Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Welland Half Race Report: another half iron beats me up!

WOW, that was super fun, then sucked really bad, then was fun again.....!

That is how I would describe my Welland Half Iron Experience this past weekend. I was gun shy coming into the event because I have never really been able to nail a half iron distance event before. For some reason the wheels (or sneakers) fall off every time I do one. Given I have done about 20 of these that speaks to how much I just can't figure it out!

Race morning I ate my oatmeal, banana, maple syrup and coffee and then hit the road sipping my bottle of Powerbar Perform. More on this later....

As I arrived the sun was shining, the wind was calm, and some familiar faces abound. Nigel Gray's formative NRGPT crew were there and I teased my old coach about my goal for the day: arrive within 30 minutes of his finish-:) My more serious race plan was to:
  1. test my race day nutrition
  2. get out of swim in good shape up front
  3. ride conservative until Jim Sunners caught me
  4. ride with Jim (LEGALLY!) 
  5. Run hard and fast
Checking previous races I figured a PB was a real possibility given the flat course and shaded run. I was looking at 4:20 to 4:23 as a really good goal to hit.

Swim: I parked myself beside Nigel as in other races we have exited together. Behind me was Andrew Boldon whom I exited with in Woodstock and Binbrook triathlons. The gun went off and Nigel was gone. Humbling moment #1! Then I felt water all in my arms and across my back inside my wetsuit. I was concerned there was a hole, or the zipper wasn't done up correctly. I was making calls in my head "do i hit the shore and take this off and jump back in or will it drain with my lightning speed!?" As we hit the first bouy and turned I felt the water draining. Not sure what it was all about but I will test the good 'ol HWY 19 suit this coming weekend in Lake Placid camp for sure. After my head cleared of all the doubts of sinking with water in my suit, I found a great pair of feet to draft from the remainder of the swim. Sure enough as I exited Andrew was on my feet. It looked like Jakub Macel, me, and Andrew plus a top female swimmer made a good group and my marker man Nigel was 30 seconds out already. Overall I was quite pleased with my swim and felt generally comfortable throughout.

T1: My goal was to be quick and for me I was! Most of my competitors were only a few seconds faster vs. the usual 30 to 45. I felt good and things were thus far on track. Once I hopped onto my bike and tried to get into my bike shoes a gap to Jakub and Andrew occured. I was watching how good they get into their shoes and how absolute crap I get into mine! Humbling moment #2!

Bike: I tricked out my Cervelo P3 for speed and therefore had no power meter or HR monitor to measure the effort. I was racing *naked* for the first time in years. I had the Zipp 808 front wheel and Mavic Disc on the back. No spare tube or extra weight. Just flat out speed. Once I gathered myself and got going I ate 1/4 a powerbar at the 5,10,15, and 20KM marker and by 30K had drank a bottle of Powerbar Perform. At 35, 55, 75, and the end of the bike leg 90K markers I took a Powergel. Overall on the bike I drank 3 bottles and took an extra 2 Salt Stick tablets to top up electrolyte reserves plus the 4 gels, and 1 bar. I felt good about my nutritional plan but looking back that is probably too much. That is about a 10% carb to fluid concentration and simply too high.

At about 10K I caught back up to Andrew and we rode legally (no drafting) together for 20K. I let up to have him pass and said we should trade leads every few KMs and keep the tempo high. For a young kid he was pretty impressive to hear out the tactic and play along. I'm impressed with this young guy, he has talent and smarts about him. I was also thinking how long until Jim comes through. My plan was not to push pace till he caught us, assess how hard he was riding and decide if I should tag on or not. Jim caught the two of us just before the 35K marker and it wasn't hard to stay close. I drifted to the back of he and Andrew and assessed how hard the riding was and can I sustain for 60K. It didn't feel that bad so I laid back there (LEGAL) for quite a while. Lets face it, even if we ride legal in triathlons it is still easier than up front so I let Jim take lead!

As the marshals came by they gave me the thumbs up then went forward and handed Andrew a drafting penalty. I have to say, it was the right call BUT he was caught in a time when he was drafting. He was, for most part, quite legal all day. That's racing, I felt bad for him.  As the KMs passed by and the only hill all day reared its head I made the call the spin past Andrew through the hill and bullet down the other side. As that happened Jim gapped us so I had to chase really hard to get up to him. Once I did I looked back and Andrew was dropped. We now had 25K to go and it was Jim and I rolling along at a really, really good clip. With 10K to go I passed Jim. He must have been resting a bit because I was not changing effort and a few K later he passed me and that is how we rolled into to T2. I was feeling really, really confident as the ride was up tempo and I put hard efforts in. My legs felt great, my mind was fresh. It was game on! I came off the bike 6th overall.

Run: I was running without a watch and had no idea what my pace was. I was keeping Jim's gap steady and could see Jakub up ahead as well. I was loving my New Balance 1440s courtesy of New Balance Toronto and feeling confident in the progress being made.  My diaphram started to cramp so I stopped to pee at 2K and things really felt great after that. The next few aid stations I jammed back some coke and water and was feeling controlled. I wasn't gaining but I wasn't losing either. I knew a few folks were flying behind and I would get caught but was feeling good. I was passed by one racer at 7K, another at 10K but then I could see Jakub walking and was like "right, catch him and were back in this". I pushed a bit and that is when the wheels (ur, sneaks!) fell right off. My stomach locked right up and my ab muscle went into spasm just like Hawaii last year. I was really bloated and started the run/walk approach. I tried a Salt Stick to get electrolytes into me but that just made it worse. I tried gulping fluids but that made it worse! Soon I was from 8th place to 12th. I battled and hoped I could come around and knock out a solid final 5K to hold onto to top 10. As I hit 15K I was definitely in trouble. My run walk went like this:
  • run 90 strides; walk 20
  • then run 65 strides; walk 15
  • then run 50 strides; walk 15
Finally after I dropped out of top 20 I mailed it in at a pace that kept the cramping bearable. Probably 10 minute mile pace at best.

Finish: 4:38 and change with a 1:51 run. I was hoping to run 1:30-1:32 and get that 4:20 barrier. That's racing.

Congrat's to Nigel on his 4:01 finish and win. He makes it look so easy!! Congrat's to all the racers, Andrew Boldon for jumping into the half iron distance at 20 and really gutting it out. Jim Sunners for his fast 3rd place overall finish, and of course thanks to all the volounteers and organizers and community of Welland.  Last, again major thanks to John Salt and his team. They put on AMAZING races and by FAR, have the BEST apres race buffet with Recharge with Chocolate Milk, and HERO BURGER!

After thought: Complete overhaul of my nutrition plan is already in play. Steps to include:
  1. gluten free again into my next race and test how that works out
  2. no oatmeal breakfasts. Works for cycling yes, not for running off the bike
  3. at Lake Placid camp this weekend I will test run two different breakfast plans that consist of breakfast and racing mostly on fluids.
The one consistent to all my stomach issues is my breakfast. I always have an oatmeal breakfast. I really hope it is that simple!

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