Monday, September 20, 2010

Ironman Muskoka 70.3

As I packed my transition bag as well as some other overnight items before leaving Chicago for northern Ontario, a few thoughts and emotions stirred in my mind. The first one was a feeling of trepidation as I knew this race was one of the more difficult on the 70.3 circuit and that one thing was certain…I was going to suffer regardless of how well I raced. The second was a bittersweet feeling that I often get towards the end of the season as I approach my last few races wondering, how did the last 8 months go so quickly and how would I really feel about my season as a whole if it were to end after this weekend’s race. The last thing I thought about was my race at the Chicago Triathlon two weeks prior and how if nothing else, I needed to personally avenge that performance in order to feel at ease about possibly hanging things up until next year. Oh and I also was dreading the 10 plus hours I was going to spend in the car to get the race.

Fast forward to Sunday morning at 4:40 a.m.. The weather called for a 60% chance of showers until around 9 and then partly cloudy skies for the remainder of the day. When I opened the door from the motel I realized that it had lightly rained late last night but there was little precipitation on the radar which was encouraging. The bike course for this race has several technical descents that would become that much more technical should the road be wet. I just hoped the rain would hold off until I was through the first 25K or so of the bike.

Had a very relaxed time setting up transition as I avoided having to take the shuttle from the airstrip by being dropped off right in from of transition…nothing like saving nearly half an hour of waiting and riding on a school bus to kick off the day. As the darkness began to fade to light, it became apparent that the radar I had checked before leaving for the race was incorrect as there was a very light misty drizzle for the hour or so leading up to the race start. Regardless, it was time to race.

Swim – The best part about the swim start at this race is that no matter how many people are in your wave, the start line is almost 50 meters wide so you avoid the traffic that most wave starts have. Right off the bat I got into a good rhythm and felt comfortable. I knew that if I just focused on my stroke and actually paid attention to things, I could have a good swim. At about the halfway point I realized that I had been swimming parallel to a guy for almost 5 minutes or so and decided that if I wasn’t going to pass him, I may as well get on his feet and let him pull me through the rest of the swim. This tactic worked pretty well and I stayed on him the rest of the way. When I finally made it up the long and hilly run to transition, I was at just over 32 minutes which was a pleasant sight to see. Threw on my arm warmers and headed out for the 95K course.

Bike – Having done this race last year, I was familiar with the course and knew that the first 10K of the bike really hits you hard from the get go. What I didn’t want to do was have to recover from it over the following 5K so I stayed efficient up the hills and really used the descents to build speed going into some of the shorter hills as the roads were relatively dry at this point. I quickly got into a groove and passed 2 people in my age group that were in their own right strong cyclists so I knew that my swim had put me in a good position. After about 45K or so I was essentially alone for the next 15K until I came upon the leader of my age group and 3rd place amateur overall at the time. I was significantly better on the hills than him and we traded passes on the uphills and downhills for almost the next 20K. Right after going through a small town at the 80K mark, there was a stretch of road that contained several hills, some of them short and very steep (10%+) and others long but gradual. I decided I really didn’t want to be in a pissing match with this guy for another 15K so I really hit these hills hard. After 10 minutes or so went by and he didn’t pass me, I figured there was a good chance I had lost him but I didn’t mind looking over my shoulder to make sure. I decided to ride hard for the next 5K and then I’d check to see who was behind me. When I came upon the 90K mark, there was no one for at least a mile which was very encouraging. My legs felt sharp and I had managed to force myself to drink enough despite the rain and low 60 degree temps and knew that if I put together a strong run, I’d be more than happy with the outcome. When I entered transition, there was only 1 bike besides the pros….a very welcoming sight! I averaged right at 23.3 mph over the 58 mile course that included almost 4,000 feet of climbing.

Run – As I headed out on the run I overheard the announcer say that I was 2:30 behind the first amateur out of transition. I knew that if I could put together a solid run, I’d at least give myself a fighting chance to catch him. I knew that I needed to maintain right around 3:53 for each kilometer to be at 6:19 pace which would put me at just over 1:22 for the run which given the topography of this course, is a solid time. I went through the first 2K in just a hair under 8:00 which was a good sign as this part of the run includes a hill that is probably a kilometer long by itselft. At the 4K mark I settled into a good pace as I could now finally feel all 10 of my toes and my pace began to increase ever so slightly but steadily. I passed several female pros and 2 male pros through the first 9K of the run. At this point I also passed Mirinda Carfrae, only she was at 12K having gone through the turnaround already and she was really moving! As I approached the turnaround I saw the leading amateur and I was really motivated by the fact that I had made up almost 2 minutes of the 2:30 deficit I had coming out of transition. He noticed that I was coming and it took me the next 5K to make up any time on him at all. Finally when the course moved off the roads onto a trail that included several short steep inclines I caught him right at about 17K. We took turns leading for the next 3K until we hit a decline with 1K to go where I swear the guy had nearly a dozen fans scattered throughout the crowed cheering him to lose me for good. He built up a lead of over 10 feet or so as we headed into transition with about 250 meters to go and I knew that it was now or never to close the gap. The way the finishing chute has you finish is by making what is essentially a semi-circle around transition before it makes a bending left hand turn before probably 50 meters of straightaway to the finish line. As we approached the left hand bend I decided to go as hard as I possibly could, using every bit of fast twitch muscle that was left after years of playing football and with my arm outstretched, I broke the tape a fraction of a second before him to take the overall amateur win! Shortly after while talking to him, I found out he started in the wave in front of me so I really had a 6 minute lead on him the entire time… gotta be kidding me!!! Oh well, I had a great run and furthermore a great race. I also decided that 2 more months of training was doable as I accepted my spot to Clearwater in November. A special thanks to Jake and everyone at Zoot as well as the myriad of other sponsors helping the team and all its members achieve their personal goals this season!

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