Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Deuces Wild Half IM
"You're five minutes behind first, you have your work cut out for you, get going!!!" yelled my wife. This was the first thing I heard as I exited Fools Hollow Lake.
We arrived in Show Low the day before and were greeted with the wonderful cool temps, cozy cabin nestled among the Ponderosa pines, a steady wind blowing 25-30mph, and a raging forest fire about 30 miles due east in Pine. First thing I want to acknowledge is how awful this Wallow Fire has been in terms of acreage burned and the potential for so many to loose their homes. Also, I want to praise the brave men and women who are up their trying to save lives and property. As we arrived in Show Low, we could clearly see the smoke. There had been some concern that the Deuces Wild Triathlon festival might be cancelled but the prevailing south/south west winds were pushing the flames and smoke away from Show Low. And man, it was and still is windy. So windy that I had made the decision to not use my rear disc wheel and run my 808/808 set up instead. This proved to be a wise descison. So Jamie and I were back for the third year to race this event. I was there to defend my 2010 overall win in the Half and Jamie to finish Sunday's XTERRA which she had to DNF last year due to illness.
We ariived right at noon in time for packet pick up and to allow Jamie to do the XTERRA course pre-ride. I used that time to hit the local Safeway and stock up the house with porvisions and get all my race gear ready. Jamie's friend Amanda, who was racing the Olympic, joined us at our cabin and we had a satifying and early diner. I hit the bed around 8pm and for the first time in three years prior to this race, i actually slept. For some reason, I had not been able to sleep in '09 and '10, like not at all. Might have been due to the altitude of 6300+ feet but this night, I slept well.
I woke up just before 4 am and had some coffee and a Cliff Bar. I felt good and rested. It was pretty chilly outside, high 40's, but I knew it would warm up quickly. Jamie drove me down to Transition for my 6:30 start and then went home to bring Amanda back as her race didn't start until 8.
Transition was very relaxed this year as they had assigned spots on the rack, so there was no mad rush to try and score good spots, although my buddy Brian Folts didn't realize this and had been in Transition since about 4:30 am! I set up my meager little spot: shoe's, socks, a gel flask, a visor, race belt, and a towel for it all to sit on. I spent a few moments catching up with my local friends as well as last years 2nd place finisher Ryan. I knew Ryan and Brian would be very competitive and I would need to be aware of them on the course. And then there's that great adage you never know who is going to show up on race day. Man, would that prove to be the truth!
Very quickly it was time to squeeze into my ZOOT Prophet wet suit (LOVE this suit) and get in the water for a few minutes of easy swimming. I lined up int the front, a little to the right, with a good bead on the first turn buoy. My swimming has bee very good this year and I was looking forward to trying to better my 28:52 from last year. I knew if I could get a few minutes lead starting off the bike, I could put enough time on my known competition to hold them, especially Brian, off on the run.
I started towrads the first marker swimming pretty hard just to get clear, which I did within the first 200 yards or so. My breathing was a bit labored as it always is at first swimming at altitude but I knew I would settle down. There was only one other swimmer near by me in a sleevless suit and a woman who was part of a relay team. On the lond side of the course, I dropped the woman and the guy on my left was a few feet away. I flet great, smooth, nice fast turnover, everything felt like it was clicking. As I rounded the last marker I could see a few people ahead and was sure I must be well within the top 10, maybe top 5. WRONG! I hit the boat ramp, looked at my watch and was literally astonished. And then I heard Jamie....
To say I was feeling a little bit discouraged would not put too fine a point on it. Brian and Ryan were both right in front of me whereas I had almost 2min on them last year coming out of the water. I needed to have a good transition and strat to do damage control on the bike. They had wet suit strippers, so by the time I reached my bike all I had to do was put on my helmet and glasses and go. I reached the mount line which is on a slight hill, swung my right foot over and into my clipped in shoe, pushed off, went to get into the left and totally missed. Worse, my new Specialized shoes don't like to flip over as easy as my prvious LG's. So now I am trying to turn the cranks but my left foot is the bottom of my left shoe and I can't get it flipped over!
By now, I was so FUBAR, my right shoe unclipped and i was at a standstill. I got off the bike over to the side to allow the more intelligent athletes to get by, and put my damn shoe's on. This did little to alter my mood, needless to say and put my another 30+ seconds in arrears.
I would be hard pressed to recall another time I was beginning a 56 mile bike race feeling so discouraged. The first few miles were dominated by an internal battle between negativity and trying to settle down and continue to compete. I very quickly was moving up through the field and the cross wind was very much evident. The first positive thought came into my mind, man, I am glad I left the disc at home. OK, so one decision made correctly, what else could I work on in a more positive manner? My HR was 150-152, so early in the race that was a good sign. I just went flying by Brian, my young nemesis. Better start up on my nutrition and hydration (I had about 5 gels and a pieces of a Cliff Bar in my Fuel Box) plan even though it was stil cool.OK, we are doing a bit better now.
The course initially runs due west on SR 260, so I knew the south/ southwest wind would continue to pick up and be a tail wind between miles 15-25 as you head north towards SR 277. Up the road, I could see another cyclist and by the time we turned to head north, he wasn't too far ahead and seemed to be coasting some on the downhills, so I kept up the pace. At the mile 20 Aid Station I was getting very close to overtaking him but decided I would try and grab a bottle of sport drink even though I still had water. The tail wind was so strong, I came into the aid station at what must have been almost 25+mph and as this poor kid stuck out his hand with the bottle, I was going way to fast to grab it. I hope I didn't hurt the poor little guy!
Now it was time to make the pass and I went by and kept up the pace as to prevent him from jumping on me. My HR was now in the 148 raange and I knew the elevation and wind would start to slowly start to bring it down. I made the right on SR 277 and was greeted by a steady cross/head wind. Fortunatley this section is sort of net downhill, but it's open and exposed. I wasn't entirely clear what position I was in but i knew it wasn't 1st as there was no lead car in front of me like last year. Eventually I could see yet another rider way up the road with no lead car infront of him, so I concluded I must be 3rd.
Then came the turn I was dreading. Right on AZ 77 and heading due south back to Show Low, where the majority of climbing and a viscous headwind awaited the riders, 15 miles of misery. This is always the most challenging party of the course, where fatigue and the long, slow climbs can just knock the stuffing out of you. Add in 25-30mph head winds and I was being forced into my small chain ring for the first time in this race. It's discouraging, makes it a challenge to hold any pace or keep my HR up, which was now camping ut around 142. My new friend negativity started to creep back in..You're going to get caught. I never look back on the course until the very end and refused to do so yet. I very much expected to hear the labored efforts of the chase group swallowing me up and spitting me out the back. I could still see 2nd but the gap was too far to bridge. And then something quite obvious occured to me. These conditions palyed to my strengths as a cyclist. I am small and strong, so te wnd and hills that were giving me fits was likely blowing up the field behind me. I took comfort in that though and tucked as low and small as I could on the aerobars when it wasn't too steep. Think small, keep spinning. Up ahead I could see the spot where the Olympic race would join up with us and knew this would be the only opportunity to chack my 6 and see if anyone was close to me. I looked back and saw nothing but a vast stretch of empty road. I was well away and needed to stay there.
I rode past the mile 50 marker and recalled how last year, nit too far from this spot, I flatted my front tire. It was a nice moment to pass by that point without incident. Now out of the headwind, it was a fast shot back to T2. I was till 3+ mile sout as my split from last year rolled by!
The run splits include T2, so I'll just figure I was about the same as last year although the Transition was on the opposite side of the parking lot. I had a good T2 and as I ran to the course I was told i was 10min down on first and 4min behind second. 10min!! Who was that guy?!
The initial 2 miles are alnog a trail by the lake and I felt pretty beat. I ran past Jamie who once again gave me a "GET GOING"! I love my wife. :) I tried to find some sense of form and pace but, once again, began to feel you know what creep into my thoughts. I'm running too slow, I'm going to get shuffled back in the pack. It's hard to admit, but this was the point where I stopped racing to catch second and likely started racing to not loose 3rd. It's a very different mind set and in retrospect, it was paramount in my thoughts. Back onto the road and heading to the long dirt road out and back, I started to feel a little better, grabbing a shot of gel from my flask and some ice cold water at an aid station.
Just as i reached the dirt road, I was slammed by the headwind. It was getting worse and this rolling stretch with poor footing would be a struggle. At this point, and Olympic athlete caught up to me and I could see my friend Cam Hill coming the othe way, leading the Olympic race. I gave him a high five as we passed. Then I had my firts chance to see 1st in the Half. As he passed, he said something to me about the bike course record, one which I had set last year with a 2:20. I still don't know what he said and I actually assumed he had bested it but it turned out he went 2:23, an amazing split considering the conditions. Now 2 more guys came by but I wasn't sure who was in what race. As I made the turn, a group of guys were coming and I had a moment of panic until i could see they were all Olympic men. I needed to keep an eye out for Ryan and Brian, who was easy to spot in his speedo. I was well past the turn and nearing the road when I saw Ryan first. We also high fived and he said "Just like last year!" where he had chased me to the end and missed catching me by about 10 seconds. As Brian and I passed he said I must have had a great bike and again I realized how much the conditions had played to my strength. A valuable lesson learned, one of many good and bad on this day so far.
As I looped around the lake side road towards the second out and back, I knew I would have a better chance to see where 2nd place was and in turn, how fast Ryan and Brian were running. As i came down past Transition, 2nd was just coming up to make the turn for the final lap. We wished eachother well and I knew I was still about 4min or so down on him. Now i really wanted to get out and back and into transition to start the last lap before Ryan got to the same spot. It gave me a boost of extra motivation when I hit Transition and Ryan and Brian still hadn't come down the road, so I knew I was at least 4min ahead. that felt good and I continued to run and run well, and hold pace. I think I was moving much better now.
Once more to the long out and back and the wind had shifted to more of a cross, so the last few miles would be into the wind. I hit the turn and started coming back. Now Ryan was in about the same spot but Mr. Folts was running like a man possesed. He was flying and we still had 2 miles to go. yet a little more motivation for me to get this done. Once back on the road, I pushed into the wind but I felt slow despite the effort. Finally coming past mile 12, I knew I could hang on and i afforded myself a look back as I climbed the last hill. No speedo to be seen. I came across the line a good 9min slower then last year, pleased to be on the podium, but with a lot of things to think about.
Final Time- 4:40:02, 3rd out of 156.
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