting leaner, taking swim lessons, and overall getting faster for next year…..I want to win a race in the Clydes division next year. That is my goal. Mark it down.