It's funny how you prepare for a race for so long and all you can think about is the moment you cross the finish line. Then when you actually do break the tape...you wish you still had 6 more weeks of training left and that empty feeling sets in. I knew that I'd feel that way only if I had a race I was happy with and today as I sit in my office, I do have that empty feeling but yet one of happiness and accomplishment as well.
I'm going to leave out all the miscellaneous details from the days leading up to the race b/c they are pretty irrelevant. Let's just say I did all the things I needed to do, without any disaster or hiccup and when I toed the line for the start of the race Sunday, I was 100% ready.
Swim - 1:05:05
I really didn't have any expectations for this leg of the race other than to stay relaxed, hopefully find some feet to sit on, and take the race as it came to me. I got to the front of the chaos of the mass start and got into a good rhythm about 5 minutes into the swim. The swim was 2 loops and before I knew it we were on the 2nd loop. I had found a good set of feet halfway through the first loop but lost them somehow during the turnaround and was a little bummed out to say the least. Then somehow, by the time I got to the final turn buoy, the guy whose feet I had been following appeared out of no where and I again paced off him for the remainder of the swim. I didn't time the start so I had no idea what my time was but I felt like I was swimming within myself and was happy when I got out of the water. Got through the change tent and out onto the bike. Pretty uneventful swim which is what I was hoping for.
Bike - 4:49:55
The bike was going to be the big mystery for me in this race. I really had no idea what I was capable for this distance, and even after talking with my coach about things, I still had no concise game plan other than to keep it conservative for the first 60-70 miles and then re-evaluate at that point. I knew that 22.5 mph average would put me right at 5 hours or so and although I didn't know how much better I could do than that, I felt like I was capable of going under 5 hours for the bike portion of the race. I took splits at each hour and after the first hour I was at 22.87 mph. Hour 2 was 23.3 mph. Hour 3 was 23.3 mph. Hour 4 was 23.3 mph. Needless to say I stayed right where I thought I could be and finished averaging 23.18 mph for the entire distance, good enough for the fastest amateur bike split and 6th fastest bike overall on the day. I hit T2 and my legs felt pretty good all things considered, it was all over but the marathon.
Run - 3:21:33
By the time I started running I knew that my legs did not feel the way that I had hoped they would coming off the bike. I had set an initial governor at 7:00 pace and I had hoped to be shouting at myself to slow down much more than I had to going though the first few miles. I did look down a few times and see mid 6:30s on my watch but I could also feel the effort was too strong, something that would prove to be a bit of a bummer on the day. For the most part, I stayed right at 7:15 pace for the first loop and I knew that if I could hold that pace, I would be right where I wanted to for the marathon, hovering around 3:10 or so. Then I hit a bit of a rough patch from mile 13 to mile 20 where my pace slowed to right around 8 minute pace, sometimes as slow as 8:30. Although the very slow end of the running pace was short lived, I knew it meant my effort was decreasing slowly but surely, as was my stamina. I got a little bit of a boost around mile 20 when a cloud blocked the sun for 10 minutes or so and I looked at my watch and noticed that I had gone through mile 21 at 7:40 which was shocking but very encouraging as well. I force-fed myself calories during the next 8K and tried to envision running my routine 5 mile loop at home. Up until this point I had been able to keep the enormity of the race in check and now I needed to have something small, like a familiar 5 mile run to feed off of. "Mile 22, mile 23, just get to 5K to go" was all I kept telling myself. By the time I made the last left hand turn onto the main road entering the park, I knew the finish line was less than 20 minutes away, even if my pace dropped to 10:00 pace. I hit the mile 25 marker and started looking for Julie as I knew she would be starting her 2nd loop. I saw here just before entering the main parking lot. I could see she was running with someone and seemed to be in good spirits and running strong. At this point I got really chocked up and had to calm myself down before I got to her b/c I knew if she saw me getting emotional, she would too and I didn't want to sap her of any of the energy I knew she would need as the race drew to a close for her. I gave her a kiss, told her to eat eat eat and that I'd be waiting for her at the finish line. I rounded the final turn, high-fived Julie's dad and blew her mom a kiss and made my way down the finishing chute. It was a great day, perfect weather, good nutritional plan, and pretty good race execution. I broke the tape at 9:20:58 good enough for 4th overall amateur and 15th overall.
2011 was a great season. I improved in several areas with respect to race execution and fitness and I really enjoyed the races I chose to participate in which is always good. There are so many people that deserve a huge thank you and my gratitude for helping me accomplish what I did this year. I want to start by thanking my fiance Julie for her unwavering support, calmness, understanding, encouragement, and selflessness. I want to thank my coach Daniel Bretscher for helping me the past 3 years, I could never have imagined to race at the level I have been able to and I know that I could not have done it without you. I want to thank all of the absolutely fantastic sponsors, staff, and teammates of the Zoot Ultra Team including but not limited to Zoot, Ridley, GU, Zipp, Garmin, Fuel Belt, and bettydesigns.com. The support for this team is unlike anything I've ever experienced before and I am so lucky and thankful to have been able to be a part of such a great team for the past 2 years. Although I've only been able to meet a handful of teammates, those of you that I have met are absolutely fantastic athletes and even better people. I'd also like to give a special thanks to Jake Jensen for all of your support and help throughout the past 2 season, words can't say how much I appreciate everything! Best of luck to everyone racing in Kona next month and for those racing throughout the 2011 season, I hope to see you back next year.