Russ sets a 25-minute PR at 5430 Long Course!

14 08 2007

I fought the heat, and…I think if I won, it was by a very close margin.

My race actually started the night before, as I packed my bag and finalized my nutrition plan for the race. As you will see here, nutrition is my biggest race nemesis, and I still after a couple of years struggle with this on a level that you could not imagine. I made some last minute decisions – I would have lots of Sports Beans – more than I could imagine carrying and eating, because they are easy to grab. I would have 5 packets of Justin’s Peanut Butter. I would have 1 peanut butter sandwich. I would have a salt stick dispenser, filled with 6 capsules for the bike, and then a ziplock with about 10 more salt stick capsules. Finally, I would bring two bottles of frozen sports drink and 4 bottles of frozen water. We ate at Sweet Tomatoes – I figured I’d carbo-loaded enough, and the last thing I wanted was a heavy feeling in my stomach sunday morning, so I figured that salad bar and a little mac and cheese would prov ide me exactly the right balance. In retrospect, I don’t think that this meal was appropriate for a race as long as the Long Course.

So I started off my race morning like I always do before a race – toasted bagel and peanut butter. I was exhausted waking up – never a good sign (I did not sleep well the previous couple of nights), and as I ate my breakfast, I watched the weather channel, and the forecast for the day – mid 90’s. I think that every race I have done at the rez has been very hot this year – even the Distance Carnival was hot for the time of the year. Packed the car, loaded my bike, and off to the rez at 4:30 AM. I mean, I have to have the best transition spot. Not so much because I think any one transition spot is more advantageous over the other, but more so because I find the ends not quite so claustrophobic (the reality is, most of the bikes are gone by the time I get out of the water, and there are very few spots left where my bike could possibly go when I return from the bike ride). My wave was set to leave at 6:45am. Made a last minute gamble to go with a pair of goggles that I have never worn before – one of the few good decisions I made all day.

Into the water about 6:20, a couple of laps to the swim platform and back, and then cheer on the doves, the pros, and the rest of the field as the waves left. For some reason, despite the warm water and the warm air, I was freezing. An omen? It would be one of the last times I’d be cold all day.

The horn sounds, and wave 4 is off. I am now swimming with my new goggles. They were a style I was familiar with, but they were tinted (I’ve always worn clear). Turns out that this pair fit well, and the tint helped a lot with the sun. After swimming for a few minutes, I looked up to site, and realized that the rest of the 4th wave was WAY ahead of me. I looked around, and realized I was alone. These guys are hardcore. The Long Course obviously doesn’t attract casual athletes. The next approximately 55 minutes consisted of waves of people passing by me. I don’t let it bother me. I actually did a great job of staying on the inside line, hugging the turns, and not going off course. I was pleased, but a wave of motor-boat smelling water ended up in my mouth, and thus began a long string of left-brained thoughts.

You know the left brain. The side that gives you all the great negative feedback you were hoping to avoid. And so there I was, thinking “I can’t wait until I am out of this water and on my bike and running – I am much more comfortable there.”

Finally get out of the water, run across the beach. It was my finest run out of the water across the beach ever from any race. I felt good and had positive feelings and, after eventually getting my wetsuit off and getting settled, took my bike and headed out of transition. Plus, I had just put new tires on my bike the weekend before, and although I rode on them once to make sure they handled the same, I was eager to ride them in a race.

The bike ride was fairly lonely. I spent most of the ride playing leapfrog with about 4 or 5 other racers, passing a handful along the way. Weather for the first loop was actually decent. Lots of clouds, and so it was a lot cooler. The second loop, well, the clouds went away, and the sun went to work. The funny thing is, I don’t think you notice the heat taking its toll nearly as much on the bike, but there it is, doing its job. I ate my peanut butter sandwich going up highway 36.

For reasons unknown to me at the time, I was going what I felt was pretty slowly, even by my race-standards. Downhills where I can usually hit 35 or 40 were 25 to 30 MPH, etc. As I made the right turn to St. Vrain Road, I got a clue as to what the problem was, but didn’t realize it until after the race. I hit my brakes, and a horrible sound came out of the rear wheel.

Now at this point, you are wondering “ok, so Russ must have stopped to look at his rear wheel to see what the noise was.” But you would be wrong. It turned out that my rear brake calipers were catching the wheel hub on one side. Further, upon closer inspection, it wasn’t clear to me that the rear wheel was on the bike all the way, because later in the day when I undid the skewer, I was able to pull it back just a little bit more into place. Neither was enough to cause an accident, fortunately, but I can’t imagine that either problem helped me out.

Come back to transition after my second lap, and easily find the one spot where my bike could possibly go, and then head out for the run. I was relieved to get off the bike at this point. A 56 mile bike ride is probably the far outer limit of what anyone would want to ride in a thin-pad trisuit. Remember, this suit is designed to bike AND run. And if it has so little padding that I can run a 1/2 marathon in it, then it must not have much padding.

Head out on the run. The plan: I will use my marathon/long run strategy that has worked so well for me overall. I will run 10 minutes, walk 1. I set out for the first mile, and I am running, and keeping my pace steady. I feel fine. Tired, sore, but fine. I walk 1. Run a while again, and then this being the backroads of Boulder, I hit the uphills, and it became more of a walk-run, instead of a run-walk. The heat started beating down on me, and I felt all my energy drain away. At every aid station, I refilled at least one of my bottles with ice and water. Around 4 1/2 miles in, I hit the Fast Forward car wash aid station, and my energy level picked up a bit, which carried me all the way along the certain death canal. Its always nice to have people you know cheering your name.

Probably the worst part of the first lap was all the people near the end saying “just 1 mile left to go!” and things along those lines. I know they meant well. But I had a second lap to do.

The second lap was the worst. The heat was insane, but I caught a couple of people and passed them in the second lap. I think that they were surprised to see anyone running (as opposed to walking). F4 aid station was again an oasis in a sea of desolation. There were points where I considered dropping, because the heat was just starting to get to me too much, but I always had ice, and I always had water, and I always had the option to walk. I didn’t sign up to not finish, and so long as I didn’t feel like my health was in danger, I would keep going.

After the race, I laid down on the grass, satisfied to finish, despite what was 7 hours and 48 minutes of mostly negative thinking (I have never had this happen in a race like this – I was pleased to overcome myself). I also have never been this dehydrated after a race. After drinking what was about 14 22oz bottles on the course, and restocking fluids for a few hours after the race, and going out for dinner, I still managed to drop 6 pounds on the day (which I sadly put back on the following day).

My nutrition was a mess through the race. I did well on the first loop of the bike. I ate a couple of peanut butter packets, and took some sodium (they should call it Sodi-Yum! for marketing purposes). But as soon as the sun came out on the second loop, I started drinking more, which cut down on my ability to eat as much. Ultimately, I finished the race having consumed 3 peanut butter packets, the PB sandwich, and 1 or two packets of jelly beans, plus about 7 salt pellets. I am sure that my coach would say “you are not eating enough.” The problem, it turns out, is that from the second bike lap on, my stomach was constantly full to the point of nausea, and eating more started becoming impossible to do – no doubt a part of the sodium problem that my coach has constantly told me about.

So, I have 55 1/2 weeks left to figure out my nutrition before the greatest challenge yet, IM Wisconsin.
But overall, I shaved 25 or so minutes off my time from last year, and I am pretty sure that I gave it my all and could not have squeezed any more out on THAT race day. So its hard to not be happy with the result.

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